Chez Andre – Beef Tartare and Escargot

The first night in France, we went straight to one of my favorite restaurants in Paris: Chez Andre
Chez Andre is a bistro located in a small stylish neighborhood on the right bank. In Paris, a bistro has a smaller menu and is slightly more formal than a brasserie, which is known for its huge menu and large dining room. This bistro in particular looks like it came right out of a movie – casual but still nice, small, with mirrored walls and dark banquetes. We sat down next to a couple chattering away in French and it aboslutely felt like a neighborhood hangout. 
*Disclaimer..all the places I went were probably touristy. Here’s the thing…everywhere I go in NYC is also touristy. That’s because, like NYC, Paris is a city whose main industry is tourism. Unless you schlep to the outskirts or – more likely – to another city altogether, you are going to hear English in the restaurant you choose. There will be an English menu and you can probably hear some other languages being spoken around you. That doesn’t mean the restaurants aren’t delicious or authentic. So relax and ENJOY. *
Bread in France is like nothing else in the world. Simple and outstanding. Crust that crackeles and releases buttery flavors upon crunching, with pliant, slighlty sour interiors. The dark bread was  tangy and dense, made all the better by…
 butter that was so yellow and so fatty it actually coated the inside of my mouth. 
I loved it. 
That’s what she said. 
 Oh no, these aren’t ancient torture devices. These are for…
Escargot
 You hold the shell, slick with butter, with your tongs, and then reach your fork inside to carefully extract…
A snail. Yep, a snail, much like the ones you step on outside. I have heard they were rubbery, fishy, tough…not these. Tender as could be, with a taste similar to mussles (creamy and almost sweet), they were little delivery vehicles for mounds of butter, parsley and garlic. The mixture was so delicious, I was sticking tiny pieces of bread into the shells to absorb the herby, savory sauce long after the meat was gone. Almost criminally hot, I couldn’t even wait to eat them before they properly cooled. My mouth still has a blister. 
So worth it. 
Of course, if you aren’t into snails,you could always get the Bouillabase, salty and fresh, fragrant with saffron and filled to the brim with freshly caught fish and shellfish. 
 Be sure to float a few croutons in there to soak up the winey, delicate broth. Also throw some nutty Gruyere in there with the incredibly potent aioli, which enriches the soup and turns it creamy. By potent i mean garlicky. And by garlicky, I mean delicious. 
 Or you could get the Lentil Salad. Chewy, hearty lentils served cold in a tart and tangy vinaigrette with pickled shallots is both refreshing and satisfying. And, who knows…this may be the last time you eat a vegetarian dish in Paris. Might as well grab the chance. 
Sole Meuniere. 
Sole, lightly battered with just flour and quick sauteed in butter that is -once again-so thick and substantial it forms a sauce substantial enough to coat the back of the spoon. Delicate, incredibly rich and not at all fishy. This is fish for someone who likes fish and hcips – as in, if you don’t like fish, you will probably enjoy it. If you do like fish, you will LOVE it. It is so well made-soft but totally cooked, flaking into neat pieces, its smooth texture contrasting with the crispy, lemony, buttery skin. And if you are in the mood for meat…well, then you get what I ordered:
 Steak Tartare. 
I love steak tartare, and the steak tartarre here is one of the best in Paris. Not overly done up with vegetables or seasonings, this is truly about the meat. The sweet taste of the beef, which is less aged in France than it is in the USA, is incredibly present here. It is fresh and almost light tasting – vegetal, even. You can get the accompaniments on the side and mix it yourself, but let’s face it…you should have had a few glasses of wine by now. Just let them do it so you don’t accidentally drown it in Tabasco. This is one of the few times when I do not want too much spice. Just a bit of pepper, some salt, a few choped shallots and capers and just a DASH of hot sauce to accent the meat’s natural flavor. It is a must order for any meat lover. 
 The fries were not the best – hot and crispy, but wiht an odd coating and no discernable beef-fat flavor (I’m in France, damn it! I want my potatoes fried in animal fat!). 
But those fries were the only disappointment at Chez Andre. The rest of the meal was just exquisite. Expensive, but everything in Paris is. It is comprable in price to other bistros, but far exceeds its peers in terms of friendly service, delicious food and welcoming atmosphere. By the time we left, not a table was free, so make sure you book ahead.
And make SURE you get the beef tartare.

Comments

  1. Sarah says:

    I want to go to Paris! And eat all of those treats.

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