The opposite of a typical French dinner – no choices…

19 Sep

I find myself continuing to apologize for one thing or another – this time, it’s for posting our meals ‘out of order’ – I’m going through our pictures and trying to reconstruct the experience so that I can blog about it in chronological order, but to no avail – I’m just not as organized as I think I am.

This post is about our last dinner in Paris before heading out to French wine country.  As you get by now, French meals – especially dinner, are composed of a banyan tree of decision branches to navigate…what to drink, what to start with, what you want for a main course, the wine list…..on and on and on.

This post is about the opposite of all of that – we chose to visit Le Relais de Venise as our last dinner in Paris before heading to Champagne the next morning.  For those of you who enjoy the famous Gene & Judes hot dogs in River Grove, IL – you’ll see the similarity.  Just as Gene & Judes has been serving hot dogs and only hot dogs since the late 50’s, Le Relais de Venise has only one thing available – they don’t have a menu and don’t have a wine list.  They just serve steak frites – and that’s your only option to eat.  They do ask you a couple things when you sit down, they ask you what you’d like to drink and how you’d like your steak.

So – quite the departure from your typical French dinner at your typical French restaurant.  Also, you all get my penchant for classic things.  This is as classically French as you can get.  Steak Frites.

You can get Steak frites at almost any restaurant or brasserie in Paris of course.  They are probably all pretty darned good.  But in order for a restaurant to serve ONLY steak frites and to give you no other choices – they had better do it well.  Also – one of my litmus tests as to whether I made the right choice to eat there, are there locals in the place?  I really hate eating at place where ‘only’ tourists go.  I love going to places where the locals frequent – and here at Le Relais de Venise, there’s plenty of locals waiting in line to come in to the small restaurant to sit down to what I consider some of the best steak frites in Paris.

The first time I came here was over 10 years ago – again, with the CME when we first began to integrate with the GL-API in the early days of GLOBEX.  Bill Jenks was the CIO at the time, and he took me here.  I couldn’t recall the name of the restaurant, and had to reach out to him for a reminder – thank Bill.  Turns out that there are now multiple locations – and happily, there’s one in New York and London.  So – if you can’t get to Paris – you can probably get to New York soon and check it out for yourself until you get to the original location in Paris.

They take no reservations, so there’s actually a line outside the restaurant.  The waitresses are surly and scream outside the door asking “who’s got a party of 3 or 4?” – and of course, they only scream in French – so brush up on your French before you head here.  The weather was perfect, so we had a nice time waiting for the line to dwindle down before we were seated.  (The line moves pretty quickly – unlike other French restaurants – they sit you down, they feed you, and they give you your check to get the next party seated)

Once seated – you’ll be asked what you’d like to drink – I point to a small bottle of St. Emillion Bordeaux – and in English – ask for our steaks to be done medium-rare.  The waitress, who could work as easily her or at Ed Debevic’s highly suggests ‘rare’ instead of medium – so we take her advice and order our steaks rare.  Take comfort in that ‘rare’ here is not really rare, but rather more medium or medium rare – so don’t worry.

Your meal comes pretty quickly – and here’s the twist: it is really only 1/2 of your meal.  That’s because your steak is pretty big – and the portion of frites that get piled onto your plate is even bigger.  And the frites are sooooooooooooo good.  I notice other people in the place, and they are all devouring every bit of their servings – even the petite, beautiful ladies that look like all they endure on is salads and a glass of Perrier.  So – off we go, diving into our steak frites – the sauce on the steak is a ‘secret’ and is something the owner of the restaurant claims is the secret of their success.  You swirl your frites into the steak sauce and the salty, pesto-like goodness that is created – is just ridiculously good.  Quickly, the steak & frites are gone – so onto the wine…

Before we know it, the other 1/2 of our steak & even more frites appears on our plate.  It’s really two meals of the exact proportion served twice within 30 minutes and it’s just as good the second time around.  Again – a great French experience of a great French traditional dish.

Dessert – here, you do get to make a choice – again, I ask the waitress what she recommends – and she suggests the profiteroles – another French classic.  Great choice again.

Summary – when you want a classic dish at a Paris institution where you don’t have to make any choices to speak of – check this place out – well worth the effort finding it on the Paris Metro…


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