Friday, November 18, 2011

Goodbye, Paris (Le Comptoir du Relais)

Croque Monsieur

Okay, so I'm finally writing about my last meal in Paris from this summer. After spending the better part of the morning and early afternoon at the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, and Sacré Coeur, I wanted to squeeze in one last proper meal in Paris before boarding my train back to the UK. However, finding a restaurant to eat at on a summer Sunday afternoon is actually quite difficult. Many restaurants -- and other businesses, too, for that matter -- are closed on Sundays. Add to that the fact that many businesses close for several weeks at the end of July and August, and you end up with very few restaurants open for business to many summertime tourists. Passing many shuttered restaurants and cafés, I wandered around a bit aimlessly until I stumbled upon Le Comptoir du Relais, a bustling place that I remembered reading about during the time I was planning out my trip to Paris. Deciding not to chance finding another open restaurant, I opted to eat here in spite of the rather intimidating all-French menu.

Foie Gras

I was seated outside, and, after struggling fruitlessly to make sense of the menu, I ended up ordering two dishes that sounded familiar enough to me. As if I hadn't had enough foie gras from the previous day at Christophe and   Café Constant, I decided to start off with another plateful of unadulterated cholesterol and fat duck liver. Two hefty slices of liver were plated with a wedge of dijon-topped lettuce and an apple-like spread, both of which helped to cut through the richness of the liver. While I would have preferred brioche to have accompanied the foie gras as opposed to the toasted baguette, the dish was tasty lip-smackingly good nonetheless. While PETA might call foie gras a "delicacy of despair," I can assure you that I was feeling nothing but pure joy and elation as I devoured every last bit of foie gras. Suck it, PETA.

Unable to make sense of the main courses listed on the menu, I went with the safe choice and simply ordered a Croque Monsieur. In retrospect, this was a bad call on my part, as I probably could have asked the waitress for help in picking out a dish more exciting than something that amounts to nothing more than a glorified (albeit tasty) ham and cheese sandwich. Slices of ham, cheese, and bechamel sauce were sandwiched between two slices of golden brown brioche. Was it good? Sure. But was it what I wanted for my last meal in Paris? Probably not.

Coffee Crème Brûlée

As I noted in a previous entry, one aspect of Parisian dining that I am a huge fan of is the close seating arrangements. While most Amuh-ricans probably would not enjoy sitting an arm's length away from the neighboring table (not to mention that most Americans probably can't fit into such tight quarters, either), I appreciate the intimacy that this arrangement affords, especially in sparking conversation among diners. To the table next to me, there was an American student who, like me, was doing some solo traveling through Europe, and at the adjacent table, there was a family from from Brussels where the husband, who, by the way, looked like the spitting image of Vin Diesel, had actually lived near Union Square for a couple of years. Whereas I would have found it odd and uncomfortable to talk with strangers over a meal prior to my visit to Paris, I had grown accustomed to this practice over a matter of days, and I found it added so much more to the overall dining experience. In fact, it was on the recommendation of the American student sitting next to me that I ordered dessert, a Coffee Crème Brûlée.

Think about how delicious crème brûlée is on its own, and then add to that the soothing touch of a smooth and rich coffee flavor. If there was ever a dessert to call luxurious, this would be it. Silky smooth and oh-so-decadent, this was the dessert of my coffee-loving dreams and was the perfect ending to my three-day weekend in Paris.

And with that, I bid Paris adieu. A short visit to be sure, but I still managed to see many of the city's most famous landmarks and sights, not to mention the fact that I ate, to put it mildly, very well. Although I probably won't be returning to Paris anytime in the near future, I will make sure that I do make it back to the City of Lights sometime down the road. Beautiful food, attractions, art, and people -- if there's one thing I learned over the course of my visit, it's that Anthony Bourdain had it right all along: the French really don't suck.

Le Comptoir du Relais
6 Carrefour de l'Odeon
75006 Paris

1 comment:

  1. I think the Sandwich was a good call. You had 3 courses of classic french dishes, all of which look and sound fantastic. A fitting adieu.