I’d reserved at Joséphine Chez Dumonet upon my arrival in Paris, having read several reviews extolling their bouef bourguignon. Of course, by the time Wednesday evening rolled around, I was exhausted from being a tourist and the prospect of schlepping from my place in the 3me to the 6me was not one I was facing with relish. Plus, I’d started agonizing over my visit after reading this thread over on Chowhound in which a couple complained of terrible service (though, since I am an insufferable snob and Francophile, I figure it’s just Americans being being rubes… Yes, I realize this may be an unfair characterization and I can be pretty rube-like myself. But c’est la vie). It can be a struggle for me to communicate en français sometimes – was I prepared for the stereotypical snooty French waiter experience..?
But the siren call of bouef bourguignon was not to be ignored, so off I went, map and directions in hand, arriving on time without getting lost.
I entered and found a restaurant almost comically French. I don’t mean that as a mockery. Just that if you imagined a French restaurant from a movie, you’d imagine exactly this. The fellow behind the bar greeted me and may have given a bit of a sigh when I announced that I was the reservation for seulement un personne – but certainly nothing alarming. I actually got what I thought was the best seat in the house – the only table next to the curtained window to the street.
After I was seated, I was immediately presented with a glass of vin blanc – perhaps they noticed my hands shaking..? The fellow who presented me with my menu was extraordinarily gracious – I explained my lack of facility with French, he disagreed kindly and proceeded to address me in French that was surely, by design, simplified for my benefit.
Many of the entrées and plats were available in demi portions, which is ideal for all of us Mary Ann Singletons. I ordered artichoke hearts to start, followed by a demi bouef bourguignon, along with a half-bottle of CdR.
A tasty little amuse of cream of zucchini soup appeared shortly. Oh boy – it was delicious and really whet my appetite for the rest of the meal.
The artichoke hearts were lovely – served warm and carefully prepared. Is there anything worse than a sloppily extracted heart that still contains remnants of leaves or choke? This was all heart and a perfect start – though I was extremely tempted to ask the ladies next to me who started with foie grass stuffed morels if I could have a taste – not sure whether that’s considered acceptable here, so I refrained.
And now, the star of the evening, boeuf bourguignon avec tagliatelle. How do you say “swoon” in French? I loved it. The meat was fork-tender and beefy, the sauce rich and wonderfully seasoned, the tagliatelle cooked a bit past al dente, making them a perfectly supple foil for the meat. And, I have to say, I could easily have eaten a full order – though I’m glad I didn’t. The demi portion was just right, given the richness of the meat. The food lived up to the atmosphere, in terms of feeling quintessentially (and I suppose stereotypically – which I don’t mean in a bad way) French.
At some point, I had to use the john (le jean?) and as I sauntered to la toilette, it appeared there was a large contingent of well-off Americans in attendance (i.e. exactly the type who’d stay in Saint-Germain-des-Prés – this is not meant as a judgement, simply an observation. Well, OK, maybe I’m judging a little..). I, of course, was much more interested in making up a story for the French people seated next to me. At first I thought it was mother and father with their young adult daughters – but toward the end of the meal there were numerous very official looking papers (yet strangely, mostly filled out in long hand) and a check for €10.000 floating around. VERY SUSPICIOUS! Actually, they were quite charming, and we chatted a bit – they were very curious about my septum piercing and thought it was hilarious when I told them I needed a large ring to match my large nose…
And next, un soufflé au Grand Marnier . Oh, did I forget to mention that..? Yes, I ordered the souffle. It was not inexpensive – but, hey, it’s Paris. It was served with a tiny glass of Grand Marnier and an extremely generous serving of (I think) Sauternes – I simply asked the waiter for a glass of “un bon vin dessert, pas trop cher.” And he obliged me…
I enjoyed both my meal and my evening immensely. Sure, it was a little on the pricey side (about €90 including wine) but it exceeded my wishes for a “traditional” French meal – hearty, delicious, something that felt like it couldn’t exist anywhere but France. I toddled off from Chez Dumonet, happy and full and reveling in the decadence of finishing dinner at 11PM.