Paris' wine bars have always been a mainstay for grabbing a glass and a nice plate of cheese or a charcuterie platter. The menu has usually been limited to just this, but luckily a new breed of wine bars are offering many more choices beyond just fromage and cured meat. Frenchie wine bar has been one of my favorites, actually trumping their restaurant of the same name just across the street. I was nervous things might have changed in the year I had been away, so I went to investigate.
Just like before, a queue starts forming well before the 7pm opening time to try and secure one of the tables in their reservationless locale. Luckily our 6:40pm arrival garnered us one of the last tables.
I barely had my coat off before my order for the foie gras royale was placed. Fingers crossed it was as good as before. I dug in and my eyes began to water. Could it be better with its rich creaminess topped with seasonal figs and walnuts, or perhaps distance had made my heart grown fonder for my foie, now forbidden fruit in CA.
I didn't need anything else, but my friends ordered an amazing burrata with sautéed mushrooms that was another big hit.
Frenchie's mainstay pork sliders have also stood the test of time - another crowd pleaser with smokiness, sweetness and bite.
The only thing left to re-try was the pot 'o chocolate. I remember ordering this for the first time with some boredom, but once the spoon hit the tiny, unassuming jar, everything changed, as it did once again. The velvety chocolate with caramel butter lingered on my tongue as it slid down my throat with the greatest of ease and happiness. Yeah, Frenchie Wine Bar's still got it.
I didn't think the ante could be upped in the good food, good drink department, but then Mary Celeste arrived on the scene, throwing killer cocktails in the mix with unique small plates. Mary Celeste is owned by the same folks behind my fav Mexican, cocktail cantine in Paris, Candelaria, and the newer, hipster drinking spot, Glass. This group knows how to attract the young and the cool for a lively libation and a nice nosh.
Mary Celeste is a light and pretty white washed open room with a large, round bar in the middle, and tables scattered around the periphery. Tom Jones was playing when we entered right as the doors opened at 6pm, and we were able to snag one of the tables without problem or reservation.
You can order a beer from Brooklyn, a wine from Chinon, or dive into the cocktail menu as I did with the “Single Lady,” combining vodka with a Muscadet syrup and some lemon. It was refreshing without being overly sweet.
We had to wait until the kitchen opened at 7pm to order food, though oysters were available during the hour interim. We held out to sample some of the interesting looking plates on the rotating daily menu, starting with homemade focaccia stuffed with Guindilla peppers sitting on a bed of pureed, spiced carrots that made for good dipping. We also had a mild, but well prepared veal tartare that included dollops of a citrus mayonnaise and tiny potato chips to scoop up the luscious meat.
Both were nice starters, but we moved from nice to blow away when the deviled eggs arrived. They were a brilliant purple from the beet juice they were pickled in and stuffed with, along with a luscious, creamy Greek skorthalia, dill and spicy horseradish. It was a whole sweet and savory meal in just three bites.
The chef’s culinary prowess stayed in high gear with the warm dishes like roast duck with white beans and a smattering of raisins that added the perfect sweetness to the dish. The veal ragout was bathed in a spicy gremolata sauce, sitting on top of a polenta cake with crisp broccoli and stewed green tomatoes. Divine.
The real knock out came from the grilled Courges Hokkaido, a Japanese squash, that had a zesty chimichurri sauce, hazelnuts and mint. It was a bold mix of flavors that I had never experienced together and I relished the combination.
After eating nearly everything on the 9 plate menu, we had no room left for the single butternut cake dessert, which didn’t sound especially appealing, but judging from the rest of the dishes, I’m sure it’s another unique jewel that we’ll just have to return to experience.
The Paris wine bar scene is going strong and continuing to evolve in ways that will ensure new and repeat customers visit. I know I will.