Monday, August 31, 2009

Monkey's Groovy Bar and Funky Food

One day after shopping for my asian food product fix at the nearby Paris Store in Belleville, I passed by this strangely decorated bar/resto, thinking nothing of it, other than it looked, just, well, out of place, with an omnipresent stylized ape logo, and multicolored furniture, it didn't look quite right. Then a couple of trusted friends told me that their burgers were, in the words of one, 'legendary'. So I had to check it out. It turns out the chef did time in the kitchens of the Meurice, and ended up associating himself with Nicolas Barthelemy, an Oberkampf bar owner who wanted to change 'hoods.

I dropped by this afternoon to check it out, and ordered their no. 2, a minced lamb burger, with coriander, ginger, Thai basil all enveloped in a cereal bun, accompanied with home cut frites. Everything seemed fresh and homemade, although the fries were a little cold, and the bottom part of the burger disintegrated halfway through eating it. The music was moody and funky, service very friendly, and the beer and food (4€ for the pint of Stella, 10€ the burger) reasonably priced. Other burgers include satay sauced chicken, beef with thyme, mozza, pickles and beefheart tomato, and even a veggy version for the effete set.

The bar and kitchen are open until 2am, making this an interesting alternative to other nearby bobo Belleville bars (Aux Folies, Café Cherie, etc)

PS Apologies for the iPhone pic...

68 boulevard de la Villette, 19th

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Blackberryfication of the Concierge

I should have seen this coming a mile away. . I can just imagine those corporate eggheads at Hyatt ground zero saying to themselves, 'How could we possible offer more service?' ie , give hopped up, pain-in-the-ass clients even more ways to spend their time in complete verbal masturbation with hotel staff, in order to avoid the wide-eyed, middle of the night terror of not having that perfectly organized hotel trip.

Then again, maybe it's genius.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chilled glass of rosé on the Canal is beckoning...

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Oscar: Simple, good value on the edge of the Triangle d'Or. Tiny, expensive sidestreet in the 16th, just behind the avenue Marceau. 21€, three course lunch menu. Chicken salad with tomatoes, green beans, carrot, beetroot, and Parmesan. Excellent steak tartar (normally if it's not coupé au couteau, I won't touch it).Expertly mixed with ketchup, tabasco, etc etc, served with fresh potatoes. OK fondant au chocolat. . But at this price, it's hard to complain.

6 rue de Chaillot, 75116 Paris

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Ari - Mme Shawn's Thai concept trainwreck

I knew I shouldn't have. I really did. But sometimes after a few too many glasses we all make stupid dining plans. Last night's was particularly disastrous, even more so coming from a restaurateur that I've been frequenting for a long time.

I've been going to Madame Shawn's discreet little Thai bistro for a few years now, and although I know it's not the most authentic , and that their staff seem to change mysteriously with each ship coming in from Bangkok, I've always been able to trust their food quality and consistency. In the last couple of years, Madame Shawn has built a sort of empire, with new establishments popping up in the upper Marais, the 11th, the 16th and two others near her original restaurant near the Canal Saint Martin.

The most recent opening is Ari, in what was formerly Le Sporting, a sort of fusion place with Asian, French and Asian/French specialties. The staff weren't really able to explain the concept, (or even speak much French to tell the truth) , but none of the dishes seemed to be done correctly with a general confusion pervading the room when dishes showed up. We probably should have left at this point, except that the lady who runs the place we knew from the original Madame Shawn was so happy to see us, the terrace was full of apparently happy, good looking people ,and those four pints....

We decided to keep it simple. I took the green papaya salad with dried beef. Why, I don't know, but Madame Shawn's original Som Tam is my favorite in Paris. Here it was a total miss. Not spiced enough, and covered in strips of blackened, tough meat. The Asian "Brie burger" proved to be pretty much inedible, dry, piled too high with ingredients to eat, and accompanied by frozen potato wedges.

Funnily enough, throughout the meal, images of Kitchen Nightmares were going through my head, with Chef Ramsey lurching off to the bathroom to retch. That feeling was reinforced when seeing a kitchen staff member leave men's room without washing hands.

So sorry Madame Shawn, with all due respect, there's no saving this place in it's current form. Advice: Reduce the menu drastically to simple "exotic" snacks, chic comfort foods, crank the ambient music, and turn this trainwreck of a concept into a Canal friendly lounge that'll pay the bills along the line and keep your rep unsallied.

Le Grand Venise

Vegetable "amuse bouche"


Mussels in creamy lime sauce


Antipasti Armegeddon

Langoustines served with home made tartar

Tower of caramel ice cream

It's almost a shame to publicize my recent meal at Paris' most discreet insider Italian. Located in the residential fifteenth far from the center, and run by the amazing Marina (who, though far from young, still goes to Rungis immediately after the dinner service ends at 1 or 2 am), this place is packed with well-heeled families and foreigners, celebs, magnates, most of whom would eat nowhere else. The dining room is a bit kitch, filled with flowers and plants, the food over the top with the very best ingredients in copious amounts, service pro, the perfect place to go with a large group of friends for the table topping generosity of this hidden gem.

A typical meal starts off with a basket of garden vegetables, gorgonzola, mascapone, two types of butter, olives, superb homemade olive oils and balsamic vinegar and freshly toasted bread. This is best followed by the platter of charcuterie (Parma ham, mortadella, salami, coppa, pancetta) and/or the massive antipasti platter with fava beans, mussels in a creamy lime sauce, marinated peppers, fritto misti, aubergines, fried onions, followed by a very correct tagliatelli carbonara, and their famous towering block of homemade caramel ice cream accompanied by cherries with cinnamon and cloves. All washed down with champagne served in frosty glasses and small run Toscan wines.

Be forewarned: it's expensive but worth it, kind of like an Italian Ami Louis.

PS Sorry for the iPhotos, but I was more into eating and drinking than archiving...