Saturday, January 23, 2010

In a Restaurant: Choose Food or Wine first? - A New Wine Trend in Paris

In a restaurant you first choose the wine and then the food that goes with the wine? John Brunton from the Observer in the UK claims that this is the new trend in Paris. I doubt it. I could see this happening in Berlin, London or Washington DC, but not in Paris. In my view, for the French the food will remain at the heart of an evening in a restaurant. He or she may have some wine already in mind, but they will always choose the menu first and then in the second step the wine.

Picture: Brasserie La Coupole in Paris on Bd Monteparnasse

Nevertheless, there are a number of new restaurants in Paris were choosing your wine is very important, apparently more than what you decide to eat. These restaurants look extremely interesting. Here is the list. I post it on my Schiller Wine Blog so I have it handy next time I am in Paris.

My favorite however will remain La Coupole, a large, famous and lively Brasserie in the 15th Arrondissement, 102 Bd Montparnasse, Rive Gauche. It is nothing special, just good; and has been like that for many decades. It belongs to the Flo group, which operates many other famous Brasseries, of which I like in particular Le Vaudeville, near the stock exchange, and Julien in the 1oth. The latter has a spacious simple bar were I often had a "ballon de rouge" after work when I used to live in Paris.

John Burton
The Observer, UK
Sunday, January 10, 2010

A new generation of bars and restaurants are making the wines even more important than the food – and putting the accent on informality and value.

The Michelin Guide shocked the Parisian world of gastronomy when it gave one of its latest stars to a restaurant that had been open just three months. Not only was this unheard of, but Il Vino, the brainchild of Enrico Bernardo, voted best sommelier in the world in 2004, makes choosing your wine the most important thing, rather than what you decide to eat. Guests open the "menu" and find 30 different wines listed by the glass. You select your wines and the chef prepares dishes to match them, with each course a surprise.

Il Vino is part of an exciting trend in the French capital, where wines are the stars of a new bar and restaurant culture. And these are not just any old wines – rather than classic Bordeaux and Burgundy chateaux and grands crus, you'll find vins naturels, exciting new organic wines. These wines come from vineyards that have not used pesticides, and the artisan winemaker has resisted the temptation to add sulphur or sugar, or use filtration. Natural wines can have a revolutionary taste and a completely different look – they may be cloudy or have bubbles that disappear only when the carafe is shaken.

These new restaurants tend to be casual, friendly and reasonably priced, a welcome change from some of the capital's stuffy gourmet restaurants. A three-course set meal might cost around €25 or a filling plate of cheeses and cold cuts €10-12. Then it's up to you how much you want to splash out on the wine. Most of the places double as wine shops. Here are eight of the best places.

Montmartre is one of Paris's most contrasting neighbourhoods, where you can wander from touristy areas such as the steps of the Sacré Coeur into the hippest bars and restaurants. Cafe Burq is definitely in the second category, attracting a fashionable clientele who enjoy a fine selection of organic wines. Chef Laurent Cardillac creates delicious eclectic dishes such as foie gras pan-fried with figs and honey, or pig cheeks cooked in a miso broth with chanterelles. Open till 2am, this is also a great place for a late-night glass of wine.
6 rue Burq, 00 33 1 4252 8127; closed Sunday

Young Parisian sommelier Guillaume Dupre has created a wonderful wine bar in the heart of the tourist trap of St Michel. There's an old-fashioned zinc bar, and an ancient vaulted cellar transformed into a dining room. Try "Red Bulles" or "Maudi-Bulles", bubbly Gamay wines that make a fun change from rosé champagne. The cuisine is a mix between exotic fusion – imagine whelks with wasabi mayonnaise – and traditional rural food, from wood-smoked pork to a lethal camembert.
14 rue Boutebrie, 00 33 1 4325 2424; open from 5pm-1am Tuesday-Saturday

Tucked away in a narrow side street not far from the Louvre, "The Wardrobe" is run by two female sommeliers – Nathalie from France and Robin, a New Zealander. The shelves and cellar are stacked with more than 200 different wines. There is no official wine list, and Nathalie and Robin are happy to open pretty much any bottle and serve the wine by the glass. If you want to sit down and enjoy the whole bottle, you pay €7 corkage on the takeaway price. At lunch there is a €10 plat du jour, while at night, customers feast off €12 plates of charcuterie and cheeses.
41 rue de l'Arbre Sec, 00 33 1 4926 9060; closed Sunday

The Passage des Panoramas (off boulevard Montmartre) is one of Paris's hidden secrets, a beautiful belle époque shopping arcade. And tucked away inside, there is another discovery waiting to be made: the romantic Racines bistro, opened by sommelier, Pierre Jancou. The restaurant's staff are evangelical about vins naturels, working with only 15 producers deemed worthy. There is also an excellent young chef, whose menu changes daily, with hearty dishes such as braised beef cheeks, followed by an irresistible gateau au chocolat.
8 Passage des Panoramas, 00 33 1 4013 0641; closed Saturday and Sunday

Although the Canal Saint-Martin has recently become one of the hippest neighbourhoods in Paris, Cyril Bordarier was well ahead of his time when he launched the Verre Volé here eight years ago, and today it is an institution for anyone interested in discovering the world of organic wines. The Verre Volé could win a prize for the tiniest kitchen in Paris, and Cyril's secret is that he has a deal with one of Paris's finest butchers, who prepares dishes such as roast chicken with aubergine purée that just need to be reheated for serving in the bistro.
67 rue de Lancry, 00 33 1 4803 1734; open every day

Olivier Camus is the spiritual guru behind the trend in vins naturels in Paris. Twenty years ago he opened Le Baratin, the first bistro in Paris to champion organic wines. Then came Le Chapeau Melon (The Bowler Hat), originally just a wine shop, tucked away in Belleville. Today he has gone back into the kitchen, and operates an interesting table d'hôte system in the evenings – a no-choice three-course meal, featuring tasty dishes such as roast lamb served with cocos, white beans from the Breton port of Paimpol. The choice of natural wines is spectacular, but with corkage at €8.50, plus the €31.50 for the set dinner, don't expect a cheap evening. Reserve well in advance.
92 rue Rebeval, 00 33 1 4202 6860; open every day, meals served Wednesday to Saturday evenings

This is one of those addresses that everyone dreams of discovering in Paris. La Crèmerie began life in 1880 as a dairy, and the interiors are unchanged today – counters made of slabs of marble, ancient wooden fridges, a fabulous pastel ceiling fresco painted on silk. In 1947, it became a cave à vins and, three years ago, architects Serge and Helene Mathieu took over. In the heart of the Quartier Latin, it has just enough room for 12 people to sit down, plus four stools at the bar. There is no kitchen for hot dishes; the specialities here are tapenade, sardines and anchovies, saucisson and smoked ham.
9 rue des Quatre Vents, 00 33 1 4354 9930;; closed Sunday and Monday

Autour d'un Verre resembles an ancient bistro that has been here for generations, but in reality, this used to be an internet shop that American restaurateur Kevin Black converted into a bar à vins. He is a self-trained chef and passionate fan of natural wines. His cuisine is classic French comfort food – cod roasted with aubergine and courgettes, a fabulous Montbéliard sausage with mashed potatoes. Although you eat well, and at very reasonable prices, Kevin admits that his real passion is wine, and the lengthy list is a reflection of his travels around France searching out producers of natural wines. Be sure to ask him to recommend one of his latest discoveries.
21 rue de Trévise, 00 33 1 4824 4374; closed Sunday

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