Saturday, September 17, 2011

Dining Alone in Paris (La Régalade Saint-Honoré)

Margret de canard épais rôti sur la peau, petites pommes de terres rôties au jus de viande  

During my summer abroad, I experienced solo travel for the first time. It took me a little getting used to traveling alone, but I eventually learned to really embrace the freedom that it gave me. I could go wherever and do whatever I wanted, stay at sites for however long I desired, and move around from place to place much quicker than if I were traveling in a group, thereby allowing me to see and do more. But one rather large downside to traveling alone is that it also means dining alone. While dining alone in places like Edinburgh and Cardiff didn't bother me at all, the combination of the language barrier and the fact that Paris is full of lovey-dovey couples everywhere you look made solo dining in Paris much more awkward and uncomfortable. My dinner at Le Chateaubriand the previous night did nothing to alleviate my unease, as my table was a bit isolated from most of the other tables, making me feel all the more lonely and friendless, not to mention that a two hour-long dinner by yourself is the nadir of loneliness. *cue Akon's Lonely* For my second dinner in Paris, I visited La Régalade Saint-Honoré, and while the food itself was pretty incredible, the distinctly Parisian experience of conversing with your fellow diners made this meal one of my most enjoyable.

If you've ever been to Paris, then you should know that space is at a premium, possibly even moreso than in New York City. Restaurants and stores are, for the most part, quite small and cozy, and tables in restaurants are basically on top of one another. I could literally reach over and pick up the plate off of my neighbor's table. While such tight quarters may not give patrons very much privacy, it does offer a solo diner like myself the opportunity to talk with neighbors. This certainly helped pass the time and removed some of the awkwardness of eating alone in a foreign country where everyone is speaking a language I don't understand. The couple that sat next to me during this meal happened to be from Australia, and coincidentally, their daughter lives in NYC and works at a restaurant in the UWS called Fishtag. Small world, eh? But really, one of the things I liked most about Paris was that the cramped quarters of Parisian restaurants create an intimacy to the dining experience that isn't found anywhere else.

Terrine du veau, porc, et canard

Seating arrangements aside, the food at La Régalade Saint-Honoré is pretty bangin'. For dinner, they offer a €35 three-course prix fixe menu. Given the high quality of the food and fairly generous portion sizes, the dinner here was the best bang-for-your-buck meal I had in Paris. To start off, the waitress dropped off a complimentary pork, veal, and duck terrine, accompanied by cornichons and sliced baguette. My hunger, combined with the fact that the fatty, porky terrine was just so delicious, propelled me to polishing off nearly half of the terrine before my first course had even arrived.

Gambas sautées ail et persil, jambon d'Espagne, risotto crémeux à l'encre d seiche

My first course, "Gambas sautées ail et persil, jambon d’Espagne, risotto crémeux à l’encre de seiche," was essentially a garlicky squid ink risotto topped with shrimp and Spanish ham. I'm not one to shy away from garlic, so I really enjoyed the intense garlic flavor permeating this dish. The risotto was perfectly creamy as well.

I knew I had to order duck at least once while I was in Paris, so for my second course, I went with the "Margret de canard épais rôti sur la peau, petites pommes de terres rôties au jus de viande." The duck, cooked to medium-rare perfection, was extremely tender and juicy, but the skin wasn't as crisp as I would have liked. The bed of roasted potatoes and mushrooms were really good, too. Descriptive, I know.

Soufflé chaud au Grand Marnier

And for dessert, I opted for the "Soufflé chaud au Grand Marnier." Arriving at the table as a towering mountain dusted with powdered sugar, the piping hot soufflé was delightfully light and not at all too sweet. I haven't had very many soufflés in my life, but this was what I would expect a perfect soufflé to be.


Complimentary madeleines, golden brown and buttery, were the perfect end to a great meal. All in all, my dinner at La Régalade Saint-Honoré was the best value I found during my stay in Paris. Great food, attentive service, and even some smalltalk with the table next to me -- all of these conspired to make this one of my favorite meals of the summer.

La Régalade Saint-Honoré
123 rue Saint-Honoré
75001 Paris

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