December 19, 2009

Paris Weekend

A couple of friends and I went to Paris during the end of November for a short chill-out and eat weekend. All of us had been there before so we didn't have any must-see touristy things on our agenda. So guess what we grativated towards - searching out good food as usual!

After reading good reviews about Chez Robert et Louise, I made a reservation for this restaurant which was located in the Marais. It's known for its hearty meat dishes, notably steak. When we arrived at 9pm, the place was filled and we were shown to the basement where there was more seating in a cellar-like dining room. We of course ordered the various cuts of steak on the menu and it was amazing. Juicy, fatty and wonderfully delicious although some parts of our meat came rarer than we'd like and we had to send it back to get it cooked. Other than that, no complaints! It was one of the best ribeyes I've ever eaten!

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We also went to Bofinger, which came quite highly recommended as well. It was a traditional french brasserie/restaurant which had an amazing dining room and these huge huge seafood platters (if you look carefully in the first picture, you can catch a glimpse of it) which had lobsters, oysters, crabs, clams, mussels, prawns, whatever seafood you can think of it's on there. It was so hard to get a table, and we had to settle for a 1030pm seating (!!). The food was so-so, quite typical French fare (we didn't get the seafood platter which was probably the bestseller) but we experienced horrible service. The waiter who served us either was the most unhappy person on earth or he was racist. Probably the latter because he didn't give any attitude at all to our neighbouring tables but when it came to us, he was slow, and had the audacity to roll his eyes and make faces everytime we requested for something. I was majorly pissed and felt that we should have left at one point. But we didn't. Anyway, the meal was pretty much ruined by that.

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We were treated so much better at the Asian eateries we went to, no racism there! We went in search of vietnamese food in Chinatown (13th arrondissement) and there were massive queues outside this restaurant at the junction of Avenue de Choisy and rue Tolbiac, Pho 14. We decided to go into another Vietnamese restaurant 2 doors away instead since the queue looked quite ridiculous and we were hungry. This place also served pho and even plonked down a huge plate of beef brisket and bones as an 'appetiser' on the house! The meat was tender and flavourful since it had been cooked quite long in order to make the stock presumably. Good use of items they don't need. We ordered the standard staple of Bun Cuon (minced pork rolled in rice paper), vermicelli with spring rolls and pho, which were all pretty up to scratch. However, we could resist doing a comparison with Pho 14, and so we went back for a second round of pho the next day. The queue at Pho 14 moves pretty fast, and we were seated after 10 minutes or so. The food here was marginally better and for slightly lower prices. I guess that's why it's popular with everyone, but there wasn't any free beef brisket here. I would say that if you had time to queue, then try Pho 14 but if you don't fancy a wait and like big portions, then go for the one 2 doors down (note that there is one more in between but we didn't try that).

The other MUST-TRY when you're in Paris and a fan of barbecued meats (shao la) is the Roast Pork Rice (shao rou fan) at Tang Gourmet at 192 Avenue de Choisy (just outside Place d'Italie metro stop). Tang Freres is a chinese supermarket chain in Paris and Tang Gourmet is their quick dining selling takeaway chinese food (or you can eat in as there's some seating). The Roast Pork (shao rou, not char siew) is AMAZING, possibly the best roast pork I've ever eaten in the world. I discovered this when I was a student in Paris 8 years ago where I ate it at least once a week, and I'm happy to report that after all these years it is still as good. The skin crackling is crispy and salty (not hard and chewy like some versions), and the fatty part of the belly is pretty much melt in your mouth and indistinguishable and not rubbery/jelly-like (which I would usually remove in roast pork cos I really don't like the rubbery taste). If you're ever in Paris, you really have to go try it for yourself.

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No trip to Paris would be complete without the requisite dessert pilgrimage. This comprised most definitely of paying homage to Laduree and Pierre Herme, two internationally renowned macaron (and dessert) wonderlands filled with all sorts of delicious, colourful and beautiful creations. But the third and best-kept secret would be Sadaharu Aoki, a Japanese-French patisserie tucked in a little innocuous shop in St Germain. They do the most amazing tea and other asian flavour macarons, as well as these chocolate truffles that are made and shaped to look like crayon pastels, which a wide range of colour and flavours. Their cakes are also very exquisite and delicious (see second row, right picture). I guess I have a soft spot for japanese-french pastries. All in all, I think we ate like 30+ macarons the whole trip between the 3 of us and quite a few cakes. Yum. And we didn't even go to Grande Epicerie at Bon Marche or the Galerie Lafayette Foodhall. I'm sure there are countless smaller patisseries that I missed that I will have to track down and add to my tasting list the next time I'm back in Paris. Can't wait!!!
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