I am all about second chances, and luckily so are our friends Monique and The Handsome One, who agreed to another dinner with us after I led them inadvertently astray at Tuesday nights fiasco at Juan et Juanita. We made plans to meet last night at what is a classic Paris boite, Bistro Paul Bert. The idea to come here was actually put into my head after checking out a story in the NYT a bout 10 days ago regarding Mark Bittman's experiences searching out the best examples of that most standard of bistro dishes, steak frites. Bistro Paul Bert was among his five favorites, and was also mentioned in the quirky, sassy, and quite useful eat/shop guides published in PDX. So reservations were made, the scars of Tuesday scrubbed away, and off we went.
We decided to rendezvous with our dining companions at BPB, so w and I left a bit early to check out what is supposed to be one of Paris' best cocktail bars, China Club, where according to one description we read, "they take their martinis very seriously." If you read my post about the martini article in the NYT a couple of days ago, you know for me that kind of commentary is like telling Bush and Cheney there's another dictator with boatloads of oil needing his ass kicked...we are both so there! And so we were (w and I, not W and C), grabbing seats at the long wooden bar and tucking into a couple of delicious libations. Okay, I had a Negroni, not a martini, because after seeing the national drink of the Republic of Bruce on the menu, I had to see how those Frenchies treated it. And you know, they treated it, and by extension me, with all the respect it deserved. So much so that I had two! We paid our tab and feeling much better about myself, dinner prospects, hell, even W and C, we walked the short distance to BPB.
The menu at Bistro Paul Bert
This place is so cool. Small, tucked inside an old, old building. A cozy dining room, tables snug together. Ancient ads and pictures adorning the walls, comfy chairs and that kind of yellowy light that makes you feel all warm and gooey inside. Le menu is presented tableside, written on a blackboard. We all chose the nights 32 euro entrée/plat/dessert selection. We made our decisions, ordered a very substandard bottle of Anjou blanc, which after a couple of sips was replaced by a MUCH more acceptable bottle of '99 Champagne, and enjoyed what for me was one of the most enjoyable meals of the trip.
Our entrees (first courses) were superb, white asparagus for w and Monique, thick stalks of tender, delicious spring garden produce. The Handsome One had the chopped raw duck, which was exceptional, and I had macou carpaccio, macou being some kind of fish none of us had ever heard of, but it tasted like something I'd like to get to know better!
White apsargus, in all it's springy glory!
The Handsome One and I, very much in the moment!
The conversation was flowing in that way it does when you're around people who are on the same wave length, in this case meaning food obsessed omnivores, and we were more than ready for the main courses to arrive. A bottle of Burgundy was rustled up, and plates were hitting the table. Monique and I both ordered that steak frites, and it was everything Bittman had said it was. An expertly cooked, chewy but not too, very juicy and flavorful piece of cow with a pile of perfectly done, salty good hand cut fries. We were both loving it. The Handsome One had the pigeon, again delightful, and maybe something the guys at Portland's Le Pigeon could take a lesson from. The only marginally weak moment was w's monkfish, which was somewhat bland and oddly seasoned. Not bad, but we all were kind of indifferent about it.
Not to worry though, because there's always dessert to look forward to (I love these prix fixe dinners!). Monique had the fresh fraises with cream, The Handsome One ordered the cheese platter which was incredible. There were perhaps seven or eight different selections, and the server left the whole board of cheese on the table and you could take however much your stomach could handle. Which at this point wasn't much, but the ones chosen were delicious. w had the meringue with fresh strawberries, and it was outstanding. I ordered the Paris-Brest, which as Monique explained to me is a classic French dessert, two pieces of buttery pastry with, in this case, a nutty, thick, stupidly sexy custard slathered between them. This is among the most decadent things I've ever put in my mouth, and while I've never had sex with a piece of food from a restaurant, I was almost blushing at the thoughts going through my head...whew!
w's strawberry meringue... very yummy!
My indecently delicious Paris-Brest
We wandered out into the night, sated, stuffed, sleepy, thankful for the Paris metro system that whisked us all quickly home and to bed!