When it takes me this long to pen my reviews of some new venues, it can mean one of two things - I wasn't knocked out by the experience or I just don't have much to say. Not being one who is very often at a loss for words, chances are that the former is more at cause than the latter. Which pretty much describes my recent visits - with Co. in tow - to one tres hyped spot, Au Passage, and one significantly under the radar, Miel et Paprika.
Before my introductory remarks are entirely misconstrued, I should start out my discussion of Au Passage by saying that we definitely had a good time and I can't say anything bad about the food. It's just not what we expected. Au Passage, as you may remember from one of my recent entries, won Le Fooding's 2012 Palmare for 'Fooding d'amour', therein dubbed as a 'typical bistro-style place' where the food is 'jazzed up a bit by a former Spring cook ... just good, simple and inexpensive.' All confirmed by our visit, I don't deny it, but it would have been more accurate to describe Au Passage as a 'typical tapas-style place in the fashion of Aux Deux Amis, but with even younger clientele.' Nothing wrong with that, if that's what you're up for.
We found Au Passage at the end of the narrow and quiet passage Saint-Sebastien in the 11th. Funky facade and, upon entry, a bar-like atmosphere, with some old leather couches, large mirrors, parquet floor. I almost expected to see a few guys huddled together in the back shooting darts. The only darts, however, took the form of glaring stares from the patrons at the bar where the bartender/hostess informed us that we weren't on the reservation list. As I hemmed and hawed about my having made the reservation nearly a week earlier - I would take a lie detector test, I swear - she ultimately found some cryptic markings in her ledger that must have approximated my name. Hey, I understand, I can't read French handwriting either. We were guided to a nice little table in the back, where I quickly let bygones be bygones and, upon noticing the menu items scrawled on a few blackboards quickly realized it was a tapas night. And here is what one of those blackboards looked like:
Choosing was tough, but we eventually settled on, in order as the photos display below, burratta poutarque, truite et raifort, ceviche de bar de ligne et mandarine (not pictured), magret canard poischise endive, and the gateau d'orange.
The smooth and soft burratta was a nice start, but I think it comes a close second to the same dish I sampled at Aux Deux Amis. I think the more original offering of the night was the ceviche de bar, but my photo is too weirdly cropped to post here. Overall, the photos remind me of a satisfying meal, or maybe it's the mellow mood induced by Blind Willie McTell, Duster Bennett, and Sharon Van Etten playing in the background as I write. The wine, a 28€ Perriere Costieres proved a fine accompaniment, with plenty of time between the latter dishes to ponder its subtlety, as the crowd burgeoned. So the verdict - definitely a nice place to dine with a few friends, sampling a large chunk of the chalkboard, sharing dishes, wine, and conversation - all much in evidence on the Friday evening of our visit. If I were 35 years younger, I would probably do just that. Au Passage is good, it's simple, and its cheap (the final tally totalled 73€). Nonetheless, I think I'll stick to the insane and frenetic Aux Deux Amis.
1 bis Passage Saint Sebastien
tel: 01 43 55 07 52
MIEL & PAPRIKA
During our various dinners at La Gazzetta, I often pondered the little restaurant directly across the street on funky rue de Cotte, Miel & Paprika. A little searching and I quickly realized that it doesn't show up in any of my Paris restaurant guidebooks, but the online reviews scattered here and there were all favorable. So off we went. Once into the meal, I found myself staring out the window at La Gazzetta's facade, ruefully wishing we were sampling one of their excellent 7-course meals. Can anyone say, 'the grass is greener...?'
M&P is a tiny spot, as so many Parisian restaurants are, so nothing unusual in that regard. A decent mise en bouche got us started - what it was I am sorry not to remember. In turn, our entrees consisted of Os a moelle and ravioles de chevre (the latter pictured below). Now if you haven't guessed, the restaurant's name betrays the hook - each meal more or less comprises something sweet (miel) and spicy (paprika), some more effectively than others. Main dishes took us into gambas a la creme de corail (second photo below) and souris d'Agneau territory. I love shrimp, the bigger the better, and the duo of tiger shrimp on my plate were big enough but maybe just not tasty enough, although the ratatouille accompaniment helped. Co. couldn't quite detect the sweet yin to her lamb's yang. My nems au chocolat salidou proved an interesting dessert as Co. dug into her tiramisu de framboise speculoos. All in all a pretty good meal, but it paled from being in such close proximity to La Gazzetta's great.
Along with a bottle of Cotes du Rhone Pourpre (22€), the damage came to 92€. I'm glad I finally got Miel & Paprika out of my system. Not bad, not great. All in all, I'd rather have been across the street.
MIEL & PAPRIKA
24 rue de Cotte
tel: 01 53 33 02 67
1. Somewhere along the line during February Co. and I revisted La Gourmandise - a casual spot we used to frequent until we lost interest about 2 - 3 years ago, as we were reminded by the familiar host, who spent a lot of time at our table explaining why the food now sucked. During our hiatus there was change of ownership and chef, the latter of whom was instructed to pare down the menu and go mainstream. The good deals are still available, but when the food isn't any good anymore, does that really matter? Too bad.
2. I have created a monster - after my favorable review of Septime a couple months ago, it is now impossible to get a reservation (Le Fooding's high praise may have had something to do that, I admit). I'm on the waiting list for more than a month from now, another Friday night. Weeknights seem to be easier. Bon chance.