Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Le Paradis: Is choucroute supposed to be salty?

Tonight a bunch of us got together for my friend Michael's birthday at Le Paradis, a French bistro in the Annex. Everything about the place (decor, atmosphere, waiters) felt like an authentic French restaurant -- casually fabulous. Even on a Wednesday night, the place was packed and everyone seemed to be having a great time.

I gave Michael one of those hand-painted cards I bought in India that has an elephant on it. The elephant is supposed to be good luck, so I also bought him a 6/49 ticket. The draw is tonight. I figure it's a lock.

Darryl always has such great taste in wine and booze, so I followed his lead (as usual) and ordered a Kir, which Wiki tells me is blackcurrant liquor topped with white wine. It was sweet and very easy to drink. Dangerous.

I started with a simple, fresh 'Salade Mimosa' that had lettuce, buttermilk dressing, and diced hardboiled eggs. It was delicious and unfussy. Michael and Diane had the 'Auvergnate' salad with arugula, endive, blue cheese, walnuts, and apples while Louis had a butternut squash soup and Darryl had grilled vegetables with melted cheese. Everything looked effortlessly and expertly prepared.

Because I was so hungry, I decided to take the plunge and order the Choucroute Garnie (which, by the way, Louis says is almost exactly like a Newfoundland dinner). It's a heavy braised mixture of sauerkraut, bacon, smoked pork loin, duck, and sausage. The portion was a reasonably modest size and all the meats were wonderfully tender, but the sauerkraut itself was so incredibly salty. Four of us had the same thing and I probably ate the most of anyone because I was starving, but it was difficult to eat. We were all so polite and no one complained, but is this the way choucroute is supposed to be? Michael and Louis probably had better choices (steak frites and lamb shank).

Even after the heavy entrees, three of us shared three desserts because they all sounded so good. When Marcelo and I were in India, we ate dessert (usually some kind of ice cream) with both lunch and dinner almost every day, so it's a habit I'm having a hard time breaking. We had Coupe Cote d'Ivoire (coconut ice cream, banana, and chocolate -- doesn't sound very French does it?), profiteroles, and the tarte of the day: prune and frangipani. The chocolate sauce on the ice cream and profiteroles was dark, slightly bitter, and very yummy. The tarte had a soft, buttery crust topped with sour prunes and sliced almonds -- this was the best of the three. Dennis had a creme caramel that he sweetly let us try and it was soft, cool, smooth, and to die for as well.

Even though our choucroute was salty, the rest of the food was excellent and the restaurant had a great atmosphere -- lively, but not loud. Diane and her husband Dennis are regulars there, so I think we just had a bit of bad luck. I would definitely go back but, after eating out daily in India for 4 weeks, I should really get back to the gym first.

Sorry the pictures are so dark. The lighting in the restaurant was very moody. With the flash, the pictures were too bright; without, too dark. I need to learn more about the settings on my camera.

Happy Birthday Michael!


Rob said...

Thanks for your comments on the restaurant. We are travelling from London this weekend to see The Sound of Music. Le Paradis was recommended to us from by a friend. By the way, Picasa is a free program from Google with lots of features that can easily fix your plate shots.

Michelle said...

I believe the Louis mentioned in your blog is my brother. He lead my husband & I to your blog to read your review as we are coming from London to eat there. Louis and Brian will be with us, Brian being from Newfoundland may enjoy your entree. Good to hear it's casual as we are travelling light.