Photo of the Week

Paris-Update-EiffelTower

The Eiffel Tower seen from a rooftop in Montparnasse on a smoggy day. © 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).

Women’s March on Paris
> The day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, women will march in cities around the world. Starts at the Parvis des Droits Humains, Trocadero, at 2pm, crosses the Pont d’Iéna and ends at the Mur pour la Paix at 4:30pm.

Behind closed doors
> Book now to visit places in Paris that are normally closed during Paris Face Cachée, including a lab trying to find cures for genetic diseases, located in a glass building with a panoramic roof terrace. Various venues, Paris and suburbs, Jan. 27-29.

Book signing
> Irish author Donal Ryan signs copies of his latest book, The Thing About December. Irish Cultural Center, Paris, Jan. 19.

Late-Night Magritte
> The Magritte exhibition at the Centre Pompidou will stay open until 10pm from Jan. 19 through the last day, Jan. 23.

Drinkathon
> Paris Cocktail Week offers master classes, special restaurant menus with cocktail/food pairings and other festivities. Various venues, Paris, Jan. 21-28.

Young European photographers
> The Festival Circulation(s) features emerging photographers. Centquatre, Paris, Jan. 21-March 5.

Picasso at the airport
> The exhibition "Picasso Plein Soleil" presents works made by the master while living on the Côte d’Azur. Espace Musées, Charles-de-Gaulle Airport 2E, Jan. 21-June 15.

Cheap cinema
> During the Festival Cinéma Télérama, you can see a selection of last year’s best films for only €3.50 each with the purchase of Télérama magazine (Jan. 11 and 18 issues). Various cinemas, Jan. 18-24.

Free subtitled French films
> My French Film Festival offers frees streaming of French movies. Through Feb. 13.

Frank Capra Retrospective
> The great American director in the spotlight. Cinémathèque Française, Paris, through Feb. 27.

Sex, Lies and Corruption
> The Hollywood Décadent festival features such films as Joseph Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor, Valley of the Dolls, and Vincente Minnelli’s Nina. Cinémathèque Française, Paris, through Jan. 25.

Chinese New Wave
> Nouvelles Voix du Cinéma Chinois screens films by a new generation of directors beginning around the turn of the 21st-century. Cinémathèque Française, Paris, through Feb. 20.

Winter sales
> Retail sales all over France: through Feb. 21.

Ice-Skating Rinks
> Where to ice skate in Paris, including the Eiffel Tower and the Grand Palais.

English plays in French
> Two plays by Harold Pinter, Ashes to Ashes and L’Amant, directed by Mitch Hooper, are onstage at the Essaïon through Jan. 24, 2017.

 

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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