Bistro Rollin Goes to Paris

Twelve Parisian Bistros in Six Days – CAN IT BE DONE?!?

So recently one of my partners (who also happens to be my father!) had one of the best ideas I have heard in quite some time – let’s hop on a plane with our chef and head to Paris for bistro inspiration – to recharge our culinary batteries if you will.

The goal is to hit twelve Parisian bistros in six days, with the focus on the new generation of contemporary bistros that have opened within the last ten years or so, many of which can be found in quiet residential arrondissements, like the 11th and 15th – a hike from the city center for sure but worth it due to their innovation and value.

The reason for this focus is because of the many parallels we see between our Chef Manny Lozano and his decision to take the job at Bistro Rollin and that of many of the “new-gen” chefs in Paris.

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Take for example Afaria, an inexpensive two year old bistro in the 15th arrondissement run by Julien Duboue’, who trained with such top toques as Paris’s Alan Dutournier and New York’s Daniel Bouloud. Unshackled from the constraints of his former positions, Duboue’ is now free to pursue his love of Basque-Landais dishes such as a cheeky boudin noir “napoleon” richly layered with apples or a whole duck breast baked on a bed of grape leaves atop a clay roof shingle.

Now take Bistro Rollin’s chef Manny Lozano, who has been cooking since he graduated from high school, and who also has some serious kitchen creds. March with Wayne Nish, Aureole with Charlie Palmer, and probably most importantly, Sous-Chef at L’Absinthe with Jean-Michel Bergougnoux. With a pedigree like that he easily could have continued to pursue the four-star brass ring, instead he decided to make his next act a move to NYC’s 15th arrondissement (Pelham!), where he can run his own kitchen and pursue his own personal culinary passions – you’re starting to see the similarities between Manny and the new-gen Parisian chefs….oui?

Another interesting aside….Manny’s never been to Paris…has never been anywhere in France for that matter. The birthplace of the cuisine he has come to love and respect and refine with every meal he serves at Bistro Rollin is something he has only read about in magazines, only heard about from other chefs, he’s never been there for heaven’s sake… imagine the impact that this trip will have on him both personally and professionally.

As for me….the only time I have ever been in Paris was as a recent college grad backpacking through Europe, more concerned with where my next beer was coming from than absorbing the culinary landscape. Arthur has probably made close to a 100 trips to France over the last 35 years both for business and pleasure topping them off by living in Paris for six months with Barbara in 2008.

So you have an owner and a chef at a French Bistro in Westchester County New York who for all intents and purposes have never really experienced Paris and all that it has to offer, and another owner with years of experience who will have his own unique perspective on the trip – sounds like it might be a pretty interesting trip to follow – doesn’t it?

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So do it…follow us on our Parisian bistro adventure through our live blogging, photos and tweets. Interact with us on Facebook, point us to places we should see…..sights, sounds, tastes of Paris, anything that you think might enrich our experience…we might not be able to hit them all, but I’ll be damned if we aren’t going to try.

We decided on making the trip in late February, not exactly the height of the tourist season. Arthur’s experience in Paris led him to believe it would be a perfect time to go. Paris is beautiful in winter and if you are lucky enough to get some snow, it can be spectacular in a way that most tourists never see. It is also perfect weather for many bistro dishes. There is also something special about coming in from a cold winter night to a small, comfortable room with great aromas emanating from the kitchen and sitting down to glass of excellent red wine, some wonderful bread and maybe a plate of olives while you peruse the menu in a relaxed and informal setting.

So on to planning, as I mentioned the focus will be on the new wave of Parisian bistros but this does not mean we are going to ignore the old-guard bistros in Paris, because getting a picture of how Parisian bistro dining has evolved over the last ten years HAS to involve getting an idea its roots.

We will also be attempting an early (i.e. 4am) trip to Rungis, the world’s largest wholesale food market outside of Paris, it employs over 15,000 people and is supposedly so huge that you need a car to travel from one building to another.

List of Restaurants under consideration;

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Afaria 15 rue Desnouettes, 15th arrondissement (33/1/4856-1536). Inexpensive. This two-year-old bistro is the brainchild of chef Julien Duboué, who trained with such top toques as Paris’s Alain Dutournier and New York’s Daniel Boulud. The menu changes often but runs to delicious Basque-Landais dishes like cold artichoke soup, fried baby squid, and sea bream with a “spaghetti paella.”

L’Ami Jean 27 rue Malar, 7th arrondissement (33/1/4705-8689). Moderate. Chef Stephane Jego, who worked under bistro wizard Yves Camdeborde, founder of La Régalade (see Article: The New Bistro), serves market-driven southwestern French and Basque cooking. Don’t miss the ravioli stuffed with roast pork and mushrooms, and the wild salmon steak with baby squid.

Auberge Pyrénées Cévennes 106 rue de la Folie-Méricourt, 11th arrondissement (33/1/4357-3378). Moderate. This is a terrific example of a good old-fashioned neighborhood bistro, with sausages dangling from huge beams overhead and antlers mounted on the walls. Expect friendly service, reasonable prices, hearty dishes like cassoulet and veal sweetbreads in port sauce, and Lyonnais specialties such as quenelles de brochet.

Aux Lyonnais 32 rue St-Marc, 2nd arrondissement (33/1/4296-6504). Moderate. Since taking over this famous old bistro in 2002, Alain Ducasse has artfully updated the menu while preserving the soul of the bistro. Lighter dishes like cervelle de Canut—a fresh, soft cheese whipped with herbs and shallots—and poached haddock with lentils in vinaigrette prevail, but there are still plenty of hearty Lyonnais classics.

Le Baratin 3 rue Jouye-Rouve, 20th arrondissement (33/1/4349-3970). Inexpensive. This small, crowded bistro in Belleville, one of the last bohemian neighborhoods in Paris, is a major expedition from the city center, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming the place where chefs like Joël Robuchon and Yves Camdeborde come for a night-off feast of chef Raquel Carena’s fabulous home-style cooking. The daily-changing menu ranges from oxtail braised with citrus fruits to ragout of cod and shrimp with saffron.

Le Bistrot Paul Bert 18 rue Paul Bert, 11th arrondissement (33/1/4372-24-01). Moderate. Chef Thierry Laurent serves some of the best terrine de campagne in Paris at this genial new bistro. Also very good: entrecôte with bone marrow and french fries, duck with pears, and beef cheeks braised in red wine.

Chez Denise 5 rue des Prouvaires, 1st arrondissement (33/1/4236-2182). Moderate. This bistro, also known as La Tour de Monthlhéry, serves trenchermen’s portions of headcheese, charcuterie, roasted marrowbones, and rib steaks with fabulous frites until 5:00 a.m. Boisterous, friendly, and completely Parisian

Chez Georges 1 rue du Mail, 2nd arrondissement (33/1/4260-0711). Moderate. Time stands still at this century-old bistro in the heart of Paris that serves bistro classics like blanquette de veau (veal breast served with a lemony cream sauce), chicken liver terrine, and wonderful cream puffs with hot chocolate sauce

L’Ecailler du Bistrot 22 rue Paul Bert, 11th arrondissement (33/1/4372-7677). Moderate. Sister restaurant to Le Bistrot Paul Bert (see No. 6), this may be the best seafood-oriented bistro in Paris, with impeccable fish at reasonable prices. Try briny Utah Beach oysters from Normandy or a terrific line-caught grilled sole with baby potatoes sautéed in salted butter and fresh tarragon.

L’Epigramme 9 rue de l’Eperon, 6th arrondissement (33/1/4441-0009). Moderate. This tiny place has been a hit ever since it opened two years ago. Chef Pierre Neveuserve’s first-rate contemporary French bistro cooking includes dishes like braised veal with roasted artichokes and duck filet in a jus of blackcurrant liqueur with a side of new potatoes.

Jadis 208 rue de la Croix-Nivert, 15th arrondissement (33/1/4557-7320). Moderate. In French, the name of this popular two-year-old bistro means “in times gone by,” a nod from talented young chef Guillaume Delage to France’s rich culinary heritage. Delage serves a menu that veers between contemporary French bistro cooking—including dishes like escargots in puff pastry with oyster mushrooms and romaine lettuce, and sea bream in a wasabi cream sauce with sweet potato purée—and stalwarts like roast shoulder of lamb with white beans, tomatoes, and black olives.

La Régalade Saint-Honoré 123 rue St-Honoré, 1st arrondissement (33/1/4221-9240). Moderate. At this new branch of La Régalade (see Article: The New Bistro), chef Bruno Doucet’s menu has been a phenomenal hit ever since it opened seven months ago. The fresh tasting and precisely executed cuisine du marché includes dishes like free-range Basque pork belly on a bed of lentils.

Some background;

Eighteen months ago, Barbara and Arthur Bratone opened Bistro Rollin, a French bistro, in Pelham, NY. It was June 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession and they had never owned a or managed a restaurant before, but they had a love of great restaurants and great food, and plenty of business experience and confidence that there was real niche for a casual but beautiful restaurant in Southern Westchester, serving terrific French comfort food at reasonable prices…if they did everything right and got a little lucky. The first step, without which there would have been no second step, was to find an exceptional chef who was also the kind of person they would want to work with every day.

This was their first bit of luck. Anybody who has done any hiring knows it is more art than science and therefore never predictable. But the Bratones found Manny Lozano and they have been an inseparable team ever since. Just exactly what the Bratone’s were looking for, In June 2010, Barbara and Arthur convinced their son, Paul to quit the financial service arena and join them in managing Bistro Rollin. Now, the three Bratones, run the front of the house, roaming the dining room seeing to their guests needs while Chef Lozano is turning out food that is rated among the best in the county.

Second years are tough on restaurants. You are no longer the new guy that everybody wants to check out, somebody else is. This is the time when you have to put down your roots and win your guests one meal at a time. The Bratone’s have worked on improving every aspect of their restaurant and Arthur Bratone felt it was time to go back to Paris, where he and his wife had spent a lot of time, but his son and Chef Lozano had never been. Barbara generously agreed to man (or more accurately “woman”) the store, so the three of them could arrange a trip to visit some of the great bistro’s in Paris. Bistros are thriving in Paris. A recent article in Saveur Magazine, “The Best Bistros in Paris” lists twenty-three great bistros, some of them perfecting the great bistro classics, escargot bourguignon, roast chicken, cassoulet, and others working much more on the fringes with adaptations of classics and new dishes altogether but always in the same warm, small, simple but delicious format.

The game plan is to try and visit twelve great bistros during their week in Paris. The selection was done through a collection of resources. Arthur has several good friends living in Paris and he drew on their suggestions, but they all read everything they could find on the food scene in Paris, to make sure that they didn’t miss something exceptional that might be happening off the beaten track. Then they contacted several bistros to see if they could get some access to the kitchens, though their main interest was eating, tasting, experiencing. Arthur is the photographer in the group but everybody brought a camera, with the idea of each of them photographing whatever caught their eye, recognizing that it would probably be quite different for each of them. Each of them committed to writing something every day, a three-person blog, from a chef’s perspective on his first visit to greatest culinary city in the world, and from a father and son team new to the restaurant business but both with a passion for great food.

Thanks for reading,

Paul Bratone

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