This one is on many people’s list of favorites, including mine.
The first time I visited Bistrot Paul Bert, nearly two years ago, we had a white asparagus salad, foie gras with toast, capon with morels, and steak with fries, all delicious. 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 server, happy to try out her English skills, translated “monsieur” as “mister” instead of “sir”, an easy mistake to make in the minefield of learning a foreign language.
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.
Anyway, my recent meal at Bistrot Paul Bert began with a cholesterol-raising starter of oeufs au plat with creamy morels. It was heaven, 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. Emile polished off every bite of his calf’s liver and then helped us with the task at hand. We almost finished it.
Did I mention the giant pile of golden, crisp 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.
Bistrot Paul Bert, 18 Rue Paul Bert, 75011 Paris, +33 (0)1 43 72 24 01