Royal Madeleine Bistro – Steak Frites near the Paris Opera House

The opera area of Paris is one of the many hearts of the city. The beautiful opera house, crowned with gilded angels, is a hub of shopping and eating. Restaurants abound, but that does not mean that they are all delicious. On the contrary, many of them are tourist traps – places that serve spaghetti bolognese alongside gyros alongside martinis. A touristy lunch is okay every now and then, but let’s not make a practice of it, shall we?
Of course, if you know to turn down a tiny street called Rue du Chevalier Saint-George, you will arrive at one of the best bistros in Paris.
The Royal Madeleine is a small bistro done in the traditional French manner. Dark wood, white tablecloths, small bar and the knowledge that you will order several courses and spend a good three hours there, eating and gossiping with your friends and family.
 Rose Champagne
Rose is my favorite champagne. It always has some pinot noir or pinot meuneir grapes in there, rounding out the crisp acidity of the chardonnay grapes. It is slightly sweet, but not overly sugary at all. And it is best ordered in multiples of two – meaning, you shouldn’t have just one glass. Go for 2 or 4.
 Poppyseed Breadsticks
Crispy, buttery, flaky sticks coated in nutty, slightly bitter poppyseeds. Perfect to bring out the fruity, minerally notes of the champagne. 
Peasant bread. Tangy, pliant, wheaty, with a crisp crust.
 Amuse Bouche – Celery Root Soup
This was a perfect amuse bouche – it was a tiny shot of something creamy, rich, and hearty. The soup, tasting like a cross between celery and a baked potato, would have been far too heavy for a full sized course. As an amuse, it was decadent and whet my appetite. It left me wanting more. 
That’s what she said.
 Foie Gras d’Oie and de Canard with Raisin Chutney. 
This dish paired goose foie gras(left)with duck foie gras(right). It really showed the differences between the livers. The duck foie gras was a bit stronger in taste – more minerally and gamy. It also had less fat and more of a meaty texture. The goose foie was far fattier and smoother, with a more mild taste and the consistency of room temperature butter. 
 I preferred the goose foie gras, especially when pairing it with the sweet and tart chutney to cut through the unctuousness of the liver. 
 Charcuterie Plate with Adouillette, Salami and Rillettes.
All the items here were housemade, except for the sweet butter, the tart cornichons and the cocktail onions that burst with brine upon contact with my teeth. 
Andouillette -my first time having these intestine sausages, and likely my last time. Overpoweringly smokey with a slightly acrid taste. I could hardly taste any meat, it was more like inhaling a mouth of cigarette smoke.
Salami – peppery, porky, fragrant with what might have been juniper berries. It was far less salty or garlicky than the Italian salami I have had, and went well with the nose-searing mustard that went alongside the dish.
The rillettes – pork cooked in its own fat until it becomes tender, the consistency of pulled pork – came topped with the traditional fat cap. Some people throw away the fat cap, but it is infused with sweet porkiness that goes so well with the savory spices and meatiness of the pork meat underneath…yeah, I spread it on my bread instead of butter. 
I love pork fat. 
 Artichokes with Vinaigrette
Artichokes must be in season in France this time of year, because we found them on almost every menu we saw. I LOVE artichokes but rarely make them because they are so annoying to clean. After eating these, I realized that I will have to get over that. These were the best part of the artichokes, the crowns. Meaty, tender but not soft, with a naturally salty taste. It was filling and satisfying in the way that portobello mushrooms are – almost a meat substitute. Paired with the sharp vinaigrette, it was an example of artichokes at their finest.
 Steak Frites with Bearnaise. 
The best frites I had in Paris. Fresh, hand cut, with a thick golden crust that hid steaming, fluffy interiors. The fries were done in beef fat, that much was clear. They had a deep, round taste that only comes from cooking potatoes in animal fat. The bearnaise, one of my favorite sauces, was thick enough to coat a spoon and filled with sharp, licorice-y tarragon. And the steak…
See how blurry this picture is? That is because I was involved in a love affair at the time it was taken. A love affair with this steak. Cooked a perfect medium rare, with a thin, salty crust that surrounded a soft but not mushy center, incredibly tender and filled with pure beefy flavor. This was a perfect steak, and an exemplary example of what beef should be – wild tasting, robust and utterly satisfying.
This whole meal was utterly satisfying. As far as French prices go, it was comparable with other upscale bistros – meaning, the prices are sky high for Americans, but reasonable for Paris. The service was enthusiastic, sweet and exactly what you want out of a special meal. We were not rushed or ignored, and were treated to some of the best food we had in Paris.