La Casse Noix -- Restaurant Review

Address: 56 Rue de la Federation
Nearest transport: Dupleix (ligne 6)
Hours: Closed Saturdays and Sundays
Reservations: recommended
Telephone: 01 45 66 09 01

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; $$$$ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on plats--main course)

1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  5 - Stars............................................. (Pre-fix menu)............................................2 - Bell

I have family visiting from the U.S. and I wanted to show them a part of Paris that most tourist don’t see, such as the 15eme.  I wanted them to experience a neighborhood restaurant where real “Parisians” go  and tourists very rarely venture to. So, my good friend Marie from the "French Market Maven" suggested we go to "Le Casse Noix”, also recommended by my good friend John Talbott.

We entered this small, but very cozy restaurant. We were 6 and they gave us a nice round table in the center of the restaurants. The servers were very friendly and cheery.  Almost immediately, they gave us a creamy liver paté with some bread. We then started off with apéros while we perused the menu.

They have a prefix (entrée, plat, déssert) menu for 32€ (and apparently nothing à la carte). You choose among 3-entrées, 3-plats, and 5 desserts on the clipboard, and if you didn’t like anything on the prefix menu, you could also select from choices written on a blackboard, which gave you an additional choice of 4-entrées, 6-plats, and 3-desserts, mix and match. So, let’s just say you have a lot of choices.

For entrées, we all tasted each others dishes.  We started with “soupe crémeuse de panais, châtaignes et lard fumé” (creamy soup of parsnips, chestnuts and smoked bacon).  When it first arrived, we thought how strange, it looks like they forgot the broth, but our fears of a dry soup were allayed as the server came with a pitcher of creamy broth, and delicately poured it into the bowl.  The combination of the parsnips which were julienne'd  and the creamy chestnuts and smoked bacon just worked so well together. We practically licked the bowl dry.

Next we tasted the “pressé de joues de cochon et foie gras crème raifort et salade” (pressed pork cheeks and foie gras salad and horseradish cream). My favorite part of the pork are the cheeks, because I find them extremely flavorful and tender.  We agreed that this was an excellent dish.  There were some actual cheek skins folded into the mix, but I liked the different textures. And, although the horseradish was very subtle, it did give a nice counter-balance.

Two more to taste. Next we had the “noix de saint-jacques poêlées, fondue de poireaux et tuiles aux épices” (nuts of fried Saint-Jacques, leeks and spiced tuiles). It was a simple dish packed with lots of flavor, especially the little tuile cracker. 

Finally, we tasted the “coques au spec et piment d'espelette, façon marinière” (cockles and chilies with spec and a house marinate). Normally, I find cockles a bit rubbery, sometimes I feel like I’m eating rubber bands. Whatever the Chef did, praise be to him, it was delicious and pretty tender for cockles. It did have a little “bite” but very suble, would definitely have this dish again. 

Onto our main courses.  We had the “pavé de merlu rôti au piment d'espelette, julienne de légumes, émulsion d'une béarnaise” (roasted hake steak espelette pepper, julienned vegetables, and a béarnaise emulsion). What can I say except the fish was cooked perfectly. The skin was nice and crisp while the meat was so tender it almost melted in your mouth.  Since the fish was the main attraction I almost forgot about the vegetables, but the béarnaise sauce was a perfect accompaniment.

Next we tasted the, “poitrine de cochon Ibaïona à la plancha risotta de coquilette comme une carbo” (pork belly Ibaïona pan seared with risotta of minature elbow pasta). Although this dish was extremely tasty, I found it too salty. However, my friend Marie said take a sip of the red wine afterwards and you’ll see the saltiness blends well with the wine. I did, and it did; however, I still found it too salty for my liking. Actually, truth be told, most pork dishes in France are associated with heavy salting, probably to help tenderize the meat. My dish came with an additional side of little minature macaroni, almost like mac/cheese, but without the heavy cheese.

And, one person had “hamburger de Saumon” (tartare of salmon sandwiched between minature pancakes).  This was actually an appetizer off the menu, and I was surprised, because it was a meal.  The salmon was excellent. Cold raw dishes need to be highly seasoned, and it was seasoned perfectly.

Next we tasted the "Rouelle de cuisse de pintade farcie, cuisinée de chous" (fillet of guinea fowl stuffed thighs cooked in cabbage). What a beautiful dish. And, it tasted as good as it looked. Lots of different flavors that really complimented each other quite well.  It also had alot of textural components which tickled all your senses.

Everything thus far has been excellent.  Now onto desserts.

As usual, I opted for the “”assiette de fromages: brebis, vache et chèvre”, a cheese plate. Although they didn’t specify what type of brebis, vache etc., they were all very good choices, served with a “citrusy salad” and cherry sweet preserves.

Now the sweets.  Marie had the “île flottante” (floating island), a meringue dessert floating on a sea of creamy goodness.  She said it was extremely light, flavorful and tasty.  Jack said it looked more like a 'continent' than an 'isle'

Two others had the “cheese-cake parfumé à l'ananas, gelée fruits de la passion” (cheesecake flavored with pineapple, passion fruit jelly). The wait staff told us it was not a cooked dish. The cheesecake is more of a French interpretation of our cheesecake, probably made with St. Moret cheese (French cream cheese). Both said it was delicious.

Two others had the “tarte au chocolat et glace à fève de tonka” (chocolate cake and ice cream made with "tonka" bean).  You would think this desserts sounds heavy, but it was wasn’t, the proportions were just right. The chocolate was very flavorful. More of a milk chocolate rather than a bitter sweet. And, the home-made ice cream with the tonka bean flavoring (similar to vanilla) was the perfect accompaniment.

As we were eating dessert, the server came out with a basket of walnuts and a nutcracker, which is basically the name of this restaurant, their signature logo, so to speak. 

In summary: What a great restaurant. Lately, there’s been a lot of discussion on “service issues” in Paris, e.g., just getting a reservation is impossible. Although bad service exists, and even at some of the more popular "favorite of the season" places, I’m a strong believer that a wonderful dining experience starts from the time you make your reservations to the time you leave.  And, this restaurant delivered just that, a wonderful overall dining experience. 

Chef Pierre Olivier Lenormand definitely has a following, and I can see why. The Chef came out to talk to us, and we thanked and praised him for the wonderful meal we had.  It is such a nice, cozy restaurant with excellent food. Our meal came to about 47€ per person with a a Basque red wine, Irouléguy Arretxea for 32€ and house white for 20€.  This is a great deal for the city.

Would I go back? In a heart beat, in fact I may just take residence there. Although, I’d like to keep this restaurant for myself, I’m all about sharing.  I’m already planning an outing with some friends visiting from the US next week. This is the type of restaurant that we need to support, and by doing so sending a message to other restaurants that have bad attitude because they’re so in demand, we have good choices!


La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix--Restaurant Review

La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix logo
Address: 53 boulevard de Grenelle, 75015
Nearest transport: Dupleix (6)
Hours: Open every day
Reservations: Not accepted
Telephone: 01 45 75 98 00

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; $$$$ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on plats--main course)

1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  4 - Stars............................................. (a la carte)............................................3 - Bell
This restaurant has only been open for little more than a week.  As a general rule, I don't go to new restaurants, but made an exception. Our friend Mary, who is visiting from the U.S. and with her limited availability, we were able to set a date for dinner with friends, but dinner would have to be on a Sunday night.  For the uninitiated, Sunday night dinner out in Paris for a “good” meal is like looking for a needle in a haystack. So, I went to my favorite “go to” place, "Paris by Mouth"  which lead me to "John Talbott's Paris"  review,  who I trust explicitly and to my surprise John recently went to La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix and highly recommended it.

Fancy napkins with their logo

The restaurant does not take reservations, so we decided we’ll show up at 7:30 pm and hope for the best.  The Restaurant is literally a block away from Metro Dupleix (line 6) in our own neighborhood. We notice as we got closer that it was pretty crowded and our other friends were already waiting. Fortunately, they already told the wait staff that there would be six of us and they were able to secure a table for us.

The restaurant is quite tight, there’s an area for coffee and apéros, than they have a long restaurant area which dead-ends to their kitchen.  You can actually watch the Chefs prepare your meal. So, it was good to know that I didn’t see any frozen packages being re-heated.

With the exception of Just Jack who had beer, we all started with a kir.  We perused the menu, to me it was quite confusing. Some seemed more like appetizers rather than plats and also the reverse. I think the intent was to give the restaurant a more “tapas” atmosphere.  Oh well, it just confused me and the waiter couldn’t really explain to us the differences. 

Afterwards, our waiter came and told me that 2-items on the menu were no longer available.  He sort of seemed young and inexperienced, and it dawned on me it is a relatively new restaurant.  First he went around and asked us for our entrée order, and it turned out several items were also not available such as the “couteaux à la plancha" (razor clams) that I was so looking forward to, oh well.  So, we had to rethink our orders.  Then as we proceeded to give him our “plat” order, turned out that they were also out of more dishes such as the cabillaud, but fortunately Steve who ordered it was able to replace with a espadon (swordfish).

So, we concluded that Sunday night probably wasn’t a good night to go. Regardless, we were excited to try the dishes they did had:

Oreilles de cochon grillées

Marie had the Oreilles de cochon grilles (grilled pigs ears). Those of us who like pigs ears tasted it and it  was delicious, served over a bed of greens with a little citrus in the salad to cut out some of the fat.  The meat and cartilage was quite tender. The cartilage lends itself to creating a sort of gelatin effect, but in no way made it gelatinous.  A hit.

Salade de St-Jacques

I ordered the Salade de St-Jacques, parmesan. It was a very, very simple dish of pan seared scallops with a nice accompanying salad.  It didn’t wow me, and it was nothing out of the ordinary, but it was good and well executed.

Terrine de boudin

Jack had the Terrine de boudin, although the name implied that it’s a form of blood sausage it didn’t have the familiar strong flavors of a traditional boudin.  Jack actually found this entrée quite boring and uninspiring. I liked it, since I would find the traditional boudin too heavy for a first course, and this seemed a little lighter.

Mary and Steve ordered the “crevettes à la plancha” this seemed to be the big entrée hit of the night.  It was DELICIOUS.  It was coated in a nice flavorful oil, not spicy. Although it was “à leur façon” (their way), my guess is that it was quickly sautéed in “piment d'espelette” a typical basque pepper used in that area. 

Crevettes à la plancha

Remoulade de céleri, gambas

Davis had the “Remoulade de céleri, gambas” she loved the dish and those were not just gambas, they were the size of chicken wings.  For some, the head is quite tasty and can taste like the “mustard" or "tamale” found in crabs or lobsters. It’s not for everyone, it was definitely a strong, strong flavor, but I loved it.

Onto our plats:

Chou farci pied de couchon
Marie and I had the “Chou farci, pied de cochon” (pigs trotters stuffed in a cabbage leaf). We loved this dish. The trotters were deboned, which made it easier to eat. The meat was quite tender, and not at all “rubbery” which can sometimes happen if not cooked well. Pigs trotters are not for everyone because the textures can be strange for some, but we thought it was not only delicious but well executed.

Tartare de saumon

Just Jack had the “tartare de saumon vinaigrette d'agrumes” (salmon tartare with citrus vinaigrette.  He felt the same way I felt about my entrée. It was good, it didn’t wow him, but it was good, well executed dish.

St. Jacques céleri

Davis and Mary had the “St. Jacques, céleri” (scallops on a bed of puréed celeriac).  Davis liked the dish, since she’s a big scallop fan, and the puréed celeriac was good, but she thought it was lacking texture.  We all agreed it could’ve used another layer like a few watercress or maybe even some greens.  But overall, it was a good dish.

Steve had the “espadon” (swordfish). It was a very good dish. I found the tomatoes a bit on the tart side and felt it could have used maybe a pinch of sugar to tone down the acidity; however, Jack, Marie and Steve liked the little tartness of the tomatoes. Steve did think there was too much of it and overwhelmed the fish. 
We had heard that their fries were really good, so we ordered a large plate of it to share; unfortunately, the fries came as we were finishing up our meals, oh well.

Onto desserts:

Fromage des Pyrénées, configure de cerises noire

I had the “fromage des Pyrénées, confiture de cerises noire” (cheese from the pyrénées with cherry preserves). I am a big fan of a semi-hard cheese a little on the salty side with jam or preserves, so this was a hit for me.

Davis had the “Clafoutis ananas” (pineapple clafouti). It was not at all what she nor I expected. It was more like a brulée with pineapples than a true clafoutis. If it was called a brulées ananas, then I would have said it was excellent and delicious. But a a clafouti, I think not! (Note: I forgot take a photo of this dessert)

Gâteaux Basque

Just Jack ordered “gâteaux Basque” (Basque cake) which can be made with either pastry cream, cherries or with both.  In Jack’s he had cherries, it tasted more like a clafoutis.  In fact, Jack thought it tasted more like a cherry pie with a lot ofbeurre salé” (salted butter caramel). And, he said the crust was a little on the stale side. He was not a fan of this dessert.

Riz au lait
Mary and Steve had the “riz au lait” (rice pudding with a little cake).  The both liked their dessert; however, on the one hand Mary thought that the pudding could have been a tad sweeter.  Both like the accompanying “buerre sale.”

Bol de fruits

Marie had the fruit salad with an accompanying cake.  Marie thought the fruit dessert was a perfect ending to her meal. And, it looked like there was a lot of it.


In summary:

It’s a neighborhood restaurant, and lucky us it's in our "quartier."  One out of six of us thought the food average, while five of us thought the food was excellent. It was a good deal for the money.  With apéros, 3-courses, and 2-bottle of house wines at 20€ each, we paid 44€ a person. 

It has only been open for a little more than a week, considering this, they're doing an excellent job.  I'm confident they'll work out some of the kinks, especially their service.  

We all agreed we would definitely go back, and for me I'd go back just for the shrimps, but probably not on a Sunday night, since week-end deliveries are non-existent, so your choices will be limited. 

Chapeau to Chef Christian Etchebes!


Albion -- Restaurant review

Albion's extensive wines
Address: 80 rue du faubourg poissonière, 75010
Nearest transport: Métro Poissonière (ligne 7)
Hours: Open lunch/dinner Tuesday-Friday
           Saturday dinner only
Reservations: recommended
Telephone: 01 42 46 02 44

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; $$$$ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on plats--main course)

1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  4 - Stars............................................. (a la carte)............................................2 - Bell

At the suggestion of a good friend, we went to Albion in the 10eme.  Hayden Clout and Matt Ong are both graduates of the “Fish la Boissonnerie,” a restaurant where I’ve been to a couple of times and have thoroughly enjoyed. .

Nice window frame into the kitchen

My first impression when you walk in, by Parisian standards it is a fairly large restaurant with tall ceilings and big windows along the side that gave it an even larger feel. As you enter there is a large bar to the right and a large wall of different wines along the left side of the walls, which by the way, you can purchase.  And, straight ahead was a short of peek-a-boo large pass-through window where you can see into the kitchen.

It was a cold day in Paris, and we got a table in the middle front of the restaurant close to the door. Not a bad table, but a bit on the drafty side.  We asked Hayden if we could switch tables as soon as one became available.  He accommodated our needs as one became available. .

Hayden is very, very nice and affable. Turns out he’s from Auckland, New Zealand. I mentioned to him I spent almost a month there, and in fact I have family in Christchurch. We chatted a little bit about the beauty of his country and the recent earthquake. And, then we progressed to a discussion of wines.  It felt like I was talking to a friend who I’ve known for years.

As we perused the menu, I noticed its simplicity.  They had a selection of 3-entrées, 4-plats, 1 cheese plate, and 2 desserts.  The menu changes occasionally.  Since Hayden knows his wines, we left the wine selection to his discretion, pairing it with dishes we ordered. I had a special request though, both had to be white, since although I love red wine, I cannot drink it for health reasons.

What immediately caught my eye was the entrée of “velouté à l'ail, palourdes, huile au curry,”(a creamy garlic soup with cherry neck clams in a curried infused oil).  It’s a personal thing, but I do not like foamy soups, but once I dug in and tasted it, I was in seventh heaven.  The soup was delicious. The chef definitely knew how to take out the acidity of the garlic and made it quite smooth.  I would venture to guess that he slow roasted the garlic first.  The curry infused oil was not shy, you could definitely taste the turmeric.  With our first course, we were served a glass of “Domaine de Villargeau.” It was a great pairing. The wine was a dry wine with enough acidity to balance out our creamy soup.

For our plat, my friend Marie got the “margret et confit de canard, purée de carrottes aux amandes, purée d'herbs,” (duck breast confit with a puree of carrots with almonds and pureed herbs).  Marie said the duck was delicious. At first we thought the pureed greens were spinach, because it was a dark, dark, green color, but it turned out they were herbs.  Not really sure what herbs though since there wasn’t one strong flavor.  Carrots were delicious, but not as warm as the rest of the plate.

I had the “foie de veau poêlé, purée de pommes de terre, sauce citron vert.” (liver pan cooked with mashed potatoes and a green lime sauce).  The liver was delicious, sliced very thinly and cooked perfectly.  The juxtaposition of the potatoes with the citrus was a nice “ying-yang” for the dish.  And, it was topped with a bacon strip, who wouldn't like that? Interestingly enough though, the citron sauce was a deep purple color and had a little cooked down grape size fruit, I’m thinking maybe currants? hence, the purple color, but I forgot to ask.  So, this dish was also a hit.

For our plats, Marie had a red wine “Saint Cosme, Cotes-du-Rhone.” I had a little sip of it and have to say it was a really nice wine. Not too heavy and not too light, so it was a good accompaniment to her duck. I had a white from Rousillon. It was a smooth, “wet” wine, but not sweet. It’s the kind of wine that would be great to drink just because you're thirsty.   

NOTE:  I’m not a wine connoisseur by any means, but I prefer dry over sweet and can go from acidic to “wet.”

We opted, since we were quite full, to share the cheese plate. Marie fell in love with the “branston pickles” which we were told was their chutney. I’m sure if they bottled it, Marie would’ve bought a dozen.  The cheeses were good.  What surprised us even more was that one of the cheeses was an “aged-cheddar.”  It just so happened it was my favorite cheese.

In summary: what a great find.  What’s even more shocking is that the restaurant has only been open for 10-weeks.  I asked Hayden how they were able to make it run so smoothly in such a relatively short period. He told us that since he and Matt worked together at “Fish” for the past 10-years, like a marriage they were well tuned and in sync, with running the “front of the house, and the kitchen.”

Our bill for 2-entrées, 2-plats, and 1-shared cheese plate, with 2-glasses each of great wine came to 40€ each. Before we left, we purchased some of the wines we drank. 

Chapeau to Hayden and Matt.  They don't have a "big" choice menu, I would have liked maybe a few more choices, but what they do have is executed well.  I would highly recommend this restaurant, in fact we’re going back next week and introducing it to some more friends!

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