As diners, all too often we only look forward, to the newest address, the chef with biggest current hype, and we race to keep up with the flavor of the week. Rather, we should stop every now and then and reflect upon great places we seem to have forgotten in the rush. The solid and classic, dependable, old friends who will always be there once the hyped up spots have been forgotten or closed their doors. I confess it had been years since I visited Mark Williamson’s now landmark wine bar, established in 1980 and still going as strong as ever. My last meal was a revelation: food with character and history, a chef with a classic education at the stove, a wine list that’s hard to beat anywhere in the world, a staff that is clearly well-trained and seem to enjoy being there. I love their attention to detail, food that seems intent on satisfying the customer, a place that is what it is (fabulous!) and not trying overtly to prove anything. The food on that visit was superb: a beautiful plate of Roseval potatoes, warm, bathed in a light and tangy sauce, showered with the freshest grilled walnuts and bits of salty bacon; a flavorful, wintry bed of mixed wild mushrooms topped with a round of fresh pasta. The chef, Francois Yon, there since 1993, understands searing like no one. That evening our moist and perfectly cooked farm-raised breast of veal had a thick, mahogany-toned exterior and a delicately tender interior, all set upon a bed of mixed vegetables, carrots, leeks, potatoes, turnips. The same can be said of his super-seared farm-raised guinea hen (pintade) set on the same soothing bed of vegetables. His chocolate terrine (photo) should go in the record books as one of the best ever, and of course Willi’s wine list will bring any wine lover to his or her knees. The 2005 red Chateauneuf-du-Pape Domaine du Marcoux from sisters Sophie and Catherine Armenier is a dream, a balance blend of opulence and refinement, as well as tons of pleasure.
WILLI’S WINE BAR, 13 rue de Petits-Champs, Paris 1; Tel: +33 1 42 61 05 09. Métro: Bourse or Palais-Royal or Pyramides.
Open: Monday-Saturday. Closed Sunday. www.williswinebar.com (reservations on line). Lunch: 20.50€, 23.40€ and 26.50€ menus.
Dinner: 33€ & 36€ menus.