I must apologize again to my legions of Tartare fans out there for the 2 week delay in writing this post. I have been awfully busy the past couple of weeks with work and personal life before I head off to Amsterdam, London, and Prague tomorrow. Buckle up!
First a quick footnote, when attempting to be some sort of food critic, it is best to travel with like minded people. I found it hardpressed to search out tartare when my compatriots were more interested in the likes of Jim Morrison & Oscar Wilde's graves.
Friday, July 27th
We flew in to Paris Orly around 8pm and met up with my wife's best friend and her boyfriend who kindly picked us up at the terminal. Our reservation at Le Sèvero was for 10pm so we drove more or less straight to XIVe arrondissement where we parked and went for a walk to kill the 45 or so minutes before our table was ready.
And this is why I love the back streets of Paris. On the way to Le Sèvero, we passed a small bar/bistro called Les Tontons. It resembled any other place of this size, however on closer inspection I discovered that they had two large chalk boards on either side of the entrance listing 30 or so different types of tartare (duck, beef, tuna, etc.)! We didn't have a chance to try it out, but I figured I would mention it in case someone is interested in reviewing it before the next time I am in Paris. Some french blog writes favorably »
38, Rue Raymond Losserand, 14e - Tel:(+33) 1 43 21 69 45
After fetching a business card for the place for my notebook we proceeded a few blocks away to Le Sèvero (Update: Les Bis du Sèvero was sold in 2011, there is still a restaurant here (Le Bis), but it is no longer affiliated with Le Sèvero). We arrived 15 minutes early, but our table was already empty so we sat down. My face was on fire with the smile of a thousand suns until my eyes glanced down to the crudely printed daily menu before me (the phone camera actually does it justice in this case):
Steak Tartare had been scratched off the list!
I couldn't believe it. In fact the only meat they had left was the Faux Filet, a huge tri-tip sirloin.
Upon talking with the owner, he told us that because they close down the next day for vacation until the 27th of August he only had 1 filet steak which the first customer that afternoon ordered for tartare.
The next several minutes were spent deciding whether or not we should skip Le Sèvero and head back to Les Tontons for the tartare. We actually called Les Tontons and were told if we wanted Steak Tartare that we would have to show up there before 10pm which was in 5 minutes. My wife and friends agreed that I was crazy at the point in which I said, "let's run!".
So we stayed and ordered some wine. We were waiting for the arrival of alixinparis (the local croissant expert) anyway so we couldn't just pick up and leave. Everyone ordered the Faux Filet which, despite being a tad tough, was chalked full of flavor. It was only unfortunate that they gave us butter knives instead of something serrated like a proper steak knife. We stayed until well past midnight and were the last to leave as we got into a long discussion with the owner, William Bernet, about the best spots in Paris for Steak Tartare. I believe he was in agreement (with himself) that most tartare in Paris was pure crap except his own with Bistro Paul Bert (11e) coming in at a distant second. I scribbled the tip down in my notebook and we left, beaten and disappointed but drunk and full of beef, albeit cooked.
Saturday, July 28th
I awoke to the pleasures of Saturday morning cartoons. I was amazed to discover that Shaggy and Scooby Doo have the exact same voices, even when they are speaking French.
I was anxious to get a move on with the day, however the women were not in such a hurry. I noticed that one of the places on my list, Le Petit Champenois, was just a few blocks away from our friend's pad in the 15th so I decided to go for a quick walk. It was closed until August 21st. Argh! Next time I will search for Tartare in the south of France during this time.
On the agenda for the day was some grave hunting at Cimetière du Père Lachaise (11e) so I quickly hopped on the Internets to see which places in the area could serve a raw lunch. Turned out the tip from the night before, Bistro Paul Bert, is in the neighborhood. I also found this excellent blog about the joint by The Food Nazi. In fact the blog post is so good I will not even bother going into much detail about the place.
By phone we learned that they close at 2pm followed by the usual vacation for most of August so we quickly jumped in the Peugeot and sped along the Seine through the same tunnel Princess Diana spent her last mortal seconds. We arrived around 1pm and parked illegally in a loading zone out front.
Bistro(t) Paul Bert
18, Rue Paul Bert, 11e - Tel:(+33) 1 43 72 24 01
We were seated and introduced to an extremely helpful and friendly waiter (he was new) who propped up a chalk board menu in the empty chair at our table and proceeded to explain everything. I asked for the Steak Tartare (tartare de boeuf - 21€) and was kindly reminded that it is raw. I told him I hoped so. I also ordered a Morgon 2003 (vin du Beaujolias - 30€) as I had learned tartare goes well with light, young red wine. To make a long blog short (again read The Food Nazi's, no need to reinvent the post wheel) the Steak Tartare was superb with even a pinch of horseradish instead of a splash of tabasco for bite (tabasco sauce is one of the worst culinary inventions ever... far too vinegary). My only gripe was it was on the verge of being too moist. Possibly some egg white in there somewhere, not sure. My rating is as follows (see the system explained here »):
I. a=2.5 / b=2.5 / c=3 / d=2... Average 2.5
II. a=2.5 / b=2.5 / c=3... Average 2.66
III. =2 (May need to rework this)
Total = 7.1/9
Basically anything over a 7 is amazing but I will leave some room for the unexpected future.
For dinner that night I was vetoed in favor of a local crêperie near Notre Dame. It's a tough life as a raw meat lover I tell you. Naturally they didn't have any crepes with Steak Tartare (although Les Tontons did list one). We spent that night at the apartment of my wife's best friend's boyfriend's just outside of Paris.
Sunday, July 29th
Rain, bikes, toothbrushes, and Worcestershire sauce. What am I on about you say?
Sunday morning we woke up to a torrential downpour. Bugger we had some cool plans this day. Unfortunately my wife forgot our electric toothbrush at her friend's apartment in the 15th so we needed to fit a trip back there into the schedule. Fortunately there is a place around the corner, Le Café du Commerce, where the friend (who knows zilch about tartare) says they make steak tartare only on order, therefore it should be good (tartare should always be made on order). What the hell I said, I will give it a try, I said.
Le Café du Commerce
51, rue du Commerce, 15e - Tel:(+33) 1 45 75 03 27
Very cool art nouveau interior, very respectable tux wearing waiter. Horrible steak tartare (15€). I have heard about a splash or a dash of Worcestershire sauce in Steak Tartare before, but this was fucking ridiculous. It arrived in the shape of a cow patty on my plate, a bit brown for freshly chopped filet I thought. After my first taste my reaction was that they used far too much ketchup in it, which may have also been the case. Upon almost forcing myself to eat half of it, I noticed the pool of brown sauce occupying half of the empty plate. Cow murder by Worcestershire sauce drowning. Sacrelig! Why go and ruin good steak? I managed to finish it without a stomach ache at least (good sign), unfortunately I had a bit of the runs the next day (bad sign).
I. a=2 / b=1 / c=1 / d=2... Average 1.5
II. a=2 / b=2 / c=2... Average 2
Total = 5.5/9
Basically I gave it some points for not killing me and for the restaurant's wallpaper.
We paid and got out of there as the final stage of Tour de France was on its way to the Champs-Élysées. For those who haven't seen this pinnacle of bike racing. They go so much faster when you see it live than they appear to on TV. Later that night we flew back to Vienna.
1 missed, 1 found, and 1 forgotten. To be continued...