Not the Latest Thing,
But Still the Best
TAXI JAUNE AND MONJUL ARE NOW CLOSED, BUT PRAMIL IS STILL OPEN,
It doesn’t seem fair that only new restaurants get reviews in the press, so last week I went back to three old favorites, all of them slightly off the beaten track in the Marais, and found each one to be as great as I remembered and better than many of the new restaurants that get so much attention.
Taxi Jaune was the first restaurant I reviewed on Paris Update 11 years ago. I loved it then, and I love it still. Chef/owner Otis Lebert continues in his modest way to make superb food and serve it to a crowd of mostly regulars in a comfortable restaurant hidden away on a quiet street in the Marais.
The five of us shared a few starters: a top-notch foie gras, a rich cep tart and Lebert’s always delicious goat-cheese-stuffed brick (filo-pastry crust), made this time with seasonal figs.
Lebert is a genius with meat and poultry and prepares them beautifully, the old-fashioned way. We were all tempted by two dishes: the
coq à la Normande (Normandy-style cock, but with just a small amount of cream) and the pithiviers de lièvre (hare pie). The meats were slow-cooked to perfection and served with fine gravies and vegetables. The hare was enclosed in a perfect pastry crust.
We skipped dessert but savored two bottles, one white, one red, of Mas du Chêne’s Marché Avant, from Côte du Rhône’s “peasant winemaker” Luc Vignal. Lebert, by the way, who has a special talent for finding excellent wines at reasonable prices, has opened a wineshop across the street.
The four friends I went with all fell in love with the food and the charm of the place and swore they would be back.
A few blocks away, still in the Marais, is another chef who excels at serving perfectly cooked, top-quality meat, Alain Pramil. My dinner companion, former Paris Update restaurant reviewer Richard Hesse, who discovered Pramil when it first opened, was in heaven over his starter of baby lamb’s liver,
and I had to agree that it was stunning, although my pumpkin soup with fois gras ice cream was also amazing. For the main courses, we had, respectively, a divine veal steak
and beef cheeks in a rich gravy, both served with perfect mashed potatoes with olive oil. Nothing fancy there, just excellent products cooked to perfection. Very satisfying.
In an entirely different realm, but also made with the very best ingredients, are the creative and amusing dishes of Julien Agobert at Monjul, each one a work of art. Agobert must be continually experimenting to come up with his metaphorical dishes. Only one had not changed since I was last there with the same two friends a couple of years ago, and even that (the meringue dessert called the “Casse-Tête Chinois,” or “Chinese Puzzle”), was made with different ingredients.
Agobert likes to disguise foods and gives his dishes fanciful names. Among the big hits this time was “Andy Warhol Style,” fine smoked
haddock accompanied by cauliflower mousse, homemade waffled potato chips, vegetable chips and vegetable bouillon.
I have forgotten the name of my main course of dorade (sea bream), but I will never forget the
brilliant cup of bouillabaisse that came with it, accompanied by a thick piece of buttery toast for dipping. Heaven.
The meringue dessert mentioned above, in the
form of a sphere to be cracked open, was filled with mango ice cream. My dessert, the Provence-influenced “Guarigue Lactée,
Citronnée, Contrastée, Maki d’Olive Sucrée” involved various herbs, sweetened olives, a lemony mousse and lemon pulp. Sounds gimmicky but it all pulled together to sweet perfection.
Novelty is great, but an occasional return to the tried-and-true can be a comfort and a joy.
Pramil: 9, rue du Vertbois, 75003 Paris. Métro: Arts et Métiers. Tel: 01 42 72 03 60
Open Tuesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner, and Sunday for dinner only. Fixed-price dinner menu (three courses): €33. Fixed-price lunch menu (two courses): €24. A la carte: €38. www.pramil.fr
Monjul: 28, rue des Blancs Manteaux, 75004 Paris. Tel: 01 42 74 40 15. Open Tuesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner. Métro: Hôtel de Ville. Nearest Vélib’ stations: 29, rue des Blancs Manteaux; 50, rue Vieille du Temple. Fixed-price menus: €35.50 (three courses, not including wine), €16.50 (lunch only, two courses), €20.50 (lunch only, three courses), €55 (tasting menu). www.monjul.comFavorite