Catching Ups and Downs: Part 2

180 degrees to go to come full circle and put a lid on a 2013 I am forever happy to bid adieu.  On the heels of Mama Shelter and Le Boudoir, Co. and I returned to a couple of our personal favorites - La Gazzetta and Le Pleine Mer - with a minor detour along the rue de Lappe.  Put on your seat belts, here we go.

La Pirada

After a terrific concert by Matt Elliott and band at the Cafe de la Danse, just off the well-trodden rue de Lappe in Bastille, Co. and I were up for some late night grub and more fire water.  Our usual venue for such purposes is the comfortable Cuban spot Havanita, but let's face it, when it comes to authentic Cuban repasts, Havanita doesn't come close.  So we decided to check out the Spanish tapas just next door at La Pirada.  If there is something that Co. and I know a lot about when it comes to food, it is Spanish tapas, because, well, we spend a lot of time in Spain eating aforementioned Spanish tapas.  We didn't have high expectations for La Pirada and our low expectations were more or less confirmed.  But....what was lacking in authenticity was clearly made up by some above average, satisfying and copious plates, including the following:

Tapas de jour (8.50€)

Pulpo Gallega (10€) - heavy on the paprika, which was fine with me 

Calamares plancha (7.20€)

Not pictured, croquetas jamon (6.90€), my least favorite.  Along with a vino tinto, these offerings hit the spot in slaking our late night cravings - well, at least the edible and drinkable ones.

Needless to say if you know rue de Lappe, with it's never-ending stream of pedestrians, La Pirada benefits from location, location, location.  Even at the late hour of our visit, people were coming and going, non-stop.  Convivial, cheap, and there when you need it.  There's something to be said for that, even if the food ain't the top of the world, ma.

Inside La Pirada, a hint of Spain

A tip of the hat to Matt Elliott at the Cafe de la Danse, around the corner

address:  7, rue de Lappe, 75011 Paris
tel:  01 47 00 73 61

La Gazzetta

If you are a regular reader of PRAB, you know La Gazzetta, so there's really no need to elaborate again.  No, check that, yes there is.  One of the cool things that added to La Gazz's charm was their carte,which enabled the diner to select 5 (39€) or 7 (52€) plates from a list of 7 offerings.  I always found it somewhat confusing to figure out which were the entrees, plates, and desserts, but in the end it didn't matter because they were all innovative and good and you'd probably, like me, end up taking all 7 anyway at a price that was well worth it.

But what Co. and I found last January was something decidedly different - a standard entree/plat/fromage and/or dessert format (39€ or 45€, depending on the cheese).  So much for greater novelty and choice.  Our latest visit, during the first week of December, found a similar format, albeit with more choices, plenty of innovation, and, big surprise, raised prices (45€ and 55€).  Some of the offerings:

  • Raviolis d'epinards, oursin et pomelos
  • Salsifis - hibiscus - raisins de Corinthe oignon doux des Cevennes et persil
  • Agneau de Bourgogne et carotte rotie olives et citron confit
  • Sorbet de lait reduit, citron et meringues
  • Biscuit trempe de chataignes, yaourt de brebis compote de pomme Bertane

More distressing than the price increase, we were informed that the renowned chef of La Gazzetta since 2006, Swedish Petter Nilsson is leaving to return to the source, Stockholm, just in time for a Scandinavian Christmas.  Here is the Google translated latest news from La Gazz regarding what happens next:

La Gazzetta will continue to follow the same movement back to basics by using the Italian chef Luigi Nastri , a friend of Giovanni Passerini , chef of Rino restaurant and former second at La Gazzetta. Thus, the torch remains in the "family." Luigi is the new Roman cook and is ready to invest the scene with the desire for a modern trattoria. His kitchen ...will give a Mediterranean tone necessarily rhyming with the Italian name of La Gazzetta.

I'm not sure about that rhyming part.  Not a big fan of Rino, all I can say is 'why mess around with a good thing?  Can't we just have the old La Gazzetta back?'  Maybe my fear is unwarranted.  As far as I'm concerned, I will continue to recommend La Gazzetta as I always have until they give me a reason not to, but best to be forewarned that changes are in the wind.  To be continued...

address:  29 rue de Cotte, 75012 Paris
tel:  01 43 47 47 05

La Pleine Mer

I'm a modern kind of a guy, if I have to say so myself, and though I generally laugh in the face of tradition, Co. and I have a little budding annual tradition going, which consists of a late December visit to La Pleine Mer for oysters from the Cancal region of Brittany.  I've already told you everything you need to know about LPM, and though I may lament the coming changes to La Gazzetta, each visit to LPM further confirms that this place will never, ever change.  Yeah, I know, never say never, but LPM has that kind of an 'old reliable' feel about it.

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times - if you want authentic, inexpensive, super delicious oysters in Paris, this is the place.  No embellishments, no variation in the menu - your only choice is between oysters no. 1, 2, 3, or 4 depending upon availability.  You do have the option of a 'menu' - starting off with a plate of salmon, tarama, butter, and rye bread, and a glass of muscadet (included in the menu).  Then you wait for your dozen oysters, shucked in eye's view, and a bottle of muscadet (extra), and topped off with the cholesterol inducing guilty pleasure, the Breton cake Kouign-Amann (also extra, but only 3.50€). 

La Pleine Mer is just a hole in the wall not far from Gare de Nord, but it's inexpensive and definitely the real deal when you have a craving for oysters.  In fact, it's probably more of a take-out that formal sit-down restaurant.  During our meal, a steady influx of customers were coming in to pick up their holiday oysters for home.

address:  22, rue de Chabrol, 75010 Paris
tel:   01 53 34 64 47
website: are you kidding?

Before closing this elongated post (Parts 1 and 2), I should add that I finally got around to visiting Le
Le Square Gardette
Square Gardette
on rue rue Saint Ambrosie in the 11th, not far from the St Maur metro stop and even less far from my day job.

This was a holiday dinner celebrated with some colleagues, so my function was less reviewer than survivor.  Laid back and convivial, with some odd decorations.  I vaguely remember a tasty entree -  ceviche de merlan, litchi, grenade, and yes, popcorn - and a main fish plate - lieu noir - followed by a pre-selected triad of cheese, featuring a terrific slab of Cantal.  At 44€ for the 'menu', this isn't the best deal in town, but worth checking out.  Lunch might be a better option - just stay away from the quail, which rocked John Talbott's boat in the decidedly wrong way.

Some Square Gardette decor
address:  24, rue Saint Ambrosie, Paris 75011

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