December 5, 2011

How To Be Populaire


The other day started out normal enough.  We set out in the late morning to pick up some items from a friend's apartment that was to be sold in a matter of minutes, along with everything in it.  We walked away with some decent kitchenware, lightbulbs, a nice hammer, a good water filter, and some sel de Camargue.  It was getting close to lunchtime, and we realized that the recently-opened Au Passage was right around the corner.  Not only did this "bar á manger" win "best love restaurant" in Le Fooding's 2012 restaurant guide, but it is owned and run by the same group behind our lunchtime and drink-time favorite, Les Pères Populaires.  Au Passage has a similar vibe to Le Pères Pop, but elevated: the vintage furniture matches and seems clean, the evening small plate menu is extensive and features more gourmand items, the lunch menu offers two main course options and a cheese course, and the along with the signature Vin Populaire, numerous natural wines are featured.  It is cool without being pretentious, homey without feeling raggedy, and the staff is relaxed, friendly, and knowledgeable.


The walls featured numerous hand-printed posters, available to buy, by the print artist who created the label for Vin Populaire. 


We were a bit early, so we took a seat on a leather two-seater couch and enjoyed an organic green tea while the kitchen finished prepping for the lunch rush.


Our starter was a little green dollop of brussels sprouts puree at the bottom of a glass bowl, topped with marinated raw pieces of mackerel and small clams, and a leaf of tarragon.  Mackerel can often be overly fishy, especially when raw, but this was fresh, briny and delicious alongside the sweet little clams and tarragon.


The main course was one of those simple and oddly paired dishes that reaches an unknown region of astounding flavors, similar in style to other new outposts of modern french bistronomy, most notably Le Chateaubriand.  The dish was a lightly seared piece of bonito tuna with some roasted pears, a couple radicchio leaves, roasted salsify, and pureed Jerusalem artichoke.  Sometimes you get a plate of food on which every item is the perfect strength, perfect ripeness, perfectly cooked, and perfectly similar and different from the next: sweetness from the pear, earthiness from the Jerusalem artichokes and salsify, velvety meat of the tuna, and the bitter crutch of the radicchio.   And at €13.50 for two courses, we will be returning.  Often.


As chance would have it, our good buddy, Michael Cera, who is on tour playing bass for Mr. Heavenly, called to invite us last-minute to a show he was playing at what venue? L' International, of course, another establishment run by the same owners of Les Pères Populaires and Au Passage.

Later on, with a couple hours to burn before the show, we headed over to another nearby place of interest, Aux Deux Amis, a spanish-leaning wine bar, with an interior that is straight-up 50's Paris. I asked if there was a nice Gamay or Pinot Noir, and was poured a glass of both in the form of a Burgundy made of equal parts Pinot Noir and Gamay.




After the first glass, we gave in to the cheese and ham sitting centimeters away from our noses. If a generous pile of paper-thin Bellota ham garnished with house-roasted almonds and a few slices of raw milk Manchego with quince paste aren't the best things to eat alongside a light a fruity red wine, I don't know what is. Actually, I do, and the list is getting out of control. 

When the time came, we made our way to L'International, and noticed that our waitress from lunch walked in after us.  We ordered the first of many rounds of Vin Populaire, caught up with Michael about South America, and enjoyed a raucous evening of doo-wop-drenched, garagey indie rock, courtesy of Mr. Heavenly.



If the 17th arrondissement wasn't so far from the venue, we might have ended up there after the show for a glass of wine at Les Caves Populaires, just to complete the tour.  Instead, we had a group stumble down the hill to Candelaria for big bowls of punch, Mexican beers, and 12 year old Pappy Van Winkle.

Au Passage
1bis passage de Saint-Sebastien, 75011 / 01 43 55 07 52
Open Monday - Saturday, No lunch service Saturday 

Aux Deux Amis
45 rue Oberkampf, 75011 / 01 58 30 38 13
Open Tuesday-Saturday

l'International
5/7 rue Moret, 75011

No comments :

Post a Comment

Other posts you might like...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...