On the Rise
The dining room at Montée.
Opening a quality restaurant in a train station is a fantastic idea. Three-star chef Éric Frechon has already done it with great elegance at Lazare In the Gare Saint Lazare, and now another three-star chef, Thierry Marx, has opened L’Étoile du Nord smack in the middle of the Gare du Nord, where fine dining used to be available right across the street at the Terminus Nord, which is unfortunately much less attractive now with the gradual downgrading of the cuisine on the part of the Flo Brasseries chain that owns it and a number of other historic Parisian brasseries.
My first impression of L’Étoile du Nord was not a happy one. There was a strong smell of fish cooking coming from the open kitchen in the
back, and the Maître d’Hôtel insisted that we sit in the drafty, barn-like ground-floor dining room rather than the prettier, warmer and cozier upstairs dining room, claiming that it was
fully booked, even though I had been told on the phone that tables couldn’t be reserved at lunchtime. She explained that bookings could be made only for groups of a certain number. That still didn’t explain the empty table for two sitting in the upstairs dining room when I went up to the restroom a little while later.
Further annoyance was caused by the fact that there is no place to hang your coat except the back of your chair, where it inevitably trails on the floor
We accepted our fate, however, and settled in at our table in the middle of the ground floor dining room, hoping to be compensated by an excellent meal.
The restaurant serves typical bistro food, with a special for each day of the week. We chose the fixed-price menu: Two courses for €24, and three for €29.
I started with the egg mayonnaise, a classic bistro dish that is experiencing a revival. It was just fine, made with good eggs and mayonnaise,
but it didn’t have me jumping up and down for joy. Some fresh herbs jazzed it up a bit. My friend had an excellent pate with pistachios
surrounded by a ring a fantastic mustard sauce, slightly sweet yet piquant.
He lucked out on the main course as well:
bœuf bourguignon with a rich, dark, winy sauce and fork-tender beef. I loved my fish and chips
at first, with its super-crispy batter, tender cod and slightly smoky flavor,but as I continued to eat I came to places where the thick batter had not cooked through, leaving a thick, gluey paste under the crispy crust. Not pleasant. I thought that the bland white sauce that the fish sat on could’ve used a little tartar sauce treatment.
The servings looked small, but were actually quite filling, so we shared a pear tart
for dessert. No complaints there. It was perfectly delicious.
In spite of my reservations at the beginning of the meal, we did discover some advantages to sitting downstairs. The restaurant is located
in a glass box in the middle of the station, allowing diners a full view of all the hustle-bustle while protecting them from it. The noise levels inside were surprisingly low for a place with a concrete floor and ceiling, presumably due to the orange panels above us, which matched the orange designer chairs. The overall effect was kind of cheap and downscale. There was also plenty of space between tables, allowingThe upstairs dining room felt plusher, With its upholstered chairs and wooden bar, and cheerier with its colored glass windows and hanging lights.
Our server was a sweetheart, but not always present. In a train station restaurant, the service should be snappier.
. between meal hours. Takeout service, Le Fournil.
I won’t make a special trip back to L’Étoile du Nord, but I will certainly go there if I happen to be in the Gare du Nord and need a bite to eat. I will try to get a table in the upstairs empyrean, but I am now reconciled to sitting downstairs with the hoi polloi.
L’Étoile du Nord: Gare du Nord, 18, rue de Dunkerque, 75010 Paris. Métro: Gare du Nord. Tel.: 01 40 36 54 36. Brasserie and Le Zinc open daily, 6am-11pm. Le Fournil: 5:30am-9pm. Fixed-price menu: €24 (two courses) and €29 (three courses). À la carte: around €42. www.letoiledunord.fr
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