A Paris Special

Hello! I've just come back from Paris and I've got a good few food pictures to share with you. I'll be back to posting recipes in the next blog. Eid Mubarak to anyone celebrating!

Pierre Hermé (and some Ladurée)

One of the things I really wanted to do on my trip was to visit Pierre Hermé's pastry boutique in the 6eme arrondissment but I never thought I'd have to wait an hour to get served (I was, however, expecting some delay). But testament to the quality of his pastry I actually went to two different locations on successive days just to overindulge and get a better idea of what being the godfather of pastry entails. I tried 8 different flavours of macaron, the vanille millefeuille and the ispahan croissants. The macarons were really intense delicate little flowers that were a prime example of how to make this wonderful delicacy. I love macarons and although Hermé's were very good I still had Ladurée's vanille macarons in the back of my mind. I've had Ladurée's macarons in both London and Paris now and although Hermé's macarons are slightly more exciting, Ladurée's are slightly more delicious (and slightly more expensive). My favourite macaron at Hermé was the jasmine scented one. The peach and saffron was also delicious.

The real triumph of my trip to Hermé's shops was eating that sublime millefeuille. It was flaky and delicate (it could hardly support it self) with a caramelised pastry and and an excellent vanilla kick. This was death row stuff. The croissants were another great revelation as buttery croissant was met with rose, lychee and raspberry to create a super breakfast. Only the pain au chocolat avec pistache at Ladurée could rival it in my opinion. I should also mention I had a rose St. Honoré at Ladurée which was also sensationally good and reminded of the ispahan flavours.

Chez Robert et Louise

This small restaurant de feu (powered by wood fire) in one of the main arteries of the Marais reached an overwhelming popularity after being featured on the first ever episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. This restaurant had character and charm in the bucket load and more importantly the food was delicious. I sat at the bar upstairs and enjoyed using my broken French to communicate with the staff and my companion diners. There was a lively atmosphere and we all shared a glass of rosé whilst talking about the restaurant and its overwhelming popularity with Americans and Brits alike. At one point during dinner I could hear 80% of people around me speaking in English which made for a strange atmosphere. I think the staff enjoyed my attempts at speaking French (as opposed to the tactic of some to walk in speaking English from the offset) and they even brought me an espresso at the end of the meal gratis.

For my main course I opted for the entrecôte (rib eye) cooked on the wood fired grill (pictures above and below) with a side of potatoes cooked in goose fat. The wood fired grill imparted a great clean smoky taste to the steak (cooked rare) which retained its juiciness and umami punch. The goose fat potatoes were also tasty but weren't crispy enough for my liking. We were provided with grey sea salt to sprinkle over the food but I don't think the food needed much uplifting. I definitely recommend this place but make sure to get a reservation. So many people were turned away for showing up without reservations but you might be lucky (turn up near opening time at 7pm and you might snag a table).

Pain de Sucre

I was recommended this patiserrie by a friend who told me the two owners are ex-Pierre Gagnaire pastry chefs so they had some inventive pastries to try. I didn't try the macarons here but opted for a Baobab (not the fruit) which was a clever play on the baba au rhum. There was a custard bottom with an excellent cake dome that was pierced at the top with a baster filled with rum which I was instructed to use to pierce the top of the cake to evenly distribute the liquid. This was so messy and extremely filling but also quite satisfying. I just needed a coffee to go with it and all would have been well. I know I'm in no position to suggest anything but I would also have liked a different texture to the cake...something with a bit more action for my teeth.

L'as du Falafel

I was excited about this. Apparently I was going to have the best falafel in the world (according to some internet reviewers) whilst those with more reserve said this was the best falafel you could get in Europe. Again, anything to that effect just doesn't sit right. Either way I was expecting something delicious. And I got something delicious. Really delicious and quite light. The chilli sauce was definitely great. The falafel balls were moist and not one bit greasy. But by no means the best falafel in the world! I still remember eating at the original Khalifa Falafel in the Basta (Beirut) and that for me was way and beyond this sandwich. I'd definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a quick lunch though.

Bahn Mi in Belleville

I found this area of Paris the most interesting. North African and Vietnamese immigrants settled here after Belleville became part of the greater Paris area and the sheer diversity in cuisine was astounding. I spent quite a bit of time her getting acquainted with some great food culture. I really enjoyed the Bahn Mi at Dong Huang (whilst other bloggers have suggested stale bread or skimping on filling I didn't find this) and I thought it was a great example of the Vietnamese Sandwich. There was a queue of about 7 people to get in but I think it was definitely worth it. Really cheap and filling. I may have enjoyed it more than L'as du Falafel.


I had a lot of fun in Paris and I'm sorry I didn't take pictures of half the stuff I saw and ate but I was too busy feeding myself. Most things I tried were delicious and the food culture of Paris is influential for any aspiring chef/gourmand. For tasting an exceptional millefeuille gives me reference for what I want to aim for and allows me to further understand how to try and emulate some of my food heroes. Hopefully one day I'll produce food this good. We live and learn.


23 September 2009 at 18:16 Heavenly Housewife said...

I am fascinated by this post as i recently returned from paris. I am totally a laduree girl and eat them whenever i can (when i go to london). Pistachio and coconut are my favourites. I had macaroons at pierre herme and actually i thought they had nothing on the Laduree macaroons. I though the tastes were too overpowering (but thats just me). I have got to go back and try the deserts though, and the croissant! I'm going back next month, so hopefully will get the chance to try them and the falafel place. Have u tried the falafels at beiruit express on edgeware road... AWESOME.
Eid mubarak :)

24 September 2009 at 02:45 Phoo-D said...

Living vicariously through this post was marvelous! I about fainted when I saw the millefeuille. That is the stuff of dreams right there! Thanks for sharing the fun!

24 September 2009 at 23:07 M. A. Salha said...

Heavenly Housewife - I love the pistachio macaron too. Ladurée are more traditional but that's by no means a negative point when chalking up whether they or Pierre Hermé make the standout macarons. I somewhat agree about the overpowering taste - my brother found the caramel to be too strong for his palate but my sister absolutely loved it. I guess Hermé is not only making a high standard of macaron but also challenging tastes (like the saffron and peach flavour). The croissant at Hermé is sensational. There's no question about that. But if I had to pick one and only one as the stand out patisserie? Hermé gets it. I can't stop thinking about that millefeuille.

Beirut express makes quite good falafel but I think my mum makes better ;-) Thanks!

Phoo-D - It's my pleasure. I really wish I took more pictures. One thing I forgot to mention that I really loved was the bread and the brioche at Poilane. I can't recommend them highly enough.

27 September 2009 at 00:54 catherine @ www.unconfidentialcook.com said...

We did taste tests of macarons throughout Paris with our young daughter (to make museums more fun)...and laduree was one of our faves. Believe it or not, Paul's was way up there, too.

27 September 2009 at 18:25 M. A. Salha said...

catherine - I have to agree, Paul make pretty good macarons. Like Ladurée, I think the vanilla is a good example.

9 January 2010 at 14:03 Taste of Beirut said...

Fun to read and interesting as well! I went to Pierre Hermé a few years ago (my brother was living in Paris then) and brought back 30 petits fours that I proceeded to sample. OK experience but it would have been smarter to eat the mille-feuilles for sure! My friend Anne-Marie recommended the macarons at Gerard Mulot, instead of Hermé's, so I had those too. At the end, I had so many I could not tell whose were better! But Ladurée is such a fun place to sit at! I agree with you, the best falafel is in Beirut, Basta surely!

12 January 2010 at 12:36 M. A. Salha said...

Taste of Beirut - I also got recommendations for Gerard Mulot but I couldn't make it. Paris isn't too far away so maybe on my next trip I'll head down.

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