Search

 

 

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!

Entries in David Lebovitz (2)

Wednesday
May052010

READY FOR DESSERT by David Lebovitz, and TOMBE DU CIEL, A Terrific New Wine Bar

  If you'll allow me, I'll share a slightly embarrassing little secret: even though I absolutely love to cook, and cook all the time, baking scares me. Why? The science of successful baking has always struck me as requiring a rigor in the kitchen that turns me back into the same sullen adolescent who once got Cs in Algebra--to the fury of my father--in a suburban Connecticut high school ("Your pre-school learning aptitude tests showed the same ability for maths as they did for language, so this inacceptable grade is just a reflection of your reprehensible laziness and pigheadness," said Dad...and he was right). My free form approach in the kitchen--hey, maybe I'll add a little pickled lemon to this and why not some browned orzo and then a dribble of Argan oil and a pinch of cumin, etc. has never seemed compatible with the mathematics of baking.
  The problem with my reluctance to baking, of course, is that they're times when I get a real craving for one of those baked goods that made dessert such a major moment during childhood meals--apple pies, maple-walnut cakes, ginger bread, date-walnut bread, strawberry short cake, etc. And then I'll give in, and poor Bruno will get home and find me standing in the middle of a fine white storm of flour in the kitchen. He always says the same thing, too: "Oh--are you baking? Why?"
Well, why not?! I thought the other day when I was reading through my friend David Lebovitz's beautifully produced new book Ready for Dessert at lunchtime. David's clear prose style and professional clarity and exigence suddenly goaded me to rise to the occasion, and the next thing I new I was chopping up a big hunk of fresh ginger to make his divine fresh ginger cake and thinking, "this is not only easy, it's fun." So the next day, I found myself busily involved with his recipe for Buckwheat Cake with Cider-Poached Apples and thinking that the reason I love his recipes so much is that so many of them hit sort of an ever so slightly sugared umami bull's eye instead of being the tooth-aching sugar bombs so popular in the U.S. these days. As David himself says in this book, "I don't like sweet things." Instead he often likes his sweets to be balanced by a certain bracing acidity that tames the sugar, whatever its source. I do too, and this is why Ready for Dessert just may be the book that turns me into a bona fide baker. And they're lots of other non-baked desserts recipes that look pretty terrific, too.
------------
  The last time I had a meal with David, we had one of our let-yourself-off-the-leash late nights at Tombe du Ciel, a terrific new wine bar in the 10th arrondissement that's run by a very friendly guy who used to be a producer with Island Records. This recording connection surely explained the very hip constituency that ebbed and flowed around us during the course of a great night of snacking and sipping. All of the wines here are naturel, which means no sulfites, and unless you've sampled same, you have no idea how much sulfites alter the taste and character of wine. We started with a very good Sauvignon Blanc from the Languedoc which was perfect with a dozen plump and wonderfully briney Prat-ar-Coum oysters, sea-urchi-spiked taramasalata, and some foie gras, and then segued towards a surprisingly gentle Minervois that was perfect with a selection of Pierre Oteiza charcuterie from the Basque Country.
  Around midnight, the place was still jumping, a reflection of the fact that this neighborhood, which I call the tenderloin of the 10th, is one of liveliest and most interesting parts of the city right now. It has an honest and still unselfconscious bohemian funk and a fascinatingly haphard mixture of people, architecture and different types of businesses that makes for a great urban neighborhood. This is why my favorite walk in Paris these days is the straight shot that I did on my way home from this wine bar the other night--right down the rue des Petites Ecuries to the rue Richer to the rue de Provence, an urban axis that offers a fascinating lesson in the realities of life in Paris in 2010.
Tombe du Ciel, 7 rue d'Enghien, 10th, Tel. 09-81-74-77-17. Metro: Bonne Nouvelle or Chateau d'Eau. Closed Sunday and Monday. Lunch menu 13 Euros, a la carte dishes 13 to 19 Euros.
   
Saturday
May092009

Living the Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz; a brilliant Japanese table and a Left Bank letdown

As an American in Paris for almost 23 years, I took a particular pleasure in reading David Lebovitz's delightful new book LIVING THE SWEET LIFE IN PARIS. Lebovitz, one of America's most renowned pastry chefs, a hugely successful cookbook author and blogger extraordinaire (www.davidlebovitz.com) recounts his decision to move to Paris and the sweet-and-sour baby steps of learning a new language and culture with wit, grace and trenchant honesty, which makes this book a far cry from the usual extremes of this genre.

Much too often, the tone of books about living in Paris by Americans runs to treacle or battery acid, with most of the herd tending to the former rather than the latter. What Lebovitz has penned instead is a nuanced and very personal take on Paris. As he said to me over lunch several weeks ago, "Many Americans spend a week in Saint Germain and think they've been to Paris, which makes about as much sense as saying you know Hawaii after a visit to Waikiki."

Refreshingly, the epicenter of Lebovitz's Paris are the city's 11th and 12th arrondissements, where he continues to perfect his terrific recipes--they're many of them interleaved through the chapters of this memoir as well--in the tiny kitchen of his apartment, shops at the wonderful Marche d'Aligre and deepens his gastronomic knowledge by working at a poissonerie and a chocolate shop. 

If he mostly enjoys his new life in Paris, he also discovers that the rose has a few thorns. The ACCUEIL (welcome) desk of any French department store, or the customer-service department, is unfailingly the least welcome place one can imagine, and Parisian grocery stores, specifically the FRANPRIX chain, are small, filthy, inhospitable, and poorly stocked when compared the average American or English super market (yes, yes, yes, the city has wonderful outdoor markets and great specialty shops, but everyone needs a good grocery store). He also ponders the peculiar incapacity of Parisians to understand or respect the American/British habit of standing in line, and rues the ambient aggressiveness of Parisians in any public setting. (He missed a couple of my pet peeves, including pay toilets in train stations and the general Parisian indifference to environmentally correct behavior like recycling and conservation). The coffee in Parisian cafes is generally ghastly, too, and hand-held shower attachments (as opposed to wall mounted) are a miserable inconvenience.

In general, however, he finds the city utterly delectable, and after five years here, he considers himself a dyed-in-the-wool Parisian. How did he know that he'd become a Parisian? He realized it the day that he took a shower and put on a clean shirt just to take out the garbage--as he quickly learned, appearances are everything in Paris, and this is one of the reasons that the city is such a lovely place to live. Clerks in pastry shops tie up your purchases in beautiful paper pyramids, the fromages really are fantastic, and oh the pastry shops!

A treat to read, LIVING THE SWEET LIFE is also a great source of insider's tips--Lebovitz divulges that the city's best hot chocolate is to be found at the tiny Patisserie Viennois in the 6th on the rue de l'Ecole de Medecin and his favorite chocolatier--Patrick Roger in the 16th. As always, Lebovitz's recipes are both tempting and impeccably written. Just in time for summer, this is a great arm chair read that will tantalize anyone who is planning a trip to Paris as much as it amuses anyone who knows the city well. I highly recommend it.

-----------------

Since I've lived in Paris, the rue Saint Anne has quite wonderfully become the city's preeminent Japanese restaurant zone, which is a real boon to anyone looking for a cheap, expedient and delicious feed in the heart of the city. The challenge, of course, is to know which of these places are the best. A big fan of gyoza (grilled Japanese dumplings) and noodles, I've been assiduously and very happily eating my way through the area for years, and finally have discovered what I think is the best noodle-gyoza restaurant in Paris--Hokkaido. I went for lunch on this rainy Saturday, and there was already a line at the door when we arrived. A mixture of Japanese residents of Paris and Asian food-lovers, they all clearly knew that this simple, busy place serves outstanding food. Today we scarfed down a double portion of gyoza (God are they good), and then Bruno has udon noodles sauteed with vegetables and beef and I went with the tonkatsu (fried breaded pork cutlet) in a bento box on rice with enoki mushrooms and a lightly scrambled egg. Both dishes were absolutely delicious, and lunch for two with two mugs of green tea was less than 30 Euros, making this place one of the best bargains in Paris. 14 rue Chabanais, 2nd, Tel. 01.42.60.60.95. Metro: Quatre Septembre or Pyramides.

-------------------------

Since it regularly breaks my heart to see visitors to Paris falling prey to the myriad tourist-trap restaurants in Saint Germain des Pres, I follow new openings in this neighborhood with extra vigilance, always hoping that maybe another good new place might be added to the short roster of honestly good restaurants in this eternally popular part of the city. Thus I was hopeful when I walked by the great-looking new l'Atelier Mazarine on the rue Mazarine a few days after it opened. Off I went with my friend Judy who lived nearby, and we settled into high stools with low backs in the narrow dining room with high hopes. Low lighting, exposed stone walls, reasonably friendly service, and a country ham in a brace on the long counter that runs the length of the space were encouraging, and the short menu was interesting. Alas, things went off the rails right from the start. Judy's lightly grilled tuna came with a drab eggplant salad and a strangely fermented pistachio crumble--a composition that had no coherence whatsoever, and my grilled shrimp were a bore. Next, overcooked John Dory with a silly "vegetable sausage" for Judy and an awful griddled veal tartare with Parmesan for me. Drinking the cheapest red on the menu and skipping dessert, we still end up spending over a 100 Euros, which made this place not only a disappointment but an expensive misfire. So give it a miss and head for the excellent L'Epigramme (9 rue Eperon, 6th, Tel. 01-44-41-00-09. Metro: Odeon. Booking essential) instead.

L'Atelier Mazarine, 43 rue Mazarine, 6th, Tel. 01-43-54-12-43. Metro: Odeon.