A couple of friends had just got into town last weekend, and by Monday they had gotten over their jet-lag and I had gotten over my weekend. We made plans for drinks and dinner tonight, and that's what kept me sane throughout my workday. I had stayed late at work to take care of a laundry-list of small issues here and there, so when I finally left work, I only had enough time to hit BHV to buy some gloves and scarves before heading over to my friends' place to begin the night.
We headed out from their place in the Marais with their little dog (which they brought with them from the States) and we walked all the way over to the Arts & Metiers area. On that street corner, we finally found a café/bar that seemed to be ok with pets indoors, so we sat down and had an apéritif. After hanging out for a bit and enjoying the view and the warmth, we paid our bills and made preparations for dinner.
We had originally thought of going for cheap Indian eats uptown, but changed our mind after I spent nearly 30 minutes regaling my friends with the culinary adventures I had had with my sister the week before. After some consideration, we decided to try L'Ourcine, with Terra Nera our plan-B. We went back to their place to feed the dog, and then I did some detective work to figure out the phone number for L'Ourcine and made a reservation for their second seating (10pm). After a few minutes of downtime enjoying another apéritif of Lillet, we got a call from the restaurant saying that our table was ready early, so we headed off in that direction.
I think that they waitresses recognized me from last week, because they seated me without asking if I had a reservation. We were seated at the back, near the kitchen. I suppose this would be a snub at any other restaurant, but sitting near the kitchen in this resto is a lot of fun. They have a service window carved into the wall, so you can see the chef and his assistants hurriedly putting together your meals for you. The chef is this very tall, rather obese guy that looks like he was once a biker or a soccer thug, and on that particular night, he had a hilarious case of plumber butt. It made for great dinner theatre.
And on to the food. For our appetizers, I went with the bouillon of wild fowl with bits of foie gras (which Carla had last week), which was deliciously rich-tasting without being all that rich (and also very mild on the salt). One of my friends went with the pan-fry of baby squid and spring onions (which I had last week), which were remarkable for their perfect texture; the squid weren't too gummy, and the spring onions weren't too squishy. The other friend went with the pork soup baked under a puff-pastry shell, which she claimed to be just like a hearty mix of Southern salt pork and collard greens. Indeed, the soup seemed to have been prepared in the manner of a petit salé, with the beans substituted by little beads of tapioca and with a fair bit of mustard greens added to the "winter vegetable" mix. Very delish.
For the main dish, I had a filet mignon of pork, simply roasted with some whole garlic and baby onions; the texture was perfect: not to dry, not too raw, just barely pink in the middle and juicy all through. One friend had the noix de St. Jacques (scallops) plate, which was a similarly simple but exquisitely-executed plate; from the looks of those shells, someone seared those suckers with an acetylene torch. The other friend took the noix d'entrecôte à l'échalotte, which was pretty much a slice from a cube roll (lean filet from the rib area) crusted with shallots and roasted like crazy. She ordered it "saignant" (bloody) and they actually did it. Fantastic texture.
For dessert, both of my friends ordered the praline&chocolate cake dish, because it came with the house's milk&mint sorbet, which I both told them they HAD to try. I got their crémeux citron (lit. lemon creaminess), which was essentially a thin American-style lemon pudding. Although the texture was great, I think this was the "weakest link" in the meal for me. It was just too, too tart. It was so sour, I had to pace myself and alternate with sips of water to keep my salivary glands from imploding. I almost didn't finish it (which, if the restauranteurs knew me, would understand this as a devastating critique), and I kept wondering if someone in the kitchen had fucked up and used limes instead of lemons for the recipe. Even key limes aren't this sour.
Anyway, it was a great meal all around and we ate for less than 50€ / person (30€ menu, plus some add-ons, plus aperitifs and a bottle of wine). We staggered back to the subway, observed some guy making mischief by stealing into the conductor's cabin of a waiting train and making gag announcements over the PA system, and then said our goodbyes and went home.