February 16th, 2007

Swanprincess

St. Valentine in Paris

It's a big day here. Not so much with the chocolates and flowers, although we saw a lot of guys buying roses in the Wednesday afternoon market at the end of the the street. Dinner is the big thing.

Before we left New York, we asked a friend for a recommendation for a romantic restaurant for a Valentine's dinner. She gave us two places, one of which we ate at the night before last, with our French Editor, Sebastien Guillot (La Rouge Gorge--the Robin Red-Breast (or the Slit Throat, for fans of *Les Enfans du Paradis*, which was good but not particularly romantic. And Le Buisson Ardent (The Burning Bush). Which was good, romantic, and even a good deal.

First off, it's lovely. So off the beaten track, on the left bank in the 5th, two blocks from the Museum of the Arab World, on the rue Jussieu. The front room is all 19th century landscape frescoes in shades of green-blue and brown, with lovely art-nouveauish, lilyish lamps. The back is very moderne, but we didn't eat there.

And the food. Oh, the food. 5 tiny courses (they must have been tiny--I ate them all, and I lived to tell the tale), each carefully composed to flow into and complement the others, each a symphony of colors and tastes, put together by somebody who really, really cared about what they were doing. A little pot of green leek soup. Seared salmon with a tiny salad of tomatoes and chopped parsley with sesame oil. A roasted white fish of some kind, very fresh, very simple, very delicious, with mashed celery (it sounds better in French--mouselline de celeri) but tasted divine in any language). Lamb and wild mushrooms and potatoes. A fluffy kind of goat cheese thing with dried apricots, and a salad on the side. A weird and complex dessert involving ricotta, a poached pear, and basil sauce that was one of the best things I've ever eaten. Plus a bottle of very decent Beaujolais. For two. For just over $50 a person.

We tottered home across Ile St. Louis, very full and rather flown on Brouilly, and very pleased with the world.

Le Buisson Ardent. Remember it. Take your lover. Take your friend.

On the other end of the scale, we had a lovely lunch yesterday (3 courses with a 1/2 bottle of wine included, for 15 euros, which works out to something around $20) at Le Petit Picard on rue Ste. Croix de la Bretannerie, in the 4th. It's not something you'd want to do often, and you need to know that you can be sitting at a long table with people you don't know (or understand--it's so not a tourist joint). And it sure ain't fast food. But it's good and it's verai Frrench, and it's a nice space.