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Diner's Diary

The best 102 Paris restaurants are reviewed in Hungry for Paris. Since the Paris restaurant scene changes constantly, I regularly post new restaurant reviews and information on the city’s best places to eat on this site. I also review selected books with various gastronomic themes and comment on favorite foods, recipes, cookware and appliances. In addition to the reviews and writings here, I'd also invite you to follow me on Twitter @ Aleclobrano. So come to my table hungry and often, and please share your own rants and raves in the Hungry for Paris readers forum.

There are many ways to move around the reviews, which are categorized by grade and location. Click here to see the index. Lookout for the tags at the bottom of each post to guide you to more restaurant choices. You can also share any article directly with Facebook, Twitter and email, and there's a print button if you'd like hard copy. Enjoy!

Wednesday
Mar262014

Announcing HUNGRY FOR FRANCE, and a Reminder that this Blog has Moved

 

   If you've arrived at this site, please note that my blog permanently moved to a new address several months ago:

www.alexanderlobrano.com  Please come have a look, and thanks for your readership. If you wish to comment or contact me, please do so on the new website, since this one will no longer be updated. 

   Otherwise, it's a pleasure to announce that my next book, HUNGRY FOR FRANCE, will be published on April 1, 2014 by Rizzoli. It was a long time in the making, and it's a beautiful book that takes you on a gastronomic tour of France with essays on the cooking of the regions of France and a generous personal selection of the country's best restaurants and food producers. They're also eighty wonderful recipes. This book is available for purchase in my Amazon store on this website. I very much hope you'll enjoy it!

Best, Alec

Sunday
Feb022014

PERMANENT CHANGE OF ADDRESS

Dear Readers,                                                                                                  February 3, 2014 

   If you've arrived at this page, I thank you for your loyal readership, but would invite you to follow me to my new blog at a new address, www.alexanderlobrano.com, which is where I've moved after many years on Squarespace. Please visit the new site using the link above and be sure to update your RSS feed. I hope you'll enjoy the handsome new site and would love to have your feed-back and suggestions as I settle into my new home.

  I will no longer be posting new reviews and writings on this site, so please visit the new one to continue to enjoy Paris as much as I do. If you'd like to contact me, please send a message to hungryforparis.editor@gmail.com.

All best,

Alec

 

Tuesday
Jan142014

DESSIRIER--Landing a Really Good Catch in the 17th Arrondissement, B+

 
  When a beneficent old friend from L.A. with a hefty expense-account called and suggested dinner on Sunday night not too far from his hotel in the 17th arrondissement, I had to think for a while. I hadn't been wearing my restaurant cap for a couple of weeks after the holidays--like many food writers I know, I'd been eating very simply and leaving the corkscrew untouched in the kitchen drawer for a while after being rather too lavishly well wined and dined during the previous couple of weeks. Then, too, the fact that he's also a vegetarian threw me a curve ball, the first one being that it was a Sunday night. 
  
   Myself, the one thing I knew I was really in the mood for the other night were oysters, and maybe a nice grilled sole, and this got me to thinking. Though they're several brasseries that might have been an obvious choice in the 17th, I find myself mostly giving a wide birth to them these days, because their quality seems to have declined almost as quickly as their prices have been going up. As luck would have it, a friend who lives in the 17th called for a chat that afternoon, and I asked her if she had an idea. "What about Dessirier?" she said. "It's expensive, but there's also a 48 Euro menu that's great value for the money." I probably wouldn't have thought of chef Michel Rostang's seafood brasserie on the Place du Maréchal Juin, but a quick glance at their website made my mouth water, so I booked Gregor and I for dinner and spent the rest of the afternoon looking forward to some oysters.
  
@CBiesla 
   Gregor, whom I've known since Junior High School in Connecticut, was waiting for me when I showed up late, having taken the trouble to try and look half-decent after a wonderful for being so rare lazy Sunday afternoon reading a great book--Any Human Heart by William Boyd. Ever since we were kids, he's always been one of the nattiest men I know, and now that he's a very successful art dealer in Los Angeles, I fully expected he'd be dressed to kill. He didn't disappoint me either, with a beautifully cut Tom Ford suit and some new Berluti shoes, and even beyond his expensive clothing, he radiated the aura of someone who's powerfully confident in his own success. As we perused the menu and ate very good cod rilettes on zucchini mousse while sipping flutes of Champagne, I became aware of the fact that the beautiful woman with a much older man across the aisle couldn't take her eyes off of him, which wasn't surprising, because with a Norwegian mother and Russian father, he's tall and very handsome, with wavy blonde hair, a Roman nose and green eyes.
 
  Though the 48 Euro menu would have suited me to a T--I could have had oysters and then a cod aioli, one of my favorite dishes of cod with garlic mayonnaise, and a baba au rhum, he batted away this suggestion and insisted we order a la carte. There was a brilliant selection of oysters available, including meaty beauties from Utah Beach in Normandy, and a line-up of pedigreed bivalves from famous producers, including Gillardeau and David Hervé from the Marennes Oleron, Prat-ar-Coum and Cadoret from Brittany, and Florent Taboureich from the Etang de Thau. What really caught my eye, though, were the Spéciales Perles de l'Impératrices by Joël Dupuch, an amiable sixth-generation oyster farmer from Arcachon in the southwest who also has a very good seafood restaurant in Bordeaux, Joël D. You don't see them that often in Paris, and they're just plain superb. So it was the Empress's pearls for me and then grilled sole with sauteed spinach, while Gregor was keen for something "very French" and ordered the lobster vol au vent and scallops with garnishes of brussels sprouts and chopped Morteau sausage and potato puree. To my delight, he chose a really good bottle of white Givry, and we were off.
  
   "I wish she'd stop staring," he said while we were waiting for our main courses. "I think I must be one of the very few men in Paris who isn't interested in cheating on his wife," which makes sense, since she's a delightful Argentine woman who's also a very talented painter. While we were waiting for our food, he pulled an iPad out of his bag and asked me if I'd have a look at the work of some of the artists he represents. Not everything he showed me was to my taste, and when I told him, he looked serious. "The problem right now is that there's too much money chasing too little talent," he said gravely. "They're so many new museums being built all over the world, and they all need something to hang on their walls. This is why we're all so desperately on the look-out for new talent."
  
 
 
   When the charming head waiter showed up with our starters, we promptly sailed away from the gravity of the current state of the American art world and had one of the best seafood meals I've ever eaten in Paris.
The only thing that disappointed me about my big meaty oysters with their resonant tones of salinity is that there were only six of them, while Gregor loved his vol au vent, which fascinated me for the remarkable precision with which the lobster claw, langoustines, quenelles, coques, and mussels that composed it had been cooked. "This was exactly the kind of thing I had in mind during the long flight from California. How amazing it would be to live in a city with seafood of this quality!" I offered that in my opinion Paris is the best seafood city in Europe, since at it's very best, at Dessirier, for example, the city's shellfish and fish are supplied by small boat fisherman who catch by line, as opposed to nets, to preserve the quality of the fish, and it's sourced from both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Then no one in the world produces better than oysters than the French, and their mussels are excellent, too. 
 
  "Well, we've certainly come a long way from the Clam Box," said Gregor, referring to an old-line seafood place in the town where we grew up. "I was telling my kids that I hoped I'd see you, and that you were the only person I knew who'd eat anything when we were growing up. Do you remember the first time we ever had sushi when we went into New York?" I did. Gregor's aunt took us to a sushi place in New York where I ate my first sea urchin when I was fourteen, and he spent most of the meal surreptiously moving the contents of his plate to mine, because he couldn't wrap his head around the idea of raw fish. "My aunt sure loved you for that sea urchin, Alec!"
  
  On a Sunday night, most of the other diners at this attractive restaurant with a contemporary decor punctuated by pops of color were well-dressed couples, including many men in suits even on an off-hours evening, but to my relief--I'd worried that this rather bourgeois power-brokers' table might be stuffy--the atmosphere was relaxed, and the waiters courteous, alert and good-humored. 
  
   
 
   One way or another, it was delightful to see Gregor and nothing could have stopped me from enjoying an impeccably grilled sole with racy black scoring. Gregor was very happy with his seared Norman scallops and the gently smoky taste of the Brussels sprout and Morteau garnish flattered their sweetness, too. 
   
   
  We finished up this excellent meal with a baba au rhum, which I lashed with a couple of squirts of superb deep amber Martinique rum that pleasantly smelled like an old leather-bound book, and an elegant little Grand Marnier souffle for Gregor. After dinner, he nicely waited with me for my bus (I know he was puzzled as to why I didn't just hop in a taxi, but I calculated that a point-blank return to reality was the best idea after the feast he'd so generously offered us). "That was such a nice meal, Alec. I really enjoyed it, and it was such an interesting mixture of old-fashioned and modern fish cookery," he said as my bus barreled towards us. And in the bus, I thought about how he'd said more than he might have known, since Michel Rostang's seafood brasserie really does offer a clever two-stroke experience of great French fish cooking--the traditional version with sauces and the minimalist version that's been championed for some twenty plus years by restaurants like Le Duc and the now gone Paul Minchelli. Here, you can have it your way, and that's the whole point of this privileged place. For my part, it was a felicitous discovery, since given the prices for top-drawer fish in Paris these days, the 48 Euro menu is such a good buy that I certainly intend to be back here again in the near future.
  
9 place du Maréchal Juin, 17th, Tel. 01-42-27-82-14, Metro: Pereire. Open daily. Prix-fixe menus 38 Euros (two courses), 48 Euros (three courses). Average a la carte 75 Euros. www.restaurantdessirier.com
Friday
Dec202013

MY FAVORITE MEALS OF 2013 - Paris, Lyon, Venice, Barcelona and New York

My New Book, now available for pre-order in my Amazon store and holiday gift-giving    

  During a recent trip to Vietnam, I found myself musing about the best meals I've eaten during 2013, and if I've had many really spectacular meals--eating in Paris, my much loved adopted hometown, is more interesting today than it's been in many years, certain feasts really stood out. Some of them were lavish meals in grand settings, while others were simple feeds with friends in pretty, quiet places. What all of them had in common is a superb level of sincere cooking using excellent produce; warm friendly professional service; and pleasant settings. So here, then, is a round-up of the places I most enjoyed in 2013.

PARIS

Pate Chaud de Pintade au Chou

Le Meurice-Alain Ducasse - A

  Following the departure of chef Yannick Alleno last January, the magnificent dining room at the Hotel Le Meurice became part of Alain Ducasse's stable of restaurants in September. Ducasse placed chef Christophe Saintagne in the kitchens here, and even though I've always liked Saintagne's cooking, I went to the restaurant with guarded expectations early this Fall. Why? I admire Alleno and have always enjoyed his cooking, and I wondered whether even someone as wily as Ducasse could pull off the complicated re-boot of a grand three-star restaurant in such a short space of time.

  Suffice it to say that we had a remarkably good meal, and I say this as someone who's never been less interested in haute cuisine for the simple reason that the most interesting cooking in Paris isn't generally being done at this exalted and shudderingly expensive level these days. The Pate Chaud de Pintade au Chou, a delicate cylinder of magnificent pastry filled with chunks of guinea hen, Savoy cabbage and a mousse made of the bird's liver and gizzards was just plain magnificent, and I also loved my John Dory with fresh figs and turnips, veal sweetbreads with tomatoes and spectacular chocolate dessert.

  Sommelier Estelle Touzet chose some brilliant wines to accompany our meal, and the planed down aesthetics of the dining room, which had gone for Baroque when Philippe Starck had previously gotten ahold of it, were a real relief and an important caption for Saintagne's cooking. To wit, Ducasse and his team profoundly understand that the idiom of luxury is evolving rapidly at the beginning of this still new century, and that a sententious simplicity is much more exciting and satisfying than the long-running old-school drill of expensive produce and opulence. Less really is more now, and Le Meurice offers a thrilling lesson in the new trope of French haute cuisine dining.   

Restaurant Le Meurice - Alain Ducasse, Hotel Le Meurice, 228 rue de Rivoli, 1st, Tel. 01-44-58-10-55,
Metro: Concorde or Tuileries. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner. Closed Saturday and Sunday. 
Average a la carte 235 Euros, Five-course tasting menu 380 Euros. www.lemeurice.com/le-meurice-restaurant

 

 

Bistro Bellet - B+

   If I'll always have a soft spot for rock-of-ages Paris bistros with checked table cloths and lace curtains, this new bistro in the 10th arrondissement stands out from the crowd for offering brilliant traditional bistro cooking in a smart sophisticated setting, the message being that tradition doesn't necessarily have to be anchored by sepia-toned nostalgia. On one of the first winter nights of the year, I met friends here for dinner and had a brilliant meal of terrine de campagne--one of the best I've ever eaten, blanquette de veau and creme caramel. I really respect chef François Chenel, who cooked this meal, for his commitment to producing seriously good and deeply satisfying dishes from the classical cannon of Paris bistro cooking without feeling the need to be 'creative.' This excellent restaurant is a place you come to eat, and eat very well indeed, rather than go out on the tight rope of anyone's 'creativity." 

Bistro Bellet, 84 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis, 10th, Tel. 01-45-23-42-06. Metro: Château d'Eau, Gare de l'Est or Jacques Bonsergent. Open Tuesday to Saturday for dinner only. Prix-fixe menu 32 Euros, average 40 Euros.

LYON  

Takao Takano

  After working as sous-chef to Lyon's former boy wonder Nicolas LeBec for many years (LeBec has gone off to Shanghai following the high-profile failure of his huge gastronomic complex in the developing Confluence neighborhood of the city), Japanese born Takao Takano finally spread his own wings this past spring with a refereshingly spare but meticulously well-decorated restaurant in a quiet residential neighborhood not far from Gare de Lyon-Part-Dieu, the city's main train station. I went on my own for lunch just a week after Takano had opened and had a stunningly good meal.

  I loved the simple Ryokan inspired decor of the dining room as soon as I stepped in the door and was immediately impressed by the professionalism of the young staff, too. The meal began with an amuse bouche of smoked eel with shavings of dried red beet--a vividly flavorful hors d'oeuvres, and continued with a pan-fried lobe of duck foie gras with a refreshingly tart and pleasantly perfumed coulis of fresh raspberries. Next up, an impeccably made Canaroli rice risotto garnished with green asparagus, Lardo di colonnata (salt-cured Italian fatback) and two-year old Parmesan, and then a exquisite composition of steamed cod steak garnished with new peas and baby clams in a foam of smoked milk. Veal sweetbreads (above) with pea-and-lettuce puree followed, and the sweet ending to this superb meal was a lush dark chocolate tart with a shortbread crust.

  Takano is one of the most technically accomplished chefs I've encountered in a long time--the precision of this meal was breath-taking, and also has a flawless culinary imagination, a perfect example being the pairing of foie gras with raspberry coulis, since the fruit both flattered and tempered the liver with its gentle acidity and sweetness. I am eagerly looking forward to my next meal at this restaurant, since I think Takano is very likely to become Lyon's next great chef.

33 rue Malesherbes , Lyon, Tel. 04-82-31-43-39. Closed Sunday and Monday. Prix-fixe menus: 28 Euros (lunch), 45 Euros, 75 Euros. www.takaotakano.com  

Auberge du Pont de Collonges (Paul Bocuse)

  I've had a professional crush on Paul Bocuse ever since I first had the pleasure of following him around the main market in Lyon one spring morning many years ago. On that memorable day, I arrived late, because of a local Metro strike, and he waved away my effusive apologies and treated me to a plate of freshly shucked oysters and a glass of white wine as a way of steadying my nerves. Watching him inspect the stalls in the market was fascinating, too, since his knowledge of the best Gallic produce is as soulful as it is encyclopedic. As it happens, he's also a warm, gentle, thoughtful man, too.

  So I was delighted when I was sent to Lyon on assignment and told to dine at Bocuse. I hadn't been there in several years, and in a taxi on the way to dinner, I guardedly wondered if it could possibly still be as good as it was the last time I went. After I was seated in the restaurant at a corner table by myself, I was surprised when Monsieur Bocuse came out to greet me. I certainly didn't expect that the 87 year old chef would remember me, and so I was astonished when he mentioned how much he'd enjoyed watching me eat a whole Saint Marcellin cheese during a stop at a cheese monger's while we toured the market together many years ago.

  The meal that followed really moved me, too, because it still offers a ticket to the tastes of France as they existed before the country was sweep by modernity after World War II. It was also just plain damned good. Piercing the pastry dome on the tureen of the black truffle soup Bocuse had created for former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing released a potent gust of steam that was redolent of beef, truffles, butter and marrow, and it created the same momentary excstasy I experienced the first time I ate it. Similarly, the fricasse of Bresse chicken with morels was a beautifully made dish, and even the accompanying Camargue rice it was served with had great bite and flavor.

  Ultimately, this was an excellent meal, and I'd strongly advise anyone who hasn't been to Bocuse to make the pilgrimage while this great man is still around to insure that things are done his way, the old-fashioned way.

Auberge du Pont de Collonges, 40 Quai de la Plage, Collonges au Mont d'Or, Tél. 04-72-42-90-90. Open daily. www.bocuse.fr  Menu Classique 150 Euros, Menu Bourgeois 198 Euros, Menu Tradition 240 Euros, Average a la carte 300 Euros.

VENICE

Antiche Carampane - A-

   On a beautiful Indian summer day, Bruno and I somehow or another found this excellent trattoria, which is located down a cluster of side streets and alleys, and had perhaps the best meal I've ever eaten in Venice. Settling in at a sidewalk table on the quiet street, we were warmly amd promptly welcomed and panic set in immediately when I started reading the menu. How on earth was I ever going to make up mind when there were so many dishes I wanted? 

   In Venice, what I want to eat more than anything else is locally caught seafood, and the offer that day was brilliant. We started with baby clams sauteed with garlic and flat parsley, and then sprinkled with coarsely grated Parmesan just before to the table. The unexpected marriage between the cheese and the briny bivalves was magnificent, too, since the rich grainy cheese met the lactic tones of the clams beautifully. Next, fresh tagliolini with crabmeat in a light tomato sauce was one of the best pasta dishes I've ever eaten, and Bruno's cuttlefish stewed in their own ink was a luscious glossy black stew served over white polenta. A day doesn't go by when I don't find myself craving this meal all over again.

Trattoria Antiche Carampane, San Polo, 1911, Venice, Tel. 39-041-5240165. Closed Sunday and Monday.www.antichecarampane.com Average 50 Euros.

BARCELONA

Pakta - A

  In the Quechua language of Peru, Pakta means “union,” and the one that's referred to by the name of Albert Adria superb new restaurant in Barcelona is created by the mingling of the Japanese and Peruvian kitchens. This hybrid cuisine is known as Nikkei, and Barcelona has gone mad for it, with Nikkei restaurants opening all over the city.

  Adria's is the best by far, and the Fujiyama menu I enjoyed in May was a spectacular succession of tasting plates, including the tuna te-maki with puffed quinoa and shichimi and sea bass ceviche with hominy, tigre de leche, kumquats and red onions shown above. It's not easy to get a reservation here, since they only have room for 32 and booking is by internet only, but the necessary perserverence is richly rewarded.

Carrer de Lleida 6, No phone--they can be contacted only through their website, Open for dinner only Tuesday to Friday, Saturday lunch and dinner. Closed Sunday and Monday. http://en.pakta.es/ Reservations by internet only. Fujiyama Menu 90 Euros, Machu-Picchu Menu (20 dishes and 5 desserts) 120 Euros. 

NEW YORK

Estela, New York, NY - A-/B+

   Despite the fact that our meal was nearly ruined by a braying group of young Wall Street yahoos, I had a brilliant dinner with my adored friend Tom at this newly opened small-plates bistro on the Lower East side when I was back in New York in October. Uruguayan born chef Ignacio Mattos is a nervy earthy cook with one of the most original culinary imaginations I've run into for a long time, and we were tantalized by his beef tartare with sunchokes, calamari a la plancha with charred onions and romesco, spiced lamb rib with cilantro and honey, ricotta dumplings with Pecorino and mushrooms, and cod with chanterelles, turnips and barley. There's a terrific wine list, too, and service is impressively alert, friendly and well-informed. I can't wait to go again with Bruno.

47 East Houston St., New York, NY 10012 Tel. 1-212-219-7693. Closed on Sunday. www.estelanyc.com  Average dinner for two $150.

   Warmest best wishes for the holidays to one and all, and a nice surprise for readers of this blog very early in 2014! All best, Alec

Wednesday
Dec042013

CAFE DES ABATTOIRS--The Meat of the Matter in Paris, B

@ Serge Detalle    As the holidays approach, Paris grows busier like most cities, but even as the shopping-bag-carrying throngs thicken, the French capital retains a refreshing insouciance at odds with the atmosphere of amped-up consumer frenzy in so many other western cities. It's not that the French don't enjoy the holidays--they do--but rather that they're admirably resistant to all and any calendar-generated hype. Blessedly, there's nothing in France that approximates "Black Friday," the first day of super-discounted Christmas shopping in the United States after Thanksgiving. You don't find Santa Claus lurking in Parisian department stores, and the canned Christmas music in public spaces--garages, restrooms, malls, elevators--so common in English-speaking countiries would rightly drive the French to indignation shading to rage. 

  The commercial trimmings of Christmas aren't completely absent from France, of course--most major French magazines include Best Gifts Guides in the shrink-wrapped subcribers' editions and sprinkle some bird seed in front of luxury watch producers and Champagne houses with stultifying 'special' supplements on Champagne and luxury watches. Visually, the city veers from elegance--the beautiful lighting on the Avenue Montaigne--to the bizarre retro-disco horror of 'ornamenting' the trees along the Champs Elysees with ugly hula-hoop style lighting in garrish colors. 

  Myself, I've long since escaped from conventional Christmas shopping by gifting books, theater tickets, or--best of all--meals to my friends and family, and the first holiday gift meal of the year that I offered was to one of my very oldest friends in the world, who just happened to be in Paris before I went away on much-needed holiday in Vietnam. Thing is, when you gift a meal, it's all about the person who's receiving the gift, but this time round, I had an ace up my sleeve with the Bistrot Bellet, one of my favorite new restaurants. My pal--a New York lawyer, was in town for twenty-four hours on a fraught call to a major French corporate client, so I knew he'd be exhausted and frazzled when we met for dinner, which ruled out most of the more innovative modern bistros in Paris for the simple reason that he wouldn't have understood or liked them, and the meals most of them serve would have taken too long. So I treated him to some blanquette de veau and a good bottle of wine, and he went off into the night purring with pleasure.

  The other day, though, I was walking home from meeting someone for a drink in a cafe and my messenger bag was full of the tubs of red and yellow miso paste and kimchi I'd bought along the rue Sainte Anne (A much needed January diet is already planned). Bruno had been scooped up for a business meal, so I was on my own, and for the first time in a long time, I hadn't made plans with other friends or even given much thought to dinner, an extremely rare event in my food-centered life. I was hungry, however, but didn't feel like cooking, and so it suddenly dawned on me to take myself out for a nice but simple meal somewhere. Though I often dine alone when traveling for work reasons, and enjoy it thoroughly--having learned to eat solitary in public settings is one of the life lessons I prize most of the years I've lived in France, I rarely do so in Paris. 

   So I was vaguely thinking of ducking over to a favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the rue du Mont Thabor Indochine, the right-bank branch of Au Coin des Courmets), or even seeing what the rock of ages bistro Lescure is like these days, when I found myself peering through the window of a new restaurant just off the Place de Marche Saint-Honore in the heart of Paris. The Cafe des Abattoirs, which I'd read about, looked very appealing, so I went in and lucked out with a seat at the counter. I immediately liked the looks of this place, which had a long taupe leather mural of farm animals on one wall and a beautiful black-and-gold antique mirror that said 'Cafe des Abattoirs' at the head of the small, cozy dining room.

   The nice guy in chef's whites behind the bar set me up with a glass of white wine and some slices of delicious country ham served on a piece of white butcher's paper, and suddenly all was well in the world. Caroline Rostang, who runs the restaurant with her sister Sophie--both being the daughters of estimable chef Michel Rostang, he of the eponymous Michelin two star restaurant in the 17th arrondissement, commented the three prix-fixe menus--32 Euros, 38 Euros and 45 Euros--offered here with some of her family's signature charm, and I decided on the 38 Euro menu, which opens like all of them with a suite of hors d'oeuvres, followed by a Josper grilled bavette (skirt steak), and a choice of desserts.  

@ Serge Detalle

  Enjoying a great glass of Bourgeuil with oeufs mayonnaise, some charcuterie, and a tiny cup of deliciously earthy cream of mushroom soup, I eve's dropped while Rostang told the couple sitting next to me that the mirror in the dining room had belong to her great-grandmother and once ornamented a hotel the family had owned and that this new address is the sixth Rostang table of the sixth generation of Rostangs to work in the restaurant business. There was a festive atmosphere in the dining room, which was populated by a mix of foreigners and well-heeled young executive types from the surrounding neighborhood, and the setting and mood reminded me of the kind of good neighborhood meat restaurant you often find in American cities.

@ Serge Detalle   Since I was uncharacteristically without a camera that night and my iPhone ran out of juice after I snapped the deviled egg, I'm not able to depict the superb Scottish Black Angus skirt steak I tucked into, but it was a beautifully cooked piece of meat and came to the table with both fries and Lyonnaise potatoes and a chrome condiments caddy that contained homemade ketchup, barbecue sauce, mustard and a tomato-horseradish relish that was so good I'd happily have bought a bottle or two if it'd had been on sale. 

  I finished up with a perfectly ripened quarter camembert, and in the space of an hour and a half was homebound again with that warm feeling of well-being that follows a good well-served meal. Thinking about this guileless off-the-cuff feast the next day, the obvious occurred to me--this is a very good restaurant and a useful one two, since it's open seven days a week, so I called Caroline Rostang and scrounged some photos so that I could write about it here. She sent me some nice meatcake shots, too, including the Gascon cote du porc (above) and kefta style lamb kebabs (below).   

   This is a friendly well-conceived restaurant in a very convenient location, so if you're looking for a good timeout feed during your holiday shopping or want to treat a friend to a meal as a gift, the Cafe des Abattoirs is a terrific choice.  

Cafe des Abattoirs, 10 rue Gamboust, 1st, Tel. 01-76-21-77-60. Metro: Opera, Pyramides, or Tuileries. Open daily. www.cafedesabattoirs.com Prix-fixe menus 32 Euros, 38 Euros and 45 Euros.