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Paris: L’Entrecote & Bistrot du Sommelier

July 7, 2009

Never turn down any offer of a trip to Paris, which was what I did after receiving an email some months ago from the organisers of the XIX World Congress of Gerontology & Geriatrics. Who says I don’t practise Geriatric Medicine? I made sure my abstract submission was successful, and made my way there.

L'Entrecote ParisAlthough this is my third trip to Paris in 6 years, one never gets tired of the famous sights. While walking along the Champs-Elysees, I spotted the familiar L’Entrecote restaurant. I’d come to know L’Entrecote after my trip to Bordeaux last year. It’s basically a sit-down meal of steak done fast food style, and very successful too. They don’t accept reservations. Just queue up, sit down, specify your steak (cut in small thin slices immersed in mustard sauce) in what manner to be done (they don’t serve any other food), your choice of a generic Bordeaux, either rouge, blanc or rose (in either glass/half/full bottle) and you’re done. However, the L’Entrecote here in Paris is obviously a franchise, and less attractive. You don’t see any crowd (not a good sign), the distinctive yellow decor is missing, and the menu is more expensive, almost twice than the one at Bordeaux. The same set menu of walnut salad + steak/fries + half bottle 2007 Kressman Bordeaux red (which doesn’t warrant any blog space) + Vittel bottled water + ice cream came up to 43 Euro per head, while I remembered paying only 55 Euro for 2 persons in Bordeaux. And here, they don’t top up your steak and fries! Not a good deal. Even the franchise outlet in Barcelona is more true to style, and less expensive.

Bistrot du SommelierThe next day, I found my way to Bistrot du Sommelier, reputedly one of the best dining venues in Paris, located along 97 Boulevard Hausmann in the 8th arondissement. After emerging from the nearest metro, I made my way but after 1 traffic junction, it didn’t seem right. I asked for directions from a Frenchman in my broken French (“excuse-moi, direction Bd Hausmann, sil-vous plait?“), who replied me back in anglais. They’re friendly. I had gone the opposite direction. Soon after, I located the Bistrot, a small red diner jutting out into the pavement. To my horror, I noted that all the waiting staff wore suits! The maitre’d looked like that gay chap from Runway Project. He was standing behind the glass door that was shut. Initially I thought perhaps I was early, but when I read the menu that was stuck outside, I managed to make out that they open at 1200h, and it was already 1230h. So I unslung my bag and approached the door. The maitre’d looked unbelievingly at this chinois fella in a yellow polo-T, but he opened the door nonetheless. I introduced myself in a few words of French, that I have a reservation, and he showed me to the table. The service was efficient and fuss-free, but all the wait staff carried about them an air of aloofness typical of the Parisiens.

Fish @ Bistrot du SommelierThe menu was simple, each set of entree or plat or dessert having just 3-4 choices. The lunch wine list was also fairly simple, mostly Vin de Pays, with 2003 Ch Cantermerle and 2003 Ch Lafon Rochet being the most recognisable, each wine being available in either verre/carafe/demi or bouteille. At 32 Euro and 30 Euro respectively (carafe), those  2 Bordeaux grand cru classe didn’t seem attractive. So instead, I chose the prix-fixee dejeuner (3-course, 39 Euro), starting with foie gras terrine, followed by fish, and then biscuit moelleux, which turned out to be a tart, washing all down with a  carafe of 2007 Domaine Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon Macon (16 Euro). The food was excellent, although the fish wasn’t particularly outstanding. Perhaps I should have opted for the beef, but with the prospect of lunch at La Tour d’Argent looming the next day, I think I made the right choice of not going too heavy. The wine, which is available in Singapore for SGD50-60 per bottle, is actually very good: clear light yellow, lifted aromas of citrus and lime, more than adequate stuffing with good body, acidity, and minerality. Not particularly complex, but it expands a little in the glass. Perfect for a light lunch. In fact, I got a little light-headed, such that I didn’t realise the staff had short-changed me by 10 Euro for the 100 Euro bill I had given them. It clearly wasn’t intentional, for moments after I had pocketed my change (without realising the error), the waiter handed me another lot of change, with the correct amount! Being the honest Singaporean, I handed back the second change, assuming they’d made a mistake. The maitre’d checked his accounts, then said the money’s mine! Something wasn’t connecting in my head, as I insisted that I’d received my change, and I left the restaurant, with the staff thanking me quite effusively. I realised my mistake the moment I stepped out into the sun. Heck! I decided to forget about it. That’ll teach me not to be so bloody cock-sure.

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