28 November 2012

unpolished: miroir, 75018

The fashion company I work for used to have a shop not far from métro Abbesses in Montmartre. I think the original commercial rationale was: it's a picturesque neighborhood, with a lot roving tourists - surely they'll purchase accessories ?

The shop didn't work for several reasons. To put it simply, the neighborhood wasn't 'there,' yet; nor, with the constant influx of panting tourists looking for the Amelie café, was it clear it would ever get 'there.' All the knick-knackery shuts out higher-end retail. Tourists hiking towards Sacre Coeur, if they did stop to shop, did so in places that looked scruffier or more classically Montmartrois than our brand. (Paris tourists generally seek either the mythical cosmopolitan Paris or the mythical village Paris. The city's actual charm is that it contains both myths, often simultaneously, on the same street - but tourists in Montmartre are hunting for the latter one.)

I am getting around to discussing a neighborhood restaurant - Miroir, also located quite near Abbesses. I visited during Fashion Week in October on the recommendation of my favorite lunch purveyor and wine aficionado Balthazar de la Borde. On the one hand, I agree with Balt that Miroir is a godsend, given its location: an unfussy place to get a tasty and well-sourced, mostly-traditional meal, replete with a good, mostly-natural wine list. (The proprietors of Miroir also run the Cave de Miroir across the street.) On the other hand, I suspect that Miroir, like the neighborhood, is not 'there' yet, and on the night we dined there, one major service bungle made me despair of it ever getting 'there.'

12 November 2012

n.d.p. in milan: antica trattoria della pesa

Before we caught our train down to Florence, we took a very early lunch at a restaurant one of my friends had booked, Antica Trattoria della Pesa. We were actually the ones waiting outside before the restaurant opened.

I'm not sure how often this happens at Antica Trattoria della Pesa in the springtime. It's certainly on the tourist radar, and adjacent to the train station. But the lunch on offer is midwinter-hearty Milanese fare, at dinnertime prices. It's the sort of thing that seems appropriate if a cousin has just got married, or Napoleon has just been crowned; at most other times, it's can be a bit pompous, particularly to anyone accustomed to the lively, informal style of stateside Italian restaurateurism.

That's sort of the point with this variety of restaurant, though. The hearty Milanese fare I mentioned could be spruced up and delivered a thousand times better by a more ambitious restauranteur elsewhere. Restaurants like Antica Trattoria della Pesa succeed mainly because, being institutions, they evince no ambition. From the perspective of a certain conservative diner, ambition is the last thing one would want to perceive in a meal, and would be avoided at the sacrifice of almost any other criterion for a good meal, except high cost.