What do you look for in a Paris restaurant on a cold, stormy winter’s evening? A warm, cozy place serving hearty, well-sourced French food of good quality served by helpful, friendly staff, of course. Not so easy to find these days, you say? Introducing that very restaurant: A Mi-Chemin, a.k.a. “Restaurant Chez Virginie,” according to its business card.
The first name on the card is a clue to the personal touch promised and delivered at this restaurant in the 14th arrondissement, where Virginie (at least, we assumed it was her), actually makes the rounds of the tables, checking to make sure all is well.
And it was. The four of us were in a festive mood for this pre-holiday get-together convened by Mary in this restaurant with a decor that avoids the bistro clichés yet still feels homey and comfortable, with beige banquettes, hanging metal-and-glass light fixtures, colorful paintings and book-laden shelves.
On the menu, mixed in with such bistro classics as foie gras and escargots were a few surprisingly trendy-sounding dishes like “cappuccino de potiron aux pistaches,” which turned out to be an excellent pumpkin soup jazzed up with some ground pistachios, just the ticket for Terry, who was coming down with a cold.
Mary and I chose the foie gras, served as it should be, at room temperature and slightly sweaty to bring out its full flavor (complemented by ginger-spiced cooked apples), and the plump escargots, drenched in quality butter, garlic and parsley. John went for the pressée de boudin (black pudding) with foie gras and raspberries, another winner.
For their main course, Mary and John wisely picked the melt-in-the-mouth pastilla de canard à l’orange, a rich, delicious meeting of a classic French and a classic Moroccan dish (a pastilla is a filo-pastry turnover, usually filled with pigeon meat and dusted with powdered sugar). I had the souris d’agneau (lamb shanks) with prunes and semolina, another North African touch – pure, satisfying comfort food. Terry bravely tried the plat du jour, collier (neck) of lamb, which came in a bowl with macaroni, olives and vegetables in a flavorful sauce. While she found the meat a bit difficult to eat because of all the small bones, she thoroughly enjoyed the dish as a whole.
Only two desserts were ordered among the four of us, and I think we were all surprised at how very, very good they were: a chocolate cake with fudgy sauce and vanilla ice cream, and a perfect panna cotta sprinkled with orange blossom water and ground pistachios (yet more well-judged North African touches).
We couldn’t have been more pleased and satisfied with the quality of our dinner. While A Mi Chemin makes no attempt to prettify the plates as they come out of the kitchen, we were less concerned with their appearance than what that they tasted like – and with meat sourced from Paris’s star butcher, Hugo Desnoyer, there was no problem on that count.
The only quibble I have with Virginie’s place is that it uses that old trick of establishing a set menu (€32 for three courses), then adding supplements for nearly everything on the menu. What’s the point? That aside, we thank Virginie for creating such a homey place, and the waiter Frédérique for making sure we got the most of it with his judicious recommendations.Favorite