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Frenchie: Bar à Vins

Pia Mileaf-Patel

This is a special category I'm going to call "Get Your Parents To Pay."

If you ever find yourself wandering through the streets of Paris, or if you ever spend weeks researching and planning out and micromanaging every second of your trip there, absolutely, positively find some time go to Frenchie for dinner. The restaurant has two seating’s, one at 7, and one at 9:30, and it is nearly impossible to get a reservation, so if you don’t mind being embarrassed by your mother, waiting outside the window for half an hour before the restaurant opens, in the cold street, you should go to the no-reservation wine bar across the street. The food is definitely worth the mild humiliation.

            We got there at 6, when the wine bar opens at 7, and I begged and pleaded to get my mom to walk around the neighborhood a few times. Finally, at 6:30 she got very nervous that it would fill up and insisted we stand outside the wine bar. I have to give her credit, because by 6:45, there were about eight groups of people waiting to get in. They opened at 7 promptly, and seated us at a high table, next to the window looking into the small, busy kitchen. To my excitement, we could see everything they were making, and all of the kitchen tools they used [for those of us who cook as well as eat {not that there’s anything wrong with being a professional eater, eatist?}]

            The waiter came over and helped my mom pick out some wine, speaking in a mixture of French and English. Being fourteen, and speaking about four words of French, I just smiled. After all, it is a wine bar.

            The bar’s menu is composed of small-ish dishes that are meant for sharing, organized in categories of meat, vegetables, fish, cheese and desserts. We ordered bread with truffle butter, calamari coleslaw, prosciutto, and a salsify dish {a vegetable that’s a mix of a carrot and asparagus, as the waiter described it}. The whole atmosphere of the restaurant is cool, with raw brick walls, and dim lighting. It is small and modern, and the waiters were very nice, not pressuring us to eat quickly. Try and get there early and sit by the kitchen, because it was my favorite part of being there.

            The first thing to come was the bread with truffle butter. Among the very popular pulled pork sandwiches coming out of the kitchen like a factory, we saw one chef making our dish. First, he cut two thick slices of bread, buttered them, and put them on the grill, with a heavy bowl on top, to steam them a little bit while they were being toasted. Then, he put a dark sauce on them, and plated them on a board next to a scoop of truffle butter. Finally, he microplaned {those shaver thingies} five ounces of black truffle over the butter, and sent it to our table.

            This was maybe one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. The bread was chewy and crisp, and buttery, and the truffle flavor was everywhere. The restaurant was bustling with foodies, chatting and equally appreciating their meals. After one bite of this, my embarrassment from waiting outside with my mom had completely disappeared.

            Next, we had a beautiful plate of prosciutto, with a citrusy sauce, and micro frisee they had growing in little pots on the windowsill of the kitchen, along with the micro sorrel, and other miniature greens, which showed up in dishes throughout the meal, including dessert. The calamari coleslaw was sliced the long way and the chef mixed it with the vegetables with long, tweezer-tongs, which I decided were absolutely necessary to have in my kitchen. The salsify dish was stewed down in a sauce with morel mushrooms, and was cooked perfectly tender.

            However, my mom noticed the distinct smell of bacon pop up in the restaurant. There was nothing with bacon on the menu, because I can assure you that if there were, it would have been the first thing I ordered. We peered into the kitchen window and saw Greg Marchand, who set up the restaurant and wrote its cookbook, and one other chef making a new dish with the salsify, and topping it with the heavenly food of the gods, aka bacon. I thought it was interesting that this was going on in the wine bar, and not the restaurant side. My mom couldn’t help herself and asked the waiter if we could have a plate of it.

            The mystery dish ended up being the salsify from the other dish, marinated in the same sauce, but stirred with crunchy apples and plated on top of a yogurt-y sauce. And of course, topped with crisp bacon. It was so good, and if {when!} you go, look out for things floating by, that are not on the menu.

            After that delicious meal, we had to order dessert. We got a lemon tart, which we got to see through the window get sprinkled with powdered sugar and blowtorched to form a caramelized layer, but the other dessert was the star. It was a crème fraiche panna cotta, with avocado mousse and chocolate crumble on top. We saw him make it, everything from testing the panna cotta to make sure it was the right texture to come out of the mold, to dusting the chocolate on top. After he put the panna cotta in the dish, he took out a homemade whipped cream canister. On the menu, it had just said avocado, and my mom saw the canister and said, “Please don’t come out green.”

            It was. I had my doubts, but when we tried it, it was perfect! The avocado mousse wasn’t too avocado-y, and was sweet, but just not too sugary, and the chocolate crumble added a balance to the creamy dessert.

            It was a really fun, and really, really delicious dinner at Frenchie, in a great, sophisticated atmosphere. I hope you have a chance to go!