Thursday, January 20, 2011


I knew I was leaving sometime soon-ish but I didn't want to go without having tried Frenchie. There's so much blogger buzz about it everywhere that I couldn't not try it. I'd wanted to ever since I had read about it in the New York Times but was never motivated enough to call and then when I was, I could never get through to them. Then one Saturday in November I decided it was time and that I was going to go and make a reservation in person. I totally lucked out since apparently they don't serve lunch on weekends but the chef, Greg Marchand, was just hanging out there with (what I assume was) his toddler son. So, it's the middle of November. I asked for the next available 4-top for dinner, weekend or weekday. January 17th. That's right - a 2 month wait. Chef was super nice and apologetic that it was so booked. I went for it, not knowing whether or not I would even still be in Paris then.

Fast forward to the day. Frenchie is tiny; like, 25 seats tiny with dark ceiling beams, exposed brick and stone walls and low lighting thanks to the Edison bulbs. In other words, charmingly intimate. I don't really know how to describe the food. Simple but full of flavor. So in that respect, I'll just agree with the bloggers and say it's market-based cooking, which is one of my favorite cuisines (if you can call it that). I guess that's what happens when you have a chef who worked at Gramercy Tavern in New York and with Jamie Oliver in London.

The menu is very paired down, with two choices for each of the first two courses, and then a choice of either one of two desserts or cheese. We (minus me) started with the foie gras with cape gooseberries and quince paste which was an additional item to the prix-fixe. I heard it was good. I can't vouch.

What I can vouch for is my ridiculously awesome first course of smoked trout with pickled onions. I'm not sure what the puree on my plate was, nor the streak of red sauce but the trout was fork-tender and freshly smoked. I usually see smoked fish in a cold version, except for in Finland where there's a place where you catch a salmon and have it smoked for you and it comes out all nice and hot and smokey. Well this was the hot smokey version. (Apologies in advance for fuzzy pictures but I had no patience and wanted to scarf things down...)

They also had ris de veau which I thought were kidneys but apparently they're sweetbreads. Here they are (obscured by puree and veggies).

It was hard for me to pick an entree. One was white fish with smoked potatoes and parsley juice but also with clams. Don't do clams. The other one was duck with kumquats but also celery. I don't do celery. I picked the duck, hoping for the best and boy did it deliver. Medium-rare duck breast, with a puree and little shapes of what I assume was jellied kumquat. And some dill or fennel fronds. And some sauce. I honestly don't know if there was even celery on my plate - if there was, I didn't taste it, but I'm assuming it was actually a celeriac puree (although I didn't taste celeriac either). I was a clean-plate club member.

I didn't try the white fish but it looked really good - somewhat reminiscent of the one mama had at La Regalade Sainte-Honore (revisiting on January 25th!) and also of the one I had years ago at Perry Street in New York. I think white fish nestled on top of a dark green sauce, be it parsley, basil or something else, makes for a visually stunning presentation.

And dessert? Classic french with an American twist - dark chocolate ganache tart with smoked bacon. This wasn't my choice but I couldn't not try it (two or three times actually...sorry AB!). Silky smooth chocolate with a little bit of whatever type of cream it was (creme fraiche? fromage blanc? maybe even whipped cream? I don't remember since we were finishing our 3rd bottle of Jean Foillard Morgon, Cotes du Py) and crispy, salty, smoky bits of bacon.

My choice was the cheesecake with passion fruit and mango caramel. I think the menu actually said "caramel passion" but I swear the top of the cheesecake was passion fruit and there was mango sauce and caramel mango sauce on the side. Anyhow, you get the idea. And the cheesecase was made with brillat-savarin cheese which made it a little less sweet, a little more savory...anyhow, whatever, enought waxing poetic. It went in my tummy.

The one thing we didn't try was the cheese course which was a Saint Nectaire with an apple chutney but for me, cheese is not dessert (unless it's cheesecake) and I'd have chocolate and bacon, and mango, passion fruit and caramel over it any day.
So in the end, what's the verdict about Frenchie? Well for me, Frenchie is in the top 3, along with La Regalade Saint-Honore and Ze Kitchen Galerie. It's difficult. I really liked the appetizer and entree at Frenchie but it didn't blow me away as much as the entree at Ze Kitchen Gallerie. But I didn't really like the dessert I picked at Ze Kitchen Galerie, although two other ones I had were amazing but then again, the pork belly and the dessert at La Regalade were amazing. Sigh. I wish I had enough time to try them all again to formulate a better decision but I don't . Perhaps my second visit to La Regalade will shed more light. Perhaps not. And what if L'Agrume, where I'm going on Saturday, messed up my whole scale? Dilemmas, dilemmas.

The bill actually did a number on our wallets but that was only because of the 3 bottles of wine (€40 each) and the extra foie gras (2 servings at €14 each). I think the actual menu was around €33 per head, which is cheap! They had also called me a few days before the reservation saying they had just started a second dinner seating at 19h and asking if I wanted to the earlier time. I didn't but it's nice to know that they have a second seating, although by now it's probably also all booked up for the next two months.
If you can wait two months, definitely go. Lunch, or dinner. It's amazing food for the price, by a really talented chef.

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