This one is on many people’s list of favorites, including mine.
There’s no reinventing the wheel at Bistrot Paul Bert, nothing groundbreaking: This is classic, hearty (very hearty, you’ll see) bistro cooking, done well, with good ingredients.
My first visit was almost exactly two years ago. I had a white asparagus salad followed by roast capon with morels, and Patrick had foie gras mi cuit with toast and steak with fries. Yes, I still remember it. But what I remember most from that meal was a benign language gaffe: In French, the use of “Madame,” “Mademoiselle” and “Monsieur” is imperative when addressing strangers. Our efficient serveuse, happy to try out her English skills (and we grateful for it), translated “Monsieur” as “Mister”. This is fine if it’s followed by a last name: Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones, Mr. Bojangles. Otherwise (or if you’ve been knighted), “Sir” is the way to go. Left all by itself, “Mister” loses its politesse in English, as in “Listen, Mister” or “Watch it, Mister.”
All night it was Mister. “Rognons are kidneys, Mister.” “Are you ready to order, Mister?” “Would you like some wine, Mister?”
In related news, I am rarely addressed as “Mademoiselle” anymore…
A recent meal at Bistrot Paul Bert began with a cholesterol-altering starter of oeufs au plat with creamy morels. (If morels are on a menu, I will order them). It was delicious, the way the oozy yolk combined with the already-rich mushrooms, their honeycomb surface absorbing the sauce. My friend Emile had a fantastic paté en croute and my friend Colleen, who had just arrived from New York that morning and was living in the parallel zombie universe of the jet-lagged, sat out the first round.
This was probably a good move on her part, because the côte de boeuf for two that we were to share could have fed a family of four with leftovers. It was huge, perfectly seared and seasoned on the outside and beautifully rare, or saignant (“bleeding”) on the inside. They won’t let you order steak cooked past en point at Bistrot Paul Bert, just so you know.
We did our best, nous deux demoiselles dames, with this giant piece of meat. It took focus and determination, so much that I have no recollection of what Emile was eating, and was too preoccupied to write it down. He polished off every bite of whatever it was and then helped us with the task at hand. We finished it.
Did I mention the giant pile of golden frites?
All of this cries out for a sturdy red wine, and a 2007 Minervois, “Le Bois des Merveilles” from Jean-Baptiste Sénat fit the bill nicely. The wine list is lengthy, and our waiter took plenty of time to help us choose a bottle, in spite of the fact that the restaurant was very, very busy. Maybe that’s why he never came around with dessert menus.
Or maybe he knew that we were too stuffed to do anything but think about their famous Paris-Brest, a plump pâte à choux wheel overflowing with pastry cream, caramel, and praline. I’ve had it before, and it is splendid.
It’s true, we were way too full. But we definitely thought about it.
Next time, Mister.
(Photo by Colleen Chrzanowski)
Bistrot Paul Bert, 18 Rue Paul Bert, 75011 Paris, +33 (0)1 43 72 24 01