Where do you have dinner with an American living in Paris who is facing a two week visit to the States? “Something good and French,” were the requirements.
As vague as those instructions were, I knew exactly where we would go. Earlier that very day I read not one but two write-ups (here and here) of Chez Grenouille, each waxing poetic about house-made terrines and high cholesterol, both of which fit into my definition of “good and French”.
(Quick aside: I have always thought that the nickname “frogs” for the French was slightly derogatory — it certainly is when my cousin mentions a certain français that she almost married — and along with Ze Kitchen Galerie, this restaurant name leaves me scratching me head a bit. I should probably lighten up.)
Though there are frogs’ legs on the menu, the specialties at Chez Grenouille are mostly four-legged mammals, with a small flock of fowl vying for attention or rendering their livers for support. There was a starter of white asparagus on offer, and a lonely merlan swimming at the bottom of the menu, but I sort of feel like one has to go whole hog at these kinds of places, so to speak. And we did.
The terrines merit mention: terrine de campagne, terrine aux morilles, terrine d’oreilles de cochon. I chose the one with morels, which was perfectly good, though these fleeting spring funghi were perhaps better used in the brouillades d’oeufs aux morilles (scrambled eggs) that Mr. Going-to-the-States ordered. I was also tempted by the fromage de tete de cochon au lait (that’s head cheese from a suckling pig), and both intrigued and repelled by the pressée de mamelles laitieres persillées.
I’m going to let you look that last one up.
For the main course I had cochon de lait au foie gras, a beautifully striated morsel of young pork surrounded by its own salty, crispy skin, topped with a seared piece of foie gras.
The temporary repatriate had a faux parmentier of duck (shepherd’s pie, basically), faux because the potatoes were replaced by a purée of carrots. It tasted good but I missed the texture that potatoes offer, and the way a good mash soaks up sauce.
Though the chocolate soufflé at the next table looked awfully good, we shared the baba au rhum for two, a giant syrupy sponge with whipped cream and a small snifter of rum on the side.
“What, no frogs’ legs?” I hear you asking. You know how oysters taste like the sea? Well to me, frogs taste like the pond.
If you care about these things, you should know that room is not at all charming and horribly lit. That doesn’t really matter to me if the food is good, but when I plugged it into the complicated system (a combination of calculus, astrology, and gut feeling) I use to determine if a restaurant is priced right, the results tell me that Chez Grenouille is just a wee bit too expensive.
But you can’t eat this way back in the States, and that’s worth paying for.
Chez Grenouille 52 rue de Blanche, Paris 75009, +33 (0)1 42 81 34 07
Read what Caroline Mignot says (in French) about Chez Grenouille HERE.