Buttering Up Customers
It’s not often that everyone in a party of four at a restaurant table (or boudoir-like dining area, but more on that later) goes into ecstasies over the butter, but that was the case the other night at Le Cul de Poule, a tiny, trendy new eatery in the ninth arrondissement. The butter, from Pascal Beillevaire, according to the menu, had a heavenly texture and flavor and just the right sparkle of fleur-de-sel crystals.
Paris Update’s usual restaurant reviewer, Richard Hesse, who is taking a break this week, will be happy to hear that the list of sources at the bottom of the menu at Le Cul de Poule is almost as long as that of the dishes on offer: ham from Mr. Ospital, vegetables from Sylvain and Alain Passard, Chalosse beef from Mr. Aimé, Bresse chickens from Dominique Merle, herbs from Annie Bertin, andouillette from René Bas, and andouille au lard from Danielou. Phew.
Although the butter was definitely the hit of the evening (the pepper also deserves special mention for its incredible freshness and piquancy), there were few complaints about the other dishes, except for Mr. Aimé’s beef: while the bavette (skirt steak) had plenty of flavor, it was so chewy that eating it was more of a chore than a pleasure. Danielou’s andouille au lard (chitterling sausage) was strong, non-gamy and deliciously smoky; the butternut-squash soup piping hot and creamy; the (unsourced) seiche (cuttlefish) properly cooked and enlivened by a few dabs of pesto.
Two of our group refused cheese or dessert courses, but none of us could stop cadging from the generous lump of butter on the cheese plate (we were too polite to do what we really wanted to do – swipe the whole thing and eat it plain). It rather outshone but paired beautifully with the redolent Beaufort cheese. The chocolate cake with crème anglaise was perfectly delicious but was overshadowed by – you guessed it – the butter.
A word about the seating. When I called to reserve, I was told the place was full. After I expressed my disappointment, the waitress hesitantly suggested that we could sit upstairs, if we didn’t mind sitting on sofas with cushions. Why not? I accepted. The sofas turned out to be as wide as beds, requiring shoe removal and cross-legged or reclining positions for those who didn’t sit on the edge or on one of the low stools provided. The food was precariously served on folding trays, which had a tendency to collapse when moved. A bit awkward, but it was fun (and a great icebreaker), although I wouldn’t recommend it for a business meeting (how about a first date?).
The two young waitresses were extremely attentive – uncomplainingly running up and down the stairs to make sure we were taken care of – and unfailingly sweet and smiley.
This latest addition to the Paris restaurant scene by Yannig Samot, owner of La Famille, Le Chéri Bibi and the recently sold Le Réfectoire, isn’t as brilliant as the first two food-wise, but it’s enjoyable and very reasonably priced. I wouldn’t go out of my way to return (except for the butter, of course), but if I find myself in the neighborhood again, I won’t hesitate to stop in for a meal.
Pascal Beillevaire: Several locations in Paris and France: www.fromagerie-beillevaire.com
© 2008 Paris Update
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