Coretta, a new bistro that's worth the detour

Coretta clementine dessert
Coretta clementine dessert


Coretta, the three-week old modern bistro that’s a collaboration of three favorite Parisian restaurateurs, is a win! Chef Jean-François Pataleon of L'Affable in the 7th, and Beatriz Gonzalez and her husband, Matthieu Marcant, of Neva Cuisine in the 8th , have teamed up to create a super contemporary, approachable, just-good-food bistro that’s totally right for the times. The airy, two-story, expertly designed restaurant on the Rue Cardinet in the 17th overlooks the recently created Martin Luther King Park, and is aptly named after King’s wife, Coretta. I love the wood and marble design, the simplicity, the modern menu with food that’s just familiar enough and surprising enough to make us all happy. Do try the anguille fumé or smoked eel, teamed up with thin slices of raw veal, and a satisfying, creamy horseradish bouillon.  Silken mackerel is paired with miso, apples and ginger in a light, refreshing first course. I admired the elegant, aesthetic presentation of the lightly salted cod (cooked to perfection, breaking into giant alabaster flakes) flanked by a kaleidoscope of lightly pickled vegetables: turnips, beets, and radishes. The ris de veau --- veal sweetbreads – is already a bistro favorite here, served with panais (parsnips) cooked three ways: chips, mashed, braised. It was lunchtime, and I was not really in the mood for dessert , but soon I was glad that I changed my mind. Here, a simplified version of Beatriz’s chocolate sphere from Neva Cuisine is turned into a single chocolate disc, perched on a spicy pineapple concoction, melting into a puddle as warm chocolate sauce is poured over all. The prettiest dish of the day (photo) was the clementine sorbet joined by slices of fresh clementine, bites of crispy meringue, and a lemony yuzu (a pungent Japanese citrus), mascarpone-like cream. A few sips of Yves Cuilleron’s well-priced (7€ a glass) pure Roussanne vin de France rounded out the meal with perfection. Baker Jean-Luc Poujauran’s crusty bread is served from a warming wooden box, accompanied by a fat pat of soft butter. Downstairs , there’s a brief but appealing tapas menu.

151 bis, rue Cardinet, Paris 17. Tel: +33 1 42 26 55 55. Métro Brochant. 24€ lunch menu, 33€ and 39€ evening menus, à la carte 45 to 70€. Open Monday- Saturday. Closed  Saturday lunch and all day Sunday.

Back to the country: In Paris

Salade Frisee Lardons Terroir Parisien 3 23 12

Thank you, Yannick Alléno, for bringing us yet another chic, casual, well-priced good-food bistro that’s open seven days a week. I am loving this trend. Alléno is the Michelin three-star chef at the outstanding Hotel Meurice, who several years ago began a lunch menu centered around products of the Paris region: Special carrots and onions, poultry and mushrooms, lettuces and even beef and lamb. He’s now carried his passion one step further with the brand-new bistro Terroir Parisien, a bright, light, airy space in the Maubert-Mutualité area of the 5th arrondissement, home to the twice-weekly produce market, Eric Kayer’s  bread and pastry boutiques,, and Laurent Dubois’s top-flight cheese shop. As Alléno began at the Meurice and continues here, most of the dishes are historic, relating to the days when the bulk of what Parisian ate came from the city’s surrounding fields. There’s a classic – and perfect – salade de frisée, cresson à l’ouef mollet et croutons et lardons (photo), tender curly endive and watercress topped with a flawless soft-cooked egg, crunchy croutons and crisp rectangles of fragrant bacon. A few grindings of the pepper mill and I was good to go. I’d be proud to bring to the table their navarin printanier d’agneau de chez Morisseau, a moist, delicate spring lamb stew teamed up with baby carrots, potatoes, green beans, peas, and herbs. I have not seen the old-fashioned merlan Colbert (whole whiting breaded and deep-fried) since the 1980’s, when Joël Robuchon brought it back to the table at Jamin. Here the dish was as golden, tender, and crisp as can be, served with a delicate herb butter. There is also the classic French onion soup, stuffed cabbage, platters of excellent charcuterie from Gilles Vérot’s boutiques, and a cheese plate. Service here was tentative and distracted, and the wine list needs a serious boost. Soon they hope to continue service nonstop from noon to midnight, meaning you can pull up a stool and enjoy a croque monsieur and a glass of wine at 4 in the afternoon. Sunday brunch will also be offered in the coming weeks.

TERROIR PARISIEN, 20 rue Saint-Victor,Paris 5. Tel: +33 1 44 31 54 54. Métro: Maubert-Mutualité. Open daily. Email Lunch & Dinner: 11-35€

Semilla: A new kid on the block

Semilla Opening 3 15 12
Mushrooms Semilla 3 15 12

American Juan Sanchez and New Zealander Drew Harré have become favored food and wine fixtures in the Saint-Germain neighborhood (with restaurants Fish, Cosi, and wine shop La Dernière Goutte) and my good friends seem to have hit yet another all-bases-loaded home run with their newest endeavor, Semilla, a tapas, or small-plate style restaurant carefully designed for the way we want to eat today. A “soft” opening on Thursday produced winning dish after winning dish, with Meilleur Ouvrier de France chef Eric Trochon at the helm, dreaming up a mix of totally new and amazing to-the-point inventions, as well as soothing classics with a modern, updated edge. Here’s the idea: a nice mix of little and large tastes for vegetarians, meat eaters, lovers of the classics as well as the adventurous. Juan, Drew, and their crew have spent more than a year fine-tuning this lovely spot, updating the beams and brick décor into a clean white yet bistro-like space, with an all-stainless open kitchen. On the menu: paper-thin slices of delectable charcuterie from Corsica;  an amazing  starter of grapefruit, coconut cream and Asian herbs; a creamy velouté of mushrooms; a must-have plate of seared shitake mushrooms grilled-seared with just a touch of oil, salt, and pepper (photo); fabulous skate-wing topped with a peppy sauce vierge;  a state-of-the-art blanquette de veau; a rosy-rare côte de boeuf; a  dessert of winning citrus-based soupe d’agrumes. And more to come! The wine list is on its way, with always dependable and affordable selections from Juan the Magnificent. They are still in test mode, so lunch only this Friday and Saturday. Sunday will be brunch, then steaks and stuff for dinner. Coming Monday, it’s 7/7. To be continued…………..(By the way, Semilla is Spanish for “seed.”)

SEMILLA, 54 rue de Seine, Paris 6. Tel: +33 1 43 54 34 50.Métro: Saint-Germain des Prés or Mabillon. Open: Daily.

Lunch: 19€  unique menu. Open between lunch & dinner for charcuterie and drinks.

Dinner: A la carte 35-55 €

Le Grand Pan

Grand Pan Eggs and Truffles

This elbow-to-elbow meat lover’s paradise tucked away in the southern edge of the 15th arrondissement, is a classic of it genre, a bistro where friends gather with two thoughts in mind: Copious food and lots of laughter for the sounds of good times. Waiters all but skate through the crowded duet of dining rooms, arms held high, delivering gigantic seared steaks cooked rare and juicy, double-thick veal chops ok so rosy, thick pork chops and giant bowls of oversized French fries. There’s a good Morgon on the list from winemaker Georges Descombes, a smooth wine with a pleasing flavor of lightly smoked meat. The service is familiar and friendly in the best sort of way, while in the winter months the menu might announce a lovely baked egg topped with slices of authentic, fresh black truffles (photo). If so, go for it!

LE GRAND PAN,  20 rue Rosewald, Paris 15, Tel: +33 1 42 50 02 50 Métro: Plaisance/Convention Open: Monday-Friday. Closed Saturday & Sunday.Lunch: 28€ menu. A la carte, 35-55€ Dinner: A la carte 35-55 €

How insipid can we get?

Chipirons Chardenoux 8 11

So this was probably the most insipid restaurant meal I have eaten in Paris in 32 years. Yes, that’s saying something. I walk past the 6th arrondissement Chardenoux des Pres almost every day on my way to work, and have eagerly watched its transformation from a tired old bistro into a chic, must-go-to restaurant  run by TV star chef Cyril Lignac. OK, I am not kidding. Our lunch trio waited 20 minutes for someone to notice us and take our order. Our wine came, a few drops were  poured into my glass for approval, and then the bottle was set on the table as the waitperson disappeared, on to better things. We were happy to pour our own. Every dish was a disaster, void of taste, texture, personality. No one ate more than two or three bites of each, it was that bad. I have never eaten Picard prepared frozen food, but I have a feeling that the Picard food across the street on Rue du Dragon may be more delicious. A bowl of girolles tasted as though the mushrooms had sat in water for days, and yet they were still gritty. Peas and broccoli were on the menu in August. Perhaps the most dishonest of all was a dish billed as chipirons – now rare baby squid from the Atlantic – which certainly seemed to be the less desirable cuttlefish,  cut into rubbery French-fry-like strands (photo). Overcooked and limp  ravioles of langoustines had that 1980’s nouvelle cuisine sauce that, sorry, tasted canned. Wonder of wonders, the chic, well-heeled crowd seemed oblivious to the disaster, and ate on with abandon. The  local Le Monde newspaper vendor -- always the comedien --  came in shouting this headline:   "DSK fathered the maid's son!" Need I say more? Run, don’t walk away from this place!

LE CHARDENOUX DES PRES, 27, rue du Dragon, Paris  6. Telephone : 01 45 48 29 68. Métro: Saint Germain des Prés, Saint Sulpice, Mabillon, Sevres-Babylone. Open daily. 25-euro lunch menu. A la carte, 45 to 60 euros, not including beverages.

Angela delivers bread to Fish

Angela Delivers Bread from Cosi to Fish 3 11

I confess that I could easily lunch or dine at the wine bar/restaurant Fish La Boissonerie once a week, and would be totally happy just sipping some delicious wine (our own Clos Chanteduc Cotes du Rhone is on the list now!) and eating the warm and golden brick oven bread from Cosi, just across the street. The friendly Anglophone spot reminds me of the coffee shop from Friends, where you always run into someone you know and always feel at home. Sunday’s lunch was no exception, with the charming Colombian Angela Jaramitto taking orders and delivering fresh bread every few minutes or so (photo). I always love the simple arugula, date and Parmesan salad, as well as the daurade on a welcoming bed of poached vegetables, including leeks, tomatoes, potatoes, and bits of citrus. Yesterday’s wine was a delight, the Macon-Villages Quintaine 2009, 100% Chardonnay from Pierette and Michel Guillemot, a white with a surprising amount of acidity and vigor. (And, no, the 2011 Gault-Millau guide is dead wrong: Barack Obama did NOT eat here!)

FISH LA BOISSONERIE, 69, rue de Seine, Paris 6. Telephone +33 1 43 54 34 69. Métro : Mabillon/Odéon.

Philou: the good new days

Pig's Cheeks and Celery Root Boulangere Philou

Modern Parisian bistros know no bounds these days. It's not possible that diners ate better in the “good old days.” Today food is fresher, unmasked, and more wholesome. The bright and lively Philou, home of Philippe Damas ( last seen at Square Trousseau) is a case in point. Damas offers old-time ingredients – like pig’s cheeks and calf’s liver – and serves them up with a simplicity and freshness that is thoroughly appealing. He pairs slow-cooked, moist and meaty pig’s cheeks (photo) with a tangy celery root boulangère (baked in a gratin dish with nothing but chicken stock until all the stock is absorbed) and cooks calf’s liver like a giant piece of meat, with a deeply seared outer crust and moist, rosy interior. I also loved the beautifully marinated fresh sardines, paired with a julienne of apples and set on a bed of warm, bathed potatoes. The choice of wine is excellent : Try the superb 2006  Côtes du Rhone, Vieille Julienne, so rich and powerful it could easily pass as a Châteauneuf du Pape. The tiny place off the Canal Saint Martin  is super loud,  super fun, and a super bargain.

Philou, 12, Avenue Richerand, Paris 10. Tel: +33 1 42 38 00 13. Métro: Jacques Bonsergent. Closed Sunday and Monday. 25 euro menu.

Saturne: a keeper

Squid, Ble Noir, Osyter Mousse Saturne

Too much ink has already been spilled over Saturne, one of a handful of current cult restaurants in Paris. Since the restaurant’s opening in September, much of the word has been negative and underwhelming, suggesting the place might have needed a softer opening. All I can say is that a recent lunch at the hands of young chef Sven Chartier (last seen at Racines) tells me this is a place that I am going to want to return to again and again. What we want today is fresh, inventive fare that is at once familiar and surprisingly new and Saturne delivers.

The blond wood decor and airy glass roof is warming, and service (despite a bit of confusion over a reservation)  is attentive and correct. Sven loves the mandolin, and everything from all manner of root vegetables to golden Comté cheese are sliced paper thin. The vegetables arrive as though they were lean, shiny sheets of colorful pasta, all the while guarding their integrity and flavor. Main courses, such as a moist cochon de lait and fat slices of codfish, were cooked to perfection. And there are some pleasing surprises, such as alabaster squid topped with a tiny buckwheat blinis and an effusive oyster mousse (photo).  I didn’t love the wine, a “natural” beverage, Domaine Valette's  Viré Clessé 2005. It had a maderized edge, no balance of fruit and acid, an added, alas, nothing to the experience. Desserts were a bit heavy,  with a thick brioche perdu  and  overly saturated baba au rhum. But I’d go back again and again just to sample baker Christophe Vasseur’s pain des amis, a vibrant, thick-crusted loaf with a bright and nutty flavor. (Boulangerie du Pain et des Idées,  34, rue Yves Toudic, Paris 10.)  At lunch time, snacks and wine are served at the bar near the entrance.

Saturne, 17, rue Notre-Dames des Victoires, Paris 2. Telephone : +33 1 42 60 31 90.  Métro Bourse. Closed Saturday and Sunday. 35 euro lunch menu, 37 euro dinner menu.