Sunday, August 14, 2016

We did ask for a doggy bag in a French restaurant!

August 14, 2016 – Like an old house, Paris always needs some TLC and renovation – in many places at once.  The fountain near the intersection of the rues Balard, Saint Charles, and Modigliani has always appealed to me, but it has always needed maintenance and restoration ever since I’ve known it.  Through the years, we’ve passed by it many times because it is near one of the entrances to the Parc André Citroën.  Once we even saw a fashion shoot taking place there – an unexpected sight, deep in the bowels of the 15th arrondissement, far away from the fashion districts.

La Fontaine des Polypores, by Jean-Yves Lechevallier, 1983.

Last year, the fountain was covered by scaffolding and equipment.  Serious renovation had finally been undertaken.

Yesterday, toward the end of our long hike, we passed by the fountain, and voila!  The work has been completed, and the fountain is now clean and whole, glistening with water, looking as it should.

La Fontaine des Polypores was created by Jean-Yves Lechevallier, a sculptor from Rouen.  After its installation, it was inaugurated by President Chirac in 1983.  That was nine years before the Parc André Citroën opened.

Our long walk before we found the renewed fountain was along La Petite Ceinture – the section of former ring railroad that has been turned into a rustic promenade paralleling the southern border of the 15th arrondissement.

The sky was blue, the temperatures were in the low 80s with humidity around 40 percent – perfect for ambling along a dirt path through strips of native vegetation.
La Petite Ceinture, a promenade in the 15th arrondissement.

With a half hour of walking to reach La Petite Ceinture, and hour of walking on the promenade, and another half an hour of walking toward our restaurant for the evening, we were dehydrated and exhausted by the time we reached Place Charles Michels.

Two cafés were on the shady side of the Place, so we crossed over to inspect their beverage menus.  The more crowded, trendy one (Le Lutétia) was costlier than the smaller, less-occupied one (Il Teatro), so we chose the latter.  I could not understand why so many preferred the more crowded, costlier café.  This was just for drinks, after all.  (The time was 6:45PM – much too early for the dinner hour, which begins at 7:30PM.)  Could it be that people preferred the café that was not run by immigrants?

A pleasant server of perhaps Pakistani origin took our drink order at Il Teatro café.  After she brought us the cold drinks (generous pours), she brought olives and peanuts for us to nibble.
Pastilla created by Chef Adil Fakhour at O Fil Rouge

That was 9 euros well spent ($10, tax and tip included).  After a half an hour, we were refreshed and restored enough to walk the final ten minutes to our restaurant, O Fil Rouge, on the rue Saint Charles.

O Fil Rouge is only a couple years old.  In February 2013, the restaurateur Pascal Perotto placed this employment ad on  Restaurateur Parisien désire partager sa passion avec un jeune Chef (associé),celui ci aura des parts dans la société ,sera passionnée ,créatif et gestionnaire pour de nouvelles aventures culinaires en ile de France, petite structure d'une trentaine de couverts ,une Cuisine moderne qui laisse la part belle aux produits frais et la Passion pour moteur.

A basic translation:  Parisian restaurateur wants to share his passion with a young chef (partner) who will have shares in the company, will be passionate, creative, and will manage new culinary adventures in the Paris region.  This is a small restaurant with thirty place-settings, a modern kitchen that makes great fresh food.

And so Pascal attracted Chef Adil Fakhour to the job.

Tom's veal chop at O Fil Rouge.
The cuisine is French, with modern twists and with the occasional North African dish.  I was thrilled to see that a pastilla was offered on the menu this time.  

Traditionally, a pastilla is a Moroccan dish made with squab.  Squab is kind of hard to get, so this one was made with lamb, and figs!  Pastillas require lots of spices, and lots of chopping.  The meat and other ingredients are mixed together and cooked in a thin or flaky pastry.  The ones I’ve seen before have been rectangular or triangular.  This one, at O Fil Rouge, was rolled into a cylinder and then sliced diagonally, once, just before serving.  

The sauce was amazingly intricate in its seasonings.  Curiously, the pastilla was served with traditional mashed potatoes.  Very good, but I would have expected a garniture that was more North African.

Tom had the same kind of mashed potatoes with his main dish, a veal chop that was the size of a small roast.  It was tasty, but too much.  So I dared to ask Pascal’s wife if we could possibly have a doggy bag.  She said no problem, she’d prepare it.  It is amazing what you can get away with when you are older.  (Traditionally, one does not EVER ask for a doggy bag in France.  But times are changing.)

I forgot to mention that the appetizer which we shared – a seafood ravioli in a spicy crustacean sauce – was stunningly good.
Pain perdu at O Fil Rouge.

At O Fil Rouge, we always order one pain perdu to share for dessert.  This is perhaps the best pain perdu in all of Paris.  This one is made with a brioche, soaked in cream and egg and cooked to a point (yes, like French toast), and served with a rich, homemade caramel sauce that will make you purr.

I asked for a glass of port as Tom was having coffee after dinner.  Pascal’s wife gave me a generous pour in an ordinary water glass.  It was good.

Then she brought the “doggy bag”: a sturdy tupperware-like container with both the veal and potatoes.

At home, we took in the last light of the day, sitting on the balcony, musing over the many pleasant little surprises that the day brought to us.  Life is good.

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