Friday, January 15, 2010

Paris: Chez Georges

We landed in Paris at about 7:30 a.m. after a long, terribly uncomfortable, and mostly sleepless flight from New York, yet after taking the metro in from the airport, finding our small but rather charming rental apartment at the edge of the Marais, getting settled, and making the obligatory visit to a nearby patisserie for croissants and coffee, we felt energized and ready to spend the day wandering around Paris. The weather was cold and gray but that did not stop us from putting on our walking shoes and making tracks for some of our favorite haunts, including legendary kitchen store DeHillerin.

Michael suggested lunch at one of his old favorites, Chez Georges. He had had several memorable meals there in the past and had taken me there with great anticipation and enthusiasm on our first visit to Paris together in 2006. Unfortunately, that meal turned out to be flat and distinctly un-memorable, so it was with some concern that I agreed to the suggestion.

As it turned out, there was no reason for concern. We arrived a few minutes after 12 to find a completely empty dining room and actually took a turn around the block to see if anyone else turned up. Ten minutes later we walked in, were cordially seated at a small table in the back and joined a few other patrons…but by 12:30 the restaurant was packed. And this is French bistro-packed, where there is literally less than an inch of space between your table and the next one. The French figure that if there isn’t going to be walking room between the tables (and there’s nowhere near enough..the whole table has to be pulled away from the wall before the person on the wall side can get in or out), why bother to leave any space at all? The better to pack in a few extra tables.

We were taken over by a bossy but motherly waitress who clearly was not on her first day on the job. Michael ordered the signature frisee salad, which we had previously found inferior to the version at Petit Louis in Baltimore but which had perked up considerably since 2006, while I threw caution and my cholesterol count to the winds and ordered the goose rillettes as a starter. What arrived was a large crock…I mean large…maybe a pint of moist goodness. The idea, clearly, is not to eat the whole thing but to take as much as you want..the crock is then topped off and refreshed for the next patron. I did valiantly address the crock, putting away (with Michael’s help) perhaps a quarter of it, and was tempted to continue, but I knew there was a rich main course coming.

Michael had the “sole Georges”, a specialty of the house of course, which basically consisted of a generous piece of sole…probably a whole filet..swimming in a butter sauce in the best old French tradition. He raved about it. Michael likes sole more than I do, so I limited myself to a few bites, but I could see why he was so taken with it. I preferred my own entrĂ©e, scallops in a somewhat similar butter sauce, the scallops perfectly browned on each side and yet not in the least bit tough. My portion was similarly generous – probably a dozen good sized scallops…and yet I had no trouble finishing them off.

We tried to get a carafe of house white but Chez Georges’ wine list is heavily oriented toward reds and they don’t offer much in the way of whites. Our motherly waitress brought us a bottle of crispy and grassy Sancerre with instructions to drink as much as we wanted and she would charge us appropriately. Well, naturally there was very little --- which is to say, nothing – left in the bottle by the end of the meal!

We skipped dessert and coffee and yet the bill came to 120 euros, one of the more expensive lunches we’ve had lately and certainly in fairly modest surroundings. On the other hand the food was impeccable and incredibly delicious in a very old-fashioned French way that probably Julia Child would have loved, had she been there, so we treasured every moment and I was very glad that I had agreed to Michael’s wise suggestion.

No comments: