Monday, July 12, 2010

Les Papilles = tastebuds

I went here with JP back in March. This time we went because it was MEs last day in Paris. The premise of Les Papilles is simple. Its a wine bar / bistro / epicerie concept where you either (a) pick your wine off the shelf while awkwardly hovering above peoples tables and plates or (b) ask the affable owner to pick a wine for you because his hovering will be less awkward and not as long. 

The menu is a set 4-course prixe-fixe so you don't need to choose. I suppose it can be hit-or-miss but neither time have I been disappointed (although both times I did get bleu cheese as the cheese course, which I'm not a fan of).

You start off with a soup. Now, I'm not a huge fan of soup but I really like it here. They add some texture to it by plating your bowl with crunchy things (bacon, croutons) and creamy things (usually a quenelle of creme fraiche or a similar dairy concoction). Then you ladle the soup from a communal soup bowl they place on the table. With JP, it was a sweet potato soup. I don't like sweet potatoes but I remember this being delicious. 

Most recently it was a cool zucchini soup that tasted like, no surprise here, fresh zucchini. Although I'm not quite sure how they managed to infuse so much fresh zucchini flavor into it. 

The little additions (chorizo in one, bacon in the other, as well as croutons, parsley and the cream-factor) made for deliciously interesting mouthfuls. But they give you so much soup, its hard to eat it all - nor would you want to considering the deliciousness that is the 2nd course.

Meat. I'm somewhat glad neither time I ran into a fish course here (I don't even know if they serve fish as a main ever but considering my volatile relationship with it, I think I got lucky). The first time it was braised pork belly with tiny beans and veggies. This was ridiculously good. I love pork but I'm not the biggest fan of pork belly (I do love bacon though) because of all the fat. It's a texture thing. I don't like eating chunks of fat. It's somewhat difficult for me to stomach Momofuku's pork buns because of this (I sometimes pick off bits of fat as I did when I went to Porchetta in NYC, which I highly recommend). But this pork belly was probably a 60/40 ratio of meat to fat. Mmm, perfect.

And again, the communal style makes for a stunning presentation and fun for all as you try to ladle out meat, veggies and sauce to your fellow diners. Recently we had beef braised for what the owner said was "a very long time" in a red wine sauce with seasonal veggies and potatoes. The meat wasn't the best cut I don't think (hence the long braising?) but it was entirely palatable. 

But the stars here were the veggies. Sweet carrots, crispy peas, sundried tomatoes and tiny potatoes in a meaty sauce. I'm starting to see a pattern here with the braised meats, veggies and legumes/tuburs.

Both times the cheese course was bleu cheese with a prune. No me gusta bleu cheese. Enough said. 

Dessert is very rustic and has a home-made quality to it. With JP I think we were served a clementine mousse with some caramel in a glass. It was very homey looking but then again, aren't the best desserts often the ones that look imperfect? At a place like this, I wouldn't expect a perfectly executed tart with dacquoise and the like, nor would I want one. This time it was a strawberry panna cotta. 

I've had panna cottas in Paris before and more often than not they seem to not understand the ratio of gelatin to the ratio of the cream. These guys understood.

Would I go again? No, but only because I have now been there twice and more places call - L'Agrume (hopefully soon thanks to BB), La Gazzetta, Frenchie (so hard to get reservations, argh), among others. Although I have yet to find myself a dining companion who would want to go to Le Meurice, Le Cinq, Les Ambassadeurs or any similar places...Anyone up for it?

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