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Monday
Oct042010

JEANNE A, A Wonderful New Epicerie-a-Manger, B; DESVOUGES, A Terrific Little Bistro in the Latin Quarter, B+

Jeanne A, the new epicerie-a-manger in the 11th arrondissement  Since Frederic Hubig-Schall is one of the most ambitious and talented young restauranteurs in Paris, I was expecting a lot from his latest address, Jeanne A, an epicerie a manger (grocery store where you can also eat) in the 11th arrondissement next door to his very popular restaurant L'Astier, and I certainly wasn't in any way disappointed. This is a swell spot and a terrific addition to the ever more stylish Menilmontant quarter. "What I wanted to do with Jeanne A, which is named for Jeanne Astier, is to create a neighborhood place where you just stop in to have something good to eat with a good glass of wine," says Hubig-Schall. "This place is about relaxing and having a good time."
  It's a terrific idea, too, since every table was full last night when I went for dinner, and there's a big and very pretty raw oak table in a back alcove that's terrific for anyone looking for a venue for a group of ten to have a good meal and a great night out. Hubig-Schall loves his wine, and we drank terrific wines last night, including a fabulous Saint Chinian from Borie La Vitarele. The wine list here proposes only magnums, but also serves the same wines by carafe. 
  Our happy crew started with an excellent assortment of charcuterie--Pata Negra ham, jambon de Paris, jambon persille, caillettes ardechois, etc., with great salted butter and wonderful bread from Le Quartier du Pain bakery in the 15th, which also supplies Yannick Alleno at the Hotel Le Meurice. Then a choice between roast Challans chicken or crispy skinned spit-raosted duck from the Basque Country, both served with a delicious little galette de pommes de terre and a mesclun-and-herb salad. A white porcelain sauce boat offered an unguent and deeply flavored reduction of rotisserie cooking juices with which to slather the fowl, and we followed with an assortment of really excellent farmhouse cheeses--brie, several chevres, compte, reblochon, etc. 
  If Jeanne A isn't an address that's worth traveling across town in a cab for, it's a fine place for a relaxed. fun, and seriously good meal. And if you want a full-scale bistro meal that is worth the cab fare, book at L'Astier, Hubig-Schall's mother address next door or his excellent and under-rated Cafe Moderne near the Bourse, or old French stock exchange, in the heart of Paris.
Jeanne A, 42 rue Jean-Pierre-Timbaud, 11th, Tel. 01-43-55-09-49. Metro: Parmentier. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Average 30 Euros.
L'Astier, 44 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 11th, Tel. 01-43-57-16-35. Metro: Parmentier. Open daily, Average 35 Euros.
Cafe Moderne, 40 Rue Notre Dame des Victoires, 2nd, Tel. 01-53-40-84-10. Metro: Bourse. Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday. Average 45 Euros.
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  Arriving at Desvouges on a chilly autumn night with Bruno, we were both cranky and hungry. You won't be surprised to hear that he wearies of being my most reliable guinea pig, but after a couples-therapy session--ah oui, happens to us all, we needed to eat and despite the fact that he was still ranting about the weight he'd gained during a weekend with me in the north of France covering estaminets (i.e. northern French bistros) as part of a story I was doing, he was probably glad that I'd thought to book someplace for dinner even if he couldn't bring himself to admit it. Or should I have saved this observation for the therapist-mediated space? Oh well, whatever. 
  Anyway, we were two worn-out pups when we pushed open the door of this store-front place in the deep 5th arrondissement and sat down at a bare wooden table in a rather overlit dining room. But burly owner Jerome Desvouges won me right off the bat with the friendly, enthusiastic way that he took us through his chalkboard menu and the fact that he was clearly mortified when I reminded him that he'd forgotten to bring us the carafe d'eau that I'd asked for ten minutes earlier (It's been, in fact, much longer than I can remember since I've heard anyone in a Paris restaurant say, "Ouff, I'm very sorry.)
  Desvouges, who was formerly an economic journalist but who, from his eager recitation and commentary on his menu, is not only a really nice guy but a real food-hound, had me drooling for his planche (cutting board) of Basque charcuterie, and indeed it was excellent, if not as generously served as I'd have liked, while Bruno, one of the most eager offal eaters I've ever meet, was blissed out by his museau vinaigrette, or thin slices of pig snout in a light dressing. I stuck fork in, and it was really good, too.
  Next, Bruno went with the steak tartare dressed with sun-dried tomatoes, capers and herbs, and it was terrific, while I went with the curiously named Nem Toulousain, a skinned pork sausage boosted with fresh thyme and rosemary and wrapped Nem-style in crispy pastry. If Bruno scored a nice little salad with his tartare, he couldn't stay away from the sauteed potatoes that came with my Nem and I loved the ratatouille that came in a small Staub casserole, too. We scarfed down a bottle of very good Morgon with the meal, and afterwards, even though I knew that Desvouges cheese were probably as good as everything else on his menu, we just ordered espressos. The boss insisted on giving us each a small pour of Vieille Prune from Louis Roque in Souillac in the Lot, a distillery we'd visited last summer, and the smooth, ambered taste of prune eaux de vie was the perfect conclusion to a very good, they're always be a Gaul (I hope!) meal. In fact, I loved this place and the owner, and just wish it was within walking distance of my smudged keyboard in the 9th arrondissement, in which case I'd be a happy regular. For anyone who lives on the Left Bank or who's staying locally, this is a great address for a very good, relaxed, affordable French meal.
Desvouges, 6 rue des Fosses Saint Marcel, 5th, Tel. 01-47-07-91-25. Metro: Gobelins or Saint-Marcel. Closed Monday and Tuesday lunch, Saturday and Sunday. Prix-fixe menu 26 Euros. 
  

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