Quiet Trends of Paris

PARIS – As trends go, the Parisian gastronomic Richter scale is always rather faint. Thank goodness. Change is slow but sure in this capital. If there is a current trend it is toward chefs doing what they want to do, spreading their wings as feel need.

Like Flora Mikula a few months ago (she moved from a crowded bistro space to in the 7th to a perfectly posh spot across from the Hotel George V) chef Catherine Guerraz left her small and intimate bistro near the Galleries Lafayette and took over the space formerly occupied by Guy Savoy’s Cote Sud.

She clearly wanted more space, a touch more graciousness and a chance to expand her already solid bistro-style repertoire.

A recent dinner here receives mixed reviews. While the food is right on target service ranged from totally inept to absolutely perfect, depending upon the person doing the serving. Orders were totally confused, we waited forever a touch of attention early on, and they were out of the wine we ordered. One hopes we can blame this on first month jitters, but the entire dining room staff needs to be corralled and taught to coordinate their moves.

As to the food the first of season scallops from Erquy were sweet super-fresh, and the raviolis of langoustines with tarragon made me one happy diner. Nothing rivals langoustines for their luxurious texture and unique, faintly nutty flavor. But the dish that made we swoon was the civet de sanglier, a glistening wild boar stew with just the right touch of gaminess, chewy and moist morsels of meat braised to a gentle tenderness. Embellished with a golden polenta galette and washed down with a delicate Santenay (the 2000 Les Gravieres from Domaine de la Pousse d’Or) the trio saved what might have been a sorry night indeed.

Alain Ducasse seems to be everywhere in the world today, and is about to place a foot in every arrondissement of Paris. His latest takeover – if you want to call it that – is the redo of one of Paris’ most classic bistros, Aux Lyonnais, near the French stock exchange, or Bourse. Along with partner Thierry De La Brose (owner of the renowned L’Ami Louis) he has done a fine job.

The 1890’s bistro – a classic Lyonnais style bistro with zinc bar, bright floral tiles and colorful deep red façade --- could serve as a museum piece or film set.

In short, if you have a gram of nostalgia in you, you will love this place. The food here is convincing and gently re-tooled. All the classic and roborative dishes of Lyon are there: the fragrant, chunky sabodet, or pork sausage; the salad of frisee, lardoons, herring and sheep’s feet; tablier de sapeur, or tripe that is marinated, breaded, and grilled; not to mention the famed Saint Marcellin cheese made most famous in the city of Lyon.

I don’t even mind that they tinkered a bit, for the flavors here are full and honest. I adored the remake of the classic sabodet, a strong and earthy sausage made with pig’s head and skin, one that warms the insides of a cold winter’s day. Rather than plopping the sausage in a pool of rich sauce, the venerable sausage is poached gently in broth, covered with a layer of potatoes, and perfumed with a lightened sauce gribiche, or mayonnaise of laced with capers, cornichons, and herbs.

Equally appealing is the classic roast chicken, garnished with tomatoes, mushrooms and onions, and deglazed with the traditional touch of red wine vinegar. The wine list is a bit pricey for a bistro. But do as they do in Lyon and stick with cru Beaujolais and you should do just fine, sticking with the Fleurie, Brouilly, Chiroubles or Moulin-a-Vent, all priced at around 30 €.

Chez Catherine
3 rue Berryer
Paris 75008
Telephone 01 40 76 01 40
Fax: 01 40 76 03 96.
Closed Sunday and Monday. All major credit cards. A la carte, 50 euros, including service but not wine.

Aux Lyonnais
32 rue Saint Marc
Paris 75002
Tel: 01 42 9 65 04
Fax: 01 42 97 42 95
Closed all day Sunday and Monday lunch. 28 € menu, including service but not wine. A la carte, 40 euros, including service but not wine.