Europe 2013 #5 – Paris & Bourgogne

The thing about visiting Paris in August is that many establishments are closed. Many of the restaurants I wanted to try out was not operating during summer. Even their train to CGD Airport was cancelled all summer. Nevertheless, Paris is still a super crowded city filled with tourists.

The first attraction was the Sacré-Cœur, also known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris. This building was much bigger than I imagined. To get here, you got to climb a lot of steps, or take a tram up. It’s located at the summit of Montmarte, which provides a panoramic view of Paris.

Butte Montmartre

At every popular tourist attraction in Paris there will be plenty of tourists traps. In order to avoid those, lunch has to be settled elsewhere, away from the crowds. About 20 – 30 minutes’ walk away from Sacré-Cœur was Vivant, one of the few restaurants which resumed business before summer ended.

Vivant reminds me of De Vitrine in Ghent – It only has one menu and is a small privately owned establishment serving modern French cuisine. Lunch that day cost €39 and consisted of 5 courses.

It’s true. Baguette is simply different in Paris – and the one they served here was the best I’ve had in my life. It was so chewy inside and crusty on the outside.

Simply the best roasted octopus and the best risotto in my life.

The 2 main courses was fish (above) and duck pastry. These 2 were decent but wasn’t as mind blowing as the appetizers.

I feel that Vivant is a great dining option and I love this kind of concept – small restaurant serving modern European, up to the chef’s creativity. I know a few more of such restaurants in Paris but they were closed for summer.

43 rue des Petites Ecuries
75010 Paris

You can choose to go up but as with every attraction in Paris, the lines are never ending. The entrance fee is 8 € for adults and 5 € for students.

Place Charles de Gaulle
75008 Paris

This is another landmark of Paris, in a large public square. There are actually 2 of such fountains.

Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris

La Madeleine is a Roman Catholic church.

Place de la Madeleine
75008 Paris

Crêpe is a must try in Paris. I went to Crêperie Josselin specifically, but I realised that along that particular street were countless Crêperies. I tried both a savoury and sweet crêpe. They kindly cut the portion in half for us. While I’m not sure whether roadside stalls can produce the same standard, the crêpe here was pretty good.

Crêperie Josselin
 67 Rue du Montparnasse
75014 Paris

Based on recommendations online for steak frites, I found myself at Le Relais de l’Entrecôte. However, I think it is a tourist trap. The steak frites was decent but not fantastic. There’s another brand in Paris, New York and London called Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte and perhaps that would be better.

101 Boulevard du Montparnasse
75006 Paris

This view of the Eiffel Tower was seen from Palais de Chaillot, near Trocadéro Metro.

Nearby was Musée Du Vin, Museum of Wine. It’ll bring you through the history of wine making and end with a tasting. It’s interesting to see how much effort ancient people put in just to produce wine. Entrance fees starts from € 11.90 which includes 1 glass of wine.

5 Square Charles Dickens
75016 Paris

I was walking along a bridge and that gives a nice view of the Eiffel Tower too. Pardon my mouth stained with red wine from the earlier tasting.

Lunch was at 2 Michelin star restaurant L’Atelier Saint-Germain de Joël Robuchon. Read about it here.

Macarons are a must try in Paris. I was most excited about trying Pierre Hermé, especially for their signature Olive Oil macaron. Indeed, they have the best macarons I’ve ever tried. I myself bake macarons, so I am very particular about everything (actually, I’m particular about almost everything I eat hahaha).

The shells has to be chewy inside and slightly crisp on the outside. The ganache or buttercream has to fill the entire surface and the 2 macaron shells has to be matching in size (I know this is obvious, but some places simply can’t do that!). It has to be assembled fresh and aged for 3 days at least for best flavour. So far, Pierre Hermé macarons are faultless.

72 Rue Bonaparte

The other brand I was looking forward to try was Sadaharu Aoki. These were good in terms of their flavours – they had genmaicha, hojicha, matcha, earl grey, sesame, yuzu and many Japanese or tea inspired flavours. However, the quality control isn’t there. Some of the shells had already gone soft and were not crispy. This can happen if you do not assemble your macarons fresh and leave it outside for a while before assembling them and putting them into the chiller. I’m not sure what went wrong, but the quality was not consistent. Nevertheless, the flavours were interesting and good. The sweetness level was acceptable too.

35 Rue de Vaugirard

While looking for good croissants, I shortlisted 134 RdT. However, they were having renovation and sold their products in a neighbouring shop instead, as prompted by the sign on the door.

The croissant was not bad but I didn’t feel it was the best ever. The common chain PAUL actually does it pretty good too.

134 RdT
134 rue de Turenne
75003 Paris

I did not visit the Louvre because the queue was notoriously long. Do dedicate at least an entire day if you’re interested to visit.

75001 Paris
France ‎

This is the famous bridge where you can put your own lock and write your wishes.

Pont des Arts
Place de l’Institut
75006 Paris

If you’re looking for some Asian food, you can check out Naritake Ramen. It is located near the Louvre, and in fact, the entire street was filled with Japanese restaurants. I’m guessing that’s where Japanese hangs out. You wouldn’t miss this shop because it has the longest queue. The interior is like a typical ramen shop you’ll find in Japan and the food isn’t tweaked to European taste, which is good. The broth is made with pork fats, which can be too much to handle. On the menu they did mention you can request for the soup to be less thick. Overall, it was one of the best ramen I’ve ever had – even better than some I had in Japan.

Do note that the menu is only in French of Japanese, and so is the language capabilities of the staff. My ramen with egg cost 10€.
Kotteri Ramen Naritake
31 rue des Petits-Champs
75001 Paris

The next day was a day trip to Bourgogne (Burgundy). It is a famous wine region in France. I joined a tour for this, and it was very informative and I learned a lot about Bourgogne wines. The meeting point was at Dijon and it’s easily accessible by train from Paris.

In Bourgogne, what makes better wine is better grapes. It isn’t much of the wine maker’s credit, but it’s the grapes that matters. The better grapes originates from better plots of land, so it’s all gifted. The best plots would produce grapes for Grand Cru wine.

Only 2 types of grapes are grown in Bourgogne – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I’m not much of a white wine drinker so I have never tried Bourgogne Chardonnay prior to this visit.

This plot belongs to Romanée-Conti, the most premium wine maker in France (and the whole world in fact), which I am sure many people have already heard of. I spotted bottles of Romanée-Conti going at a 5 figured sum at Harrods in London. In fact, most of the world’s most expensive wines are actually from Bourgogne.

The first tasting at a local wine maker consisted of 3 Pinot Noirs and 3 Chardonnays. I got to try the Grand Cru, Premier Cru and Village level wines.

Lunch was free and easy in Beaune and I randomly picked a touristy restaurant. Fortunately, the food was acceptable. You can’t go wrong with Burgundy Snails and Beef Bourguignon in Bourgogne.

Did you know that Beef Bourguignon (as well as many other classic French dishes like Escargot and Coq Au Vin) originated form Bourgogne? Traditionally, the red wine stew was originally prepared using Bourgogne wines. I’ve had beef bourguignon several times before in Singapore, probably with better quality of beef too, but the gravy was never as good as what I had in Beaune – and this was just from a random tourist trap bistro. I can’t imagine how delicious it would be from a good restaurant.

The second tasting and cellar visit at another boutique wine maker Quivy.

These moldy bottles are for real. The naturally moldy environment is conducive for ageing.

The barrels contains wine before bottling.

These are the wines from the second tasting. I must admit that I was never a fan of Burgundy wines because I haven’t had memorable ones in Singapore. However, the ones I’ve tasted during this trip were much better. If you want a day trip from Paris, Bourgogne is a good idea.

The tour I joined was organised by Authentica Tours and it cost 125 € per person.

When I saw how crowded this place was, I knew it was not a tourist trap but a place locals would hang out at.

Le Baron Rouge is a casual place to have wine and finger food like cheese, cold cuts and rillettes. Everything on the menu was written in French. Ordering wine was easy when you are already familiar with French wines, but the food part was a challenge. All that was familiar on the menu was “Fromages” and “Rillette” so cheese and rillette it is.

Somehow the cheeses in France are about a million times better than whatever I’ve had in Singapore. Even goat or ewe cheese – which normally tastes funky in Singapore, tasted so good in Paris. The duck rillette was also better than the one I had in Singapore. The portion of cheese cost 16 € and the duck rillette was 8 €. Prices of wines varies and a small glass of wine like what I had costs about 3 € on average. Instead of getting a whole bottle, it is a better idea to order by the glass, because whatever they serve in bottles they also serve by the glass. That way you get to taste more wines. The turnover here is quite fast so there shouldn’t be issues about freshness. This place is a great unpretentious cosy place for wine and I liked it.

Le Baron Rouge
1 Rue Théophile Roussel
75012 Paris

It was a weekend and the only thing to do is to have Brunch. This was a random find along the streets but it turned out good.

The brunch set (18 €) includes juice, a hot drink, free flow of breads and spreads ( butter and jam in France are super good), brunch platter (cold cuts, salad, cheese) and a dessert of your choice.

I ordered tea and chose the Hammam tea by Palais Des Thes. It was a green tea blend with fragrances of roses, green dates, red fruit and orange flower water. I really liked this tea and wished I bought some home.

The setup of La Chambre aux Oiseaux reminds me of a typical indie cafe, just that it is way less pretentious and more homely. It was located away from the tourists attractions so this isn’t a tourist trap. Generally, random food establishments in Paris can be good, so long as you avoid the touristy areas. I can’t say the same for UK though.

48 Rue Bichat
75010 Paris

Chateau Lafite Rothschild spotted at La Bordeauxthèque in Galeries Lafayette.

Galeries Lafayette is the biggest shopping mall and the one where tourists from a particular country flocks to. It feels as though I’m in that particular country instead of Paris when I am there. I do not enjoy shopping there at all to be honest.

Sipping wine was more enjoyable than shopping. This was at a random touristy bistro.

And more wine for dinner. Had Entrecôte at another bistro and I can’t remember it’s name. It was pretty decent, but not the best. I liked the potato though!


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