A Best in Bistros
|The basic decor belies the quality of the food.|
February 22, 2006; updated March 19, 2008
Who would expect such a fine meal from such an unassuming little bistro? The Café des Musées, situated on a corner equidistant from the Place des Vosges and the Musée Picasso, has a strategic location in the Marais, which has plenty of restaurants but few that offer such high quality for such reasonable prices.
Take the €19 fixed-price menu. It offers no choices, but who needs choices when offered, as on one recent evening, a fresh, light tartare of salmon with crème fraiche and herbs as a starter, followed by a meltingly tender shoulder of beef (no fork needed) in a rich, flavorful sauce made with Jurançon Noir wine and served with fresh pasta. The dessert was a wine-poached pear with a chocolate sauce, accompanied by a financier (a rich pound-cake-like cookie) and fresh chantilly, providing a selection of complementary flavors.
The à la carte choices are a little pricier but more adventurous. While a sorrel soup made a light but not very exciting first course, it was followed by a loin of cochon noir de Bayonne with an intense, deeply satisfying sauce, served with a perfect gratin dauphinois, creamy and delicately flavored. Dessert was a compact chocolate cake whose unappealing look belied its tastiness; it was enhanced by a swirl of caramel sauce.
This bistro’s quality is explained by the fact the chef, François Chenel, is the former second of Pierre Lecoutre, chef of the Dôme du Marais and a partner in the Café des Musées. This is the kind of restaurant everyone should have in their neighborhood, an unpretentious place to go back to over and over again, sure of getting a fine meal.
Update, March 19, 2008: The fixed-price menu has gone up to €21 and the chef has changed, but this is still the best value for money you’’ll find in Paris. The dishes are simple, with a touch of creativity, and the ingredients are of the very best quality – the duck breast was probably the most succulent and flavorful I have ever had. A great find.
Paris Update contributor Nick Hammond writes: “Glad to see that the quality of the food is as good as ever. The mushroom-and-snail starter was exquisite, and the fries that came with my main course of steak were the best I have ever tasted. But it took 45 minutes for the main courses to arrive, and the waiters offered no apology for the delay. Our neighbors were obliged to wait a similar time for their desserts.” Sept. 18, 2009
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