April 17, 2013

Best French and Foreign Movies seen in 2012


(A few were produced in 2010-11 but released in the US in 2012)

American Title          Original Title           Country of  Origin        Director      My Rating


Holy Motors                 Holy Motors                 France                  Leos Carax                 ****

The Turin Horse        Le Cheval de Turin   Hungary-France      Bela Tarr                      ****

We have a Pope        Habemus Papam        Italy-France             Nanni Moretti              ****

Mysteries of Lisbon  Mystères de Lisbonne  France-Portugal  Raoul Ruiz                   ****  

Essential Killings            ''''                                  Poland-France     Jerzy Skolimowsky     ****

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia                           Turkey                   Nuri Bilge Ceylan         ****

House of Pleasures    L’Apolllonide                  France                 Bertrand Bonello          ****

Pater                                Pater                                 France                 Alain Cavalier              ****

The Skin We Live In   La Piel Que Habito        Spain                   Pedro Almodovar           ***½

Farewell to My Queen  Les Adieux à la Reine France                Benoit Jacquot               ***½

A Separation                Jodai-E-Nader Az Simin  Iran                   Asghar Farrhadi             *** ½

Searching for Sugarman       “”     ”                   Sweden-UK      Malik Bendjelloul              *** ½   

Take Shelter                              '' ''                           U.S.A                Jeff Nichols                      *** ½ 

Cosmopolis                   ''  ''                                      U.S.A                David Cronenberg          *** ½ 

Beloved                         Les Bien Aimés              France               Christophe Honoré          *** ½

Beasts Of The Southern Wild   “       “                    U.S.A               Ben Zeitlin                         ***

Night and Day                   “        “”                              Korea              Hong Sang Soo                 ***

Argo                                     “        “”                              U.S.A               Ben Affleck                        ***

Declaration of War           La Guerre Est Déclarée  France         Valérie Donzelli                  ***

Camille Rewinds              Camille redouble              France         Noémie Lvovski                  ***

Pina                                       '' ''                                      Germany         Wim Wenders                   ***

Moonrise Kingdom           ‘’   ‘’                                    U.S.A                 Wes Anderson               ***

The Kid With A Bike           Le Gamin au Vélo           Belgium       Dardenne Brothers           ***

Looking For Hortense     Cherchez Hortense          France         Pascal Bonitzer               *** 

 Ramparts                             ‘’  ‘’                                      U.S.A         Oren Moverman                   ***

Goodbye First Love          Un Amour de Jeunesse  France       Mia Hansen Love               ***

A Burning Summer            Un  Été Brulant                  France       Philippe Garrel                  ***

Notes : Only  10 films are produced and shot  in France (Holy Motors, L’Apollonide, Pater, Les Adieux à la Reine, La Guerre est Déclarée, Camille Redouble, Cherchez Hortense, Un Amour de Jeunesse, Un été Brulant).. 4 are French co-productions shot mainly in foreign countries (Turin Horse, Habemus Papam, Mysteries of Lisbon, Essential Killings).

Most films are available, or will be in 2013, on NETFLIX.

January 03, 2013

Choucroute Garnie

Choucroute Garnie à l’Alsacienne, the perfect French winter comfort food dish.

A good place to enjoy a good traditional one while in Paris is La Brasserie de l’Isle Saint Louis.

I always had a particular fondness for this hearty dish based on fresh cabbage shredded in thin strips then fermented for several days in vats with coarse sea salt, juniper berries, cloves, black peppercorns, and bay leaves. This very long process (sometimes up to 3 weeks), which involves several stages of water rinsing, allows the cabbage to ferment and acquire its sour fragrance, but it can be tedious and smelly. If you want to make your own choucroute garnie from scratch it is better to buy ready-to-cook bulk already brined sauerkraut. In France the best one comes often from the area of Krautergersheim, a small town in the French Eastern province of Alsace).
It is sautéed in lard or goose fat and onions, and then slowly cooked in dry white wine, preferably Alsatian, over some kind of pork meat, with juniper berries, cumin (coriander or caraway seeds), black peppercorns, clove, bay leaves, and a touch of garlic. 
The cooking time varies from 3 to 5 hours, depending whether you prefer a slightly crispy and acidic ‘’choucroute’ ’or a smooth softer but very fragrant one. In any case when it reaches your plate it should retain a very light off-white pleasant color. A brownish looking sauerkraut was either kept too long in the fridge or outside of its original container and most probably re-heated several times, or of a poor industrial quality. Unfortunately in a few Paris brasseries and chain restaurants this industrial approach has become too often the case. Better to stick to small family-owned Alsatian restaurants. But they slowly disappear from the market. 

An authentic choucroute garnie is topped with a small mountain of various samples of good artisan charcuterie, essentially pork and sausages.
A good choucroute garnie à l’Alsacienne must have some or all of the following components: Smoked lean pork shoulder, salted pork shank, a thick slab of ‘’lard de poitrine’’ (thick slice of bacon), a couple of poached Frankfurters or yellow colored saucisses de Strasbourg. A piece of cervelas (knackwurst). A smoked boneless pork chop is often a nice addition.  A small link of blood sausage. And also sometimes a small link of saucisse blanche (a variation of white boudin) or a saucisse de Montbéliard, a very flavorful small smoked sausage from the Eastern Franche-Comté region. Some restaurants add a slice of jambon de Paris (white Paris ham) and a slice of garlic pork sausage.
But there are many variations on this main theme.

This specialty is always served with a few freshly boiled and peeled small white potatoes.
You will usually find 2 or 3 types of mustard (Dijon, Meaux, and brown) on the table along with a small porcelain container of ‘’raifort’’ (a traditional horseradish condiment)

Traditionally French amateurs of Choucroute garnie à l’Alsacienne order a bottle of dry but fragrant Alsatian Riesling, or Sylvaner, or drink ‘’pots’’ (50 cl) of Alsatian beer.

The origin of the choucroute itself is not proven with certainty. It is very probably the Chinese, at the time when they were building the Great Wall who got the idea of fermenting cabbage in brine. This technique was exported by the Mongols and perhaps by Marco Polo all over Eastern Europe. And it was first introduced in Western Europe in Switzerland, where it is still considered a part of the national culinary heritage, before reaching Alsace.
My Swiss grand-mother, in Geneva, used to make a fantastically rich and tasty choucroute garnie. But it took her a couple of days to make it from scratch and her whole apartment building would keep the pungent smell for days. As far as I know, none of her neighbors ever complained. In fact, it is in Geneva where you can find several good brasseries serving it, and also a few great artisanal charcuteries, that I developed my first love for this dish. 

The tradition of Choucroute garnie in Parisian ‘’Brasseries’’

(To know more about French brasseries, read my piece on that subject posted on this blog in 2008)

You find choucroute garnie in practically every brasserie all over France. But I am sad to report that for many years now, it has too often become a very inferior product, assembled from industrially produced and processed components in large food plants in various areas of the Northern part of France.
If you want to eat a great authentic Alsatian choucroute, you have to get closer to its original French headquarters, the beautiful city of Strasbourg, capital of the Alsace region and, for that matter of Europe since it is the seat of the European Parliament. 
You will also find great choucroute and spectacular Vins blancs d’Alsace, in Colmar, a nice old charming city which is the other gastronomy center of Alsace. There you will enjoy it in noisy but beautifully decorated ‘’winstube’’ (wine rooms). Alsace is also an area where traditionally some of the best French beers have been brewed in ‘’brasseries’’ (breweries) which very often had small cafés where they served beer of course and also typical Alsatian food to their employees as well as to the local population. 

The tradition of choucroute garnie in brasseries in Paris goes back to the late 1800 s. When the Germans captured Alsace back from the French after the disastrous Prussian invasion of 1870, several fortunate Alsatians, who did not want to become Germans decided to flee their now occupied cherished province and moved to Paris. Many of them were cooks and restaurant owners. And when they arrived naturally worked in the field they knew the best, making beer, serving it, and cooking Alsatian specialties.

Some Alsatians had already been successful in the restaurant business earlier in Paris:
Wepler (1892, but originally bought by Mr. Wepler in 1810)
Bofinger (founded in 1864 by Frederic Bofinger)
The brasseries that the newcomers launched after 1870 became very rapidly popular and some of them still exist in 2012. Many were named after their Alsatians owners:
Lipp (started by Leonard Lipp in 1880),
Café Runtz (1880)
Café Zimmer
Zeyer (1913)
Flo (1915) (founded by Mr. Floderer)
Chez Jenny (founded by Robert Jenny in 1930)

Most Alsatian brasseries rapidly expanded and started to serve other dishes such as steaks, omelettes, blanquettes, escargots, chicken, etc. from morning to late night, and a lot of  fresh seafood.  Nowadays almost all major brasseries also offer a full service of ‘’ fruits de mer, crustacés et coquillages’’, such as oysters, mussels, and other shellfish, crab, and prawns, opened and prepared on an bed of crushed ice by a man outside in front of the of the restaurant called “L’écailler’’. He is recognizable by his high rubber boots, large fisherman yellow apron, Briton fisherman cap, and protection gloves.

After the 2 world wars many other Alsatian brasseries became famous for their choucroutes garnies. Among them L’Alsace, Le Terminus Nord,  Bauman, La Brasserie Alsacienne, La Brasserie de l’Est, L’Alsace à Paris, la Strasbourgeoise, L’Alsaco.
Many of them either were closed in recent years or acquired by large restaurant Groups such as Groupe Flo, which now owns dozens of brasseries all over France.
Some of them occasionally serve a decent choucroute, but those that I used to like a lot from  the early sixties to the late seventies, Bofinger, Terminus Nord, Chez Jenny,  and Flo, even though they are still beautiful places to  eat and drink with friends,  have become commercial food factories, which nevertheless are still very popular
I understand that one of the best place to eat a good Alsatian choucroute garnie is Le Bec Rouge, Boulevard du Montparnasse in  the 15th. But I never had an opportunity to eat there.
Until its closing in 2007, my favorite choucroute garnie in Paris was found at ‘L’Alsaco’’ 10 rue Condorcet in the 9th arrondissement. It was a relatively small winstub owned by the charming, very talkative, often a bit eccentric and sometimes borderline aggressive with people he did not like, Claude Steger . An authentic Alsatian, he was bringing his fresh choucroute from Krautergersheim. And all his delicious ‘’garnitures’’ whether sausages, boudins, or pork, were made by authentic artisans charcutiers either Alsatians from Paris, or directly from Alsace. He offered more than 100 great Alsatian wines from small vignerons, and an impressive collection of fruit brandies. Talking with him was like attending a class on Alsatian  gastronomy.

La Brasserie de l’Isle Saint-Louis


6 weeks ago, the weather was rather grey, humid, really  gloomy. On November 13, around 1:00 PM, I had a sudden craving for a good choucroute garnie to lift my spirits.
But since my favorite place L’Alsaco now longer exists, I did not know where to go to find a decent one. In the past 20 years I have been disappointed so many times by the choucroute at Chez Jenny, Place de la Républqiue, or at Chez Flo, Passage des Petites Ecuries, that I did not want to get back there. Suddenly I remembered that last February I had read a piece in the excellent and always reliable ‘’Hungry For Paris’’ blog of Alexander Lobrano about this good old Alsatian brasserie located at the end of the delightful Ile Saint Louis at 55 Quai de Bourbon in the 4th.
Lots of warm memories about this place immediately came back to my mind. In the very early 60s, when I was a student at La Sorbonne, I did not have much money but I was lucky to live in  a comfortable room in the apartment of a friend who lived at 11 Quai aux Fleurs, in the Ile de la Cité, just behind Notre Dame. My bedroom windows were facing the mansion of the Aga Khan and the Seine river. And just a few yards from there, there was a little ‘’passerelle’’, a mini bridge of sort, that crossed the Seine into the Ile Saint Louis. At the end of this bridge was La Brasserie de l’Isle Saint Louis, which in those days did not have the charming “terrasse” it has now.

At the time, it did not take me long to discover that I could have a pair of juicy frankfurters with a boiled potato and fragrant warm sauerkraut for a few francs if I ate ‘’au comptoir’’ in the mini bar area at the entrance of the restaurant. There was an Impressive old shiny metal percolateur (an ancestor of the coffee machine) at the end of the massive wood comptoir (bar counter, perhaps covered with Zinc or copper, I do not remember exactly), that is still there. By the way, if my memory is correct, the percolateur that was installed on the bar in 1913 when the restaurant was known as La Taverne du Pont Rouge, was still able to produce a strong coffee in 1959, the first time I went there when I was spending a week at the home of a couple, friends of my parents, who lived in Paris. The waiters in traditional ‘’serveurs’’ outfits including white shirts, black bow ties, black pants, black vest, and a white apron, would come to the bar to get their orders of draft beer, an excellent and foamy Mutzig from Alsace served in half-liter stoneware (grès) steins, called ‘’pots’’, and get their food orders from the kitchen through a hole in a door at the end of the bar. Sometimes the chef, a tall blond German guy name Otto, would exit the kitchen and sit a moment at the bar to drink a beer and smoke a cigarette. He would fix for me marvelous omelettes baveuses au lard (runny omelets with lardons). One of the most active and funny waiters was named Yvan, and he was always joking and making funny comments to attract the attention of the many American young ladies who visited the restaurant. He called his regular customers, including me, ‘’l’ami’’ (the friend). But he could get moody sometimes when things did not go the way he wanted.
There were a couple of tables in the bar, and many times when the place was packed, which has been the case since the  place opened, I would sit there and have quick lunch before going back home to study, usually a potato salad with a knackwurst, a piece of cheese and a stein of beer.

Everything seemed the same when I entered the restaurant last month. The ambiance with a blend of reserved traditional older Parisian customers discussing family matters or real estate deals in a soft voice, much noisier and lively out-of-town visitors, including a few American and German tourists, and some young couples, was about the same as 50 years ago. The smells reflecting the good hearty food that is slowly cooked in the kitchen every day, was the same. The photos and posters on the walls, the collections of ancient beer mugs and steins, the hunting artifacts, the arrangement of the wooden tables with their checkered red and white cloth were still there. But a few things were different: The stuffed stork is now at the back of the restaurant, there is no longer the smoke of the cigarettes and cigar permeating everything, and I could not recognize more than one waiter. 

Besides, I did not know the dapper young man who was standing in front of the old wooden desk near the entrance which is the command center and the billing and cash registering station of the operation. In the early days, it was Monsieur Paul, the owner, or his wife, who were sitting there.
Fortunately the waiter who was assigned to my table just behind the bar, the only one I had recognized, had been working there for more than 20 years, and he was gracious enough, besides providing good old service, to answer my questions. Unfortunately he told me than Yvan, who had been fighting in the Algerian war, and had health problems since, had passed away. Otto, who had been a cook for Marshall Rommel during the Tunisian campaign in 42-43, and had acquired the French nationality after the war, had also passed away. 
The elegant young man, Paul-Emmanuel  was obviously managing the restaurant the day I was there. He is one of the 2 sons of Marcel and Michèle Kappe the owners of the restaurant since the father of Madame Kappe, Paul Guépratte, whom we used to call Monsieur Paul, as I just said,  when I was a regular there in the early sixties retired.
Paul Guépratte, the young man’s grand-father, purchased the restaurant in December of 1953, at the time it was called L’Oasis, from an another Alsatian man, Monsieur Lauer. Guépratte had an apartment nearby that he used when he was in Paris. This is how he learned about Lauer’s intention to sell his restaurant. As it was customary at the time, the deal was made with a handshake at the bar.  Paul Guépratte, and his wife Marthe, who was often standing behind the front desk preparing checks and greeting customers, gave the restaurant its present name.
After I finished my meal I asked Paul-Emmanuel Kappe a few questions and congratulated him on the quality of the choucroute garnie I had just finished. I told him that it was even better that I remembered it. I asked him if  they still bought their meats from Schmid, a well-known Parisian supplier of Alsatian charcuterie, but his answer was that they had after many years changed suppliers. I believe the new one is Jund. He told me that they still cooked themselves their choucroute every day, and that they might be the last brasserie in Paris to do so. In fact all their hot dishes are home-prepared and cooked according to the old traditions of their brasserie.

The excellent Mutzig beer, the brand thta ws already served 50 years ago, and their Munster fermier au cumin (a delicious creamy and slightly pungent Alsatian cheese served with caraway seeds), are both as good as ever.
They still serve the delicious sorbets from Berthillon, an internationally famous family-owned maker of ice cream and  fruits sorbets established in1954 and located a couple of blocks away.
When I discovered the place in 1963, they were still I believe selling charcoal bags in the store. 

The choucroute garnie I ate in November was one of the best I had in years. It is served on a pretty porcelain plate engraved with the name of the brasserie. The white cabbage was cooked to perfection, aromatic with just the needed touch of acidity. It was at the same time moist and still a bit crisp. There were plenty of juniper berries and enough peppercorn left in the cabbage.
Now, the best part was the incredible quality of the generous sample of pork and charcuterie. I will try to remember its components but my memory is sometimes unfaithful.
One  link of deliciously aromatic boudin noir (blood sausage). One link of very delicate white sausage, perhaps veal and pork based, that seemed to be flavored with small fragments of truffle. One piece of palette (lean part of the pork shoulder).  One piece of pork knuckle.  One frankfurter sausage.  One slice of lard de poitrine (thick bacon).  One piece of knackwurst.  One slice of garlic sausage.  And pehaps one slice of Jambon de Paris (white ham), but I am not certain about this last component.
As I said, the artisan Munster cheese was very good with its cumin (caraway) seeds on the side, and so was the sorbet.
I limited myself to one stein of beer.

Too bad the weather was not more pleasant since I would have finished that meal sitting outside on the beautiful terrace, facing Notre-Dame cathedral, drinking a cup of their excellent espresso with a tiny glass of kirshwasser.
Maybe next time since this experience was so pleasant that I cannot wait to return.

55 quai de Bourbon 75004 Paris
Telephone:  33 (0)1 43 54 02 59
Open from Noon to 11:00pm 
No reservations
Closed Wednesdays
Subway (metro) Stations: Pont Marie, Cité,  Maubert - Mutualité

December 13, 2012

Bistronomie in Paris

Bistronomie is still a welcome culinary trend in Paris after 10 years.

Rediscovering L’AFFRIOLE, one of my favorite restaurants  in the French capital.

The term, a contraction of bistrot and gastronomie, which was invented 9 years ago by Sébastien Demorand , the restaurant critic for Zurban , a magazine that was published in Paris between 2000 and 2006, is self-explanatory.

It defines small informal but usually nicely decorated restaurants launched by already famous chefs, or by their sous-chefs who want to open their own restaurant. They are usually serious professionals who want to bring back good quality cuisine, traditional but inventive, at reasonable prices in a simple and unpretentious environment. Gone are the fancy white table cloth, expensive silver, crystal chandeliers, pricey art on the walls, and over serious or arrogant waiters.
In Bistronomique restaurants the creativity of the chef, the attractiveness of the wine list, and a service that makes the diner feels welcome, even during his first visit, are the key to success. The location is also important bot not necessarily as it would be in a Michelin-starred establishment.
In brief they are bistrots offering authentic gastronomy based on good quality products, and a solid know-how of French traditional cooking techniques.
They often reflect  a sense of the kind of modern, even trendy, dishes the contemporary customers expect from a well-known chef, but their menus indicate  prices that remain affordable, thanks to a limited staff and a complete absence of bling and “froufrous”.

 Most bistronomique restaurants in Paris offer a 3 course dinner menu under 40 Euros.  But of course some bistronomique restaurants owned bybig name’’stars’’ of the trade  charge much more. I will not mention those  here.

You have to know that nowadays 70% of French restaurants cut their expenses by limiting their creativity and assembling dishes whose components have been industrially produced and packaged by huge food plants, from pâtés to desserts. 
So it is comforting to know that most of the well-established  “bistronomique” restaurants  buy  their products in local stores or directly from French producers, and often select themselves their fruits and vegetables at the central ‘’halles’’ of Rungis, South of Paris. Then they prepare them in their own kitchen with the help of competent professional cooks.
Over the  last 15 years, I derived my most pleasant memories from restaurants that propose a ‘’cuisine bistrotière’’ or ‘’ cuisine du marché’’ rather than from the famous gastronomic, and often very impressive,  starred restaurants where I was very often invited by professional  contacts during my many years of frequent traveling to France on business.
Now  that I am retired and traveling on budget, small neighborhood family-owned bistrots, both traditional French or ‘’ethnic’’, are my favorite eateries.

I also privilege those that belong to the French Associations of Maitres Restaurateurs   whose members, all independent restaurateurs, share a commitment to obey the principles of an audited  Chart of Quality that guarantees that they renew some of their dishes several times a month, that all their cooking is made on the premises with essentially fresh products  purchased from non- industrial sources such as artisans and family-owned farms. 
They also insure that the environment of the restaurant itself is safe and healthy, that the presentation of both the table appointments and what is in the plate, respect the traditions, and that the dining room and management staff  welcome the customers with a pleasant and well-informed behavior. Their menus and dishes should always be precisely written,  and the prices truthful.  All the restaurants that are present members of that association post a recognizable logo on the window near the entrance of the restaurant.

In Paris, the most popular “bistronomique” restaurant is perhaps Le Comptoir du Relais, 9 Carrefour de l’Odeon, in the 6th arrrondissement in the Hotel Relais Saint Germain.
Since its launching in 2005 by Yves Camdeborde,  this very tiny bistrot has been refusing  customers every day. Unless they are sent by the hotel for the dinner service inside.  Open for lunch and dinner its outside  tables on the minuscule heated sidewalk terrace  are very looked after, even in grey and cold weather, and very difficult to get.
3 weeks ago I stopped by at 3:00 PM to have a glass of wine and a plate of cheese and the waiters were busy folding blankets on the chairs outside for the evening customers. The waiting lines are long and the waiting staff not always pleasant. But some of the typically ’’brasserie’’ type dishes  such as milk-fed roasted piglet, poule au pot, or boudin (blood sausage) are made from high quality products and until a couple of years ago were reliably good. I understand that recently the quality of some dishes has become inconsistent. But the prices are still relatively mild for this district.
I remember that La Régalade, the very pleasant restaurant in the 14th arrondissement, that Camdeborde opened in 1992 and sold in 2004 and made him a celebrity chef, built his success on very simple ‘’country’’ dishes prepared with a lot of gastronomic flair.
Like many of his ‘’bistronomique’’ colleagues, Camdeborde was trained in the kitchen of the famous Les Ambassadeurs restaurant in the Hotel Crillon by its former iconic executive chef Christian Constant
In 2012 Constant owns 4 restaurants on the same sidewalk of Rue Saint- Dominique in the 7th arrondissements:
Le Violon d’Ingres, his flagship restaurant which can be considered in spite of its higher prices, as  an ‘’ Upper’’ bistronomique restaurant, Les Fables de la Fontaine, Les Cocottes.
And  the delightful Café Constant,  one of my favorite mini-restaurants bistronomiques in Paris.

A few other celebrated, but still relatively affordable  ‘’bistronomique’’ bistrots in Paris are:
Chez l’Ami Jean  of Stéphane Jégo (27 Rue Malar in the 7th arrondissment) who cooked for Camdeborde at la Régalade for many years.
Little B  of Dominique Bouchet , an ex-chef at the Tour d’Argent  and the Crillon (11 Rue Treihard in the 8th).
Les Bistronomes  of  Cyril Aveline and Sylvain Cravero who worked  under Eric Fréchon at the Bristol,  (34 Rue  Richelieu in the 1st)
 L’Os à Moelle  of Thierry Faucher, who also worked under Christian Constant at the Crillon,  (2 rue Vasco de Gama in the 15th ).
L’Ourcine ( 92 Rue Broca in the 13th).
 Le Café des Musées  ( 49 Rue de Turenne in the 3rd). (I love that lively bistro where I had a great lunch in November)

I used to love Le Troquet  of Christian Etchebest, another alumnus of the Constant ‘’school’’, (21 Rue Francois Bonvin in the 15th) But I read that he sold his restaurant.
For me the most illustrious veteran of the bistronomie in Paris, and probably one of my favorites but I have to admit that I have not been there for at least 7 years, is François Pasteau, who launched his L’Epi Dupin (11 Rue Dupin in the 6th) in 1995, long before bistronomie was even a  trend.
His restaurant, that has been recently completely redesigned and redecorated, is a model of what a good bistronome should expect from an authentic  ‘’cuisine du marché’’. His dinner menu at 33 euros is perhaps one of the best deals in Paris in 2012. But the reason I gave up going there is that it is always too crowded, for a large part by noisy Americans, and that the waiters always give you the impression as soon as you have placed your order that they expect you to eat fast and leave, which diminishes  most of the fun of eating Pasteau’s great creative dishes.

My new favorite: L’ AFFRIOLE

I had lunch there with my sister in November and a month later I still can feel on my taste buds the aroma and the marvelous blend of gustatory sensations that I loved during this meal there.
This is a small restaurant that can seat a maximum of 45 diners at 17 rue Malar, on the same sidewalk as Chez L’Ami Jean mentioned earlier.
 The décor is very contemporary and simple: Colorful chairs made of plastic, large ceramic tiles, nice lighting, a large blackboard where you can read the daily specials.
The restaurant used to be a bit more intimate and the décor more traditional when I ate there for the last time 7 or 8 years ago. I always wanted to come back so impressed that I was at the time by both the superior quality of the food, and the charm and total lack of pretension of the place and its reduced staff.

I had reserved 2 days in advance for that Saturday lunch since I had read that this place is so popular with both local regulars and educated foreign gastronomes, that it is always packed, even at lunchtime.
The welcome by the gracious and multilingual co-owner, Maria Verola, is as pleasant as I remembered it.
And the cooking of her husband Thierry Verola, a very gifted chef who spent some time in the kitchens of Alain Senderens ( Lucas Carton that morphed into Le Senderens on Place de la Madeleine) and  Jean-Paul Duquesnoy, is more tasty and creative than ever, even though it is based  or often  adapted from very traditional French regional recipes.
Verola  is  a native of the region of Auvergne, in South Central France,  where  there is a long tradition of solid and tasty fare based on recipes transmitted in families from one generation to the next.
It is also the region where some of my favorite French cheeses such as Cantal, Saint-Nectaire, Fourme d’Ambert, and Salers, are produced.
Thierry Verola took over this restaurant about 12 years ago. And it did not take long to attract connoisseurs of “real food” and astute restaurant critics who recognized the merits of a chef so attached to the importance of good products and how to treat them well with honesty and technical competence. 
L'Affriolé as been awarded a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide. 
 Its menu-carte, that combines the regular menu and the specials hand written everyday on the chalkboard, changes every month, according to the seasons, and what he finds at the market in Rungis. But some perennial signature dishes have been regularly offered for as long as 10 years.
The formula is simple: you generally can choose from 5 ‘’entrées’’ ( appetizers) , 5 plats principaux
(main courses), and 5 desserts. (in fact it could be 6, I am not sure anymore).
The menu costs 25 euros at lunch time, and 35 euros for dinner.
But for lunch the restaurant propose less expensive but equally attractive ‘’Formules’’ where you can choose an appetizer and a main dish, or a main dish and a dessert .
But it will cost you a little ‘’supplément’’ (a few extra euros)  if you choose some  of  the delicious daily specials that are so appealing that it is tough to make a decision. 
Some of the most popular dishes are fried breaded   eggs, magret de canard (duck breast) aux épices, with mushrooms, daurade (a kind of bream), lamb roasted with fresh thyme, pressed lamb  with foie gras. And several original seafood specialties

When we were seated, we were quite pleasantly surprised by the beautiful  complimentary amuse-bouche that was already waiting for us on the table: a plate  of very fresh small spring radishes, a tiny bowl of coarse sea salt, and a perfectly baked ‘’baguette en épis’’ that accompanied a bowl of addictive black olive-butter.  When I was young  in the late 50`s we used to call it a ‘’ baguette YéYé’’. This specialty baguette is made by a master pastry chef and baker , Stéphane Secco, who owns one of the best bakeries in Paris on a nearby street.
Wow… what a great tasty start
My sister had a very delicate appetizer of scrambled eggs with truffles, and an incredibly rich ‘’joue de boeuf braisée au vin rouge’’ (braised  beef jowl in red wine) with risotto (or perhaps the ganiture was instead mashed potatoes… I may be wrong on this).
I had one of the signature dishes of Thierry Verola, ‘’croquettes de pieds de porc’’  (deboned and chopped pig feet meat, lightly sauced , shaped in a crumbed cylinder and fried)  with an excellent home-made tartar sauce and a scrumptious Pâté Pantin, consisting of very  tender small pieces of  deboned quail (or perhaps young poussin) with foie gras and baked , totally enclosed, in a perfectly flaky light crust .
I think that we had caramelized poached pear and a sort of dark chocolate cake with praliné
With a delicious Italian espresso they serve usually miniature pots de crème and tiny marshmallows scented with with orange flower  . These are complimentary.
With a great bottle of Chinon 2009 from Domaine de Laroche, an excellent small estate in the Central part of the Loire Vallley, we paid no more than 85 euros

The restaurant is closed on Sunday and Monday. The closest Metro station is La Tour Maubourg or Pont de l’Alma, but this one is on the other side of Seine River. It is easier to go there by taxi.
Tel: 01 44 18 31 33