It is best in the burbs

It is best in the burbs

Well, my beat, as the old cops and even older reporters used to say, is writing essays on new places in Paris and I try not to cross the green line into Margaret Kemp’s territory.  But a recent meal at Les Magnolias so blew me away that I have to report on this relatively old place and update my column on “You want to me to go out where?”

Let’s turn half the readership off right here – to go to one of the best restos in France, my preferred route is to take the Line E RER (“the what?”) from either the Haussmann/St Lazare station or Magenta/Gare du Nord to Nogent Les Perreux, 22 minutes, about 4 Euros, running every 15 minutes, and my preferred route back is to walk up the relatively suburban hill to the 114 or 210 buses that take you through the Bois de Vincennes to the Chateau de Vincennes Metro (Line 1) to civilization.  

But to the food.  This is the guy, Jean Chauvel, pre-Barbot, pre-Choukroun, pre-Aziparte, pre-, well you get the picture, who started the multiple dishes with each course (not the overwhelming number that Gagnaire does, but small, complementary and different bit-sized delights) that gave each meal a complex dimension like a great painter’s palate.  There’s no way one can list the 20-30 things one tastes in his 16 different tiny presentations.  They range from raw fish to limoncello, from veggies to fruits, from curry to mustard and each dish, whether labeled tuna or pigeon, barely resembles its traditional bistro original.  I came here first shortly after it opened and was dazzled, returned later a half-dozen times and went back again after a two year hiatus and was startled yet again.  First revelation, Madame seemed to remember me; second, the food is as dazzling as before; and third, Chef Chauvel has moved on to new things, which Madame and the head wait-person were keen to inform me of.  For 50 € for three courses (plus the other stuff) or 36 € for two courses, can one do better ?  And the wine starts at about 22 €; they’re not out to get you.  

Then, I was recently reminded of a meal a bit back at the Maison Cagna in Cormeilles en Vexin, which I’ve only been to by auto, but whose website says it’s well served by RER and train.  Yes, it’s run by the son of the famous Jacques, who’s taken over the old Relais Sainte Jeanne and once again serves food of a quality and at prices (32 € at lunch) one simply cannot get in central Paris.  By the way, both of the above are one-star restaurants in the Michelin Red Guide.

If you’re the sporty type, there’s a nifty place inside a huge barn of a stadium/gymnasium that features everything from dance to basketball and running.  It’s a bit out of the way, at the Porte de St Cloud, which I recall as the end of the Metro line #9 when I was younger.  Anyway, it’s been open 3 years, has a chef from the Auvergne and a co-owner who’s into South African wines; plus being in this athletic setting, it has a lot of healthy food (gazpacho, avocado, teeny tiny veggies with meat dishes, etc).  It’s called, logically, Le Stade, and is ideal if you’re on your way to the Parc des Princes or Rolland-Garros, the first of which is just down the lane and the other a hop by shuttle bus leaving from the nearby circle.

And finally, the newest in the galaxy, is a place I described a few weeks ago in my update column, l’Escarbille in Meudon, another place that’s only 12 minutes by train from Paris, in this case from the Montparnasse Station, that runs every 15 minutes, that will have a star soon (it’s chef is ex-Grande Cascade).

So, now that it’s summery; it’s time to stretch out a bit; smell the flowers; explore the ‘burbs; I think you’ll find fine cooking there.

My favorites are:

Les Magnolias
48 Av de Bry, 94 (RER: Nogent Les Perreux)

Le Perreux sur Marne


Closed Saturday lunch, Sunday, Monday, August

Menu: 50€

Maison Cagna

Old route D915, 95 (RER : Mantes La Jolie and taxicab)

Cormeilles en Vexin

T :

Closed Sunday, Monday and August

Lunch Menu : 32€, a la carte 45-55€

Le Stade
20 ave de la Porte de Saint Cloud, 16th, (Metro : Porte de Saint Cloud)
T :
Open for lunch Monday-Saturday; dinner Thursday-Saturday
Menu 21 €, a la carte 30-50 €

8, rue de Velizy, 92 (SNCF : Bellevue)


T :

Closed Saturday noon, Sunday night and Mondays

Menu/carte : 36€

©2006 John A. Talbott

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