Friday, May 25, 2007


Astier is a warm neighborhood bistro in the Eleventh which features daily preparations of the house specialty, rabbit, and an affordable 26 € menu for an appetizer, entrée, cheese and dessert. Thanks to Patricia Wells, I also knew that Astier serves that most magical and sapid creation, les filets de hareng, pommes à l'huile, a bowl of herring fillets bathed in olive oil, served here with onions, carrots, peppercorns and fresh thyme, and of course accompanied by warm, olive oily potatoes. My introduction to the dish was in a most memorable meal at Chez Georges when the PM and I shared it. Two years later (and ago), back at Chez Georges, it was equally good and memorable when split with a Nation dead-ender. That les filets de hareng, while not offal, retain the capacity to scare the timid only bolsters their appeal. Astier’s version was not too salty; it did stink, and it was delicious. I ate three fillets, and then yielded the bowl to the adjacent table.

I followed with a solid rendition of sautéed whiting fish. (Deep-fried whiting fish is interesting because it is both Joël Robuchon’s signature dish and a staple of African-American soul food, which only shows that the great distance between “high” cuisine and “low” cuisine is an illusion.) Marisa had a tasty cauliflower mousse with beetroot and pieces of bacon. She then had an excellent preparation of rabbit, wrapped in bacon and stuffed with reblochon along with a side of potatoes stuffed with reblochon. If a dish this perversely cholesterolic is a standard, then there are going to be few compelling reasons not to conclude with a cigarette.

For the first time in years, I gambled on crème brûlée. I have long avoided it in the U.S. for the obvious reasons: the fossilized shells of sugar; and the bland, incandescent, yellow substance underneath. But Astier’s version was soulful, perhaps the best dessert on the entire trip. Its sugary “crust” was browned but by no means required a miner’s assistance. The crème itself had a muted sweetness and its color was a muted brown. The dish was the perfect coda, a delicious and a subdued bookend to everything preceding it.

44 rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud

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