Located in a dark alley near Paris’ Marche des Enfants market, Au passage is a small bistro serving simply-prepared, fresh food. The menu–written on a chalkboard in the back of the restaurant–changes daily, with plates designed to be shared. The more people you can get to go here with you, the better, as you’ll want to try everything on the menu.
Julian: After walking through what seemed like a pretty trendy area of the city, we got to this dark little alley. There was a parking garage, I think, and then nothing else really in sight. “Well, my phone says it should be right around here,” Jesse said. Still not feeling 100% recovered from the night of drinking horrible beer the night before, I replied with some grumpy comment, wishing we had just had sandwiches back at the apartment. We walked a little bit further down the street, just to double check. Then we saw this dumpy looking bar with lights that didn’t really illuminate the correct part of the sign on the wall. Above, hanging from the second-story apartment, was a Heineken sign which said Au Passage in small font. “Well, I guess this is it.”
Jesse: It was busy inside. They had that perfect amount of “noisy” that doesn’t make it hard to hear the person you’re with, but let’s you know that people are comfortable and happy to be there–also probably drinking good wine. The clientele was a mix of regulars (the cooks and bartender made sure to come out and say hi to a couple of customers) and the lucky tourists who either stumbled down the right dark alley or were fans of Anthony Bourdain. For 6 to 12 euros a plate (of delicious food), and 4 euros for a glass of wine, I could see why there were regulars. If we knew about this place our first night in Paris, I would have been a regular by the time we left.
Shaun Kelly, who has been the chef at Au Passage for about a year, is doing some good things in Paris’ 11th Arrondissement.
Julian: There have been a handful of restaurants I’ve been to in my life where I’ve gotten a certain feeling the minute I enter. Like, Oh damn, this is going to be really really REALLY good. Animal in L.A. Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, AZ. Torrisi Italian Specialties in NYC. I think those are the only restaurants I’ve ever felt it. I’m not sure exactly how to describe it, but it is a feeling of total comfort. Total trust in whatever the restaurant has in store for me. I’m relaxed, happy, and forget whatever else might be going on in my life. I stop analyzing everything around me so much…just let it all sink in. Anyway, I had that feeling at Au Passage.
Jesse: I don’t remember if we mentioned it or not in an earlier post, but Julian had a tiny desire, or maybe a secret hope, mostly subconscious, hidden deep within himself, to not like Paris…But, this secret hope only surfaced once we had been in Paris for a day, when he said, “Darn! (yes, Julian does exclaim sometimes) I like Paris. I think I didn’t want to”. Anyhow, now you can appreciate his above comment even more. With just under 50 seats, and only 3 people (bartender included) working the front of house, I thought they’d be rushing around to give everyone enough attention, but our server had enough time to translate every single item on the menu to us, and the bartender had time for smoke breaks. We immediately ordered the homemade ricotta, their special meaty tomatoes, the fish carpaccio, and our favorite, the fried rabbit leg. All worth mentioning.
ricotta and bread
Julian: And mention I will. First the ricotta. Seemingly a very simple and boring dish: ricotta made by a guy named Vince, some black pepper, and some olive oil. That’s it. But it’s flavor was so complex. Lemony, salty, bright, and refreshing. Served with a great rustic country loaf. It got things off to a good start. Then out came the fish carpaccio. They didn’t mention what kind of fish it was, and we forgot to ask. Some kind of mild white fish, really high quality, served with pickled mustard seeds, cabbage, and onions. Again, really refreshing, light, and simple. Then the tomato dish: thick and truly beefy slices of tomatoes from the south of France, soggy bread, and purple basil. Once again, nothing radical–panzanella salad basically. But the quality of the ingredients was blatantly obvious when I bit into those tomatoes. Last, the rabbit dish: two very tender whole rabbit legs, coated in a delicious herby breading, served with a great garlicky aioli. It smelled so good, we forgot to take a photo. And it tasted even better. It was one of my favorite dishes of this trip. And an absolutely perfect change of pace from the rest of the courses, which were much lighter. Oh and to finish the meal, we got their ganache dessert, which was purely a giant gob of really good ganache with coarse salt and crunchy cookie crumbs. Thinking back now, the meal sounds pretty straightforward. But everything was executed at such a high level. This is what the Chez Panisse movement in the States is all about. But it only works when you take the time and have the expertise to do it right.
remnants of rabbit
Jesse: You can’t beat blatantly obvious quality. Good quality, that is. Thanks for leaving me food to talk about! It was a good way to finish the Paris portion of our trip. A huge thanks to the Turleys for letting us shack up in their beautiful Paris flat. Right across the river from Notre Dame, it was the perfect spot for getting our quintessential Paris experience.
mr. Gaddy chills after a great meal