Sunday, June 30, 2013

Paris - Crom'exquis - Classy New Bistro

A new bistro has opened in our rather commercial Paris neigborhood, near St-Augustin, that received three red cocottes from the Lebey Guide to Paris Bistros and a plate from Pudlo, together with the designation "Bistrot classique de l'année."

This all seemed promising, so off I went to this attractive bistro, whose owner-chef is Pierre Meneau, son of Marc Meneau of l'Espérance fame (he also trained with Michel Guérard at Eugénie-les-Bains). The food is interesting and well-executed. Given the chef's pedigree, you would not expect classic food, despite Pudlo's "classique" denomination, and it wasn't. Nor was the décor, which is clean, modern and comfortable: really not a bistro at all. The hostess, the chef's girl friend, could not be nicer, and I had a lovely table, not guarding the bathroom as is often the case when I dine alone.

I started with a glass of champagne, accompanied by two foie gras crom'esquis -- little fried pastry balls with melted foie gras within -- which I found surprisingly unexciting. There followed a lovely amuse-bouche, a foamy soup whose ingredients I can't remember.

Crom'exquis amuse-bouche
Next,  pigeonneau, the night's special, which was divided into leg quarters that you eat with your hands (fingerbowl provided) and boneless breasts, all perfectly cooked.

Crom'exquis pigeonneau with orange sections and snow peas
Finally, a big profiterole with homemade vanilla ice cream and the best-ever salted butter caramel sauce.

Crom'exquis profiterole with salted butter caramel sauce
I know a lot about salted caramel, so I felt emboldened to chat with the chef about the sauce; after a few minutes of modest protestations, he let slip that he adds a little cognac after stopping the caramel from cooking by the addition of water, and before adding the salted Normandy butter. Sounds simple enough but it is not easy to make a caramel with such exquisite taste (deep, but without a trace of bitterness) and the perfect viscosity to pour over the profiterole.

I returned a week later with J, and it was just as good. She had the pigeonneau, while I had quasi de veau (closest translation is rumpsteak, I think). I couldn't resist getting the proferole a second time, but this time the two of us shared it. Still fantastic. The evening's very nice amuse-bouche, still pretty foamy, was based on smoked salmon. And I had a poached lobster appetizer that was really excellent, despite my general view that French lobster is not as good as the American variety.

The price is not low, about $100 per person with the champagne and a nice glass of Santenay. There are lunch menus at 28 and 39 euros. All in all, this is a very good, but not great, restaurant, that is a welcome addition to our Paris neighborhood; indeed I wish it was in our neighborhood in New York.

Crom'exquis, 22, rue d'Astorg, Métro St-Augustin.

Bobby Jay

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