Verjus – Paris 2016

When you visit Paris, patient the restaurant choices are overwhelming. There are literally thousands of restaurants and they are all good. Or at least as a traveller to the city you think they are all good. Everyone you know who has visited the city will have a different list of about ten restaurants “you HAVE to try” and of course, they are in neighbourhoods that are not remotely close to you or anything you want to see. Then you foolishly think, “Ok. Let me look up restaurants with Michelin stars.” Don’t do that. It is the most futile Google search you will ever perform and you will depress yourself as you don’t have hundreds of euros to spend on lunch to go to somewhere with 1-Michelin star let alone something with 3-stars which the official definition is “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” It is overwhelming, daunting and borderline annoying to plan meals in Paris.

However, one meal that was easy to plan was our dinner at Verjus. I learned about Verjus while watching The Getaway, a show by ESPN that features B-list actors and their favourite weekend getaways. Paris is the city of choice for Aisha Tyler. In the episode she eats at a few wine bars (Frenchie which was unfortunately missed on this trip) but Verjus really stood out for me. It is run by an American couple who are part of a change that is happening in Paris about how people view food and restaurants. It began as a wine bar with tasting plates or petits plats (which sounds so much daintier than tapas or sharing plates) and has expanded into a full-on restaurant with a tasting menu and a second restaurant called Ellsworth.

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To get to Verjus we entered through an alleyway called Passage de Beaujolais. We were early for our reservation so we wandered through the short alley and down the stairs that took us street level to a whole other world. From there we could see that Verjus is located in an old, 3-storey, very typically Parisian building that is across the street from the Théâtre du Palais-Royal. We felt like we were transported back in time to the 18th century. We meandered through the archways of the théâtre and discovered the beautiful gardens of the Palais-Royal with its wild rose bushes and fountains. As dusk began to fall we headed back to the restaurant to enjoy our dinner.

The tasting menu was 10 courses for 76€ with wine pairings for an addition 55€. We decided to go for it with the wine pairing because who knows when you will be back in Paris eating a tasting menu at an amazing restaurant because you won a free trip? And yes, for those of you doing the math, this meal was almost $400 Canadian, making it one of the most expensive meals I have ever had.

We were seated at a small table close to the entrance and the stairway leading upstairs. I was more than ok with this because it allowed us to be surrounded by windows offering views of the streets below and an opportunity to take a peek at upcoming courses as they whipped their way upstairs.

We started with a course featuring three different appetizers that were all served with a sparkling white wine, Catherine & Pierre Breton’s Vouvray Pétillant “La Dilettante”

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Violet asparagus, with sorrel mayo and wood sorrel.

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Fava bean fritter with herb tahini.

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Trout roe, with house yogurt, on a flatbread topped with arugula.

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Home of the Brave

Life has been busy lately with wedding plans and running around. I used to think people were flustered by wedding plans because they were incompetent. I apologize to all past brides that I judged harshly. Planning a wedding is fairly all encompassing and time consuming to an extent you wouldn’t believe. In all of the flurry, order I have been eating but not writing about it. Get ready to be inundated with posts from where I’ve been eating the past two months.

La Carnita, cialis one of my favorite Mexican joints in the city, advice opened an American comfort-food restaurant back in the summer and Cynthia and I were able to check it out a few months back. Aptly named Home of the Brave, the food is focused on American comfort-foods with new and interesting twists. The vibe is very similar to La Carnita –  a combination of grunge and rock, mixed with hipsters and vintage antiques. Be sure to wear your skinny jeans and your plastic rimmed glasses if you want to fit in.

The bar menu is on a seasonal rotation bringing in fresh flavours to compliment the season. They also have house made root beer on tap! Unfortunately, Cynthia and I did not try the root beer. All that means is I will have to go back to slurp down a root beer float.

We both started with the Tater Tots.

IMG_9481Crispy potatoes, cheese, gravy, and herbs.
Image credit:  Food Junkie Chronicles

These were delicious: creamy, cheesy, and salty – all in a perfect little bites. You can definitely taste the cheese and herbs, they work in tandem with the crispy potatoes but the gravy is almost nonexistent. I am ok with this as I HATE gravy (unless it is in the form of poutine), but other people may be less than thrilled about this. This is my idea of comfort food. I loved the presentation of this dish. The mini cast iron skillet immediately makes me think of pioneers and the American frontier.

Cynthia ordered the Johnny Cake with Smoked Trout.

Johnny CakeCornmeal griddle cake with savoury cream, smoked trout, maple syrup, and chives
Image credit: Toronto Life

This is one of the most unique menu items I have ever seen but apparently it’s incredibly common.  Johnny cakes were common during the early pioneer days and are now still seen throughout the eastern seaboard of the United States. Not being a huge cornmeal fan, I did not love the cake itself but it did serve as a substantial base to all the maple syrup that basically drowned the cake. The maple syrup should be asked for on the side to make sure your cakes stay nice and crispy. The trout was flaky and the perfect amount of salt and fish taste. The syrup and fish work in an interesting contrast that is not seen in a lot of dishes – it takes sweet and savoury to a new level. The cream was thick and decadent, making this dish almost seem like a brunch item rather than dinner item.

I ordered the Smoked Pork Belly Sandwich.

IMG_9472Smoked pork belly, smoked pork shoulder, ranch cabbage coleslaw, and lemon zest
Image credit: Food Junkie Chronicles

As far as a pulled pork sandwich goes – this is pretty standard. I love that the amount of pork belly is almost overwhelmingly large and adds a whole layer of crunch and salty, brininess to this sandwich. The pulled pork is good – juicy and it falls apart delicately with every bite. The ranch cabbage coleslaw is sweet with the perfect amount of tang that perfectly highlights the natural sweetness of cabbage. I would love to eat a bowl of this slaw on its own. The lemon brings together the whole sandwich and slightly cuts the fat so you don’t feel like a stereotypical fat American while eating this.

If you are in search of greasy comfort food – this is your spot. I am intrigued by the Kentucky Fried Handshake Sandwich which showcases a fried chicken foot and will likely be back to give it a try.  Although I want to give it another shot, I prefer La Carnita – there’s just not match to it.

Happy munching!