Thursday, October 28, 2010

Revisiting Cafe des Musees on my birthday

I feel old now. All 25 years old. There was one time when I was 20 and I was sitting in my dorm room at NYU in front of my computer while my roommate, SK, was in front of hers. All the sudden I had a slight panic about how old I was - I was convinced I was still 19 and not 20. SK repeatedly assured me I wasn't 19. I was unconvinced and took a 5 minute nap after which I think I came to my senses...there were other fun stories that year including me sleepwalking out of our dorm room but I won't go into that semi-hilarious incident. But 25 is old!

And to celebrate my old-ness, I rounded up a bunch of friends who were free on a Sunday night, booked a table at Cafe des Musees (conveniently located a few blocks from my apartment and conveniently delicious most of the time) and had a turbot with fettucine-style strips of zucchini and carrots, on a bed of a parsley-butter sauce. Kinda like what I had last time, and kinda similarly delicious but not as rich (last time it was an even richer butter sauce).

And the birthday dessert was a dacquoise (lady finger base) with pistachio creme and fresh raspberries, dusted with confectioner's sugar.

I'm a huge fan of the food here - simple but flavorful and well prepared, and the big upside is that its open on Sundays and can handle large groups (although we noticed they seem to seat all the English-speakers downstairs in the basement...)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

KGB - Kitchen Galerie Bis

No English menus here but the waiter happily offered to translate the menu (even though I told him I could myself) for my dining companion whose French skills are lacking (lets call him "DC") and asked me to correct him if he messed up, which, he actually did a pretty good job of although in the typical French accent. Of course my eyes are always bigger than my stomach and at first I wanted to just get entree-sized pasta until DC claimed he wasnt "that hungry" and was going to go just for a set of 6 hors d'oeuvres, until the waiter said that probably wouldn't be enough since they are tiny and so I made DC get some pasta too, at least in appetizer-size form, and then decided that if he was having 2 courses, I should as well so I went for the 4 hors d'oeuvres set but forgot to downgrade my pasta to appetizer-size. After that I had to endure the suffering of wanting to eat all my pasta but not being able to (I left 3 pieces...)

The hors d'oeuvres are more the size of amuse-bouches, and they change regularly (or so I hear). The day we went, the set of 6 consisted of (clockwise starting with the white foamy thing):

- Duck gyoza with tonka bean, vanilla and lemongrass sauce - this was delicious and I could have eaten 5 of these. And did you know tonka beans are banned in the US because they contain coumarin, which is moderately toxic to the liver and kidneys? Yea, I eat dangerously!  
- Sea bass ceviche with fried ginger - this was good but I'm not a huge fan of ceviche so I only ate two pieces  
- Beef croquette - I didn't like this at all; I think they used all parts of the cow in here, which was later confirmed SC who said they use tongue in it, although I like tongue
- Poached lobster
- Some other kind of ceviche  
- White bean soup with carrots and parsley foam - while the flavor of the parsley definitely shone, the flavor was alright

Then we both got the pasta with beef confit, eggplant and teriyaki jus. It didn't come as advertised (I had this problem at Ze Kitchen Galerie, its sister restaurant, as well). 

There was no eggplant to be seen, and in its place were some halved cherry tomatoes, chopped peanuts, scallions, basil and dill fronds. Regardless, this was some of the best pasta I'd eaten at a restaurant! The pasta itself was perfectly al dente and had a pleasant chew to it, the meat was super tender and flavorful and the veggies added a good contrast. Would go back if just for that pasta dish...

And, like I said, eyes bigger than stomach so dessert was not in order here, unfortunately. However, a short walk away (walking off that pasta...) was Pierre Herme which I couldn't say no to (one never says no to Pierre Herme). 

Olive oil and vanilla, apricot and saffron, creme brulee and chocolate and cassis this time around.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

100th post + quarter century

My 100th post on my 25th birthday! Did I time this on purpose? Not exactly...a few weeks ago I realized my 100th post was coming up but only last week did I realize I could post it on my birthday. And so, something short and sweet...

La douceur d'Asie - sweet crepe with strawberries, green tea ice cream and yuzu butter (Bordier, bien sur!) at Breizh Cafe. Heart.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

La Cave de l'Os a Moelle

A little bit further out than I usually go, I couldn't wait to try this restaurant; my friends actually went there a few nights prior but I didn't want to go twice in one week and so I waited until Saturday when I had booked a table for 6 (and waited and waited and waited because some people like to get to places late all the Why here? Because you pay something like €28 (maybe less?) for an unlimited amount of food. Mind you, this is simple food but prepared competently and deliciously - don't expect plated slabs of foie gas, served alongside an artful drizzle of sauce. Instead expect dishware full of pate de campagne, pate auvergnat, maybe some boudin noir (or so I hear), celeriac remoulade and lot of other traditional-french home-cooked dishes. It's actually a table d'hote where you sit down and serve yourself and clear your own plates between courses. And even cut your own bread as we learned.

After sitting down at a communal table (time to make friends! although we didn't....) you can pick a very-reasonably priced wine from their wall (I love restaurants with wine walls...even more so when they have magnum bottles of wine, not that we got any because apparently a lot of people aren't big wine drinkers; who knew?!) and then start munching away at what is already on the table...

This time around they had 2 types of pate, the celeriac remoulade, beets in vinegar, carrots (the French have an uncanny national obsession with carottes rapees, or, literally, grated carrots), a round tray full of crudites (I eyed that tray down like no other, but alas it would not have fit into my bag because it was huge and because they would notice. and I guess because stealing is bad...need to find something similar) and duck rillettes.

Mmm, rillettes. They remind me of pulled pork but shredded finer and smoothed out with even more fat. Ever since that lunch at Le Bernardin (which isn't all that by the way) I've been a sucker for rilletes (actually, they were salmon rillettes served as the amuse and were my favorite part of the lunch). Here, the duck rillettes were no different and luckily (unluckily?) for me, they were right in front of me. I must've had five or 6 big spoonfulls throughout the evening, spread thickly on their chewy rustic bread. I definitely made a huge dent in that pot.

For me, everything else was underwhelming - the cream of mushroom soup, although definitely flavorful, had the consistency of water rather than a silky puree or veloute (meh, snobbiness from me); the main course, a duck and tripe cassoulet (can I call it a cassoulet? it was stewed with white beans) was alright (no tripe for me!) but the duck was a little tough. I was also expecting a larger selection of cheeses, but they seemed to only have 3-4 types of goat cheese and some bleu, although at this point I really couldn't eat that much else so I didn't mind. 

And dessert? Well it was OK - it's mainly my aversion to things where egg-flavors are pronounced like ile flotante and egg-cream custards. They did have a huge variety though - several types of poundcakes, panna cotta, cremes and custards, flan, the aforementioned ile flotante, apple crisp (mmmm, my favorite dessert from that night) and prunes in armagnac. I actually love prunes whether they are dried (the ones from Trader Joe's, with sulfate because the non-sulfate ones aren't moist enough, are ridiculously delicious) or in syrup or, in this case, liquor. And I'm not embarrassed to admit it although some people (ahem, JP) are 12 years old and think its funny when I walk around with a bag of TJs prunes in my hand. And I'll also add that italian/damson plums are one of my favorite fruits to which I look forward to every September.

But, pour some more wine, eat some more rillettes and you'll forget about the dishes that didn't quite make the cut for you. And most importantly, upon paying, you'll be more than surprised at how affordable a good nights dinner was.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I sat waiting for half an hour with a glass of wine to pass the time - not the worst thing - while I gazed about the warm and comfortable dining room. Only 28 seats or so, exposed stone walls, fabric-covered chairs...I knew I'd like this place.

I've tried to make dinner reservation to L'Epigramme several times, failing to secure a reservation because (a) I would make it last minute or (b) the party was too large for the amount of seats they had left that night or (c) just because. This one I reserved over a week in advance - a table for 4. 

It started with a small dish of some kind of creamy spread with herbs/chives, some smoked duck breast, black radish slices and mini-toasts. Smoked duck breast is so underrated in the U.S. - you rarely see it on menus and when you do, the price of the dish is inevitably sky-high. Here, it was like the little amuse-bouche to tide you over while you perused to chalkboard menu and waited for your food.

I started with a silky veloute de potimarron
which was garnished with a pansy (who knew pansies were edible!), microgreens, little nubs of crispy bacon and two hugh shrimps. I love the word potimarron (pumpkin) kind of like how I love the word pamplemousse (grapefruit). They are both so fun to say and sound somewhat ridiculous to my non-french ears. Anyhow, I have a strange desire to now make pumpkin soup...and also some roasted butternut squash sauteed in browned butter (a reminder of the fantastic butternut squash ravioli I had at Apizz in the LES in NYC in mid-September)  

The caillbaut was really thick and as a result somewhat overdone but the beets accompanying it were sweet and tender, completely forgiving the less-than-perfect cooking of the fish. My friend's lamb wasn't gamey at all (I sometimes shy away from ordering lamb at restaurants for exactly that reason) and my one bite was delicious.
The desserts really hit the spot though - 

An apple poached in a vanilla-based liquid with some caramel, served with a florentine

An intense chocolate-lava cake

A delicate mango panna cotta

A pungent Saint-Marcellin cheese paired perfectly with a blueberry reduction and fresh blueberries

I wish I could have sat a little longer but it was time to go back outside into the rain. Rain rain rain in Paris until next summer is seems.

UPDATE: Apparently potimarron is a Hokkaido squash - a cross between a pumpkin (potiron) and a chestnut (marron)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Worst lunch (maybe of all time)

Maybe one of the worst lunches of my life at Kuno Sushi. I shouldn't bash on a small establishment that appears to be owned by a husband-and-wife-team who do everything but at the same time, don't open a restaurant if you can't make it work and you serve awful food (although this place was full around 1pm - seems popular with the lunch crowd).

I looked past the atmosphere and decor of the place - dingy, dimly lit, sticky tables - because some of the best places are not necessarily the most inviting or the cleanest looking.

Trouble sign #1 - the gray-ish tint of the pickled ginger
Trouble sign #2 - when I took a bite of the salade de choux and realized it wasn't fresh cabbage but slightly fermented, almost like sauerkraut, with an unpleasant, slick oily finish (and I like kimchee and sauerkraut). 
Trouble sign #3 - the miso soup - after looking at the brown-ish broth and the gray-colored tofu floating around I wondered if it was made with dirty water left over from mopping the floor (if they even do that). Really, the thought passed my mind not once but twice. Then I decided maybe it was better for me assume they used red miso (or something to that effect) but I couldn't stomach more than a few spoonfuls. 

All I really wanted was a nice salade de choux and a cucumber avocado roll! Denied - it was a set menu with a few offerings. Seeing that I don't like raw fish, I went for the Mix Don, which had some chicken, grilled salmon and pork katsu. I think the tastiest part of my meal was the rice, which wasn't even sticky and was doused in teriyaki and soy sauce. The (non-panko) breaded pork was impossible to bite into and the chicken was way overcooked, as was the salmon (look at the color on that poor salmon! and its not just from the overly sweet glaze).  

The chirashi some got looked like a mound of irregular-cut glistening fish (of questionable freshness) someone threw on top of the non-sticky white rice (apparently, the reason we went is because the fish was "really fresh" but I have no idea - I had my doubts). But the thing that upset me the most was that the fish was butchered - literally. This man is no sushi chef. If you're not a sushi chef - don't serve sushi (or in the very least learn to cut it!)! Look at the monstrosity

I was under the impression sushi was an art form! At least put some effort into it. Misshapen rice that falls apart, chunks, rather than slices, of fish of varying thickness, huge, 2-3 bite maki pieces, and, apparently, the rice was even warm enough to somewhat cook the underside of one of my friends' slices of salmon! Like I said, I feel bad bashing on a mom-and-pop shop but if you don't take pride in your food and cooking it (it didn't seem like they did), please, I beg you, don't ever open a restaurant or any kind of eating establishment. It will show.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Not a pain au chocolat

I picked up a plie au chocolat from Kayser after reading about it here. Flaky croissant dough, chocolate and pastry cream sold me and you already know how much I love Kayser. So I was really excited to try this.

Maybe I over-hyped it for myself after reading Wendy's entry but I wasn't a huge fan. Then again, I prefer a plain croissant to a pain au chocolat. Next dessert from Kayser? The breton cake I've been eyeing down for months...and then the crumble pistache griottes.