Le Mary Celeste - Hipster H(e)aven

Who the hell is Mary Celeste?*  Who cares?  All I know is that after two visits in the span of four days to the new hotspot bar/snackeria Le Mary Celeste on the corner of rue Commines in the northern part of Le Marais, I conclude:  I really like this place.  Mary's owners now have their Paris troika with the firmly established Candelaria and Glass, reflecting a trend toward a new hangout movement - good drinks, good food, and good vibes.  Did I say youth?  True, nearly everyone is younger than me, but when I say youth, I mean, were those two girls sipping cocktails at the table next to me and the Moose last Tuesday evening legal?  (Who cares?)  Although jeans and scruffy beards lead the way, the venue is a melting pot of French, foreigners, young (them) and old (me).

I already gave it away, but if it's the rentree, the Moose is back.  When I arrived for our rdv at 7:00 p.m., the bar was already packed and Moose was sitting off to the far right at a small square of a table sipping a Brooklyn Lager beer.  A Brooklyn beer in Paris??  That's about as likely as Hollande getting reelected as President, or finding a legal parking space within 5 blocks of Mary C., but my eyes did not deceive - Brooklyn it was.  In fact, a big selling point for Mary C. is not the beer, but the cocktails.  I'll take their word for it, because me, with the exception of a gin martini - which my fellow ex-Baltimorean H. L. Mencken dubbed the one American invention as perfect as a sonnet - I'm not a cocktail guy.  So sue me.  When I drink, I need a glass, a bottle, and, sometimes, ice and a twist of lime.  That didn't quite work at Mary C. - I ordered a vodka and, displeased with the brands that I knew, opted for some French brand that tasted like rain.  That's not a good thing.  I fared better with their whiskey during my second visit as I bided time at the bar awaiting my evening's companions - Co. and Friends, ending up with a glass of the peaty Laphroaig, which did the job.  But at 8 euros a pop, 'glass' is an exaggeration.  More like 1-1/2 inches.  But I quibble - if you like cocktails, I think this is your place.  I came to that conclusion after reading David Lebowitz's gushing blog about the umbrella set, which is where I swiped the following drinks images from.

Even a non-cocktail drinker like myself is tempted by these babies, including the Rain Dog, a ton of ice doused in small-batch bourbon, mint, and amaro bitters.                                                                                                                Where was I?  Oh yeah, the Moose.  Before heading off to the meet, I received my reservation confirmation by email - the only way to reserve at Mary C., by the way - and was warned that Monday and Tuesday evenings feature a reduced carte consisting of bar food and 2 - 4 cold plates.  Big disappointment, but we were modestly impressed by the two plates we both ended up selecting - marinated lieu with radishes, a bit salty but very tasty, and some croustillant bread topped by trout.  So, without the opportunity to catch Mary C. on a full menu evening, I reserved for Friday night.  The bar was really hopping when I arrived around 7:30 p.m. and once my cohorts showed up, we were ushered to a slightly trapezoidal table towards the rear of the bar by the window, instead of the more secluded downstairs room by an open kitchen.  Our table was private enough to engage in copious conversation and drinking - a marvelous couple bottles of the Spanish red, Douro Muxagat Almeida 2011 (28€ per bottle) - yet still catch the bar activity. 

The food carte mirrored the cocktail carte you see above - a rectangular single strip of light cardboard, only with 'A Partager' written on the top - 'to share.'  (As you can surmise, Mary C. eschews formality.)  And share we did.  We ended up doing a round robin of virtually everything on the carte, with each plate rhythmically passed around the table among the four of us:  endives, poivron, courgette, crostini salami, ceviche, crepes, slow pig, lieu jaune (the same one as the other night), crudo lieu, and a fruit compote for dessert, each ranging from 6€ (e.g., the endives) to 10€ (e.g., the crepes).   A listing like this doesn't do the dishes much justice, each of which was imaginative enough to anticipate the next go round the table.  The ceviche and crepes both warranted second helpings.  The two Chinese crepes came stuffed with lamb and crudites, and reflected the Asian leanings of  multinational chef Haan Palcu-Chang, who changes the carte daily The tamarind-glazed endives were excellent as well - I'll take these in lieu of potato chips for munching anyday.  One of the dishes, I think it was the peppers, was topped by razor thin slices of luxurious parmesan.

Among the other dishes that chef Haan has conjured up, and which I avidly hope will make a comeback, are several spicy dishes, including radishes and cucumbers marinated in deep-fried Korean chili powder.  Other past hits: pickled topimambour; beef jerky; kimchi; Urchins Galicia; and eccentric oysters  (bouzigues, tiny Kumamoto, Blackwater and English wild flower Maldon; and fish tacos.  Wow.  I'm definitely going back.

Dinner for four:  two bottles of wine and 13 small plates: 171€

*Most of you no doubt do know who the hell Mary Celeste is/was - a British-American merchant brigantine that was found intact and abandoned in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872 and immortalized in Arthur Conan Doyle's tale of the ghost ship.  Unlike its namesake, le Mary Celeste in Paris is alive and well.


1 rue Commines
75003 Paris
no phone
reservations at: http://lemaryceleste.com/

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