Tucked away on an unassuming street near the bustling Montorgueil is the intimate 27 seat restaurant, Frenchie. My friends and dining companions, Erin [chocolat] and Erin [quiche], were here a month ago sitting besides Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert as they filmed an episode for Bourdain’s No Reservations. Oui c’est vrais, they sat inches away from the two salt and peppery beaus. So you can imagine my excitement last week when Erin [chocolat] asked me to be her date.
*Please excuse the blurriness of these pictures in advance. Dim lighting is not a friend of my Canon Sd960.
We started the night off with a white burgundy per the waiter’s recommendation. He was a one-man show in the dining room and he did us good with this pick. I’m still not sure how to describe it. At first taste it was refreshing and fruity, however as it sat longer the flavors changed quite a bit. I guess I’ll have to try it again some time to rehash my memory.
The menu consisted of a three-course prix fixe, with two options from each category. Thankfully Erin [chocolat] likes to play musical plates as much as I so we didn’t have to compromise anything on the menu.
The ris de veau was a beautiful, savory starter. When there’s that much color on the first dish, you know you’re off to a good start. The sweetbreads were generously crusted in a spice medley and seared to perfection so the inside was tender and decadent. The contrasting textures of pearl onions, microvegetables and girolles was delectable not only in texture but also flavor. The accompanying jus and sauce were salty and satisfying. I selfishly gulped them down and now je ne sais quoi–I’m not exactly sure what was in them, perhaps some secret ingredient? Cocaine? Anyway, I saved some radishes for the last few bites, a perfect palate cleanser before delving in to the second ‘starter.’
A sweet and herbalicious salade was just what I needed to follow the unctuous sweetbreads. The salade tomate cerise was lovely and refreshing. With each spoonful, the briny broth (simply the natural juices the heirloom tomatoes exuded) stimulated my salivary glands anew. The micro cilantro reminded me of how strong and complex micro herbs can be, not only bearing the flavors of cilantro but also its forebearer, coriander. And of course, I’m a sucker for any dish with heirloom tomatoes and basil. This dish even had purple basil! Reminds me of my [late] pet plant…oh how I should have given you more sunlight, water and love…(or perhaps less of it. I’m no plant expert…)
If duck is on the menu, I’m more than likely to order it. A few months ago, I cooked duck every night after work for a week straight. Crazy, right? Well I wanted to perfect a brine and a duck dish for a television casting, except after this week-long R&D project, I read the fine print and realized I was ineligible for the competition since I had restaurant experience. At least I have an ace in my pocket for the next casting that may or may not come along. Anyway, my point is despite all the duck I had that week, I still love it, but it has to be done right.
The canard was cooked a second too long for my taste, yet still I was able to slice through it with ease. The crisp skin was likely finished with a honey glaze since it lacked the crunch of Beijing duck skin. The best part was the fat underneath was barely existent, as it was rendered flawlessly.
I’m not crazy for beets, however the flavors cooked in to the beets were not bad–a nice balance of sweet and acidic. The chef, however, was overly generous in his portioning, thus throwing off the whole ratio [of duck:beet:beans:beet leaves:raspberries:jus]. All of the accompaniments did their part in bringing together the dish in flavor, texture and even visually so in presentation. The highlights of the dish were the tangy raspberries juxtaposed with the creamy sauce of tarragon and mystery herb, tucked under the duck filets.
Equally exciting was the mérou that followed because I feel like I don’t eat enough fish in Paris. Plus I was happy to see another herbal dish!
The fish [sans sauce] could have been mistaken for one prepared at Le Bernardin. I wonder if Eric Ripert would have agreed with me, based on his dining experience here in June. It was not too oily and had an excellent sear, followed by a minute or so in the oven before it was plated atop the green couple: avocat et concombres. This duo goes together like tomato and basil. Or, they could double date (like I make them do in my salads)! I was skeptical of the warm cucumber at first, however the slicing with the seeds intact was a playful texture to pair with the grainy mustard. The moutard surprised me as well because I feared it would be too sour and thus ruin the delicate flavor of the mérou. The chef however removed much of its sour component and presented it instead as a textural muse, almost tobiko-like in mouthfeel, but between tobiko and ikura on the edible ball size chart in my head. Bravo, chef!
I could have stopped right there and gone home a happy rabbit, but I didn’t. Erin [chocolat] shared her fromage with me. I liked the espelette, but otherwise it was nothing to write home about.
Were ‘perles du japon’ indeed tapioca? And if so, could the French cook them correctly? Curious to find out, I tried a bit of Erin [quiche]’s cousin’s strange strawberry tapioca dessert and found it très bizarre. Was the amande fraiche intended to be something between the consistency of unbaked meringue and deflated mousse?
At this point I was unfortunately reminded that not all chefs can pull off dessert. Despite the velvety ganache of my chocolate tart, which I consumed in its entirety, the crust was tough and amateur at best. I thought the passion fruit caramel might save the dish with some added brightness in reviving my palate from the chalky crust, but alas, it was warm, just like the tart, and salty, just like the fleur de sel on the tart. I don’t know why chef chose to stray from the theme of harmony in contrast used throughout his previous dishes, because this dessert was obviously unbalanced.
For his velvety ganache and excellent execution in all of the preceding courses, I can surely overlook the flaws of dessert. After all, a good restaurant always has something to improve. My mouth waters longingly for Frenchie and I would return in a heartbeat for it is one of few restaurants in Paris where the chef is able to consistently pique my palate with each course.