If any street in Paris is pas sage (not well behaved), it is the Rue Saint Denis, famous for its sex shops and ladies of the night lurking in doorways. The sex shops and ladies are still there, but perhaps not for long. Slowly, one by one, the sex shops are being replaced by eateries and boutiques. And what will happen to the ladies now that the French government is threatening to make it a crime to pay for sex?
One sign of the gentrification of the Rue Saint Denis is the recent opening of Le Pas Sage (not to be confused with Au Passage, reviewed here). This small restaurant with a punning name is located at the corner of Rue Saint Denis and the handsome early-19th-century Passage du Grand Cerf, with its wooden shop facades and glass roof.
Our first impressions of the restaurant were purely positive: a pretty decor and nice graphics, big bouquets of red and yellow tulips on the bar next to us, backed by a colorful display of blossoms at the florist shop on the other side of the passage, visible through the large windows. Even more inviting was the greeting from the young owner: a big smile and “Bienvenue!” If only more French restaurateurs would make this small effort to make their customers feel at home…
The owner continued to take good care of us and his other customers, most of whom proved to be as young and attractive as him and the pretty young waitress. He patiently described in great detail of the dishes we inquired about and the origins of their ingredients. When asked for the wine list, he said, “I am the wine list,” and proceeded to explain that most of the wines in stock are from the Rhône Valley or southwest France and to make suggestions to go with our meal (don’t forget to ask for prices, since one of the first wines he mentioned was the divine but pricey Côte Rôtie). We chose a 2009 natural Croze Hermitage from Emmanuel Darnaud at €35 that went down very well with our choices.
I had the creamy, piping-hot pumpkin
soup, just the right thing on a cold, rainy winter evening. It was warming, comforting and nicely pumpkiny but might have been jazzed up a tiny bit more. One of my friends ordered the “Prince de Paris” ham, lovingly described by the owner as being the only jambon de Paris still being made the old-fashioned way by a local artisan, with no nasty additives. The thin, delicate slices
came in a generous serving with a big hunk of butter, cornichons and pickled onions, but to us philistines, it tasted more or less like any ordinary cooked ham. Bruce loved his œuf meurette, a poached egg in a rich, spicy red-wine sauce, even though the egg was a tad overcooked.
I was delighted by my spicy boudin (blood sausage) “hamburger,” which came in a
specially made roll coated with onion confit on one side and cooked apples on the other, and was accompanied by succulent roasted potatoes. Bruce was once again pleased with his main course of cabbage stuffed with veal
and black truffles, served on a bed of puréed squash, but Bill was rather dubious about his caillette, a sort of rough pâté served hot, which reminded him a bit too much of meatloaf and made him feel he had OD’d on meat after the big plate of ham he had just eaten.
He was greatly cheered, however, by the fine aged Gruyere we shared afterward and sinfully ate with buttered bread, and by his unusual dessert of hazelnut ice cream with
marrons glacés, blueberry sauce and fresh whipped cream. With the cheese, we had a glass of Jean-Luc Colombo’s excellent 2009 La Belle de Mai Saint Péray, another suggestion of the owner.
Bruce, ever the chocolate fiend, was loath to share his mœlleux au chocolat (called a fondant on the menu, but really a soft-centered chocolate cake), but we managed to sneak a taste of this especially fine version of a dessert that has been rather overexposed in Paris restaurants of late.
Le Pas Sage is a restaurant worth noting for a number of reasons, among them the lovely surroundings, friendly atmosphere and reasonable prices, but above all the owner’s concern for and pride in the quality of the food and wine he serves. Just make sure you behave yourself if you go there.Favorite