14, rue Houdon
Metro Station: Pigalle (Lines 2, 12), Abbesses (Line 12)
Type of cuisine: French
Days & hours of operation: Mon to Fri 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Credit card: Visa, MasterCard, Amex
Make no mistake about it—Grisette, the proprietor of her eponymous restaurant, knows how to make her customers feel at ease. As soon as they are comfortably installed at their table, she is chatting them up, learning where they are from, and freely expressing her opinion about this or that subject. And following this down-home reception comes the down-home cuisine!
We spotted hypocras on the beverage menu, and decided to order it as an apéritif. The hypocras that she serves comes from a producer in the Auvergne region. Grisette explained that the beverage is prepared according to a medieval recipe, with red wine, spices, and honey. We enjoyed its zesty, slightly sweet flavor.
To begin the meal, I ordered the Tatin aux tomates confites et zestes d’orange. As I only had a vague idea as to what this would be, I was pleasantly surprised to receive three peeled, poached tomatoes that had been slightly flattened, resting on a thin crust of pâte brisé. They had been sweetened with honey and orange peel, and garnished with stripes of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Served at room temperature, it was a tempting dish!
My partner chose the Pounti de Cantal, a traditional Auvergne dish made of morsels of pork, Swiss chard, and prunes. Here, again, was a surprise, as she thought that the serving would be a portion of meat terrine. It was, however, more of a cake-like dish, thick, moist, and flavorful.
For the main course, I opted for the Brandade de Morue à l’ancienne. This is a dish made from salt cod that has been montée, or whipped up, with olive oil. It was served in a cylindrical mound, next to an equally-sized portion of crushed (not whipped) potatoes. The brandade was flavorful, and did not taste as garlicky or salty as I had imagined. A generous green-leaf salad seasoned with oil and balsamic vinegar accompanied the dish.
My partner ordered the Boudin noir à l’ancienne that came directly from the Bruel farm in the Auvergne region. Three slices of blood sausage were each served on a round of apple and topped with a thick slice of potato. Coarsely-chopped apple was served alongside. While she prefers the spicier boudin noir that comes from the Antilles, my partner nonetheless declared the flavor of the sausage from the Bruel farm to be quite savory and pleasing.
To accompany my meal, I ordered a glass of Macon Villages Blanc – Domaine des Amethystes 2008, which I found to be medium-bodied, supple, and fruity. On advice from Grisette, my partner also ordered this, but declared that it did not harmonize well with her dishes. She later ordered a Saint Chinian Les Cerises – Michel Guiraud 2008, which, she stated, corresponded better with her food.
Thick-cut, fresh baguette was served alongside in a basket.
For dessert, I ordered three scoops of homemade sorbet: mango, passion fruit, and raspberry. They were light, smooth, and tantalizing, especially the raspberry, which had an assertive flavor. A thin coconut tuille garnished the dish.
My partner selected the Cheese cake au Speculoos et un sirop d’erable, a specialty of the house. Again, a surprise! The cheese layer was light and airy, and lacked the sweetness that American cheesecakes have. The layer rested on a thick, crunchy, moist crust made of Speculoos. The powdered sugar and maple syrup that garnished the plate added the sweetness that my partner sought in the dessert. This was not an American-style cheesecake, nor did it claim to be.
The service was friendly and helpful. Grisette engaged us in conversation before and after the meal. We told her that we had seen the video of her restaurant on her Web site (www.chez-grisette.fr), and that it had persuaded us to dine there. She was pleased to hear this, as she said that most people do not take the time to look at the video.
The bill for two, including two apéritifs, three glasses of wine, and two three-course, fixed-price menus at 31€ each, came to 85.50€.
For old-fashioned, country-style French cuisine and old-fashioned French hospitality, we advise travelers to make tracks to Chez Grisette!
Tom Reeves has been a confirmed Francophile since he first traveled to France in 1975. A native of northern California, he moved to France permanently in 1992. Reeves’ love of French language and culture inspired him to create Discover Paris!, a travel planning service that caters to Americans interested in cultural travel to Paris. His book, Paris Insights – An Anthology, has been called “the kind of insider’s view of the French capital…that first or even second time visitors pine for.” He publishes a monthly newsletter entitled Paris Insights about history, culture, and contemporary life in the City of Light, and posts daily information about the French capital on Facebook.