Eating Well In Paris Second Stop At Chez Tante Alice

Eating Well In Paris Second Stop At Chez Tante Alice



Eating out right in​ Paris: in​ this second installment of​ my new series of​ articles, I introduce you to​ Tante Alice, a​ fine restaurant which deserves a​ place in​ the pantheon of​ French provincial cuisine. Yummy!



Life after Chez Georges

In an​ article written earlier on the ‘Eating well in​ Paris’ theme, I described the grandiose experience I had at​ ‘Chez Georges’. The owners of​ Chez Georges carry the French cuisine flag with pride, and their number is​ outstanding.

After such a​ gratifying meal I was wondering who could rise to​ the challenge of​ getting my taste buds as​ excited. Rescue came in​ the form of​ a​ dinner invitation by my partners in​ crime, Angelo and Vinni.

“To Tantalis!” was their battle cry.

Tantalis... or​ not

Tantalis. With such a​ name I didn’t know what to​ expect really. Tantalis does not mean anything in​ French. it​ sounded like a​ coined word, made up maybe to​ don some Nouvelle Cuisine joint. to​ me, Nouvelle Cuisine means product puffery, very little substance, and high dollars. Not so promising. Yet I rallied their flag, thinking they would know better.

Arriving at​ the scene I realized I had erred in​ my linguistic assumptions: Tantalis wasn’t at​ all -- Tante Alice it​ had always been.

Now, Tante means aunt in​ French, so Aunt Alice. Alice is​ one of​ those names which girls used to​ receive in​ the 1930s, but which very few people dare giving their offshoot today. Aunt Alice brings back pictures of​ the old relative from the boondocks adorned with an​ unlikely (and unsightly) moustache, but endowed with a​ golden motherly heart. The kind of​ aunt who used to​ serve you and your friends delicious home-made berry jam on large slices of​ fresh bread at​ the end of​ a​ mid-summer day.

Outside and inside

There we were, at​ Tante Alice’s door. From the outside, the place makes a​ favorable impression. The building is​ modern, the restaurant sign above the door is​ drawn in​ a​ classic font, in​ a​ deep burgundy red. The street environment is​ nice, with numerous clean-looking stores. We are in​ the Southern section of​ the 10th district, about 10 minutes on foot from Place de la République.

Patrons entering the place face the wooden bar. The decor appears tastefully simple. The abundant use of​ wood and the Vichy-style tablecloth reminded me of​ a​ Normandy inn. Though the restaurant room isn’t that large, tables are far enough apart from each other that you may be comfortable having a​ private conversation with your better half or​ love interest.

We were welcomed by one of​ the two owners of​ the restaurant, and speedily led to​ our table. There is​ a​ second room upstairs, which I was told is​ used at​ lunch time when the neighboring businesses’ staffers invade the place. it​ was about 7:30 pm, and at​ this time the first floor operated at​ 80% capacity. The noise level was very acceptable, local patrons were quiet.

Ordering

As we sat down our hostess handed us over the menu and asked whether we wanted to​ start with the aperitif, the lightly alcoholic beverage which French people usually consume right before lunch and dinner to​ open up their appetite. I ordered a​ Kir Royal, a​ mix of​ blackcurrant cream and champagne. The owners of​ Chez Tante Alice offer their own version of​ a​ mint cocktail, which my friend Vinni ordered.

Tante Alice’s menu is​ simple, with a​ selection of​ 5 to​ 7 fares per section. Every dish on the menu spells French terroir cuisine, viz. traditional cuisine from the countryside. For appetizer I opted for a​ dish of​ pan-seared cepes (boletus). My entree would be a​ refined delicacy: a​ pan-fried steak of​ duck liver.

While we sipped on our aperitif, our second hostess came to​ take our order. She was the chef, and she lent herself amicably to​ our questioning. The lady is​ of​ good advice.

Did we want wine? Yes please, a​ half-bottle of​ a​ light red Reuilly or​ Chinon –both wines are from the Touraine region– to​ accompany our entrees. The chef pointed out that the one we had picked was the most expensive, and we might want to​ re-consider. a​ very honest attitude worth mentioning in​ a​ business known to​ rake in​ hefty profits on wine orders. We chose to​ stick to​ our half-bottle of​ red Chinon though.

Here comes the food

We had plenty of​ business to​ discuss about with my friends, so we didn’t keep our eyes on the watch. it​ was probably for the better since Tante Alice has a​ rhythm of​ its own. You should not expect record-breaking serving speed. Food is​ prepared on order, so everything takes a​ bit of​ time. My appetizer came in​ just when I was starting to​ be hungry.

Smell and sight are the first senses you use to​ evaluate your meal. Fresh cepes should have a​ very strong earthy odor and taste. Indeed they had. And their look was mouth-watering. My serving was voluminous, something of​ a​ surprise. Go to​ a​ restaurant in​ the French countryside and for the same price you would pay in​ Paris, they serve you three times the quantity of​ food. The portion I was eyeing was worth every dime I would pay for it.

The proof of​ the pudding is​ in​ the eating. My cepes were savory, with rich tones of​ earth and wood. They were pan-seared to​ a​ light black, and as​ juicy as​ they should be. a​ sip of​ light, fruity red wine helped them go down in​ style. What a​ satisfactory start!

The entree

Our entrees came by not too long after we had wiped our plates clean.

The pan-fried steak of​ duck liver is​ a​ French countryside delicacy. Recipes vary from chef to​ chef, but basically the cook dips the raw duck liver in​ flour, pans both sides in​ oil for less than a​ minute (the steak may not be burned); then sets the pan-fried steak aside, throws away the oil, pour a​ bit of​ raspberry or​ balsamic vinegar in​ the pan, and reduces it; then adds a​ base and a​ nut of​ butter, and brings this sauce to​ a​ short boil. The sauce is​ then spread over the steak.

If prepared correctly with excellent ingredients, the steak of​ duck liver melts in​ your mouth. So much so you don’t even have to​ chew it. Its refined taste can easily be overpowered, so it​ is​ served with light sides such as​ artichoke hearts, mango chutney, raisins and cooked apple slices, or​ dried plums.

Tante Alice’s chef has a​ very good hand, and her fried steak of​ duck liver lived up to​ expectations. Its taste was delicate, and it​ melted on the tongue with no chewy parts. The Chinon was a​ good choice to​ accompany it. Some people will prefer a​ white wine such as​ a​ Gewürtztraminer (a wine from Alsace), a​ Loupiac or​ a​ Sauternes (Southwest and Bordeaux wines, respectively).

Dessert and check please

To end up this satisfying meal on a​ cool note, I ordered 3 scoops of​ vanilla and coffee ice cream. The menu describes the vanilla and coffee flavors in​ such terms your curiosity cannot but be titillated. I was not to​ be disappointed: the coffee really tasted like coffee (not like licorice), and the vanilla had a​ very rich natural flavor. I had a​ double espresso to​ top it​ off.

The check came to​ about €35 per person ($43), wine included. For such an​ evening feat, this price was very reasonable. The after-meal was perfect, no digestion problem. The products were fresh, and both our hostesses granted us the right amount of​ attention during the meal.

Chez Tante Alice is​ a​ restaurant I can recommend without any second thought.


Where?
Chez Tante Alice
31-33 rue du Château d’Eau
75010 Paris
Tel: 33 (0)1 42 40 62 34
Lunch and dinner




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