A tea moment it was not, but it was magical all the same. For our 10th wedding anniversary, on our trip to Paris, one thing I really wanted to experience was “haute cuisine,” the kind of French Dining you always hear about. After some basic research and reviewing several “Best of” lists, I found the restaurant. Chez Dumonet. Just typing these words makes my mouth water.
Chez Dumonet is exactly what you would envision a Parisian bistro to be. As it should: from everything I’ve read, it originally opened in 1898 and is run by the 3rd generation Dumonet. This one, Jean-Christian. Everything in the place comes across in amber tones, with aged mirrors and timeless banquettes. The all-business wait staff was dressed in the classic bistro wait staff attire – starched white collared shirts, black ties and vests, with long white aprons tied around the waist. The hierarchy of staff is very clear. The gentleman who seated us was very clearly in charge and spoke flawless English. He gave some recommendations, and elaborated when asked. He very quickly started us off with a glass of champagne and a tiny terrine of vegetable soup, compliments of the chef. The soup was a most perfectly balanced, creamy blend of carrots, onions, and all things autumn vegetable and freshness – with the tiniest swirl of chocolate on top for that extra pop of richness.
Gene ordered the Beef Bourguignon, for which they are famous, and I was terribly adventurous and ordered Pigeon (Wild, I’m sure. Not any trespassers of the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame. Right?). I like to think the head waiter was impressed with my bravery. He recommended a bottle of red, and we melted comfortably into our surroundings. The bistro had that luxurious patina of age, but not just any age. Any city can display age. This patina of age is that grace and glamour that only Paris possesses – elegance, beauty, like a aging wine. It truly gets better with age, not worse.
The 2nd-in-command brought our dinners out. Gene’s beef bourguignon was a feast for all the senses. This was no crock-pot meal. It was cooked and simmered lovingly, with a confident hand. There was no lack of attention or attendance during preparation. Its rich burgundy color was reflective of the burgundy wine that braised the beef. The supporting cast of vegetables elevated the beef to dizzying heights, while the accompanying egg noodles provided a solid foundation to bring it carefully back down to earth.
My pigeon dish was as whimsical as it was delicious. In a delicate stack of airy potato pancakes, lay the perfectly seasoned and cooked pigeon meat. Over all of it was a tangy yet to-die-for sauce. I could not identify the wine base, but it was very different from the burgundy sauce of the beef bourguignon. The two pigeon drumsticks were arranged artfully against the creation. And while pigeons are not the largest of birds, nor are they the most popular (think of any city square around the world), this wild pigeon was delicate, rich, and intensely satisfying. I was practically licking my plate clean, much to the delight of the wait staff.
I would not leave without experiencing a dessert, so we ordered their souffle. What could be more French than souffle? And what a treat! Out came this towering puff ball, with which we were given two spoons. As we dipped into the fluffy and lightly browned egg whites, the artistry continued to be revealed, layer by layer. The base consisted of Grand Marnier, which whispered throughout the dessert without being overpowering. The strength of the coffee we ordered balanced the perfect sweetness of the dessert.
As with any dinner abroad, it lasted nearly three hours. But what a delightful three hours. And although each course had its own richness, a wealth of layered flavors, and came in satisfying quantities, I did not feel uncomfortable. Finally, this is what fine dining is all about. A true sense of satisfaction for each of my senses. Je suis satisfait.
The 3rd level waiter, who truly was the bus boy (all white attire), cleared our table and politely declined any interaction – deferring completely to the head waiter for all. And the head waiter very graciously thanked us for visiting and directed the bus boy to take our photo for us.
I can’t think of when I have had a more wonderful meal, and to share it with my most wonderful husband – well, all I can say was that it was a perfect evening.
Restaurant Chez Dumonet, Paris 6th Arr., 117 Rue Cherche-Midi
Telephone: 01 45 48 52 40 (Reservations Strongly Recommended!)