After navigating our way from Charles de Gaulle into the city, Kelsey and I stepped off the metro onto a street saturated with delicious smells coming from every restaurant. I’ve truly never smelled so many different and wonderful things at the same time. I knew before taking a bite that the stories about French food were true and suddenly understood the significance of Julia Child’s efforts to bring French cooking back to America.
Our hotel, located about a 15-minute walk south of Montmartre, sat on a quiet little private street (without cars). Our room, which was literally just off the main entrance, boasted throw pillows with sequins on them, which I took to be yet another sign of an awesome 48 hours ahead. Fancy.
After quickly freshening off, we decided to turn left coming out of the hotel and walk down the first street on the right. We passed a number of restaurants, but none of them felt quite right. About two blocks down we found a winner: Autour d’un Verre, 21 rue de Trévise, 75009 Paris. Its warm lighting, small dining room, and chic neighborhood feel pulled us both in immediately.
We sat down next to a couple around our age who were clearly on an intimate date, and soon a waiter brought over the menu. I do literally mean THE menu – it was just a chalkboard!
We could read most of it but weren’t entirely sure what everything was, plus we needed some help with wine recommendations. (I mean, when you look at this, you’ll see why we had no idea:)
Fortunately, the waiter/cook came back and was more than happy to give us a recommendation. “We’ll just open a bottle, and if you don’t like it, we’ll try another one.” We assumed this meant he’d probably choose one of the 60 euro bottles, but instead the one he chose – which was a delicious, spicy Spanish red – was at the lower end of the scale!
We also took the waiter’s food recommendations (which he gave in perfect English because he knew it was easier for us, and with no attitude whatsoever). The menu was prix-fixe and included an entrée (aka appetizer) and main plate. We got a total of four dishes.
Entrée 1: Bone Marrow
Neither of us had eaten this before, but we figured we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Served in the bone and soaked in butter and garlic, the marrow was cooked to melt-in-your-mouth perfection, and every bite was a joy.
Entrée 2: Burrata
Burrata was not something with which I was previously familiar despite the fact that mozzarella is one of my all-time favorite foods. Burrata is essentially fresh mozzarella except that the inside also contains cream, so it’s got a much softer texture on the inside. Ours came with stunningly delicious tomatoes, olive oil, and basil.
Main Plate 1: Rare Duck Breast
You pretty much can’t ever go wrong with duck, and this was no exception. Tender, moist, and very pink, this duck, served with mashed potatoes and spinach, gives Peking Duck a run for its money.
Main Plate 2: Rare Steak
Sometimes in life, you just need a good steak, and I’m not nearly as squeamish about bloody steak as I am about any other type of rare meat. I’m not sure that this was better than what I once had at Ruth’s Chris, but it was out-of-this-world tender and, like everything else, oozing butter, garlic, and other simple pleasures. It is also worth showing the plate after we ate.
Dessert: Banana Chocolate Cheesecake
Now, after these previous four dishes, we knew it was both essential and dangerous to order dessert. Essential because when food is THIS good, you take advantage of every opportunity, but dangerous because when food is THIS good, you’re afraid the last course will let you down (as so often seems to happen on Top Chef finales when they make the contestants do a dessert). We once again took the recommendation of our waiter and ended up with an absolutely amazing piece of cake. “Cheesecake” seems to be the wrong translation. It was almost more like a mousse that tasted like banana bread topped with melted and hardened chocolate. It did not let us down, but this picture doesn’t do it justice.
At times throughout this meal, Kelsey and I said things like “this is a religious experience” and “my heart is actually beating faster because I am in love with this food”. We felt so full of happiness after dinner that we just couldn’t stop smiling… until of course we got back to the room, suddenly felt the full effect of all the wine and food, and fell asleep almost instantly. 🙂