BUZZ: Michelin France 2011 and Le Pantruche, Pigalle gourmet bistro

By Margaret Kemp

Michelin Guide France 2011The big surprise chez Michelin France 2011 is: there's no surprise, unless you're Michel Trama in Puymirol demoted from 3 to 2 stars! There are now 25 3-stars in the Hexagon.

Or, unless you're Max Bichot, a 50-something chef who snagged a star even though his restaurant, Les Hêtres, at Ingouville, Seine-Maritime, shut last December. “It's arrived a bit late," he told BUZZ. The restaurant's been sold and will become a private home.

Bichot bought Les Hêtres in 2009, invested upwards of 200,000€, and “never a tweet from Michelin,” says Bichot.

“In 2010 an inspector called and told me he liked what I was doing. I based my menus around fresh local fish. No, I'm not bitter, c'est la vie. And I have no plans to open another restaurant. In fact I've fallen in love with a woman who owns a restaurant de fruits de mer at Yport, La Sirène, between Fécamp and Etretat. I'm going to help her in her kitchen, no stress that way,” shrugs Bichot.

Red faces at Michelin to match the book? Not really. Juliane Caspar, the new editor, said, "The deadline for closing the guide is mid-December; after that nothing can be changed, all we can do is put a note on the website.”

A sign of the times, and indication of new culinary trends, are the number of BIB Gourmands, meaning low-price meals and delicious deals. Have a look on Le Printemps du Guide Michelin, or there's a “golden ticket” in the guide that gives access to all the information. 571 star restaurants to chose from. New 2-star boys (76 in total—just 5 new) include:  Jean-Francois Piège (you read it here). Bruno Oger, Cannes, Le Cannet. L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Publicis Drugstore, Paris 8th and Thierry Drapeau, Le Logis de la Chabotterie, St. Sulpice le Verdon. Jacques Chibois, Grasse, loses one star. And jolly Jacques Maximin in his new canteen at Cros de Cagnes (near Nice) gets one star. Mon Rêve de Gosse, Cannes, gets a star (deserves it for the name, “My Dream As a Kid”) as does Flaveur, Nice. In total 470 one-stars with 46 new.

Michelin Guide France 24€

Michelin Guide Paris 15€90Fricasée de pommes grenailles et jus à l'ancienne

Le Pantruche, Paris 9th

Picture a long road just behind Le Moulin Rouge, rue Victor Massé, the road you came to Paris to walk along. At No. 12, a plaque celebrating the former “Cabaret Le Chat Rouge.” Lots of boutiques selling guitars, to bring out your inner Eric Clapton. Victor Massé, after whom the rue is named, wrote operas, made his mark and is buried in Montmartre Cemetary, just above his eponymous street.

And, for the last three months there's been a lot of activity around No. 3. Not since Daniel Rose launched Spring has there been such excitement. Franck Baranger is not the new Rose—he's the new Baranger, with a clean, zesty style that will leave you reeling with joy.

He's Parisian-born and bred. His Dad was a Chief Inspector of Police in the 9th and can tell a tale or two of fear and loathing in the 9th, but that's for another BUZZ. We need to focus on Franck.

Why did you call it Le Pantruche?

"It's Paris argot (slang) for “Parisien”, caractériel, amusant et surtout epicurien. And, as we're all from Paris it seemed obvious, no?" Yes.

Who are the others?

"In the kitchen with me are Germain, my second, and Suvash, the Bangladeshi dishwasher, who's learning to cook. In the salle there's Edouard Bobin and Thomas."

Why did you decide on a culinary career?

"I was nul at school. My friend was working in a restaurant and suggested I join him."

"So I went along to the Hotel Nikko and was immediately smitten by the action and energy in the kitchen. Jacques Senechal was head chef; I was really lucky and learned so much from him. He'd been chef at La Tour d'Argent, among other top restaurants. Then he suggested I go to help Christian Constant, who was just launching Violon d'Ingres, where he won first one and then two Michelin stars. I continued with Monsieur Constant at Les Cocottes, did a stint with Eric Frechon, then decided it's now or never. And here we are."

Le Pantruche, bar. Photo: Le PantrucheWhat was here before?

"It was La Mosca Libre, an Italian. We've kept the 1930s décor, but renewed everything, even the floor, which may look as if it's been here forever but we worked hard to get that look. We've done most of the work ourselves, the banquettes, the retro-mirrors, the zinc bar where we seat up to six when we're busy."

What are your signature dishes?

"Well, obviously they'll change with the seasons and the products. At the moment we've had a lot of success with the tartare of oysters, crème de laitue. Le côte de porc, fricasée de pommes grenailles et jus à l'ancienne (see photo). Noix de St. Jacques poêlés, mousseline de patates douce. Pavé de cabillaud au tandoori et embeurré de choux vert au citron confit. Pain Poujauran. Soufflé au Grand Marnier, caramel au beurre salé. La Mousse au chocolat, petits financiers. I've just created a new dessert that'll be on the menu soon: it's an Apple Macaron which I'll match with Fêves de Tonka ice cream; I just received the beans, we make our own ice cream, we've got a pacojet."

And what about the wines?

"By the glass or bottle. I want to showcase young winemakers, so there's Domaine de Barroubie 2009 (26€) or by the glass (6€). From the Languedoc Pic St. Loup Le Gamin 2008 (26€ & 6€) and Château Ninon, Bordeaux 2008 (18€). They're all marked on blackboards, so are the menus. All the wines are easy to drink, good pairings with the food I'm cooking. This is just the beginning for us; we're very excited."

Le Pantruche

Tél: 01 48 78 55 60

3, rue Victor Massé, Paris 9th

Métro: Pigalle

Shut: Sat-Sun

Lunch Formula 17€

A La Carte 32€ + wine

Margaret Kemp is a Cordon Bleu graduate who spent a year traveling the world, working and watching in the kitchens of top chefs from Sydney, Australia via Bangkok, Hong Kong, California, New York and France. She reports for BonjourParis on the latest European trends, restaurants and hot spots. Please click on her name to see her weekly stories dating back to 2003 . . . et merci, Margaret.

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