12 April 2011

ah seaux desu ka: thursdays at les trois seaux, 75011

My friend Olivier Aubert's 11ème bistro-à-vin Les Trois Seaux is now offering wines at prix caviste on Thursdays. This is a particularly fine bargain at Les Trois Seaux, where ordinarily the restaurant mark-up of twice retail constitutes the only teensy sticking point* in an otherwise totally charming meal.

In fact, having posted about the restaurant when it was under construction, and then later when it was freshly opened, I can attest that the place seems to be really hitting its stride these days.

The other night I popped by with my friends C, P, E, J, and IF, thinking only to nibble on charcuterie and basically exploit the new Thursday thing to the fullest. But, since I have no willpower and all my friends are enablers, we wound up having a remarkably superb three-course meal, one accompanied by a wine list that, on Thursdays at least, presents a fine opportunity to explore the wines of Bordeaux without breaking the bank, or being a banker.

Not a great deal of white Bordeaux, to my slight disappointment. Eschewing historied biodynamic estate Château le Puy's curiously mute and oxidative white Vin de Table "Cuvée Marie-Cécile," we began instead with Elian Da Ros' "Coucou Blanc," from just outside the Entre-Deux-Mers appellation in the Côtes du Marmandais.  A blend of Sauvignon, Semillon, and Sauvignon Gris, it's a wine I'd only tasted while freezing my pants off in near total darkness at La Dive Bouteille in Saumur - so it was refreshing to retaste within the realm of a normal human dinner. Additionally we drank it just under room temp, at which temperature a white wine is at its most nakedly expressive, with all potential flaws on full view.

I can happily report that, as I suspected, there simply aren't any flaws in Da Ros' 2009 "Coucou Blanc." Apricots and flowers, a hint of salinity, a mineral core; it's like a pop song so indestructibly well-written as to be equally moving when heard in an unproduced, acoustic version.

It was a decent match for a delightfully unsubtle entrée most of us were unable to resist ordering: a salad of salmon, onion, spinach, potato, parsley, and sundried tomato.

With all those ingredients listed, I'd been unprepared for how much reams of actual lovely salmon would be in the eventual unstinting salad. It was a defiantly unfashionable dish (sundried tomato? really?) and all the more enjoyable for it.

Later I got into an affectionate shouting match with Olivier about the proper temperature to serve a bottle of 1998 Château le Puy Bordeaux Côtes de Francs. I said it was too warm, prompting Olivier to lecture me about how it was room temp, a perfectly fine temperature for this wine, and he should know because he's from the region. Naturally I immediately abandoned my previous stance, at which point, primarily to bust my balls, Olivier insisted on chilling the wine for a few minutes as I'd originally requested. The joke was on all of us, however: upon retasting the slightly chilled wine, we realized it was corked.

Olivier then, as is his wont, brought us something else entirely - a 2006 Château Soutard St. Emilion. Not natural, lutte raisonée more likely**, the estate's unintentionally amusing website digresses into an unreadable genealogical muddle, cousins and husbands and granddaughters, before mentioning:
Wine specialist Claire Thomas-Chenard, who comes from a family of chemical engineers and wine specialists stretching back four generations, is now the talented manager of this 27-hectare estate, the layout of whose vineyards (covering a single area of 22 hectares) has remained unchanged for over a century.
Which is to say the wines are made by someone who is, regardless of her individual merits, essentially unconnected with the lengthy preceding genealogical treatise. Ô, Bordeaux. In 2006 the estate was purchased by the insurance company AG2R-La Mondiale, who also own Château Larmande.

The wine itself - 70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc - was rich, refined, blackfruited - perfectly pleasant right bank Bordeaux, but a touch too modern and youthful to be of any real interest to me. Nevertheless it stood up admirably to a bavette sauce au poivre we had afterwards. I split one with my friend C, which fact partly accounts for how rotten and hacked-into it looks in the accompanying photo.

This photo does more violence to the cow than the butcher did. I'm sorry. 

In fact it was among the best cuts of meat I've had in recent memory - pure, profound, and courageously peppery - just about Christophe-level fantastic. (I refer to the 5ème restaurant that is essentially a temple dedicated to quality meats; a comparison with their viande is probably the highest compliment I can dish out.)

The characteristic ability of red Bordeaux to cleave elegantly and unobtrusively to rich cuisine is, for me, one of the more persuasive arguments for drinking it - and for returning to Les Trois Seaux on Thursdays. (In particular, to those back vintages of Château le Puy...) It is indeed possible to ignore the minor absurdity of paying dearly to experience wines that make a virtue of quiet reserve - provided one is not actually paying very dearly for them.

E & P eyeing Les Trois Seaux's charmingly old-school dessert table. 

* It's not outrageous - in fact it would be fairly normal in many restaurants in the USA, or London, or even other parts of Paris. However, as I never tire of pointing out, it's just a wee bit trop given the screaming deals on offer at other great natural wine joints in the immediate neighborhood. (Le Verre Volé, Philou, Chapeau Melon, Ô Divin, etc.) I get self-conscious when quibbling over pricing, but in this case it really seems to be the one thing standing between Les Trois Seaux and dramatically increased business.

** Tr. "the reasoned struggle": among French winemakers, a polite euphemism for "either is not totally convinced about the merits of organic or biodynamic viticulture, or simply does not wish to pay for certification for organic or biodynamic viticulture." It's one of those phrases whose believability depends entirely upon who is using it, and whether they actually know or care about natural winemaking. 

Les Trois Seaux
58, rue de la Fontaine au Roi
75011 PARIS
Metro: Parmentier, or Goncourt
Tel: 09 54 27 86 86

Related  Links:

Hanging around drinking in the not-quite-open Trois Seaux space, 75011
Drinking Elise Brignot's declassified Montlouis at Les Trois Seaux, 75011

Tasting through the wines of Elian Da Ros at La Dive Bouteille in Saumur

Cheap Bordeaux Blonde: Château Méric & Château Sainte Marie
An impromtu tasting with Dominique Léandre-Chevalier at Quedubon, 75019
A vertical tasting of Château Malescot St. Exupery at Le Garde Robe, 75001

An article on the Japanese cult stardom of Château le Puy @ TheVineRoute
A brief profile of Château le Puy @ Jenny&FrançoisSelections
A profile of Château le Puy @ TheNaturalWineFair

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