Alright, I know what you all really want to know. How's the food?
It's good. Sometimes it's great, and sometime's is lousy. It is very possible to have a terrible meal in a restaurant in Paris - in fact, I try to plan ahead as much as possible, as it's not always so easy to just wander around and find a nice little neighbourhood restaurant with tasty, reasonably-priced food. I read a lot of restaurant reviews and guides (this one, which was a birthday gift from my sister, is great) and try to reserve ahead, even though I get nervous about making phone calls in French.
Friday night MCM and I had a great night out. We had some errands to do in the city, afterwards went for a fun meal at Chartier, and had a quick wander through the Louvre on our way home. Chartier is a nineteenth-century worker's cantine turned restaurant. It's loud, chaotic, and cheap (most main courses are 8-11 euros, which is crazy for Paris at dinner time). We loved the art nouveau decor, which reminded us of our favourite places in Brussels, like this one and this one. And the food? Okay. MCM's pork terrine was tasty and classic; our profiteroles for dessert were textbook-perfect. Main courses were average - the frites could really be improved. They should be crispier!
I happened across an old article from a British newspaper on the state of French food in which the owners of a British-style bakery-cafe in Paris bemoan the state of French cooking. They complain that bistros are not inventive, turning out the same dishes again and again. (In fact, MCM and have discussed this before: we can predict a bistro menu with about 90% accuracy). While I agree with some of the points in the article, I think the cafe owners exaggerate a bit: French food is not in crisis. The French are, in general, picky consumers when it comes to food: MCM went to the market on Sunday and one of the vegetable-sellers was offering unsolicited apologies on the state of the lettuce, since he only buys Perpignan lettuce and Perpignan has been battered by recent storms.
I'll be curious to hear other opinions.
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