Auberge Nicolas Flamel – Sweet Home Virginia

So many restaurants, so little time: Several restaurant visits since Les Magnolias but no time to write about them. Time to start rectifying that. And I’ll begin with the visit to Auberge Nicolas Flamel on Feb. 15, a restaurant I had never heard of until I came across a mention in the Parler Paris online newsletter (, written by Adrian Leeds, an American ex-pat with an unabashed love of Paris.

Here is Leeds’ description of Auberge: Auberge Nicolas Flamel, in the oldest house in Paris (1407) . . . was a particular treat. Ancient under the 15th-century beams and contemporary all at the same time, much like the contrast of Le Louvre and its Pyramid, it's a romantic setting and a class A dining experience.

Now having visited the oldest house in Paris – 1407, mon dieu! – I would agree with the ancient part of that description, but as for the contemporary part, well, modernity is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. I don’t want to give the impression there were cobwebs hanging from the ceiling overlooking a dirt floor or anything – the milieu was finally appointed--candles, curtains, wood--with more than a slight hint of freshly restored colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. I also wouldn’t go so far as to characterize the visit as ‘a particular treat’ or ‘a class A dining experience.’ However, it was a satisfying meal and, the mark of thumbs up – I intend to pay a return visit.

Two dinner menu options were available: a ‘Menu Gourmand’ for 31€

and a ‘Menu Prestige’ for 45€,both offering a choice of entrée, plat, and dessert. I won’t quibble with the gourmand vs. prestige rank ordering. Another time, maybe. Co. and I both chose to be safe than sorry, given this was our first visit. We’ve been burned before with eloquent sounding offerings on cartes we’ve never sampled, finding out the hard way that the reality of the meals fell horrifyingly short of their written descriptions. Here’s what we selected from the Gourmand choices:

Foie gras de canard cuit au torchon, fourré aux figues et son toast aux noix
(Duck foie gras stuffed with fig, served with a nut toast) – entrée 1

Coeur d’artichaut marineé au basiclic et crottin de chèvre rôti, cariar de tomates confites (Artichoke heart marinated in basil with roast goat’s cheese and a confit tomato sauce) – Entrée 2

Souris d’agneau façon tajine aux fruits secs, pommes vapeur aux épices douces

(Lamb tajine with dried fruits, mild spiced steam-cooked potatoes) – Plat 1

Filet de bar de Méditerraneée grillé à la plancha, jardinière de légumes sautée au pesto, citron confit au thym (Grilled bass with vegetables sauteed in pesto with lemon and thyme) – Plat 2

Assiette du Maìtre fromager (cheese plate) – dessert 1

Emotion de crème brûlée à la vanille de Madagascar sur canapé de chocolat noisette (Madagascar vanilla-flavored crème brulee on a bed of chocolate) – dessert 2

All washed down with a 2004 Bourgeil that I can’t remember.

Looking over this listing I really have to go by memory because it’s been three weeks. But as far as I’m concerned, a standout meal is one that is memorable – you keep thinking of some of the dishes long after you’ve eaten them, and you want to eat them again at the nearest opportunity. From my perspective, the Auberge meal was all very satisfying, especially the grilled bass. But overall, the general reaction from both myself & Co. was along the lines of pretty good, but nothing to write home about.

One point that has be mentioned, however, is a faux pas on the part of the waiter. I had ordered a plate of grilled rouget (red mullet) on a bed of eggplant, but was brought the grilled bass instead. Before I could get my mouth around the French for ‘but this doesn’t look like red mullet’, it occurred to me that the bass really looked tasty, so I shut up and stuck with it. But you’d think that since 1407, they would have figured out how to bring the dishes you actually ordered.

Overall, a traditional menu with some imaginative flourishes,

and tantalizing enough to encourage a step up to the ‘menu prestige’ for our next visit. I liked the way the chef, Alan Al Geaam, came out and mingled in the dining room towards the end of the evening. We weren’t too pleased by the obnoxious group of foreigners at the table behind us, but what are you going to do? This is Paris!

Overall, reasonable prices, nice setting, and okay food, but nothing very memorable.

Restaurant Nicolas Flamel sur
51, rue de Montmorency. 75003 Paris - Tél. 01 42 71 77 78

Overall note (out of 10): 6.5

Food: 6

Ambiance: 6.5-7 (I imagine it's sort of romantic when the obnoxious diners aren't there.)

Price: reasonable (97€, including wine)

Service: 5.5 (young didn't quite jibe with the room, but friendly; just remember, when a diner orders 'rouget,' he doesn't mean 'bar').

Note: Our visit coincided with the last few days of the Autumn/Winter menu, so the menu is in flux and the cave was on its way to being restocked. Our first few wine choices were already gone.
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