Le Corner

(Paris, FRANCE) After a long day of braving the Metro for the first time; strolling the noisy and cloistered aisles at the world-famous Les Puces (Parisian flea market); riding Les Cars Rouges throughout the city; and suffering through a thoroughly "touristy" lunch near some ancient landmark, we finally decided to wander down the road in search of more authentic fare for dinner. Thankfully, we found Le Corner...

He Fed:
It is a beautiful and mild Sunday evening in the diplomatic area where our hotel (Hotel Raphael, showcased in Wes Anderson's Hotel Chevalier) is located. We walk down Kleber Avenue, away from the Arc de Triomphe, peering curiously into closed shop windows. Many restaurants and brasseries are also closed on Sunday, so we're dubious about finding a decent place. Indeed, we pass up the Corner Cafe because it looks too busy and possible inauthentic. Instead, we head down one more block and are accosted by the owner of another cafe that is clearly catering to the masses, with "American Cheeseburgers" on special. We beat a hasty retreat back to Le Corner to look at their chalkboard. One glance and Juliet declares, "I'm in."

Most Parisians prefer to eat much later in the evening, around 8p, so we are in primetime. A friendly hostess greets us with a smile and some broken English, then shows us to a small table outside on the patio. We sit amongst locals and other tourists (so many different languages swirl around, all at once), perusing the menu. Thankfully, there are translations beneath each entry. We order sparkling mineral water and some decent red house wine to start, which is delivered with delicious crusty bread.

I'm not quite ready to jump in to the world of escargot, foie gras, and various seafood, so I opt for the Travers de porc (pork ribs). They arrive, two very meaty slabs (about a half rack total), slathered in a savory gravy, sprinkled with diced tomatoes and accompanied by a mound of jasmine-infused rice. The ribs slide off the bone, each section thick cut and tender, though not overcooked. Mixed with the gravy, the rice offers a sweet and redolent counterpoint to the deep tones of the meat. It may not be the norm for French diners, but I clean my plate very quickly. I can see myself ordering this meal every day for the entire vacation!

My appetite is a little shaky since the body is on another time zone. Despite that, I opt to try the crème brulée for dessert, with a café (pretty much an espresso). Surprisingly, the dish is a lot less buttery tasting than the brulée I'm used to in the states. You would think the French would add more butter! Perhaps they are just better at making it? At any rate, I finish every silky smooth spoonful, delighting in the way the candied orange peels melt on my tongue. I wash it all down with the hot coffee.

As we pay our bill and watch the friendly waitress flirt with some locals (who puff deeply on French cigarettes and check their iPhones), it feels like we've experienced the real Paris for the first time. The slow walk back to our hotel, while the stars shine benevolently above, is very pleasant with the strong taste of good food still in our mouths.
She Fed:
Despite the six hour time difference, we are ready for dinner. We take a short stroll passing a few cafes and brasseries that don't strike our fancy. At one the menu is very short and the place is nearly empty—never a good sign—and at another, the place is so packed there's no outdoor seating. We've never discussed what our first meal in Paris should be, but I have a feeling we both want to sit at a sidewalk table.

We arrive at the Corner Cafe which has a varied but not intimidating menu, as well as a few open tables on the outdoor sidewalk area. We are seated immediately. When our waitress arrives, Jeremy orders us a carafe of the house red wine and a bottle of sparkling water.

Still feeling tired and out of my element, I want something comforting. What says "home" better than medallion de veau avec parmesan rissoto et champignons? I order with confidence. Actually, I don't really order at all. Instead I say, "I'll have..." and point to it on the menu. I'm not in the mood to embarrass myself by trying to pronounce "medallions of veal with Parmesan risotto and mushrooms" in French. (I should note our waitress is unfailingly polite and friendly throughout the meal. We don't know it yet, but the stereotype of the rude French waiter seems to be a myth.)

My veal arrives perfectly cooked to medium as I requested. Two beautiful medallions perch atop a Parmesan risotto cake, encircled by four roasted mushrooms. I don't wait for Jeremy to get any video, I just start digging in (typical greedy American!). The veal is flavorful, tender, and scented with thyme. Jeremy's ribs are infused with thyme as well, so I may just be "tasting" the aroma from his plat?

The risotto is cooked all the way through and while I prefer it a bit al dente, it is creamy, rich, and comforting. Besides, I'm sitting at a Parisian bistro with my husband; I'm not complaining about a thing tonight! The deeply bronzed mushrooms are the highlight for me. Vanity and lack of language skills are the only things holding me back from ordering a platter of these meaty little babies. They are earthy and sweet from roasting. There's no sauce or wine, it's just intense heat versus mushrooms. Magnifique!

I indulge in a classic French dessert by ordering (and this time I actually speak) the tarte tatin. It is much thicker than I've seen before—the same height as American apple pie. The apples are those classic thin slices and it's quite lovely; not overly and very satisfying.

Good house wine, wonderful French food, the realization that we are finally in Paris, and a bit of jet lag are all too much for me. It's time to toddle back down Avenue Kleber to our hotel for a good night's sleep. The Corner Cafe was everything I had hoped my first dinner in Paris would be.

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