Paris, I discovered, is the city of back-up plans. I had planned to go to a bistro recommended by Lonely Planet near the Gare de Lyon, but when I got there, I found that it had closed. Apparently Paris is also the city of unforgiving consumers.
I was somewhat at a loss of where to go for lunch, as even though I had a back-up venue, it was a considerable distance away. Deciding to go for it anyway, I passed a bistro along the way that seemed popular.
Relying on my Singaporean gut instinct that crowded eateries necessarily mean better food, I decided to have a seat. Since the weather was so fine, I sat outside, at the terasse, rather than indoors near the smokey bar.
The best thing about France is the prix fixe menu, allowing you to order the daily specials for a set price. Often this is a two-course affair; you get to choose an entrée and a main course or a main course and dessert as part of the formule.
I ordered the filet mignon au cumin et poivre, which I assumed would be a steak of some sort, and was quite surprised to see it turn out as a blanquette-style dish, with a creamy sauce and mashed potatoes. Still, I knew it would be good just looking at it, and the heavy cast-iron pan it was served in. It was, too, the filet mignon, while not medium-rare, was still tender and juicy, given an unusual flavour by the addition of the cumin; while the mashed potatoes were wonderfully creamy.
Dessert was the moelleux au chocolat, which I have since discovered is the French word for molten chocolate cake, derived from moelle, bone marrow. Quite appropriate too, once you think about marrow oozing from the hollow of a bone. In any case, the moelleux was simply amazing. Unlike most molten cakes, this one contained no flour, making it rich and soft and light; almost soufflé-like. The ice-cream also contained real vanilla beans to elevate it to the sublime, a sublimity enhanced by the artful decorations of chocolate sauce and caramael swirls, extra effort not commonly seen in most Parisian bistros.
36 Boulevard Diderot
Tel: 01 44 73 95 15
Metro Gare de Lyon
After that excellent lunch, it was time to do some exploring. So what would I find interesting in Paris?
Well the answer is fairly obvious. I went to take a look at E Dehillerin, apparently the oldest supplier of cooking and kitchen equipment in Paris. While the things they stock are not significantly different from Sia Huat, the prices unforunately are.
18-20 rue Coquillière
Metro Les Halles
My next stop was A. Simon, yet another supplier of kitchen equipment, but with a greater emphasis on patisserie. I espied there Stéphane Glacier's newest book, Un Amour de Macaron, which, as one would expect, is entirely devoted to macarons. Unfortunately, it is also entirely in French, and rather large.
I was somewhat tempted to buy a sheet of Silpat from A. Simon, but in the end decided to save my money. If you do happen to go for a visit though, A. Simon does offer some good deals on its professional pastry equipment.
48 rue Montmartre
Metro Les Halles
Dinner was supposed to be at a restaurant recommended by a friend, but unfortunately, it was closed on Tuesdays. Paris is definitely a city of back-up plans, but I had rather foolishly not made any back-ups for dinner. As a result, we ended up eating at a brasserie near the area, Cafe Etienne along rue Etienne-Marcel.
I had a French onion soup to start, and unusually it came with DIY bread and cheese - I had to float the bread and top the soup with cheese myself. I suppose it gives the diner the option of eating their bread while it's still toasted, rather than floating soggily in the soup. I thought it was somewhat untraditional though, as you forego the melted and browned cheese that is so characteristic of French onion soup.
As a main course, I had the beef bourguignon, which was fork-tender and moist, not at all dry as some of my attempts have been. I was amused by the presence of the tagliatelle, as I always thought Julia Child was joking when she said the dish was traditionally served with egg noodles.
I decided to be adventurous with dessert and ordered a Tarte Tatin instead of my usual chocolate craving. Unfortunately, I find I'm not much of a cooked fruit person, especially when it comes to dessert. I didn't really enjoy this dish at all, and would probably have been happier with something chocolatey.