26 September 2009

I HEART Bistrots

My first love for french cuisine started with Je Suis Gourmand at Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. I still miss its quaint vibe, friendly staff and oh-so delicious entrees particularly, the cheese onion tart salad. A major plus, although I'm uncertain if it has changed, are the reasonable prices and portions which always left my stomach and wallet feeling satisfied.  Little did I know that my dining experience at Gourmand would be a prelude to my life of bistrot-feasting in France. 


                                            duck magret with melon slices

 


Here, bistrots are everywhere--uh, obviously!?  It is a very common type of French dining dating back to 19th century which initially started as a wine and jambon beurre (ham and butter in a baguette) joint for the workers. Perhaps it's safe to say that it is like how ihaw-ihaw(or a Chicken House) is to us, Pinoys.  



                                   
To give a brief history, bistrot was coined from the Russian word bystro, meaning "quickly", during Russia's invasion of Paris in 1815  and naturally, its restaurants, too. Another theory just as apt is from the French word bistrouille which is brandy mixed with coffee. Both sound correct to me but there is much more to highlight than just its rapid service and loyal coffee-drinkers.  Especially nowadays where we have bistrots owned by former sous-chefs of Michelin star restaurants producing fine gastronomique quality food for less than 40! And it is these type of bistrots that I remain loyal to any day over those fancy, trendy restaurants offering stiff dining experiences. 



                              at Swann et Vincent, my first date with the hub        



Bottom line, I enjoy its cozy, casual and almost rustic setting. I mean who wouldn't want to feel as if they are back home in their mom's country-style kitchen for a Sunday lunch?

I relish the first moment of entering a bistrot in France. Its space is perfectly small; the wooden tables are arranged close together that it could pass as a communal dinner party; there is a friendly noise of chatter among the diners that pretty much replaces the house music; the nearly tipsy state of the guests rubs off a Friday-evening feel to the restaurant's ambiance and the best is the lingering aroma of long-cooked stews infused with melted butter and fresh-baked bread. Aaahhh, incroyable (incredible)! 



                                               a typical bistrot set-up



Needless to say, the food plays the starring role in a bistrot spectacular. It is comforting, hearty and has subtle touches of innovation with its presentation and choice of ingredients in season. 


                      an unforgettable goat cheese salad with artichokes



                                          Autumn  parmentier of lamb confit   



                                           chevre salad with bacon


                         another goat cheese salad with strawberry dressing



Usually, they ask if you would like to have an apéritif (cocktail, alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink) while either waiting for your table and/or menu ( la carte) or menu chalkboard .  



One time, my husband was, for some reason(or not), in celebratory mode and ordered absinthe: the potent, classic way. Towards the end of our meal with the help of a bottle of wine, his brain was almost ab-sent. Moderation is key, readers!



   order wines from the region you are visiting: a bottle from Vierzon, Centre region of France



In most bistrots, it is also a custom to serve pica-pica like olives or plainly, bread, before ordering. The French also like their formule , our version of 'combo meals', which is an order of either an entree+main or main+dessert or sometimes, all 3 for a bargain price. Lunch formule could be from 18-25 while dinner is approximately 30-40.  


  French-Basque entrées at our favorite bistrot, Le Troquet, located in the 15th arr


                                Summer Pot-au-feu beef stew with truffles



                                                                  calamares


                                 coeur de filet de beef sur charlotte de potatoes

Also, they have the degustation which serves you 6 different plates (or less) for 40; the endpoint being--stuff yourself good! Lord, we did this before and had to refuse the 6th plate --dessert--because it was too much for our over-bloated stomachs. 



 
                              Vanilla macaron strawberries gariguette                         

Surprised with our refusal, the servers with great concern had to clarify if there was a problem with their food. Ha, ha. Moderation, where were you?

Finally, bistrots are reasonably priced considering the quality of service and food that goes along with it.  

So if you are a bistrot-lover like me, please do me the favor of sharing some of your favorites as I would love to try them out one day. Whether it is in Manila, Paris, New York or elsewhere, trust that I will always stay true to them, bistros, and be its #1 diner (together with my husband).


Useful Tips:
  • Tap water is potable so don't be ashamed to ask for une carafe d'eau (pitcher of water)
  • Always check if they accept your credit card (normally VISA, hardly American Express)
  • Reserve in advance as bistrots, especially the good ones, are always full!
  • Tips are not a mandatory %  like in the US so leave the amount you wish. If we are satisfied with the overall meal and service, my husband and I like to give 2-3 euros. To each his own.  
  • For a listing of top bistrots in Paris, check out this link (le top 5 des meilleurs bistrots parisiens). Our all-time favorite, Le Troquet, lands in the #1 spot.
  • To locate your bistrot via Google Maps, click on my entry "Locate a spot in Paris now!" and you will get directions in a snap.









11 comments:

Pilly Willy said...

what seems to be duck does not look like duck and it amazes me...oooh!!! inasal!!! my cup of tea!!!

Pilly Willy said...

i know what that last picture is!!! wait..i know it!!! they sell it in Bizu...um...MACAROONS!!! right? wrong? hahaha, theyre so nice. they asked if you didnt like theyre food.

Rachel M. said...

mmhhh...I don't think I can read your blog entries unless I can guarantee a good French meal at one of the brasseries here in NYC...

The Happy Spectator said...

Pilly Willy, I love BIZU's macarons!
Rachel, what's that Sunday brunch place you took me to before? That was yummerz.

Tricia Matoto-DeSanto said...

love the last post on bisTROTS! sarap sabihin! bisTROTS!!! sarap rin kainin ang mga kodakan mo!!!!! miss our iron chef nights in the bangers!!!!! kisses to your hubbers.

The Happy Spectator said...

don't worry, we'll do the bang-bangerz soon, hopefully! thanks dol.

Star said...

this is becoming a fattening BLOG than a Paris/French blog! hehehe Well, we can't deny how good it is to eat in France. They do live to eat! =P

abba napa said...

le troquet ! i fondly miss :)

Ryan said...

I relish the first moment of entering a bistrot in France. Its space is perfectly small; the wooden tables are arranged close together that it could pass as a communal dinner party; there is a friendly noise of chatter among the diners that pretty much replaces the house music; the nearly tipsy state of the guests rubs off a Friday-evening feel to the restaurant's ambiance and the best is the lingering aroma of long-cooked stews infused with melted butter and fresh-baked bread. Aaahhh, incroyable (incredible)! ....Wonderful description THS! I would have to agree that lunches in Bistrots at 18-25eur are the best! Those formules? Bang for the buck and great for any tourist wanting to sample affordable yet quality french cuisine. BON APPETIT!

Kat Palanca said...

I'm hungry! and it's midnight here in Manila! I wish you started this whole blog thing when I visited you! It would have been such great help for us tourists! Then again, we had you guys as our tourist guides so what more could we have asked for! French food has always been my fave cuisine next to Jap....i bet you didn't know that about me! Question lang....the chairs are so damn small in those bistrots....what happens if you're fat? Do they have special chairs for you just like they have high chairs for babies? Wasn't Louis XVI fat?

The Happy Spectator said...

thanks ryan!
katrina, yes louis xvi was on the porky side. funny you mention it now that i am reading marie antoinette's bio. seriously, hardly anyone BIG here. they are stick-thin.