19 June 2017

n.d.p. in lyon: le troisième fleuve, 69009

A few Saturdays ago my friend N and I found ourselves staggering north in Lyon after a lunch at Café Comptoir Abel,* where the greatest wine available had been half-pints of Leffe. Desperate for a worthwhile drink before our train north, I thought to pay a visit to Vincent Dechelette, a former employee of acclaimed old-city wine retailer Antic Wine who last December opened his own boutique, entitled Le Troisième Fleuve, a respectable trek upriver from his old workplace.

The new shop's name will be familiar to anyone who has ever read any piece of wine writing on the Beaujolais: it derives from the heavily-worn Léon Daudet line, in which the 19th-century French journalist dubbed the wine of the Beaujolais the "third river" of Lyon, after the Rhône and the Saône. Delechette, like myself, is a massive believer in the gamay, granite, and goblet-training.

His young cave - a short corridor comprised of a stone wall facing a tall mass of shelving - boasts a mostly-natural Beaujolais selection to rival any more established wine retailers in the city. The region's wines comprise perhaps 30-40% of Le Troisième Fleuve, with the remainder deriving from up-and-coming domaines from the rest of France. Dechelette also demonstrates an easy fluency with Beaujolais hospitality: he kindly allowed us to crack open a few bottles on-site, when we arrived out of breath in mid-afternoon, slightly damp with rain and dying of thirst.

13 June 2017

n.d.p. in lyon: brasserie georges, 69002

To recommend a restaurant on the basis of anything other than food, service, or wine has always seemed very foolish, like recommending a tailor because he plays excellent piano. I still recall my revulsion when upon arriving in France in 2009, an acquaintance took me to Derrière, a Paris restaurant famous for containing, in a rear space accessed through a Narnia-like wardrobe door, a sort of playroom, replete with ping-pong. What are we, I thought, children at a birthday party?

Yet I will profess that, during visits to Lyon over the past two years, among my most moving dining experiences has been at Brasserie Georges, a vast, ancient institution where the charm is mostly historical. The food - a solid impression of traditional dishes of Lyon and Alsace - and the wine - a safe selection of mostly reputable conventional estates - are both remarkable only for a restaurant of Brasserie Georges' immense size. It measures 667m2; seven hundred guests can be served per service.

Restaurants on this titanic scale tend to make one feel like a cog in a large machine. The nostalgic triumph of Brasserie Georges is to hark back to an early-modern era when large machines, and even sensations of anonymity, were novel and inspiring. The restaurant was founded in 1836 - the time of Baudelaire - but there is a distinctly Futurist zing in the air. Seated in the reverberating bustle of Brasserie Georges, one feels suffused with a strange hope, resembling the exhilaration of a Hollywood villain expositing over the loud, steady construction of his doomsday device.

08 June 2017

deck & donohue la terrasse at bob's bake shop, 75018

As of early May, Montreuil micro-brewery Deck & Donohue has teamed up with 18ème-arrondissement vegetarian canteen Bob's Bake Shop to liven up the latter's enormous terrace all summer.

Spearheading the project is Daniela Lavadenz, Thomas Deck's superhumanly energetic fiancée, who previously honed her skills in the kitchen at Au Passage and the dining room of Le Six Paul Bert. At Deck & Donohue La Terrasse, she offers a small menu of well-plated snack foods faithful to both the project's ambitions - a casual beer-garden sans garden - and its host, a vegetarian restaurant. The fried-food-and-frankfurter tendencies of the standard beer-garden concept are therefore replaced with hummous, marinated peppers, a slurpably brilliant salmorejo, and roast potatoes with chimichurri sauce, a nod to Lavadenz's Bolivian heritage. Supplementing the terrace's four taps of joltingly fresh Deck & Donohue beers are a bevy of natural rosés by the glass, from the likes of Julien Merle, Château Bas, and Frederic Rivaton.

To anyone like myself, reluctant, during summertime, to plunk down beaucoup euros for lengthy meals at fine Paris restaurants that invariably lack air-conditioning or even basic ventilation, Deck & Donohue La Terrasse offers a form of salvation. But the project's appeal will be tested by its location north of métro Lachapelle, a heavily immigrant neighborhood whose female residents have recently drawn significant media attention to routine harassment its streets. Salvation, in this case, comes with a healthy dose of social consciousness.