Sunday, 14 February 2010

Le Chateaubriand, Paris: Meal of the Year

I'm calling it early. Without fear of regret or revision. Set it in stone now. With 10.5 months remaining on the 2010 dining calendar, "Meal of the Year" can be safely declared.

There has been, for some time, much banter about an apparent "crisis" in French cooking and a declining French food culture. However, Le Chateaubriand is rock solid proof that brilliance still flourishes in the kitchens of Paris.

Its non-descript facade, in a part of the 11th arrondissement that I would never otherwise have cause to visit, belies the furtive, bustling, new wave French bistro that is Le Chateaubriand.

Le Chateaubriand opened in 2006, and is regularly featured in food magazines as one of the hippest eateries in Paris. But this is not what had me excited about visiting it. In fact, its down to earth informality and friendliness overrides any sense that this is a hangout for trendies. Le Chateaubriand provides bistro food which draws on old school French traditions, but with a progressive flair and creativity which reveals an exciting new direction for Parisian bistro culture. It draws on chef Inaki Aizpitarte's Basque roots, but sweeps away the tastebuds on a whirlwind, gastronomic adventure. And it's bloody delicious.

There's a changing set menu each evening of 4 courses for 45 Euros. This must be the best value fine fare in Paris. There's no choice about what you eat - you put yourself in the hands of the kitchen and hope to God they don't serve you osso bucco. (Yes, I know that's Italian and this is France, but why must every set menu - even at fine dining establishments - serve you the fattiest, cheapest cut of meat once they've locked you in at a price which you would not pay if you knew you were getting osso bucco?? Yes, I am looking at you Da Noi and Il Vino [review of the latter coming up.] Anyway, I digress).

We started with an amuse bouche of tiny, sweet langoustines and baby radishes settled in a bowl over which a fishy, miso like broth was poured at our table. Simple but lovely. An interesting start, but one that hardly hinted at the culinary delights to come.

Next came the colourful Saint-Jacques (raw scallops), orange, yellow and white carrots, citrus fruits, crushed pistachios and blood orange sorbet. Such an unusual but gorgeous combination of flavours. Taste sensations were exploding in the mouth at the fresh vibrancy of the citrus and vegetables cutting across the mellow, lush flavour of the scallops. And did I mention the pistachios? Yyyyeeah baby.

Our sea bass was mouthwatering - succulent, perfectly cooked, and accompanied by an alluring combination of red chicory, and lemon creme fraiche. Worthy of a mug shot from 2 angles. I am in quite a lather.

The "Pigeon Paul Renault" apparently claims its name from the pigeon farmer who provided it. Paul Renault, whoever you are, I love you. This little birdie was melt in the mouth good. It came almost rare, with salisify (how in the hell have I never had salsify before? - new addiction to add to the list), crushed hazelnuts and (the only trace I left behind) kidney. By now, I am melting lustfully onto the floor.

Dessert. A tres important part of any French meal. Ok, so this sounds weird but was utterly marvellous - lychee rice pudding came topped with creme fraiche sprinkled with grated strawberry, and accompanied by a separate dish (yes, 2 desserts!) of pineapple crumble topped with cream. The 2 in 1 dessert notion is to be heartily applauded.

Our accompanying wine and sticky were delicious, and while we went for the bottle, inexpensive carafes are available.

Service was fantastic, particularly in the face of my battling school girl French - those persistent rumours of widespread rude service in Paris has never rung true for me, at least in recent years (and seem quite rich coming from anyone who battles daily with typical London service standards). And they certainly don't apply at Le Chateaubriand.

So there you have it: GD's meal of the year. Given the adventurous and varied combinations adopted, this type of fare may certainly be hit or miss. But, given what I've evidenced of the mind at work here, I trust that there'll be many more hits than misses for me. Bold, classic and contemporary all at once, Le Chateaubriand is one of those places that will likely never get boring - it will certainly have a regular place on the fixture in all my future escapes to Paris. Le Chateaubriand, you have won yourself a loyal friend.

Le Chateaubriand, 129 avenue Parmentier, 75011, Paris


  1. Hi there, thanks for the review, am so glad you liked it. I am, however, a bit gutted as this was one of the reservations we had to cancel on our December trip to Paris, which was cut to just over a day from the planned 3.5 thanks to the Eurostar debacle. We did, however, end up having a great meal at another restaurant on the night we were in Paris, which I hope to post in the next couple of weeks. I really hope we can make it to Le Chateaubriand sometime this year. Best regards, LF.

  2. Ooh looks good. I'm in Paris next month and will try and get a table - do they have a website?

  3. Love the sound of that place, it's going right on my list! Funny how salsify isn't more popular isn't it? I'll sometimes order something in a restaurant just because it comes with it.

    Very brave move declaring your meal of the year already but I suppose if you have a better one this year you'll be too busy exploding with happiness to care ;)

  4. Wow - barely two months in and a best meal claim! It sounds fantastic.

  5. Laissez Fare - Such a shame you missed it, but a great excuse to go back, and I'm sure you found some touches of brilliance of your own in Paris - there's certainly no shortage! Can't wait to read about your find.

    Patrick - Hi, I don't think they do have a website.

    Jones - Yep, I'm going out on a limb! But I remain inspired to keep up the quest to top it. Quite astonishing for a meal which did not involve steak or duck to win me over so much! I too can see myself now ordering dishes purely for the salsify.

    Lizzie - Yep. I'm not too proud to eat my words should the need arise, but I'm quietly confident.

  6. Wowowowowowowow.

    Paris wasn't on my agenda for this year, but now I'm thinking that I need to rethink that...

  7. Forkful - Ha ha! I think you should!

  8. Wow - this was truly food porn! The Saint Jacques looks so beautiful. Great post - as always.

  9. Thanks Rob! - isn't it a stunning looking dish?!

  10. I loved this place too - and the scallop dish was the best thing we had. In our case, though, they'd soaked the carrots in beetroot before slicing them, which made them look fantastic. Lovely write-up.

  11. Thanks Ollie, and glad you loved it too. Such a terrific place, and the scallops really started things with a bang. Happy to hear it was better than your Brasserie Lipp experience!

  12. Ohhh a very daring claim to make in mid-February for best meal of the year. Simply because I have no plans to go to Paris anytime soon, I hope you change your mind and find a better meal in London.

  13. Wild Boar - I'm very happy to keep trying!

  14. I finally made it there about 2 months ago (a quick 3 days travel to Paris from Montreal).

    I got caught in the huge buzz around it, but I am fine with that: buzz does not mean the place is bad, just means people are talking a lot about it.

    First things first: it was packed on that night I was there, so the marketting behing it deserves the highest praises.

    I’ll start with the positive points:
    (1)honestly, not a rip off at this price. (2)Had a little chit chat with the Chef. He will mark some of his patrons memories (unique, cool,rebel,different, funny, intriguing).

    Now the downsides: this type of new bistro trend (laid back, cool looking, buzzing ambience, modern/creative looking relatively simple and affordable dishes )… well, there are hundreds like this opening doors around North America, Europe.
    I did not review each of the food items since we were a bunch of friends there with sole purpose to enjoy some good time and not bother with food analysis, but what I gathered from the food I’ve sampled was that it came in cool presentations, turned around the latest widly spread cool new bistro concepts we see a bit everywhere (they do it with a bit more elegance, talent, refreshing creativity –than the average — I shall confess ), but this was by no means what I would expect in the top 15 of S Pellegrino’s best tables of the world.

    Happy new year 2011 to you & yours,
    S Lloyd

  15. S Lloyd - Hello there. Yes, there are also many places in Paris going for a similar concept over the past few years and doing very well at it. In the end, it's a chemistry thing and Le Chateaubriand is like the holy grail for me - casual but buzzy, excellent, enjoyable food with something a little bit surprising and it's well priced. I'd be happy to see more places like this make the S Pellegrino list.

  16. john hope-falkner10 May, 2011

    Hi. Like your review on Le Chateaubriand of 11 e. We are hoping to try the place at the end of the month if we can grab a break from our little enterprise South of Paris.
    Le C sounds like an 'upmarket' version of Le Temps des Cerises on rue de Butte-aux-Cailles in the 13th. Since we have family a few metro stops South of there in Paris we seem to go there allot. Have you tried it?

    Best wishes, John;

  17. Hi John - I haven't heard of that one, but will look it up. Thanks.

  18. 'twas an enjoyable experience reading your review!

  19. Anonymous10 July, 2012

    they serve osso buco because it is fucking delicious.


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