17, rue Molière
Metro Station: Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre (Lines 1 and 7), Pyramides (Line 7)
Type of cuisine: French
Days & hours of operation: Mon 7:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Tues to Fri 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Sat 7:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Credit card: Visa, MasterCard
When the city wall of Paris built by Charles V was torn down in 1633, the exterior rampart walkway was transformed into a street, called rue Traversière. Two hundred thirty-four years later, the name of the street was changed to rue Molière, after one of France’s most famous playwrights. And on May 24, 2007 two partners, Hervé de Libouton and Christophe Courgeau, opened their restaurant Au Gourmand at number 9. For our part in this long and glorious history, we had the pleasure of dining there just recently.
The restaurant is tucked into a niche on the sidewalk, with space for two tables there. However, we chose to dine inside, sheltered from the traffic noise. We chose well, because American jazz, including singers Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holliday, played softly over the speaker system. The dining room is comfortable, displaying walls the color of maize, wall benches of cranberry velour, dark-wooden tables, large mirrors, a cranberry-colored carpet, a large vase of dried flowers, seat covers in plum with gold trim, and a trompe l’oeil library against one wall.
After we were seated, the waiter served us each a tiny canning jar containing a rich, somewhat salty, cream of potato soup and a goblet containing whole, green lentils and mackerel topped with a froth of raspberry vinegar. The cream of potato soup had a delicious flavor, due, no doubt, to the cream with which it had been prepared. The surprising combination of mackerel, raspberry vinegar, and green lentils was also appetizing. An unusual dish, but tasty!
Although the restaurant offers a 36.50€ fixed-price menu, we decided to order à la carte as the choices on the menu were limited. The steep bill that we paid at the end of the meal, however, reflected this decision!
I ordered the Langoustines en direct de la Bretagne as a starter, and received a small dish containing a medley of five scampi, two small dollops of mousse made from the juice of the pressed heads of scampi, very thin slices of red and white beet, slivers of pink grapefruit, and pesto sauce. Decorating the plate were tiny purple garlic flowers and white coriander flowers. Again, another surprising, unusual, and delicious combination! The mousse, incidentally, had a taste reminiscent of foie gras, but was lighter and much less fatty.
My partner chose the Légumes de saison du potager de Joël Thiébault. This consisted of a super- thin pastry crust topped with a thick tomato purée, which was in turn layered with vegetables (radish, zucchini, yellow and orange carrot…) sliced so thinly that they were transparent. The plate was decorated with balsamic vinegar, pesto, and coriander and basil leaves. The presentation was breathtaking; the taste was equally sensational!
As a main course, I opted for the Pigeonneau fermier du Pays de Retz, translated on the menu as “squab from Brittany. “ The roasted squab was served rosé (rare), as I had requested, but in the future I think that I will order these birds à point (medium) to avoid undercooked meat to which I am not accustomed. The succulent bird lay next to a bed of puréed peas on top of which whole peas and morsels of carrot rested. The squab was flavorful and tender, but I could not finish it, having misjudged the size of the bird.
For her main course, my partner requested the Chevreau de Vendée, a serving of kid goat with cream of roasted almonds and a pastilla of spring vegetables. The kid was ever so subtly flavored with curry. Surprisingly, it was served with a small wedge of foie gras! Baby squash, snow peas, fennel, and artichoke hearts were served on the side with a single, thin, corn-based chip sprinkled with spices that symbolically represented the pastry shell of a pastilla.
To accompany our meal we ordered two beverages. The first was a bottle of Saint Gerome, a naturally-sparkling mineral water from the Auvergne region of France. We also ordered a half-bottle of Clos de la Cure – Saint-Emilion Grand Cru – 2006, a soft, medium-bodied wine with a ripe berry aroma and a slight tang at the finish.
Thick-cut country bread was served alongside in a bowl, and a pat of butter was served in a small dish.
As we had ordered our dessert in advance, the wait was not very long for my Soufflé “Tout Passion,” a wonderfully moist, eggy soufflé flavored with passion fruit. A small glass of passion fruit sorbet topped with a shaving of dark chocolate was served alongside.
My partner’s Fourme d’Ambert, a pasteurized cow’s milk blue cheese from the Auvergne region, pleased her as well. It was a multi-layered affair: a crust of pate feuilleté formed the base, on top of which rested a thin layer of sliced pear covered by a layer of melted blue cheese, and on top of that, a mound of mixed greens. Beautifully presented, it was an unusual end to a unique, taste-bud-titillating meal!
The waiter offered a choice of Ethiopian, Colombian, or Costa-Rican coffee at the end of the meal. Along with the Ethiopian espresso that I selected, we were served a number of sweets to finish off the meal: Fraise Tagada, a child’s confection made by Haribo; two white-chocolate covered marshmallows; a small glass containing sugar-covered chocolate candies similar to M&Ms; and another glass containing hard candies.
The bill for two, including a glass of porto, two starters, two main courses, two desserts, one bottle of mineral water, a half-bottle of wine, and an espresso, came to 174.40€.
It was a pricy splurge, but worth the outlay for the great food and attentive service!
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.