Paris, Where Have You Been All My Life?

paris featured header

Just the fact that they didn’t compromise the integrity of the city for real estate, makes me kind of believe in (sorry…) socialism.  Apparently all buildings except for one (ewww… Trump, is that you?) in central Paris cannot exceed 6 stories tall.  So what?  It unveils the vastest, most beautiful sky I have ever seen in an urban setting.  New York, I love you, but you ain’t got a ceiling this nice.  My pitiful collection of vocabularies fails miserably.  Just look at it!  Carefree clouds floating in a mesmerizing, SOUL-SUCKING blue.  Tell me that doesn’t look like a Pixar’s movie!, in which I’d be the ghost of an old lady happily traveling in a balloon-lifted house…

Damn, so this is what earth is SUPPOSED to look like…  Shame on me for forgetting.

Being from New York, an instinct of guilt is inevitable when praising another city to this extent.  But New York feels like home.  Paris feels like… a dream.  Omg, why am I talking so cliche and lame?  And why is it so annoyingly true!  If it weren’t because of the completely unexpected freezing cold and rain (the weather literally went between LOL to WTF like five times in a day) had “curbed” a bit of my “enthusiasm”, leaving would be all too much to bear.

But this is a food blog after all, so let me talk about that.

Since this is already sounding like a story of lameness and cliches, I might as well say it again.  Jason and I really like (ok, love) Anthony Bourdain.  Mainly because we love eating the same things he does!  So we do use his show as a base of our travel  itinerary, kind of like… a stalker in a distance.  But in our own defense, if I may, we are ALMOST never (well there’s that soggy fries in Montreal…) disappointed by his recommendation.  Unfortunately two of the restaurants on our highly-anticipated list, sort of lived up to the  - let’s just say less than friendly - Parisian reputation.  Is it because… I don’t speak French?

OK, for the first restaurant, Le Chateaubriand (129 Avenue Parmentier).  Turns out that there are not one, but TWO Le Chateaubriand in Paris.  And what will confuse the HELL out of whoever’s trying to google it, is that while the name and location of the restaurant is correct on Google Map, the website listed is WRONG.  So if someone goes to that website and call the number on the website like an idiot like me, that would get you a lovely reservation at this lovely restaurant on 125 Rue de Tocqueville which nobody is talking about.  Fix it, Google!!  And of course when I finally called the RIGHT Le Chateaubriand, the lovely French hostess didn’t seem to want to help out this dumb, nobody tourist who’s NOT on the reservation list… Is it because… she doesn’t speak English?  So anyways, that didn’t happen for us.

OK, for the second restaurant, Frenchie (6 Rue du Nil), Google’s got the website right this time.  BUT it turns out, they don’t really want to do business.  If someone calls their reservation number during their “office hours”, which if I remember correctly is Monday ~ Friday, 2pm ~ 5pm (yes, 3 hours/day only…), maybe miracle would happen and the call would be answered.  But I wasn’t blessed with such miracle.  I believe I’ve tried calling at least… 7 times.  Nothing.  With everything else happening, we couldn’t manage to visit the restaurant personally during weekdays because they are closed ALL weekend, yeah.  So anyways, that didn’t happen either.

So what did happen for us, at least for what’s on the show, are L’atelier de Robuchon, Le Comptoir, and Le Papillon.

L’atelier de Robuchon (5 Rue de Montalembert) is kind of… touristy.  English-speaking, camera-flashing tourists are the majority here (yes we were, too).  And the Pre Fixe menu, which we also shamefully ordered, is I assume, designed for tourists as well.  Because everything else on the plates of the local French who sat beside us, looked 10 times better than what’s on ours.  So I’m not gonna bother putting up those photos.  Just remember, don’t order the Pre Fixe.

Finally, I’m done with all the bad karma on this trip.  Pleasant bloggers like me start on the negative things to lure people into reading the rest…  Now the good stuff.

Le Comptoir (9 Carrefour de l’Odéon).  OMG, Le Comptoir.  Thank God that you happened for us, Le Comptoir.  You have single-handedly eased (slightly) our grief over the demise of the other plans.  Even though we didn’t get a reservation for the dinner Pre Fixe (booked till OCTOBER… ), their a la carte menu during the day was easily the best things we’ve had during the entire trip.

Le Comptoir:
9 Carrefour de l’Odéon, Paris
+33 1 44 27 07 97

Le Papillon at the open market on Rue Mouffetard had also turned out to be a pleasant surprise, serving rustic, home-made classics.  It’s the kind of things that I dream to be on the table of a French country farmhouse with a couple of sheep running around.  Unpolished, but strangely satisfying.  With just a handful of dishes written on a black board, it’s perfect for an intimate lunch.

Le Papillon:
129 Rue Mouffetard, 75005 Paris
+33 1 43 31 66 50 ‎

What I absolutely love is that I can literally just walk into any bakery or cheese shop, and be handed the best baguette, croissant, and cheeses I’ve ever tasted.  Around the apartment where we stayed in Le Marais , on a little side street off Rue de Rivoli, there’s a bakery called Aux Desirs de Manon.  Everyday around 6pm, a little line would form in front of the bakery for their fresh-out-of-the-oven baguette, to walk it home and share it over dinner.  Their baguettes, out of the MANY we’ve tried, is my favorite.  I don’t have a respectable picture of it, because taking pictures was nowhere on my mind while I had them warm in my hand.

Aux Desirs de Manon:
129 Rue St Antoine Paris
+33 1 42 72 32 91

Their cheese… Oh lord, their cheese…  Anything from New York doesn’t even come close.  And it seems so natural for them.  My woohing-and-aahing over something they sell outside their shops on a little table for 3 euros, must’ve seemed like a comedy freak show.  Like this little nameless cheese shop within our neighborhood, where Rue St Antoine and Rue de Rivoli meet, had introduced us to the most amazing round-disk, soft sheep’s milk cheese.  That thing could barely hold itself together, it was so soft.  Scoop it up with warm baguette…  OK, I… forgot the name of it.  OK, I forgot to even ask.  I had temporary brain paralysis.  But this is what got me to it, “Cheese mange… eh… favorite… eh… the best… um… you LIKIE?”.  So maybe that’ll land someone on the same result if anybody’s there by any chance.

Little Cheese shop that gave:
Where Rue St Antoine meet Rue de Rivoli
+33 1 48 87 17 10

We noticed a cozy Jewish restaurant while wondering in Le Marais (Jewish Quarter).  We would pass through a wonderful aroma every time we walked by it, but we had to resist because it wasn’t what we were aiming at.  But I guess it was destined.  One day we stumbled into it while trying to escape the unpredictable Spring shower.  I know, why am I talking Kosher in a Paris post… But it was lovely.  The menu let people choose a few from the many cold dishes they have displaced in front of the restaurant.  Really great flavors.  A good option for something different.

Chez Marianne:
2 Rue Hospitalieres St Gervais
+33 1 42 72 18 86

I’m not big on macaroons.  Seems like just a vehicle for delivering overwhelming dose of sugar and food coloring.  They do look adorable.  I’ll give’em that.  So we conveniently skipped the holy temple of macaroons, Pierre Hermes, but came across a pastry shop that makes a wide varieties of Algerian desserts.  Where’s Algeria?  Com’on!  It’s sitting between Morocco and Libya in North Africa, across the Mediterranean Sea from France (OK, I obviously just Googled that like 2 seconds ago).  The flavors closely resemble Turkish desserts, a lot of honey, nuts and floral notes, but completely made-over with high-level sophistication.  Kind of like Rooney Mara before and after.

La Bague de Kenza
136, Rue Saint Honoré, Paris
+33 (1) 42 86 85 23

OK.  I’m REALLY excited that I found this.  It’s not about food.  It’s about bicycles.

Of course nowadays there are many reasons why people should ride a bike.  It’s green… It’s healthy… It’s convenient… blah blah blah.  But com’on.  Why ride a bike if it weren’t for STYLE.  Mm, classy Europeans on their vintage bikes, so effortless, so annoying.  How the hell do they pull it off.  Well, toss that hideous Giant (Taiwan, I love you, but you gotta get with the program), and get a real bike from:

La boutique:
93 Bd Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris
+33 1 42 77 58 06
 
And  stud it up with accessories from:
 
L’atelier
7 Rue Froment, 75011 Paris
+33 1 48 05 47 75

Everyone knows L’As Du Fallafel in Le Marais.  We got the shawarma instead.  The only thing I can add is, don’t go on Sunday.  Weedays: 3~5 people.  Sunday: 30…  I did come home and tried to recreate their shawarma sandwich.  It will be posted soon.

L’As Du Fallafel
34 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris, France
+33 1 48 87 63 60 ‎

That was the last day of our trip.  I guess this is it.

Time to pack up and go home.  To Beijing.

Lurking in the residual memories of Paris in a post-flight hangover, I open my eyes and see the sight of  BJ, covered in a grey, smoggy haze, just… moving lifelessly across the taxi window.  How could I not agonize over why, that there is a city in the world so devastatingly beautiful, and another so relentlessly depressing, and that I’m living in the latter end of the spectrum.

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8 Comments

  • Reply June 6, 2012

    shelovesdogs

    Thanks for taking me there with you! Such a lovely trip.

    • Reply June 7, 2012

      Mandy L.

      I’m glad you liked it. It was truly wonderful!

  • Reply October 25, 2013

    Helena

    Now, I am truly jealous! Yes, we have the trees and the puffy clouds in gorgeous clear blue sky in Sweden too but… but we do not have the patisserie, boulangerie or fromagerie on every street. Sometimes, I wish there be superheros that could just make this right!

    • Reply October 25, 2013

      Mandy L.

      Helena, for everyone else who doesn’t live in Paris, it is truly depressing that there is a place like Paris in the world…

  • Reply January 2, 2014

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  • Reply May 16, 2014

    Roxane

    Hello Mandy !

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while and never commented until I saw this old post sitting in the back. I am french and I had to comment it ! Thank you so much for making me feeling even more chauvinistic than french people are already known to be :p But to be really honest with you, Paris isn’t everyday as beautiful as that, it is polluted to. Nothing compared to Beijing or course… A funny fact is that provincial people who live there usually do it for their career and want to leave asap. I know it might sound crazy but daily life in Paris is just too fast for the average french – I am part of them. Don’t even imagine what we could feel in New York !
    Joel Robuchon is very famous on TV and all here. The one who is all the rage in the medias now is Cyril Lignac, maybe you have already heard of him. I think you could enjoy his shows if you can find it with english subtitles. French “Top Chef” too by the way. This show has a huge success here. And the go-to website when we want to find recipes is http://www.marmiton.org if you want to find some inspiration. Your blog inspires me a lot :) (even for french food, your post about rillettes stroke me somehow, I had never thought of home-making it) and I want to say thank you for that. Moreover the photos are always gorgeous and every new article is a pleasure to read – so far from the usual “you need to do this / this is the best enter-recipe-name to date” and so on. Great blog !

    PS : I am sorry that I cannot give you the name of the cheese you wrote about ! I know many round goat cheese but none from sheep. I’ll have to find out ! – and pardon my english

    • ROXANE: Hhaaaa I did see a news a couple weeks back about Paris under smog-attack… broke my heart.. argh…. It’s funny when you say “Paris life is too fast for average French”, because the whole time we were like “does anybody work in this town”? But that’s mainly my jealousy talking. Thanks for all the recommendations!! I will certainly check it out. And I hope the next time we’re in Paris, I’ll have better luck trying all the restaurants (and maybe share a baguette and cheese with you :) ). PS, your english is great… compared to my French. non-existence.

  • Reply June 28, 2014

    Mara

    Gorgeous photography Mandy! I am so in love with your blog! I hope you plan on creating a cookbook sometime soon.

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