It’s been my custom as a food editor to go to Paris once or twice a year carrying the latest list of hot new restaurants or simply armed with one major tip from a friend of a friend. Given that, how do you explain that 12 years have gone by without my ever going to Petrelle? I have to admit that this is kind of shocking. I did hear about Petrelle a few years back but every time I called it was booked and I can’t usually plan my meals weeks or months in advance.
Petrelle is so good that it is the first place I’ve been to since I closed my restaurant, Lora, that has made me want to open another. And that is saying quite a lot.
The occasion of my visit was the 30th birthday of my friend Monique’s daughter. We arrived at Petrelle and I was thrilled to see a basket of meringues that set my heart beating to a dangerous rhythm. I love meringues and these were nestled among gorgeous cherries and other berries. Quite close by there was a display of seasonal vegetables that I was sure were going to be part of my meal. Wild asparagus, girolles, carrots, and so forth. The chef was in the kitchen with one assistant, so I introduced myself and he seemed quite happy to meet me even though we really didn’t have much chance to talk.
As a first course I had cocotte en oeufs, basically a poached egg in a cream infused with garlic and topped with chives-- so decadent, so delicious. When I asked my French friends about this recipe they described it as Grandmother’s food, in other words, an old comfort food standard. Next we had a crazy salad of artichokes topped with fried basil. But better than that was the blanched wild asparagus topped with sautéed girolles,(a small mushroom a little like a chanterelle and exceptionally flavorful). This was the best spring dish I’ve tasted all season.
We drank a Saint Joseph from Domaine Cheze “Do rée”, a mouthful of apricots, honey and almonds with a perfect acidic finish that went wonderfully with the food. The chef told me he tastes every wine on the list and looks for the best small producers he can find. (I should mention that the ravioli with lobster and asparagus was not great; the dough was too soft, and the sauce overwhelmed the asparagus and lobster. )
Next we drank a 2001 Nuits St George “ Au Bas De Combe” Jean Tardy, followed by an ‘88 Cheval Blanc. Both were amazing but as usual the Cheval Blanc took some time to open up. When it did that intense layer of cherry emerged and I was so happy I forgot about jet lag. I did not take notes on everyone’s next course but I do remember mine: I ordered roasted pigeon which was cooked to perfection.
For dessert I first wanted something that the waiter discouraged me from trying, directing me instead to the frais des bois ( wild strawberries) served with an amazing custard, topped with a sweet crispy cracker. Then came the baskets of meringues, perfectly dry on the outside and chewy on the inside. Yeah, he was right as was everything about Petrelle..
34, rue petrelle
Telephone 01 42 82 11 02