Photo of the Week


The upside-down innards of the Conciergerie shown on a tarp on the facade and reflected in the Seine. © Paris Update


Paris Update This Week’s Events

For full details about an event, click on the title to visit the official Web site (in English when available).

Monster contemporary art fair
> FIAC: 189 galleries show their wares in the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, Paris, Oct. 20-23.

Art on the Champs
> Art Élysées: 75 modern and contemporary art and design galleries in tents on the world's most famous boulevard. Champs Elysées, Paris, Oct. 20-24.

Asian art
> Asia Now: 30 contemporary galleries showing work by Asian artists. 9, av. Hoche, Paris, Oct. 20-23.

Art brut
> Another kind of art at the Outsider Art Fair. Hotel du Duc, Paris, Oct. 22–25.

Art in a townhouse
> Paris Internationale: contemporary art fair in a Parisian townhouse. 51, avenue d'Iéna, Paris, Oct. 19-23.

Young international artists
> YIA Art Fair: Youth takes precedence at this art fair. Carreau du Temple, Paris, Oct. 20-23.

Digital art
> Variation: Contemporary digital art fair. Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, Oct. 18-23.

“Music for old people”
> Le Classique C'est pour les Vieux: The ironically titled music festival holds classical concerts in skateparks, cafés, artists' studios and other unusual venues and incorporates street art, 3D performances and more. Paris, Oct. 20-23.

Film festival for kiddies
> Mon 1er Festival: some 400 screenings, premiers and more for kids aged two and up. Various locations, Paris, Oct. 19-25.


For Brassens fans
> The annual 22V'laGeorges Festival celebrates what would have been the great singer’s 95th birthday this year in his hometown of Sète. Oct. 22-29.

Refugee children speak through art


> From Syria with Love, an exhibition of drawings by Syrian refugee children. Galerie CInq, 5 rue du Cloitre St Merri, 75004 Paris, through Oct. 21.

Classic Danish films
> Festival of movies by Carl Theodor Dreyer. Cinémathèque Française, Paris, through Nov. 6.

Jazz galore
> Paris's leading jazz clubs cooperate for the festival Jazz sur Seine, with special prices for concerts, showcases and master classes. Various locations, Paris, through Oct. 22.

Cultures of the world onstage
> Music, dance, theater and ritual performances from around the world at the Festival de l'Imaginaire. Various locations, Paris, through Dec. 20.

Strange Happenings in St. Germain
> The exhibition Bizarro, with works by a number of artists, fills seven Left Bank galleries with “Bêtes de Scènes et Sacrés Monstres.” Don’t miss the Meta-perceptual Helmets by the Irish duo Cleary/Connolly
at the Librairie Alain Brieux, which allow the viewer to see forward and backward, for example, or the way a cyclops or horse would see. Various locations, Paris, through Oct. 30.

Contemporary arts festival
> The Festival d’Automne presents leading talents in art, dance, film, theater and more from around the world. Various venues, Paris, through Dec. 31.

Amazing gardens
> The popular Festival International des Jardins de Chaumont-sur-Loireis held annually in the park of the Château de Chaumont in Chaumont-sur-Loire, through Nov. 2.

Music & more in park bandstands
> Kiosques en Fête brings life to the bandstands in Paris’s parks with concerts, writing workshops, club meetings and even a square dance. Various locations, Paris, through Dec. 31.


Restaurants - Bistro


Le Bistro des Gastronomes & Les Trois Seaux

A Tale of
Two Bistros

Paris Update Bistro des Gastronomes

The decor at Le Bistro des Gastronomes is rather austere.

Given comparable levels of food quality and cooking skill and slightly off-the-beaten-track locations, what makes one bistro a popular success while another has a feeling of doom hanging about it?

Last week, I ate in two bistros on successive nights. The first was the Bistro des Gastronomes on Rue Cardinal Lemoine in the 5th arrondissement, which I chose because it was conveniently located near a meeting I was attending with two friends. When we arrived with another friend at 8pm, we assumed that the restaurant was empty because it was a bit early for French people to start eating. An hour later, when I looked up from our lively conversation, I realized it was still empty, which might have been quite uncomfortable if we had only been two. Later in the evening, two other parties arrived, but the small restaurant never came anywhere near filling up.

The reactions to the food were mixed. Mary and John absolutely

Paris Update Bistro des Gastronomes foie-gras

adored their foie gras fried with bourbon and Espelette chilies. I thought I had the best starter: a marvelously light and refreshing carpaccio of wild sea bream with lime and red peppercorns. Susan had ordered the couteaux (razor clams), which came in a generous serving with an overcomplicated and unnecessary tomato sauce full of cubed vegetables. We all agreed that they would have been better in a simpler preparation.

John and I were both disappointed with our main course, the “chef’s” bœuf bourgignon, which had a nice  winey sauce but seemed to have been sitting around for a few days – not necessarily a bad thing for bœuf bourgignon, but the potatoes had that unpleasant reheated taste and texture. Mary and Susan had made the right choice in ordering the delicious fried calamari with rice and Espelette chilies.

For dessert, John and I had the wonderful lemon tart. Tart it was indeed, and it looked beautiful on the plate sprinkled with zest of lemon and lime. Mary ordered dessert only because we insisted, but she was glad she had when the crème brûlée with Bourbon vanilla was flambéed at

Paris Update Bistro des Gastronomes dessert

the table and turned out to be an excellent example of the genre. Susan’s moelleux au chocolat came with a passion-fruit sauce, adding acidity that nicely balanced the sweetness, but – like her starter – was a bit too much.

Fast-forward to the following evening in the all-organic Les Trois Seaux (which means “three pails”: there they were, hanging from the ceiling in the guise of lampshades). My

Paris Update Trois Seaux restaurant

friend Helen and I were greeted so warmly by the owner that I thought they were old friends – not so. The large tray of cheeses displayed near the door next to shelves full of wine bottles made an immediate good impression, as did the real tablecloths and napkins, and the lively buzz of the full restaurant.

The owner was the lone server, which meant that the meal progressed at a snail’s pace (those creatures were not on the menu, however), slightly speeded up later on when a shy young kitchen helper occasionally came out to serve a dish. I started with the pétoncles (tiny scallops) sautéed with

Paris Update Trois Seaux restaurant petoncles

pleurotes (a type of wild mushroom) and devoured this comforting and perfectly sauced dish with great delight. Helen was equally happy with her boudin (blood sausage), supposedly made with chestnuts, although she couldn’t taste them, and served with cooked apples.

For my main course, I opted for the rather pricey (€28) “belle” veal chop from Aubrac with mushrooms, which I asked to be cooked rosé (pink). Was it because of my American accent that the huge chop came out well overcooked? I’ll never know. I didn’t send it back as I normally would have because I feared another long wait while a replacement was prepared.

We sampled some of the excellent cheese, then shared the crème aux œufs, a delicious, creamy cross between crème caramel and crème brûlée. When the bill came, the sharp-eyed owner, who had inspected our main-course plates as the assistant carried them back to the kitchen and must have noticed the nearly untouched veal chop, announced that he was deducting 30 percent from the bill, a gesture that was greatly appreciated.

My answer to the question I asked at the beginning of this review would be “warmth” and “ambiance.” While the waitress was perfectly polite and pleasant at the Bistro des Gastronomes, there was no real feeling of welcome (more like relief that some customers had arrived) or much enthusiasm about what was being served, in contrast to Les Trois Seaux.

Just a year ago the Bistro des Gastronomes was getting rave reviews in the press, so its emptiness on a Thursday evening seems strange – or perhaps we just hit it on an off night. I certainly hope its demise is not imminent. The prices were quite reasonable (€28 for a three-course menu, with no supplement for foie gras), and several of the dishes were excellent, while the prices at Les Trois Seaux were rather hefty, and it can’t be said that everything was perfect there either. The former, with just a little more attention to the consistency of the dishes, rapport with customers and maybe a more personal touch in the rather sterile decor, would be a great little place for a meal.

Heidi Ellison

Le Bistro des Gastronomes: 10, rue Card Lemoine, 75005 Paris. Tel.: 01 43 54 62 40. ‎Fixed-price menu: €28. Open Tuesday-Friday for lunch and dinner; Saturday for dinner only. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Les Trois Seaux: 58, rue de la Fontaine-au-Roi, 75011 Paris. Métro: Goncourt. Tel.: 09 54 27 86 86. Open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner; Saturday for dinner only. Closed Sunday.

Reader Margaret Isenman writes: "We live around the corner from the Bistro des Gastronomes, so we were delighted to try it last year when it first opened. Our first meal there was delicious and creative, and we waited for the young chef to be 'discovered.' It wasn't quite as exciting on subsequent visits, and not often full, but we still had high hopes for its success. We went back just recently, and the menu was abbreviated and much less original. We were puzzled but found out that the original chef has left, which explains the change. In the meantime, the Bistro has been included in this year's Michelin Guide Rouge, so it was indeed 'discovered,' but based on the performance of the original chef, so it is now more likely to disappoint." March 22, 2012

Reader Margaret Isenman writes: "I just wanted to let you know that the original chef is back at Bistro des Gastronomes, and so we immediately tried it again. We were not disappointed—the cooking was original and delicious, and the menu at dinner is currently 28 euros (22 at lunch), a relative bargain for three courses. Once again, this small modern bistro is a treat to have in the neighborhood." Aug. 7, 2012

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© 2012 Paris Update