Monday, August 13, 2007

The Best Steak Frites in Paris

Steak frites is enough of a Paris institution that Le Relais de Venise serves nothing else. You are handed a menu with almost no choices on it, and are asked whether you want your steak cooked rare or some other, presumably perverse, level of doneness. (They're good about asking and they even tolerate well-done requests without scoffing, a sure sign they're accustomed to serving Americans.)

Le Sèvero is a meat restaurant of the highest order, one with a brilliant wine list, a charming owner, a skilled or at least attentive chef and an overall. There is entrecôte on the menu, but after seeing the massive côtes de boeuf (for two), a friend and I opted for that. It was simply too gorgeous to pass up. Roasted, then sliced in the kitchen, served with the bone in, it came blood rare, beautifully marbled and delicious. (No one asked how we wanted it cooked, and this was common. Many Parisian restaurants assume you will take your steak “saignant,” which is seen as correct and translates as underdone. If you want it medium-rare, say “à point,” pronounced “ah pwan.”)

Those who are looking for a slightly more balanced meal might head over to the 11th arrondissment and Le Bistro Paul Bert. The steak (entrecôte) frites was perfectly Parisian, the meat cooked saignant and therefore a tad chewy — which is appropriate — but super flavorful, and the fries just right. Beef cheeks braised in red wine, a real peasant dish, was served in a pot and quite fine, as was monkfish (lotte) with more delicious potatoes, these mashed. A plate of tender, bloody, absolutely stunning squab stole the show, served with a puree of turnips and parsnips.

Chez Georges is a perfectly preserved 1920s bistro. The specialty, when it comes to beef, is rib roast — you can get an entrecôte, but the standing rib is the beef they do best — and it's served with an over-the-top potato gratin. Many of the other dishes are standard old-fashioned bistro fare with above average execution: frogs' legs, herring, eggs poached in wine, jambon persillé, hachis Parmentier (a classy and delicious version of shepherd's pie), fried pig's foot, head cheese and so on. The cheese plate, from Marie Quatrehomme, was exemplary and worth the trip.

Finally there is Au Boeuf Couronné, in the 19th arrondissement. Once there, you won't regret it. Overall, the food is terrific. The meat options are myriad and confusing. There is entrecôte, rump, faux filet, onglet (hanger) and a few others. All were served with pommes soufflées, the balloon-like über-fries that take a little more effort to make but no more to eat, and are an absolute delight, making classic steak frites even a little bit better.


Thanks to adactio for the photo


Di Overton said...

You make my mouth water. I am off to Paris end September so will try out some of your recommendations.

°~*Le Quartier*~° said...

Oh great, thank you!
Can't wait to see your September posts. You always have great tips for design stuff in Paris!