Chez Grenouille (CLOSED)
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Tucked away behind the Place de Clichy in Paris’s theatre district, it is easy to walk straight past this unassuming bistro. The impression is hardly improved on entering the tiny dining room, with the drab walls decorated only with a series of charcuterie awards – everything from best boudin blanc (black pudding) to a gold medal for pig’s brawn. But even on a midweek evening, the place was packed with local Parisians – not a tourist in sight – and once the menu arrived it was clear that Chez Grenouille is all about the traditional cooking of chef Alexis Blanchard, who used to be a master charcutier and wonderfully recreates classic dishes. Banish thoughts of modern neo-bistro cuisine, as the specialties on the blackboard range from sweetbreads and veal onglet steak in a rich Vin Jaune sauce to the chef’s andouillette, plump homemade sausage stuffed with pig’s intestines that is the ultimate test of adventurous foodies.
There is no à la carte, but a tempting €35 three course set dinner menu that changes every two months. To start with, it being the season, we chose plump scallops that were perfectly cooked and smothered in a creamy cauliflower sauce, along with a delicious mix of scrambled eggs with tasty morel mushrooms. Portions were not enormous, but very filling, as the chef seems to like adding cream whenever he can. To follow, the dish of the day was veal kidneys with amazing pommes pont neuf that Alain Ducasse would have been proud of, while the tender suckling pig on a bed of creamy (again!) lentils and foie gras was out of this world – just no one mention calories or cholesterol.
Be sure to save space for dessert, as the list is utterly irresistible – like going back in time before chefs started transforming desserts into trendy artworks. Despite being tempted by a light chocolate soufflé, crème brûlée with Grand Marnier and an old-fashioned île flottante (something that has almost disappeared from menus these days), the winner was baba au rhum, traditionally served with a generous glass of rum to pour over the airy sponge cake. The restaurant has an extensive wine list, though prices by the glass are steep, with a Beaujolais Saint-Amour at €8. Throughout the evening, the service was friendly and efficient, with just the odd blip – not asking if we wanted an aperitif or checking how the kidneys should be cooked. All in all, though, a very honest, no-frills bistro, serving the kind of hearty French food that is sadly disappearing from the Paris dining scene.
52 rue Blanche
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sat 12noon-2.30pm, 7pm-11.30pm|