Up, Up and Away!
|Dirigeable is an oasis in the urban desert of the 15th arrondissement.|
I don’t have a sweet tooth, as you may recall, and unless required to partake of dessert in the line of duty, I will generally pass it up. That would have been a major mistake at Dirigeable. In fact, the desserts are so scrumptious that I’ll have a little rave about them and then take you backward through a memorable meal.
For me, desserts are usually an anti-climax. At Dirigeable (named in honor of the hot-air ballooning experiments that took place in the vicinity in the late 18th century), they are the equivalent of the final breath-stopping burst of a spectacular fireworks display. My companion, Patrick, had the assortment, which included a mirabelle (plum) pie with orange-blossom-flavored fromage-blanc ice cream; a little cupful of rice pudding topped with slivers of orange peel; and a saucerful of warm chocolate with a green clafoutis-style topping that had been popped under a source of intense heat.
I tasted all of them in that order (which was very noble of Patrick, a dessert maniac whose dream is to begin every meal with something sweet), and it was like climbing a long ladder of pleasure. My own crème caramel sat in the midst of a dark, satiny lake of liquid caramel the likes of which I have never before tasted. The flan itself was topped with roasted almonds with a tantalizing hint of fresh ginger – easily a match for Patrick’s collection.
On to the main courses. There were only eight on the day’s menu, suggesting that they change often to suit the season. I went for the seared breaded squid with risotto. Patrick, who lived in Florence for a number of years before turning up in Paris, declared the risotto to be first rate, confirming my own impression, and the squid was as tender and tasty as you could wish for.
Patrick had duck breast (magret) accompanied by a fricassee of salsify and black trumpet mushrooms, surely one of the loveliest-tasting wild varieties. The magret was moist, tender and done to a turn, sounding a perfect chord with its vegetable helpers.
The stuffed saddle of rabbit that Patrick ordered as a starter also featured black trumpet mushrooms, along with slow-roasted tomatoes, and although he complained that I always got the best starter, I would just as happily have swapped mine for his, or gone halves. That was after tasting my creamy soupe de moules de bouchot à la bière, smooth and satisfying, saffron-yellow velvet on the palate, with plenty of tiny bouchot mussels to add body, plus nibbles of just-warmed-through zucchini and more.
The Chinon we drank was a bit green, but the wine list offers plenty of thoughtful choices, plus some house specials on the blackboard. Guy Jeu, the amiable front-of-house man, will happily guide you through them. After 10 years in San Francisco, he can talk the talk.
The Dirigeable is getting a little bit of attention on the Web, but it is still a genuine neighborhood restaurant that is worth the trek for those who live in other parts of Paris. After all, there have to be some compensations for living in or traveling to the urban desert that is the 15th arrondissement.
Dirigeable: 37, rue d’Alleray, 75015 Paris. Tel: 01 45 32 01 54. Open Tues.-Sat. for lunch and dinner. Métro: Vaugirard. A la carte: around €40.
© 2006 Paris Update
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