Terroir Parisien

High Expectations for Top Chef’s Locavore Bistro

July 22, 2012By Heidi EllisonRestaurants
Paris Update Terroir Parisien
The interior is elegant but could be anywhere in the world.

When Yannick Alléno, three-star chef at the Hôtel Meurice, opens a new restaurant, Parisians sit up and take notice. The excited buzz started even before the place opened, raising expectations to the point where many critics were disappointed with the result. I fell into the same trap.

It’s called Terroir Parisien, and the conceit is that all the (high-quality) ingredients come from the Ile de France (sources are listed on a blackboard), and that the prices are mostly kept to the level of any decent bistro.

Since it is located in the Maison de la Mutualité, the Art Deco headquarters of local nonprofit health insurers in the Latin Quarter, my first expectation was that the decor would at least offer a nod to its setting. Not so. While very attractive, the modern decor, all grays and browns, with a rectangular bar in the center and an open kitchen, could be anywhere in the world. The high ceiling gives it a nice feeling of spaciousness, and its handsome blond-wood lining may be responsible for the quite reasonable noise levels, considering the bustling ambience of the place.

So, a pleasant if un-Parisian setting, filled with very Parisian customers on the night we were there. The service was highly professional (our waiter was on summer break from a hotel school in Switzerland), charming and efficient. And now you must be wondering about the food.

Well, it was perfectly fine, but it didn’t really ring any bells. I started with the cold pea soup, which was not creamy like the one I had at Au Vin des Pyrénées recently, but tasted fresh and pure and was brightened by strands of fresh mint floating on top. My friend had the daily special, a delicious os à moelle (bone marrow), prepared with lots of garlic and served on the bone. Bucking the trend for dark bread in most good Paris restaurants these days, Terroir Parisien provides an excellent baguette, which was lovely with the marrow.

My main course was poire de boeuf (our knowledgeable waiter explained that the poire was one of four muscles in the animal’s upper thigh, which doesn’t get used much and is therefore tender). It was a tasty morsel, topped with some fresh herbs and served with a “puff pastry potato pie” (English translations are provided on the menu), which sounds nifty but was rather leaden. My friend quite liked his chicken in a vinegary sauce of tomatoes and mushrooms, served in a casserole.

Dessert for me was a dish of rather tart raspberries, very effectively paired with aniseed ice cream. My friend’s mousse au chocolat seemed to him not light enough and to me not chocolatey enough.

Our waiter recommended an excellent 2010 Côtes de Bordeaux from Blaye bearing the label of Paris wine dealers Legrand Filles et Fils for only €24.

If I were in the neighborhood, I would go back, but I won’t make another special trip to the fifth arrondissement for Terroir Parisien. Bravo to Alléno for the initiative; let’s hope more famous chefs will do the same, but just a tiny bit better. It must be possible to serve exciting food at reasonable prices.


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