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Monday, June 21, 2004

L'Entredgeu: my heart in Paris

facadeThere are still a few places I visited during my last couple trips to Paris that I haven't reviewed yet. One of those was, strangely, my very favorite bistro of the moment, L'Entredgeu. I first heard about this restaurant when the French Saveurs magazine did a little blip about it last August. I was actually in Paris at the time, but didn't make it there because they were still closed for the August holidays. My subsequent trips didn't give me a chance either, so it was not until my last one, just over a month ago, that I finally made it.

I showed up in Paris with a full work agenda, and only a few dinner reservations. Luckily, Olivier, the wonderful concierge at my hotel managed to wrestle a sought after table at 8 o'clock for me. There was a funny story about that reservation, Olivier first thought I was completely out of my mind when I told him the name of the restaurant. He asked me to write it down, but was still puzzled, claiming that I must've gotten the name wrong, as l'entredgeu was not a French word!

Well, he was right you see, l'entredgeu really wasn't a French word. It was, in fact, a play on words, a very cute one at that. The chef's name is Tredgeu, the restaurant is the collective passion of both he and his wife. He cooks, she faultlessly runs the front of the house, hence L'Entredgeu. Get it? entre-Tredgeu---l'Entredgeu. How cute is that?

Cuteness runs far beyond the playful name at L'Entredgeu. The dining room itself is prototypical Adorable Parisian Bistro, exactly how a restaurant would try their best to look when going for the Authentic Parisian Bistro theme. Cozy room, yellowish walls, dimly lit in yellow tinted light, worn tables with old wooden chairs, a menu handwritten on a blackboard, the whole nine yard. Well, minus the pretention, because this was the real thing. The chef and his wife took over an old neighbourhood bistro and managed to keep every bit of the old charm. In fact, on display there was a very old picture of the bistro which, based on the look of it, must have at least predated WWII.

The chef, Phillipe Tredgeu, has a very good pedigree, Chez Casimir and Chez Michel being the two most recent before he opened this place. His wife's resume is no less impressive, having worked as front of the house for the likes of Robuchon and Ducasse.

Their collective passion was evident at L'Entredgeu, from the warm and jovial atmosphere to the carefully constructed menu, which of course, was du marché, depending on seasonal ingredients. The cooking was classic yet interesting, and simply fabulous. The price was even more so. The regular dinner menu is 28 Euro, with small supplements for a few items.

That night, Doug, Tamar and I were joined by our colleague from the Paris office, Andreas, a fun Hungarian polyglot. To start, we had a very simple preparation of foie-gras micuit, garnished with a little olive oil and a few drops of beet juice, a rubust pâté de campagne with some spicy greens, a very nice and tender quail with a slightly sweet bulgar wheat salad, and very fresh and sweet scallops with mini fava beans and tomatoes. The only problem was the foie gras, which, despite the beautiful presentation, was strangely flavorless. It was gorgeously pink, perfectly firm texture, but utterly flavorless. The worst foie gras dish of that Europe trip.

For entrées, I had a pigeon stuffed with foie gras. It was fantastic, the pigeon tender and not overdone, in an extremely flavorful pan sauce. The foie gras in this dish was very good, I'm not sure what was wrong with the foie gras in the first course, perhaps someone just forgot to season it. We also had wonderful filets of rouget (red mullet), simply done served on top of fresh spring asparagus, a dorade braised with celery, which was good but somewhat bland in my opinion, and a very nice roasted veal loin with tasty Jerusalem artichoke purée.

The desserts went from simply delicious to some very intriguing balance of flavors. The simplest, but by no means pedestrian, were strawberries served under mascarpone cream and candied lemon peels. There was a delicious brioche perdu, served with caramelized apples. We also had caramelized rhubarb, done almost like a crème brulée with burnt sugar on top, and also with a sorbet of grapefruit. And the most interesting had to be the baba au rhum served with preserved prunes and Stout icecream. The mix might sound weird, but let me assure you it was simply fantastic. The best part was the pleasantly bitter ice cream which unmistakably tasted like beer, but not at all in an objectionable way.

I had a lightly sweet Vin Cuit Provençale to begin, and we shared a nice bottle of Côte Rotie and a few glasses of Baume de Venise with the meal. The wine list was very reasonably priced and had some interesting wines that I would like to try next time. We each had a beautifully pulled shot of espresso to end the meal.

I really couldn't say enough nice things about this place. It was small, so our table for four appeared more like a table for eight that we shared with our immediate neighbours. But it really wasn't a problem at all. The general vibe was so nice in the room that we ended up making friends with the next table, which turned out to be a couple of very prominent ex-parliament members! One of whom, a ex-House member from Camembert, gave me an extravagant wink every time a dish landed in front of me. We had ordered exactly the same thing for every course. How funny!

The 17e is looking to be a new gastronomic neighbourhood in the making. Clotilde recently wrote about another lovely place, La Table de Lucullas, that I really wanted to try. Luckily, it is still considered out of the way enough that it has yet to become the next “destination” for American gastro tourists. We were the only partially English speaking table that night. I think this may have been the unconscious reason for my lateness in writing about this place. I must have been unconsciously trying to keep this place a secret. Oh well, the cat's out of the bag now.

L'Entredgeu is the kind of restaurant that made one feels so grounded, so connected to the place, to Paris. It was a such a lovely feeling. Happily, I've found that same fuzzy feelings when I was last at 1550 Hyde, in the cool San Francisco night, having a delicious dinner with friends, watching the cable cars go by, the sense that this couldn't have been anywhere else but my beloved city of San Francisco. I'll miss L'Entredgeu until I make it there again, but in the meantime, I'll walk over to 1550 Hyde whenever I want to repeat that same wonderful feelings. I am ever so lucky.

Metro: Porte de Champerret
01 40 54 97 24


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