Metro Station: Château Rouge (Line 4)
Type of cuisine: French
Days & hours of operation: Weds to Fri 7:30 p.m.- 11:30 p.m. Sat to Sun Noon – 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Credit card: Visa, MasterCard, American Express
Le Grand 8 sits high on the slope of Butte Montmartre, just below the Sacré-Cœur basilica. It’s a steep climb up the hill from the Château Rouge metro station, but the ambiance and the food that one finds at this restaurant are worth the effort.
The restaurant has a bold cranberry façade with one table for sidewalk dining. A large chalkboard announcing the menu hides the kitchen window. Stepping inside, one sees cranberry-colored vinyl benches against the wall; exposed beams on the ceiling that have been painted an off-white color; a smooth, light-wood plank floor; medium-toned wooden tables and chairs; and—in the back—a view over the eastern part of the city. Overall, the décor is rather simple, but, as we were to find out, the service was friendly and the food tasty. The restaurant uses seasonal, organic ingredients as much as possible, and favors organic wines for its wine list.
The restaurant offers a 29€, three-course menu; some dishes carry a supplement.
As a starter, I ordered Pousses de petits pois et blettes, St. Nectaire et noix. The salad that I received had been dressed in light vinaigrette; it was fresh and appetizing. The pousses de petits pois turned out to be the tendrils of pea shoots. It was a bit difficult to get them to stay on my fork, and once I bit down on them I couldn’t taste much. However, tender beet greens, morsels of Saint Nectaire cheese, and bits of walnut more than compensated for this frustration.
My partner appreciated her Asperges blanches, magret séché, Parmesan. Her plate contained three thick, tender, white asparagus stalks that had been drizzled in grape-seed oil. The stalks were accompanied by thinly-sliced, dried duck breast and slivers of Parmesan cheese. This is a perfect appetizer for a warm, spring day.
My main course was the best part of the meal. The serving of Cuisse de lapin, polenta et purée des bulbes de cerfeuil contained a generous portion of succulent, tender leg of rabbit. Three dollops of creamy, puréed root of chervil and a square of polenta were served alongside. Polenta is made from cornmeal. While I am used to having it served as a porridge of sorts, Le Grand 8 served it in a brick-like portion that was delicately crusty on the outside with a moist, sweet interior. Delicious!
My partner opted for Agneau de lait des Pyrénées, semoule aux épices. She declared the flavor of the milk-fed lamb to be mild, and the texture to be tender and juicy. The couscous was dotted with sliced almonds, raisins, and dried zucchini. While she would have preferred more spice in the couscous to provide a contrast to the subtle taste of the lamb, she stated that the meat and the couscouse made a good combination.
For the beverage accompaniment, we ordered a bottle of sparkling Chut Derain from Burgundy. Produced by traditional methods, it was dry, fruity, and exhibited notes of pear. The Derain vineyard is known for its organic wines, of which Chut Derain is one.
Fresh, chewy, crusty country bread, sliced thin from a round loaf, was served alongside in a basket.
For dessert, I chose the Riz au lait, an old-fashioned milky rice pudding. Neither too sweet nor too creamy, it was fine for my taste! A half-pod of vanilla added flavor to the treat, and the rice had some resistance to the bite. All good! My partner tried the Mille feuilles à la fraise and was pleased to receive two thin, crispy wafers supported by whipped cream and Charlotte strawberries from Montaulban. Our server proudly announced that the strawberries were the first of the season, and that they are characterized by the subtle flavor of fraise des bois (wild strawberries or Woodland strawberries).
The service was friendly and helpful.
The bill for two, including two three-course menus, a bottle of sparkling wine, and a single espresso, came to 88.50€.
By the time we left Le Grand 8, the room was nearly full of happy diners who had found their way up the hill and into the restaurant for an evening of gastronomic pleasure.
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.