Saturday, 1 January 2011
I recently dined in two old faithfuls. Thoumieux has been totally reconceived by a multi-starred chef, and L'Ecailler will never disappoint.
Thoumieux is a classic restaurant with a solid reputation but I have always found classic French cuisine heavy and boring. The big news is that a Michelin-starred chef Jean-François Piège left his prestigious post at the Crillon (where he had two stars) to revamp Thoumieux. Working with the famous Thierry Costes (a terrific architect), he had the restaurant entirely renovated and he also thoroughly reworked the menu. Now they feature wonderful salads, modern fish and meat dishes and thoroughly delicious desserts. I went there with my oldest high school friend, Judy and her son, Noah and we had a ball. I started with a very classic French salad, le frisée aux lardons, but this time the lardons were ground into a paste that covered the bottom of the dish so every bite of the salad had a hint of smokey bacon flavor. Judy ordered a wonderful souffléed pizza (a big round hollow ball of pizza dough garnished with creamy burrata, olive paste, arugala and just-cooked tuna. Noah had a wonderful entrecôte served with creamy mashed potatoes. I opted for the scallops (this is the height of the season) atop a mound of truffled macaroni lightly baked in a cream sauce. We each ordered our own excellent glass of wine. Judy and Noah chose a red Bordeaux and I had a flavorful white Burgundy. For dessert was a just-churned vanilla ice cream topped with caramelized hazelnuts. A great meal for not too much money. The room is beautiful (one expects perfection from Costes) with beautiful art-nouveau light fixtures and a lot of atmosphere.
A few days later, I joined another childhood friend and her family to go to L'Ecailler du Bistrot. If you remember my post on Le Bistrot du Paul Bert, you will know what bistrot they are talking about. L'Ecailler is under the same direction as Le Paul Bert but specializes in fish and oysters and shellfish. I have been there many times. We started with the enormous Belons 000 (the lower the number, the larger the oyster) and they were a combination of succulent, meaty and delicate oysters with a wonderful briny flavor. After that, I had the tasty Coquilles St. Jacques d'Erquy coming straight from Brittany and served in their shells. We also had beautiful plates of smoked salmon with dill cream and interesting crab nems (spring rolls). Janet chose the simply grilled calamari served on a bed of delicious tomato-flavored rice. With the meal, we had a Puligny Montrachet from the reknowned Leflaive Vineyard which was amazingly delicious and reasonably priced. I feel lucky to have this place so close to my house. It is always a wonderful restaurant choice.
Some terrific lunch places, especially Laduree and Le Loir dans la Théière
I think that my favorite lunch place in the Marais is Le Loir dans la Théière (the Dormouse in the Teapot). The big specialty here is the enormous and light lemon meringue pie--served in a portion which can easily be shared by three. But there are also wonderful quiches (honey, gruyère and pine nuts; zucchini and goat cheese; cheddar and spinach). Excellent too are the omelettes (mint and fresh zucchini for example) and the club sandwiches. There are large and interesting salads and they also serve hot dishes which change daily. A favorite is the copious couscous which I have yet to try. This place is open everyday and always crowded so you can know that the quality of the food is superb as French people don't stand on line unless it is worth it.
A more elegant and expensive (well worth it) place is Ladurée which is truly a classic Parisian address. They have expanded to other countries and even have a stand at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Supposedly known for the macarons, I think that they have the best breakfast pastries in the world as well as superb cakes and chocolates. At Ladurée you can have beautiful, delicious salads, designer omelettes with truffles or morel mushrooms and elegant prepared dishes. Everything on the plate is superb and the prices are comparable to the quality: very high. I don't go there often, but every time I do, I am happy.
Go to Ladurée for breakfast and you will have your choice of freshly squeezed juices, viennoiseries (such as croissants, brioches and the flakey bretzels that are among the specialties) and a luscious café au lait, and like me, you will be transported to seventh heaven.