10 January 2011

everything all of the time: jeanne a, 75011

Down the street from my apartment in the 11ème there is a slightly fusty restaurant called Astier. I haven't yet been there; I mean to, but it has always emanated a kind of middling, pretentious air that puts me off at the last moment. There are something like 40,000 restaurants in Paris (source: the BBC) so one has no choice but to follow one's gut on these things.

Guts are fallible, however. A prime example is my reaction to Jeanne A, the cave à manger / épicerie / deli / you-name-it restaurant the owners of Astier have recently opened next door to said restaurant. Upon first walking by, shortly after Jeanne A opened, I saw an automatic sliding door, several magnums of Moet and Veuve Clicquot for sale, and some generally frightful decor, and I kept right on walking. The last thing the neighborhood needed, I thought, was an overpriced moron marchand, seemingly plucked straight from rue Saint Antoine, hawking yet more industrial foie-gras, foiled chocolate, and mass-market Champagne.

Happily, as my visiting friends R and S and I were delighted to discover the other Sunday, I was pretty far off the mark with this analysis.

Jeanne A in fact serves a very real purpose in the neighborhood: beneath the overdone maximalist tackiness of the concept, there lies a very adequate natural wine canteen that serves actual agreeable meals throughout the day on Sundays. This fact alone should make it a Paris destination. (They're closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which is peculiar. But there's no shortage of other places open those nights.) That they also sell spices and olives and conserves and pastries and knives and dishware and will dance and wash your car with vases balanced on their heads is totally beside the point. I don't know why they carry on with the bad Champagne (misguided commercial "pragmatism") but sharing shelfspace with that soda-pop are some lovely wines, like a magnum of Emmanuel Giboulot's 2007 Côte de Beaune "La Chatelaine."

For lunch that day I had a perfectly tasty, if very slightly butane-y, poulet fermier rôtie, and a bit of difficulty with the server, who was inexplicably reluctant to point me to the blackboard where the wines by the glass are written. She had successfully listed from memory the four types of wine by the glass but could not tell me their producers; she couldn't seem to fathom why I wanted to know who produced the wines. BECAUSE IT IS THE ONLY RELIABLE INDICATOR OF A WINE'S QUALITY, I refrained from shouting. When the location of the ardoise was finally indicated I was pleased to see Foillard's classic "Côte du Puy" Morgon* and politely ordered a glass.

R and S had in fact already eaten - they'd just arrived from Chartres that morning, and were off to London that afternoon - but in the end I was able to tempt them into sharing a pretty wonderful financier à la pamplemousse with me over completely acceptable Illy coffee.

Some credit for my having finally visited Jeanne A must go to John Talbott, a probably insane Paris food blogger whose blog output, while high-handed, obsessive, and often nearly unreadable, is nevertheless reliably informative, if you can slog through it.** He's been raving about Jeanne A like they're Jeanne d'Arc for a little while now. The posts read a little bit like a kid showing you every feature of a kick-ass new Swiss Army knife: it does this, it does this, it even does this!

I have only ever used those things for the corkscrews in emergencies when nothing else is handy. But in Paris every Sunday is that sort of emergency.

* If I were the type to hand out point scores to things, however, Jeanne A would have some deducted for not listing the vintage. Subsequent tasting revealed it was a 2008, and had been open a few days. Good enough for me anyway. 

** Yes, all of these charges could more or less be leveled against yours truly. Everything is relative. 

42 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud
75011 Paris
Metro: Parmentier or Oberkampf
Tel: 01 43 55 09 49 ‎

Related Links: 

The small plates menu at La Cave de l'Insolite, 75011, just around the corner from Jeanne A

A blurb on Jeanne A @ TheTelegraph
Rave #1 about Jeanne A @ JohnTalbott
Rave #2 about Jeanne A @ JohnTalbott

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