Posts Tagged ‘restaurants’

Dining Out – Léo le Lion, Paris VII

July 12, 2012

Léo le Leon on the rue Duvivier in the 7th arrondissement. Will the Lion roar after a fantastic meal, or whimper over dashed expectations?

The Experienced Travelers have passed Léo le Lion in the rue Duvivier many times over the years.  The online reviews were positive, so it was time to try this neighborhood restaurant. This was Barbara and Chris’ first dinner out in Paris, and we wanted it to be grand.

Barbara and Julie consult with a local over Léo le Lion’s menu.

Barbara and I joined another lady reviewing the menu.  When I asked if she had eaten here, she said no and immediately started pointing up the street toward Le Florimond.  Once I assured her we had reservations at Le Florimond the following week, we debated the finer points of the menu and she agreed that we should carry on.  Was this a premonition?  Would we spend the evening chez Léo wishing we were down the street chez Laurent?

Preparing to dine; Julie, Nurse, Christine and Barbara pose for our loquacious waiter

So in we went to a cozy room done in dark red and pink –  hues that will flatter every girl’s complexion.  The tables were a tad snug even for Paris, and those of us in straight-backed chairs wriggled and shifted our way through the meal. But the meal was what we were there for, and so, dear Readership let’s dig in.

Nurse’s Gambas rôties décortiquées et leur rizotto au basilique. Beautiful and bountiful.

Nurse had shrimp with a risotto that she’s still talking about.  Our waiter explained that the arborio rice was cooked in chicken broth with fresh basil, a touch of garlic, salt and pepper.  Simplicity at it’s best.  I don’t recall that she shared her shrimp, which tells me all I need to know.

My Filet de bar au four à la crème de lentille. Two things I wouldn’t have put together that heretofore shall always be together!

My filet de bar was similar to sea bass and the lentil cream was a wonderful surprise.  I had to make choices here, and decided to leave the broccoli behind in favor of the fish, sauce and mashed potatoes.  Altogether, it was a wise strategy.

Magret de canard aux deux pommes, sauce au cidre for Christine

The duck in cider sauce arrived looking like it had been passed over a match, so Chris took the risk and ask for it to be cooked a little longer.  This is a Parisian restaurant so we took cover and expected a tirade of abuse from the waiter, or worse, the chef.  What a relief when her dinner returned, cooked the way she wanted it, accompanied by nothing more than a smile.  What they said about us back in the kitchen is a mystery and it shall remain thus.

Fresh scallops in a delicate cream sauce make a luscious presentation

Barbara’s scallops were perfectly done and brought a smile of delight. They must have gone well with the chardonnay.  I don’t know why we had chardonnay since Barbara doesn’t like it, but maybe the scallops made her forget.  Better than needing the chardonnay to forget the scallops.

The food was satisfying and inventive. And it was a great meal for Barbara and Christine to inaugurate their dining experience in Paris.  Our meal came to 118 euros for four plats and the bottle of wine.  We thought the entrées were a bit expensive and decided to forgo them.

Was it the chairs?

So why did we decide to finish our wine and get dessert elsewhere?  We think the room felt too cramped, even though it wasn’t full. Maybe it was those straight chairs.  Maybe it was the waiter who pronounced “no kiss for you” when we opted not to have dessert.

It’s not that we don’t recommend Léo le Lion.  We appreciated the quality and care that went into our meals, but there was something we can’t define that made us ready to move on after dinner.  So tell us about your experience at Léo le Lion and help the ETs bring closure to our questions!

They are not yellow. They’re a very chic shade of green and we stand by that!

Addendum:  A Word About The Coats

I know you’re going to ask.  Barbara and I independently brought new bright green raincoats.  I can’t tell you how many people waited for us to raise closed umbrellas and lead a tour group back to the bus.  I decided to break with the typical Parisian black coat and “go green” knowing I would be easy to find in any Paris crowd.  So there.

Dinner and a Show: Chez La Mère Catherine in Montmartre

March 18, 2012

The place du Tertre on a warm Friday evening

The ETs willingly succumb to the charm of Montmartre , despite the wild throngs of tourists in search of Utrillo and other starving artists from it”s golden years.  Hoping to get a sense of neighborhood life on the butte, Melinda and I made the climb one evening, after the tour busses departed.

We wandered around looking in shops and admiring village architecture masked by windows hawking teeshirts and Monet-themed umbrellas. It wasn’t long before we were hungry, with nothing to guide us but posted menus and the apparent satisfaction of patrons on the terraces.

Dining in Montmartre can be a hit-or-miss proposition.  On past visits, I avoided the central place du Tertre which is overrun by the aforementioned crowds.  But we were hungry, and somehow the crazy circus of passers-by fit our mood, so we decided to give it a try.

A Montmartre tradition

We found an outdoor table at Chez La Mère Catherine on the perimeter of the action, and got to work immediately by ordering our first bottle.  Wine is welcome at any meal in Paris, but mandatory for an evening in Montmartre.

A table for two was all we needed

It turns out that we made a fine choice.  Chez La Mère Catherine has been dishing up frogs legs, pork confit and crêpes suzette since 1793.  Opening a restaurant in the midst of the revolutionary Reign of Terror demonstrates a commendable optimism on the part of Mère Catherine.  And it was optimism well placed.  Her restaurant has outlasted two French Republics, the Paris Commune, the Second Empire, the Siege of Paris, the Nazis and the introduction of the Euro.

It is said that during the Battle of Paris in 1814, some invading Cossacks slipped off to Montmartre for a taste of Paris nightlife and made their way to La Mère Catherine.  Out on the town without the knowledge of their senior officers, the soldiers had alot to do in a short time. Between rounds, they yelled “Bistro! Bistro!” (Hurry! Hurry!) and coined the term.   The ETs feel justified when they can learn history while dining out in Paris, and here we find that Mère Catherine was right in the midst of it all!

Relaxed and dishevelled with toasts all round. The magic of La Mère Catherine transported the ETs

Once our attentive waiter advised us on dinner, we settled back to watch the show unfold.  Before us went groups of kids out for a Friday night, befuddled tourists swept along by the crowd and hungry portrait artists in search of paying subjects. This was better than the Lido, and cheaper too.  I don’t mind the Montmartre crowds when I am a drinking spectator with dinner on the horizon.

Tasty marinated pork isn't terribly photogenic

At last our meal was served.  Melinda chose tender pork marinated in cider with potatoes lyonnaise that were fine.  I had the ever-popular beef bourguignon with pasta and a grilled tomato that was adequate and filling.  Our satisfaction rose with the arrival of a gâteau au chocolat with crème anglaise  and raspberry coulis.

Fit for a Cossack - beef bourguignon and some puzzling pasta

Mère Catherine is a purveyor of standard cuisine and on that count, she delivers.  This wasn’t a Michelin meal.  But dear Readership, consider the balmy evening breeze, the checkered tablecloth, the warbling chanteuse accompanied by a rickety old piano, the entertainment in the place du Tertre and the warm goodwill engendered by the wine.  Clearly, you can have a delightful night out in Montmartre.

Popular lore claims that it was here that the revolutionary Danton wrote “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die”.  That was far more likely in Paris of 1793 if you were a fleeing aristocrat with the family jewels sewn into your seams.  Yet the ETs agree we could fare worse than to make our final stop at Chez La Mère Catherine to enjoy the ambiance over a leisurely, satisfying meal before the guillotine falls.

What might Danton have made of the raspberry coulis? Vive la France!


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