Usually, I write about where I want to eat : which when I’m solo, is in new places, often in the far reaches of the city or suburbs; and when Colette and our oldest friends are with me, is at “golden oldies.” But I’m going to start a series on where readers, tourists and average folks really want to go. Perhaps stereotypically, I think they usually want to eat (1) in popular, well-trafficked areas, (2) near their hotels or (3) near sites or museums.
The first area I’m usually asked about is Montmartre. Folks assume that because I live there part-time, I eat out there a lot. But this is not true, except for the rare opening of a place or chef change or on an evening before I’m scheduled to leave the city and I or we have just finished cleaning the place and don’t want to dirty a single plate or pan.
From the days when we first started taking post-prandial walks up the Mont and ran into friends every month sitting at cafés or restaurants, usually around the Place du Tertre, we’ve been on the lookout for good places near the top. Alas, in twenty years, we’ve found none. But as one descends ever so slightly, things improve.
But a bit of a back-story. In an article I wrote in June of 2006, I wrote that “the hill is kind of a wasteland, since no respecting lover of food would be found dead in a place around the Place du Tertre and I remain sceptical about Anaki Aizpitarte and crew’s (La Famille) talent/excess ratio. And while Beauvilliers used to be grand, it’s slipped under new hands; the Moulin de la Galette remains kinda fun; Au Pied de Sacre Coeur is astonishingly good for the price; and for Mahgrebian chow, head for l’Orientale, good and easy on the wallet….. But down in the valley’s where it’s happening. In the last couple of years, chefs have discovered that Olivier Morteau’s formula (a culinary desert, a bold chef and easy prices) works splendidly here. As a result we’ve seen a succession of new places that are traditional enough, bold enough and good neighbors enough, so that they’ve attracted a huge following of local kids (well, they sure look young to me.) These include L’Histoire de….., 2 Pieces Cuisine (aka 2PC) and the bizarrely lettered Le Tяuc.”
I would only add two years later that Anaki Aizpitarte has moved twice if not thrice and his old crew at La Famille soldiers on, that the move of l’Orientale farther down the hill was disasterous, that L’Histoire de….. has undergone yet another (mainly successful) incarnation and that Le Tяuc’s double lamb chop remains fabulous but is about the only great dish available. However, you want to eat within easy walking distance of Sacre Coeur, don’t you?
I’ll start with Le Diapason (in the Terrass’ Hotel,) a 5.5 in my book. For a couple of years, since Alain Ducasse helped with the re-do, it’s become an OK place. I’ve been impressed by the amuse-gueules of toasted bread with purees of broccoli and eggplant, shredded rabbit with a mesclan salad and snails on a bed of warm, crushed tomatoes, frogs legs prepared like fried calamari and a magret de canard – as well as Basque cheese.
Just 50 feet away to the East is a place called Le Café qui Parle, a solid 5.0, which was taken over a year ago plus by a wonderful young English-speaking couple (Catherine & Damien) who have worked separately in the US and France at places such as Boulud, the Georges V, Goumard + the Flora Danica. Here I was impressed with the “crème brulé” of avocado and shrimp, a “velouté” of red beans, tomatoes and tiny squid and a ceviche of tuna, rack of lamb with veggies and an entrecote with salad and potatoes.
And, if you’re willing to descend another 250 meters, there’s a relatively new fish place called Le Winch, a 4.75, run by Christophe Huchet from the Vent d’Ouest in the 17th. Here, I liked the sardine starters with crisp bread strips and langoustines wrapped in pastry, scallops with roasted veggies, Breton white fish soup and tarte tatin.
Finally, a place that is closest to Sacre Coeur, albeit down steep stairs, the Bistro Poulbot, a 4.5, previously called the Poulbot Gourmet. Here, I’ve been* impressed with what Véronique Melloul, called the best chef in Polynesia, puts on the table: the pied de cochon bourguignon, the broth and veggies but not the beef in the pot au feu, fine but oversalted sweetbreads, salad, and the bar with veggies. (*Our last meals were in March, fully paid for.)
In sum, the area is not a destination for restaurants, but when one needs to stop and plop, you could do worse than these four places.
My favorites up the Mont are:
Le Diapason (in the Terrass’ Hotel)
12/14 rue Joseph de Maistre, 18th (Metro: Abbesses)
T : 01.44.92.34.00
Closed Saturday lunch, Sunday night and August
Menu at 28 €, a la carte 55€.
Le Café qui Parle
24, rue Caulaincourt, 18th (Metro: Abbesses)
Lunch formula = 12,50 €, menu 17 €, a la carte 25-30 €, and a no limit on the food Sunday brunch for 15 €.
44, rue Damrémont, 18th (Metro: Lamarck-Caulincourt)
A la carte about 45-55 €.
39, rue Lamarck, 18th (Metro: Lamarck-Caulincourt)
Closed Sundays and Monday lunch
Lunch menu is 17 € and dinner runs from 29-34 €.
©2008 John A. Talbott
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