23 September 2013

glory days : artisan, 75009

When a restaurant or bar really blows me away, I think I instinctively look for ways to compare it to Bruce Springsteen. It's just a habit I've developed. But I think the analogy is for once justified in the case of new 9ème bar-of-all-trades Artisan.

It's an appealingly under-designed space with a big broad bar, competent cocktails, decent beer, not enough wine, and an astonishingly successful menu comprising miniaturized version of French classics: roast lamb shoulder, steak tartare, etc.

In much the same way that Springsteen's songwriting, while rarely credited with the originality of peak-era Dylan, pleases both in spite and because of its predictability, so too does Artisan's careful craftsmanship draw cheers without being the least bit innovative. In fact, that's what I like best about the place.

14 September 2013

yonne bike trip: l'atélier à jean, vincelottes

If one disembarks the train from Paris at Vincelles and travels in the direction of Irancy, one crosses the Yonne into another blip-sized town beginning with V, Vincelottes. One is immediately struck by the serene riverside terrace of l'Auberge Les Tilleuls. How nice to dine there in between visits to wine domaines ! one thinks.

But one is subsequently struck by the rather high menu prices at Auberge Les Tilleuls, and upon inquiring about the more reasonable-sounding "bistrot déjeuner," one is directed away from l'Auberge's serene riverside terrace, into a low-ceilinged attic-like space above the restaurant's kitchen called L'Atelier à Jean, where one overlooks a sideroad, and not the river Yonne, or even the riverside terrace, which circumstances prevent one from jealously hurling hunks of bread at the wealthier diners by the river.

The upshot is a pleasant hokey country meal and a few glasses of well-aged Chablis.

04 September 2013

yonne bike trip: domaine colinot, irancy

My friends and I wound up at Domaine Colinot kind of by default, as we passed through Irancy on the bike trip we took this past June. J knew the wines already and he had negligible interest in re-tasting, because the domaine's website loudly offers rock-bottom pricing on the wines for delivery throughout France, making the wines difficult for J to sell at higher export mark-ups.

But the nearby domaine we'd intended to visit turned out to be a complete bust, just glass-shattering sour swill, and it was too early to lunch. (Additionally, the town's only restaurant, Le Soufflot, was closed for vacation.) So we joined a trio of middle-aged Frenchmen, fellow wine tourists, poking around outside Domaine Colinot, hoping for an unscheduled visit.

In the end it proved a pretty educational tasting. At the very least, we were able to put names to the steep vineyards I had accidentally steered us through earlier that morning, having mistaken treacherously rocky trails for normal paved roads. (They presently look the same on GoogleMaps' very, very Beta bike route feature.)

02 September 2013

idiot simple : grillé, 75002

If a successful restaurant concept aims to serve cuisine that inspires respect for its chefs, then, conversely, the hallmark of a successful fast food concept is cuisine that any idiot could throw together.

For the subtext of the business plans of any of Paris' recent crop of fast food concepts - Freddie's Deli, The Sunken Chip, and the subject of this post, Bourse-side haute kebab shop Grillé - is potential expansion. As satisfying as it is to provide tastemakers with baroque tasting menus in twenty-five seat rooms, any restaurateur knows the real money is made with well-branded empires of One Perfect Product : one recipe replicated and varied unto infinity with multiple locations, catering service, O Magazine features, book deals and frozen supermarket versions.

Grillé is a home-run by these standards. You can tell the place is eminently replicable because only way to ensure getting a kebab (or a "grillé," as they preciously have retitled their creation) without a thirty minute wait is to arrive precisely at noon when they open. You can tell because the product itself - a magazine writer's dream kebab, composed solely of luxury name-brand ingredients - is delicious. And you can tell because on the corner of rue Saint Anne and rue Saint Augustin, in its inaugural location, the product is being served and assembled in the most disorganised manner possible by inexperienced jokers.