Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My self-indulgent trip to Paris, Part 2

After finishing lunch at Allard, I walked back down rue St. André des Arts to nearby Metro station Saint Michel and got on the six-car train heading south toward Porte d'Orléans and Metro station Vavin near A la Villa des Artistes to see if my room was ready.

Thankfully it was, so I rode the tiny elevator to the second floor. I walked into the typically (for Paris) small but very well appointed room and dropped my suit case and flopped face down on the bed. The next thing I remember, I heard a cell phone ringing (mine) and the number showed it was cousin Matthias.

Matthias -- a law student at the Sorbonne -- wouldn't be free until after 4:00 PM. I was in a sleep-fog and couldn't remember at that moment the name of the hotel, the street where the hotel was located or how to get there. I did recall that it was very close to Brasserie La Coupole so we agreed to meet-up in front of the restaurant on Boulevard Montparnasse.

I had not made reservations yet for dîner - dinner that night, so now being awake, I set about finding a good place to eat with Matthias. As I said in my previous post, I came to Paris with a list of bistros from Alexander Lobrano in the November issue of Saveur Magazine entitled The 23 Best Bistros in Paris and from David Leibowitz's blog.

As you might guess, being late Friday afternoon, I was told by several of the bistros that I called that they were complet - full for that night. I kept calling and my perseverance was rewarded with a reservation for 7:30 at A la Biche au Bois on Avenue Ledru Rollin in the 12th arrondisement.

At 6:30 Matthias called again and said he was a few minutes away from La Coupole. I grabbed my jacket and headed out, remembering to leave the key card for my room at the front desk as is customary in French hotels.

Matthias was already there when I got to La Coupole. I told him where we were going and he said it would be faster at that time of the evening to take the bus rather than ride the crowded Metro and change lines or crawl to our destination near Gare de Lyon in a taxi.

We arrived at A la Biche au Bois a few minutes before 7:30, which is when dinner service begins. A small crowd of people were already standing near the door waiting for the bistro to open. Since I heard primarily French being spoken, I thought that was probably a very good sign of things to come.

We were shown to a small table towards the back of the bistro near the bar. If you look closely at the picture below, you will see what looks like cabinet doors behind the cart with desserts on top. Those doors lead down ladder-stairs to the cave, or underground storage area for the bistro's wines.

Cousin Matthias at our table at A la Biche au Bois. Wife Shirley calls Matthias her "summer son" since he has come to spend time at our home in California every summer for the past 5 years to perfect his English, which is now very good.

We both ordered the 25,90 Euro four-course Petit Menu for dinner. As the name implies, A la Biche au Bois' specialty is game and wild fowl during the season.

The 2010 Nouveau Beaujolais had been uncorked in Paris for the first time the previous day to great fanfare so we decided to order a bottle of Beaujolais-Villages Primeur to drink with our meal.

When our starters were brought to the table, the server also put down a basket of sliced baguette pieces and toasts and a jar of crisp cornichons to accompany our starter dishes.

I chose the salade Périgourdine which came with a slice of house made foie gras for a 4,50 Euro supplement for my first course; a creamy delicious way to start dinner.

Matthias chose the starter of the day which was a house specialty, terrine de faisan - pheasant. It was also a very tasty dish.

The bistro filled up quickly and an American couple from Philadelphia of mixed-race, she caucasion and he black were squeezed into the small table next to us. We helped them with menu translation since they spoke little French and read none.

They ordered the same starters as Matthias and I and when their starters were brought out, they were given a very small dish of cornichons (not a jar like ours) and no toasts for their terrine and foie gras.

They immediately noticed and asked us why they didn't get the same. It was uncomfortable and I was not sure if it was due to their being obviously American or because of mixed race or purely accident. I hope it was the latter.

For his plat - main course, Matthias chose the coq au vin which was brought out to him in a large cast iron pot. There was enough so I could taste all I wanted. It was a rich, winey, delicious dish of braised chicken parts, potatoes, mushrooms and onions in a red wine sauce. The chicken was moist rather than dry and it was hands down the best coq au vin I have ever tasted.

I chose filet de boeuf poêlé au poivre - pan seared beef filet with peppercorn sauce accompanied by house made fries. The filet was tender and flavorful; the fries tasted very good but I would have preferred them to be a little more crispy.

We were already quite full so we skipped the cheese course and went straight for the desserts. Matthias chose île flottante - floating island, sometimes called œufs à la neige, served over crème anglaise - vanilla sauce. This is one of Matthias favorite desserts and he pronounced it very good.

To finish my wonderful meal, I chose the chocolate tart with crème anglaise.

This was a wonderful meal in a classic Parisian bistro and I would return happily the next time I am in Paris. I am indebted to David Leibowitz for his post about this wonderful bistro.

Check back to read my next installment about my self-indulgent trip to Paris in Part 3.


  1. Oh, I've been wanting to try this place for some time. Glad to hear it's good!

  2. Small world! A la Biche au Bois is my favorite restaurant in Paris. We try to eat there each time we visit Paris. I think we first went there in 2000. The maitre d' - with his Yul Brenner look - and the wait staff are pretty much the same people.

  3. Looks like a wonderful meal! The coq au vin & the boeuf poêlé au poivre both sound delicious. We went to a 2010 Nouveau Beaujolais tasting that same week as well - glad you got a chance to enjoy a bottle for yourself :) lovely post!

  4. Barbara - Thanks for checking in on my blog and for your comment.

    Camille - You should definitely go. You won't be disappointed.

    Les - We keep finding that the world is small between us: Michigan, Vaison la Romaine and now A la Biche au Bois.

    Tuula - The 2010 Nouveau Beajolais are way above average for this wine as far as I am concerned. They are really quite good.

  5. Loved your article on La Biche au Bois.
    May I ask:
    even you if book, you still had to wait in line, right? Then once inside, I'd guess they asked who reserved, right? Thanks