I don't really like dining by myself. It can be a good thing because I can go exactly where I want, no lengthy "Where do you want to go?" discussions. But to me, dining is also about sharing the experience with others, so sitting alone at a table is a bit strange and sometimes awkward. When I taste something delicious, I start to say, "Oh my God, this is awesome, try it!" Then I suddenly realize that there is no one across the table, and instead take that bite I've made and shove it in my mouth quickly before I start talking to an empty chair. I don't want others to think I'm a crazy woman that's somehow slipped her way in. Being on a Food Lovers Odyssey and, for the most part, on the journey solo, there are many times when I'm dining alone.
At least three people recommended Mon Vieil Ami, my lunch spot for the day. Going to a place called "My Old Friend" solo, seams a bit contradictory, but I did anyway. There were only a few people there when I arrived at 1pm. It's a small restaurant; they can seat maybe 35 people total. The cream and half-timbered walls, green accents, and contrasting espresso colored tables give the dining room a cozy feeling. There is a long communal table along one side of the rectangular room. Flanked down the other side are small tables for two. I sat at one of these. At first, it was just me amongst the line of tables. By 1:30pm the place was bustling with other diners.
I ordered the menu--this is their formula lunch with a starter course (entree), the main dish, and a dessert. They also have a Plat du Jour (plate of the day). I ordered the menu, also highly recommended to me. Vegetables are the featured ingredients and given priority in the dish description.
For my entree, I had a big bowl of artichokes, crus and cuits. I guess I'm getting used to the small tasting plates, because I wasn't expecting such an abundance of artichokes. There were slices of raw (crus) artichokes atop a mound of cooked (cuits) hearts and baby artichokes. It was dressed in a tangy broth with a lightly "moussed" cheese on top.
The main course was daikon radish, carrots and spring peas with duck breast. The dish was brought out in the (cocotte) casserole in which it was cooked. (All the main dishes that came out of the kitchen were in these cocottes). The fatty skin was nicely caramelized, the breast was tender, and the veggies were also rich and tender from being cooked slowly in duck jus. Again, the portion size was generous.
Along with a nice lunch, I chatted with the couple who sat next to me. She is a photographer and gave me some pointers on using my camera, along with a tip on possibly the best hot chocolate in Paris. (I was much too full to try it after this meal, but will try it soon and let you know.)
On the other side of me were two French women who lived in the area. I had heard them talking about the chef having a restaurant in Strasbourg and asked about the restaurant. The women were extremely friendly and gave me all the information on the executive chef, Antoine Westermann (He's from Strausborg, where he has a 3-Michelin starred restaurant, Burehriesel, and another restaurant here in Paris, Chez Drouant.) One of them wrote all the information down for me. She said Burehriesel is the "best restaurant in all of France" and that Mon Vieil Ami is "the best restaurant in Paris." She was so complimentary that I started to think she might be the chef's mother.
With friendly dining companions, I forgot I had come in alone. But, I didn't forget about dessert. I had to order it, because, well, it was part of my meal. The Pistachio Creme Brulee with Violette Sorbet is quite a lot and really should be shared. It's decadently creamy and had a mild pistachio taste, the sorbet was lightly scented with violette and was a nice balance to the richness of the creme brulee.
I've been eating a lot of lunches at some of the finer dining establishments here in Paris and will be writing about highlights and the low lights (only one, so far). I had atreat of a meal along with some unexpected and friendly dining companions, both French and American.
The meal was 48 euros including a glass of Pinot Noir from Burgundy. Each day the chef has a special of the day (plat du jour). This day it was Spring Vegetables with Blanquette de Veau (a traditional braised Veal dish). The couple and the French women had the plat du jour, and all raved about it. The Plats du Jour are 15 euros, which is a bargain considering the generous portion of food. You can order the desserts a la carte for 8 euros.
Mon Vieil Ami is located on The Isle of Saint Louis at 69 rue Saint-Louis-en-l'ile, Metro: Pont Saint Marie; www.monvieilami.com