Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dinner at L'Ourcine

On our last night in Paris, Mihai and I had dinner at L'Ourcine. We were fortunate to discover L'Ourcine almost by accident last time we were in Paris a few years ago - we were there for only 1.5 days and didn't have dinner reservations for one of the two evenings because we were originally supposed to go to a different (much fancier) dinner. After another restaurant turned us away because they were completely booked, we were able to squeeze into L'Ourcine by showing up much earlier than most Parisian diners. That dinner turned out to be the best one of that whole trip, and so was the dinner during our repeat visit last week.

We began with pre-dinner drinks:

Mihai had a beer, and I was surprised to hear that L'Ourcine didn't serve kirs, my pre-dinner drink of choice for that week. However, the waiter said they offered something else similar that was very good, so I trusted his recommendation. I am still not sure what it was I was drinking, but it tasted like a really well-made, slightly bubbly, kir. And, of course, any place that serves something like salami as a pre-dinner snack (instead of the more usual olives) is a winner in my book.

Our amuse-bouche was a light and creamy mushroom mousse with crunchy mini-croutons:

And for appetizers, I went with a beef consommé (with radishes and foie gras morcels):

and Mihai had a special of "open ravioli" (which turned out to be basically pappardelle) with morels:

Both dishes were wonderful, though I have to say I slightly preferred Mihai's mushroomy ravioli. Almost every restaurant we had dinner at that week offered special dishes with morels (and asparagus - the French take their seasonal ingredients very seriously), but I thought this one was really the best morel dish we'd tried all week. It's possible that had my soup not had all the red pepper flakes in it, I may have preferred my dish for its singularity (and difficulty in getting something similar stateside) after all (so if you are not averse to spicy-ness the way I am, you may love it wholeheartedly).

We both had very meaty main courses (I don't think we saw a vegetarian main course on a menu all week):

Mine (in the front) was a very large beef filet from a Blonde d'Aquitaine cow, served with roasted ratte potatoes (not pictured), and Mihai had pork with the most delicious and creamy polenta I've ever tasted (just visible in the upper right of the picture). He was very nice and let me have easily a third of his polenta, since I kept raving about how amazing it was (and even went as far as to ask how they made it so good). Just like I returned from our last trip determined to recreate the life-changing granola at home, I am now determined to figure out how to make polenta taste this delicious (it's funny, I didn't even like polenta at all until a couple of years ago).

For dessert, I had the poached pear in caramel sauce:

and Mihai had a chocolate bouchon with crème anglaise:

The desserts were tasty, but I'd say the "real food" part of the meal was definitely my favorite. All in all, I cannot recommend L'Ourcine highly enough if you are looking for a blow-your-socks-off and yet casual meal in Paris. It's not a huge restaurant, the little wooden tables are tablecloth-less, and the napkins are in the style of dish towels, which means that dressing up is not required (though certainly not forbidden). It's not dirt-cheap, but for the quality of the food you are getting, it's a fantastic deal - the three-course menu (plus the extra salami snack and amuse-bouches) would have been 34 euros each if we hadn't ordered the specials (Mihai's "open ravioli" with morels and my special beef filet). Since it's not a large restaurant and, more importantly, since when you come to a French restaurant, it's as though you are coming to a person's home, I'd recommend making reservations before going (though you probably don't need to do it very far in advance for most days).

92 Rue Broca
75013 Paris, France (map)
+33 (0)1 47 07 13 65


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