Eating (way too well) in Paris: Third stop at Le Gourmet
Yet another interesting stop in our culinary adventures in Paris, the Le Gourmet restaurant offers great French cuisine for prices I hadn’t seen in Paris in 15 years. Lunch time, where to go? This is the third installment of the series of articles which I set about to write a couple of weeks ago on eating out well in Paris. I love food, I love good cuisine, and I want fellow travelers to enjoy Paris to the hilt. That’s enough reasons to guide them to those places I am certain they will enjoy. Lunch time in Paris is restaurant time. People who work in the city do not carry their lunch bags with them.
They rarely enjoy the benefit of a corporate catering service, but even if they do, such catering is hardly a feat for anyone’s eyes and taste buds. Small restaurants perform a vital service: they feed the locals rather satisfactorily, inexpensively, and in record time. What applies to locals applies to travelers, and your next culinary stop happens in just such circumstances. After a long morning walk in the quaint streets on the slopes of the Montmartre hill, you feel nicely hungry. Your steps lead you to Place de Clichy, a busy crossroads between the 17th, the 9th and the 18th districts (metro station: ‘Place de Clichy’).
Time for a gourmet experience! Le Gourmet You may be hungry, but you are no fool. You want to eat well, and spend your heard-earned cash on food worth this name. In my considerate opinion none of the eateries positioned around Place de Clichy are worth the money they ask for. I find their cuisine either overpriced, or downright vulgar. I never had a satisfactory lunch at any of these places. So where to go? Not far away. When you are on Place de Clichy, turn yourself so as to face the downward slope, with the metro station in your back. Aim at Rue de Clichy, left of Rue d’Amsterdam. Walk down the street for about 200 yards, and turn left in Rue de Bruxelles. Walk another 200 yards.
There you are on the right sidewalk. Your next favorite food stop is located at No. 19 rue de Bruxelles. Name: Le Gourmet. Identifiable sign: its French bistro-style facade. And a crowd. Entering the bistro If you happen to walk in at around noon thirty, you may have to wait just a tad. The place is packed. I have been to this restaurant numerous times, and I still have to be there the day it is not packed at lunch time. My advice: come at around 12:00 am, and grab a spot before everybody else does.
The place exudes old charm, with dark wood panels, old posters, menu slates marked with chalk on the walls, a traditional bar, a mosaic floor, bistro-style chairs and tables. It smells good, though cigarette smoke can become an issue at times when the facade door isn’t left open. The owner and chef bought the restaurant about 2 years ago from its first and long-time owners, an elderly couple who retired after having steered the ship for longer than any local can remember. The new owner liked the decor, and decided to preserve it as-is, except for the facade which was changed early in 2006. In this very Parisian setting, patrons feel immediately welcomed and are quickly seated either by the boss or a smiling waitress. This is lunch time, and they know patrons are in a hurry. No unnecessary delay. Seated, and menu in hands The menu is in fact chalked on the slates that hang on the front and back walls. A remarkable feat for such small a restaurant, the menu changes every day. Anyone who lived in Paris for some time knows that restaurant menus do not change beyond the ‘plat du jour’ – the main fare for the day.
Even the ‘plat du jour’ does not change that much: from one week to another, the same courses tend to get back on the menu. Not so at ‘Le Gourmet’: the menu changes everyday and no two weeks are alike. True diversity. Even if you were to eat there every day for 20 days, you could try 20 different courses. Gourmet cuisine is a mission The boss comes from the province of Touraine, in Western France. He likes to work on French traditional dishes, and his cuisine draws its main inspiration from the famous Burgundy and Lyons regions. Among the ‘terroir’ dishes served at Le Gourmet, you can taste veal knuckle (souris de veau), prime cuts of veal (onglet de veau), roasted gilthead bream (daurade royale rôtie), stewed duck (pot-au-feu de canard), pike dumpling (quenelle de brochet). And the list goes on. To get fresh products from his favorite suppliers, he wakes up at 3:30 am every day to go to the wholesale market (the Rungis market, situated south of Paris).