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).

Strange Happenings in St. Germain

ParisUpdate-Cleary:Connolly:Meta-perceptual-helmet

The “Cyclops” helmet.

> 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.

Car-free Paris!
> On the Journée sans Voiture, motor traffic will be banned in a large part of Paris and discouraged in the rest of the city from 11am to 6pm. Sept. 25.

Top of the tower
> The 16th-century Tour St. Jacques in the heart of Paris is temporarily open for guided tours and splendid views of the city. Reservation required. Paris, through Sept. 25.

Nationwide food festival 
> Tastings, special menus in restaurants and more during the Fête de la Gastronomie. Various locations, Sept. 23-25.

Two meals for the price of one
> Restaurants participating in Tous au Restaurant offer a second fixed-price menu for free. Various locations, Paris, through Oct. 2.

Whisky-a-go-go
> Whisky tastings, food pairings, cocktails and more at the Festival Whisky Live Paris. Les Docks-Cité de la Mode et du Design, Paris, Sept. 24-25.

Feel-good films
> Classic movies starring the Marx Brothers, Peter Sellers, Cary Grant and more are sure to raise a smile at the festival Qu’est-ce qu’on Attend pour Être Heureux!, Forum des Images, Paris, through Oct. 2.

Hitchcock’s silent films
> The festival Les Neufs Films Muets d’Alfred Hitchcock presents all the silent movies by the master of suspense. Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Paris, through Sept. 27.

Indian films
> Indian film festival. Musée Guimet, Paris, through Sept. 30.

Chanson française
> L’Estival features singers performing in French. Various locations, Saint Germain-en-Laye, Sept. 23-Oct. 8.

Antique fair in a bucolic setting
> A visit to the Foire de Chatou antique market and regional products fair makes a great weekend outing. Chatou, Sept. 23-Oct. 2.

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.

Free outdoor opera
> Opéra Côté Cour puts on live performances at 3:30pm and 5pm. Bercy Village, Paris, Sept. 25.

Classical, world, jazz & electronic
> The Festival d’Ile de France holds concerts in various locations in Paris and elsewhere, through Oct. 9.

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.

Music on the beach
> Sandy beach and nightly concerts or DJs at La Plage de Glaz’Art. Paris, through Oct. 1.

Garden festival
> Meet the gardeners and landscape architects, take a gardening class, listen to music, etc. at the Fête des Jardins. Various locations, Paris, Sept. 24-25.

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.

Especially for kids
> The Festival les Pestacles offers concerts and other activities for kiddies age five and up. Parc Floral, Paris, through Sept. 28.

 

Restaurants - Contemporary

 

Cristal du Sel

Crystal-Clear Memories

The smiling chefs keep an eye on the clientele and vice versa. Photo © Paris Update

“It is an adult’s duty to remember,” opines the central character in Anita Brookner’s Brief Lives, mourning the loss of “primal spontaneity” when children learn manners and how to manage sorrow and anger.

I love her books, in which small, tinkling voices awaken the basso profundo of life’s Big Questions, just as the deeper harmonics resonate inside you when you play a chord on the upper registers of a piano.

What has all this got to do with Le Cristal de Sel, you might ask? Not a lot, actually, except the exercise in memory that writing about a restaurant meal you had several days before entails. As your guide, it most definitely is my duty to remember where, what and how. Happily, in the case of this week’s restaurant, the memories are excellent.

As we walked into this blessedly smoke-free zone, we were greeted with smiles almost as wide as the hat of the immaculately kitted chef was tall. Le Cristal has been, our waiter told us, open just a month, which was something of a surprise, given that it was soon full, and people were being turned away (take heed and reserve). The grapevine must work pretty efficiently in this quiet but relatively affluent corner of Paris, only a stone’s throw from Stéphane Martin, reviewed here recently. The nearly all-white decor is a bit cold, but the view into the tiny kitchen enlivens the atmosphere and the diners add warmth, while the noise levels that might be expected in a room with so many hard surfaces subside when people begin tucking into Karil Lopez’s food.

Lopez has struck out on his own after five years working under two-starred Eric Fréchon at Le Bristol, and we should all be thankful for it. The day’s dishes are informally announced on chalkboards, which also list wines to pair them with. We started with a tin of tiny sardines from the house of Ramon Peña, billed on one Web site as “the most sought-after sardines in Spain.” As a lover of canned sardines, I shall certainly seek them out. They were served with butter made by a certain Monsieur Bordier, whose shop is in Saint Malo and is rightly famed. It had been mixed with something shrimpy and complemented the nutty sardines amazingly well. My freshly sautéed asparagus and chanterelle mushrooms in a jus de poulet (more poetic than “chicken juices”) was deeply satisfying, although the presentation in a cooking pot (cocotte) too large for the portion could be improved.

Next came a filet de canette aux épices, navets caramélisées, a plump breast of duckling with a peppery-citrusy sauce that set the taste buds jiving, alongside a fan of turnips which, while good, were upstaged by the spices and could have been better caramelized. I went for the poitrine de cochon à la plancha served with more tiny mushrooms and equally diminutive grenaille potatoes. The generous serving of belly pork had been cooked to a melting turn, real food for the soul on a chilly, rainy July evening.

We did not regret our choice of honeyed Mâcon Villages Thévenet 2001. Nor that of a glass of sweet Côtes de Gascogne, redolent of apricots, with the desserts: an old-fashioned raspberry financier, a pound-cake-like delight made with ground almonds and egg whites, served with vanilla ice cream; and roast apricots with almond cream, also with vanilla ice cream.

These two desserts epitomize the traditional cast to Lopez’s cuisine, which brilliantly soups up favorites from the cuisine bourgeoise cookbook. His evident pleasure at seeing his new venture running as sweetly as a fine-tuned engine was a picture I will happily return to see.

Richard Hesse

Le Cristal de Sel: 13, rue Mademoiselle, 75015 Paris. Métro: Commerce. Tel.: 01 42 50 35 29. A la carte: around €45. Open Tuesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner.

Update July 1, 2009: As of today, in response to the drop in French value-added tax, Cristal de Sel is lowering the price of its fixed-price lunch menu (two courses) from €20 to €18. Individual dishes will go down in price by €1 or €2.

© 2007 Paris Update

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