La Pulperia, Paris.

June 2013.

I came upon this through a journalist online article about dreamy wandering round Paris. In the event, I had come into the city from Beaune with two cases of burgundy I somehow managed to temporarily hide in the Gare de Lyon baggage check so I was traveling relatively light and didn’t mind switching around on the Metro. I had made a reservation which probably wasn’t quite necessary. They have two sittings: 8 PM and 10 PM, but on this late spring Saturday night a few seats were still available.

Finding my way to the place (Metro stop Voltaire, surely a bad omen) it was near the end of a dirty street full of hard-ass black guys getting hammered in small bars. There were a few sidewalk tables, and the proprietor was out front to welcome me. Stepping inside, a pretty lady smiled from behind the bar and I was tempted to accept his suggestion to climb up on one of the stools and just eat there but I gently demurred and got a little wooden table along the side. This is not a big room: about 35 seats including the bar. To my right was a wonderfully unaffected French family with three gentle teenage boys. I watched them all carving away at their steaks.

I didn’t have any problem with the menu because there was ris de veau billed as crispy for a starter, and duck. I promptly ordered both. Wine was not so easy. They had a few items by the glass, but for the dinner I was expecting I wanted reasonable-quality burgundy, so I went for a full bottle of an Aloxe-Corton village from some never-heard-of producer. It was €75, and as soon as I ordered it the proprietor told me in English that with that bottle I could stay all night. Fair enough. if I put that bottle away on top of my earlier sidewalk cocktail they would need to make up a bed for me.

A lamb pate amuse-bouche with herbs arrived with its little gherkins. Just a reasonable amount of cutting-up (not puréed), unmistakable lamb flavour (so often the meat just gets lost in a pate), and enough fat to deliver the goods . The ris de veau were simple but perfect (why wouldn’t everyone  do them just like this? the chef seemed to be asking in absentia) , crispy-fried but soft inside with cooked spinach and raw watercress. With hand gestures I told the proprietor that it was over the top, and he said in English “I know, I know.” The duck plat (as I find is usual, maybe because one is always starving for the first course) didn’t quite measure up to the entrée, but the standard was very high. It was served with duck liver but not foie gras, and  hot-roasted little onions and herbs which I found hard and tasteless so they had to be put aside. There was a lovely reduction sauce and the duck was perfectly cooked so smelling the burgundy and enjoying the fun informal ambiance I was very pleased.

The little-bit outrageous cost had to do with having to buy a whole bottle of wine for one person. The wine, by the way, was an obviously competent village burgundy smelling of sweet flowers and jammy preserved fruits, but sugar-predominant in the mouth. A very pretty wine but probably not on the level of the stuff I had been tasting over the past few days. It was €75 ($100 approximately) and no way in hell would you get that kind of wine in a restaurant in Vancouver for that kind of price, but at least you would normally expect to split it in two as you total up the bill. The final €125 seemed reasonable for a couple, but I still think it was good value, considering the quality of food which could only be obtained in a high-end place chez moi, and I’d rather have the informality of a bistro if I’m going to tuck into delicious treats like the ones I enjoyed here.

One of the least a hundred that are comparable in this gorgeous monster of a city, but if you don’t have other advice, you could do worse than check this one out. 8.2

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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