Thursday, May 17, 2007

Memorable Meals (Bouillon Chartier & Cafe Les Deux Magots)

Most memorable meals in Paris, not the best meals but they are memorable in terms of experience.

1) Bouillon Chartier 7 RUE DU FAUBOURG MONTMARTRE (Near Opera: Boulevard Montmarte)
Extracts from its official website:
"Classified historic building in 1989, the restaurant has already known two centuries and is well prepared to get through this brand new one. It is both a prestigious actor of the restaurant business and a privileged witness of parisian life. In this wonderful place, favourable for sweet nostalgy, fifty billions bellies have been satisfied since its creation.So the description below that would like to satisfy your curiosity will of course not replace a nice visit 7th, rue du faubourg Montmartre, in the ninth district, the best place to feel Paris.It seems that you enter to work at Chartier as if you intend to enter in religion.This principle is tacitly admited as only four different owners have ruled the place since its creation in 1896. As well the crew "makes" the place, daily honouring their engagement dressed in their traditional room clothes, le rondin (a black waistcoat with many pockets) and the long white apron..."
Actually, we discovered this place by chance. We were walking along a street when I saw a busy restaurant located in a small alley just off the street. I pulled my friend into the alley to check the place out and saw a very busy and crowded restaurant (although it was just about 7p.m., a time considered very early to have dinner in Paris). We then decided to go back there for dinner later since our hotel is just about 5 minutes walk away. Returning at about 9pm. we regretted for not remembering to make reservations earlier for the place was full and the queue was like 10 persons long and still growing. Unbeknownst to us until later, this place is a classic/historical food institution (read excerpt above).
Twas a rainy night
Interior of the restaurant

True to its description, the place is a simple and no-frill place serving simple and authentic, no-frill dishes. So crowded was the restaurant that we had to share the table with 2 other people. Majority of their waiters were in the "senior citizen" bracket. That also means that they have a lower tolerance level to any ignorance (helpless or not) to their national language which we would later learned. In fact, this is the only place that we dined at which we truly felt helpless at ordering. And the lack of help (and also the lack of any willingness to help us) coupled with the impatience with our "Ah Gong" waiter did little to improve the situation. We wanted to order their suggested dinner set (consisting of 1appetizer, 1 main & 1 dessert) plus 1 additional appetizer to share. But our "Ah Gong" waiter said that we have to order 2 mains (at least that's why I made out from his frenzied gestures) so I just told him to choose another main for us for I didn't want him to leave and then come back to us later (his last attempt at this took almost 20 minutes).

Salade de tomate et concombre 2.20 € (This is part of their suggested menu. I didn't know it would really be just tomatoes and cucumbers only - Almost RM10 for this small dish. Adui...).
6 escargots French-style (not the usual cheesy sauce that we are accustomed to). This was good.
Main: Roti de porc gratin de choux fleurs (what looks like pork chops with potato gratin and cabbage stew). Very rustic and hearty flavours - good!
Main (recommended by waiter): Escalope de veau panee milanaise (Milanese veal escalope with sauteed potatoes). I don't know how on earth our "Ah Gong" waiter could have think that a petite Asian lady could finish this dish. One whole plate full with strips of veal. The flavour was good but the meat were a combination of tough, chewy and tender pieces. Obsviously, I prefer the tender ones. I think I gave up less than 1/2 way through chewing.
A very nice bottle of apple cider that we ordered.
Dessert: Coupe de creme chantilly (some kind of chestnut pudding topped with creme chantilly). The pudding was seriously (and sickeningly) sweet. We could only managed a couple of spoonfuls. This was also the time when the earlier other 2 diners at our table left and 2 younger men (1 French and 1 Italian who was quite a looker) joined our table and started chatting to us (that was how we learned about this restaurant's famous history). They were pretty entertaining and funny so it brighten up the otherwise forbidding ambience that we were feeling from the restaurant's waiters' austere facial expression.

Cafe Les Deux Magots (6 place Saint Germain des Prés)


Another cafe that is rich in history, it was a regular "hang-out place" for legendary figures of the art and literature world such as Verlaine, Mallarme, Oscar Wilde, Guillaume, Dora Maar, Picasso, Jean Paul Sartre and Earnest Hemmingway. During the pre-war days, the area of Saint Germain was the intellectual centre of Paris.

We stopped here for a much needed break during a shopping day at the left bank and area of Saint Germain. Food wise, nothing to shout about.


Salade Deux Magots: Green salad, chicken, ham, boiled egg, tomatoes. Rather uninspiring...


Beef carpacio with green salad: Ok but not the best... And the best? The complimentary fresh mini baguettes. I love the crusty exterior and soft, chewy interior. If only they would give me some olive oil and balsamic vinegar to go with the bread.



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