Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Paris 2011: L'Ourcine


L'Ourcine
92, rue Broca
Paris 75013
Ph: 01 47 07 13 65
(Closest Metro station: Les Gobelins)

The week before we went to Paris, I texted my friend Clarice and asked her to pick a nice restaurant we could visit on our trip.  I know of Paris' reputation as a gourmet's heaven, but I have to admit I was completely lost when it came to choosing a restaurant!  Unlike some other cities, say, Sydney and London, there were no particular 'destination' restaurants that I was dying to visit.  And I was unsure how to navigate the different options: expensive Michelin-starred places, the new wave of cheaper, more democratic bistros headed by ex-fine dining chefs: where to begin?

In the weeks leading up to our holiday, work was so busy that I barely had any time to research, so I thought it would be wise (not to mention easier, hehe), just to ask my friend for advice.  It seemed that many restaurants were closed for August, but Clarice finally found one that was open: L'Ourcine.  She'd visited there for her birthday a few years back, and said they served fabulous regional cuisine from south west France.  Fantastic!


L'Ourcine is located on a quiet residential street (although the quietness was likely exacerbated by the August holidays!), in the 13th arrondissement, and on the night we visited, was mainly full of locals.  They had a three-course menu for 34€, to which you can add some sides or a fancier main for an additional cost.  I thought this represented good value!  Service was also friendly (especially by Parisian standards, hehe), and not just because we were fortunate enough to have a fluent French speaker on our table - the head waiter was very patient with a nearby table of middle-aged American tourists who spoke no French and needed the entire menu translated into English.


They also had a short and sharp list of local wines.  Not knowing anything about French wines, I just asked for a glass of light red wine.

To start, we were brought a little amuse-bouche of fennel mousse with chives and little crunchy croutons: delicious.   
For someone who doesn't really like aniseed-flavours, I absolutely loved this!  It was both light and rich, with just a subtle hit of aniseed.


With four of the five entrées being seafood-based, Sandra's only option was the egg dish.
Oeufs poêlés minute, poivrons confits, émulsion crémeuse au thym 
This dish, a nod to their Basque influence, included softly cooked eggs, confit peppers and a thyme foam.  (I quickly came to realise that émulsion crémeuse means foam!)  Whilst this was well executed, Sandra felt that it was almost too simple to justify the price.

Clarice and I, unable to choose, decided to order two entrées and share.  First up, crab ravoili with lemon foam.

Raviole d'araignée de mer, émulsion crémeuse à la citronelle 
This was gorgeous - an incredibly fresh and light combination of flavours and textures.

Bisque de crustacés, crème légère aux oeufs de harengs fumés
And following the same seafood theme, but with a vastly different effect, was a decadently creamy shellfish bisque.  It was served with a quenelle of smoked herring roe cream, garlic crisps, some crunchy little croutons and (again) chives.

Let's have a look at the mains.  Sandra ordered a roast pork fillet, with confit garlic and piquillo peppers, which came with a side of gratin chard.
Mignon de cochon rôti à l'ail confit, gratin de blettes au jus, couli de pimientos del pequillos 
Beautiful, isn't it?  I snuck a little taste and it was excellent!  None of us were too enthused about the gratin chard, however.


Clarice and I both ordered the same thing for our mains: a breast of Fermier-breed chicken, stuffed with foie gras and served with freshly podded peas cooked in the French style (i.e. with bacon and stock).  I'm glad we each ordered our own and didn't share: it was so delicious I would have struggled to swap halfway through!
Suprême de poulet fermier, piqué au foie gras de canard, petits pois frais à la française


The chicken was extremely tender, nearly tending towards underdone, with well-seasoned accompaniments and a generous serving of duck foie gras - absolutely gorgeous!  I think it says quite a lot for the mains that we barely spoke to each other the whole way through, our faces pointed down, fully concentrating on enjoying our food!

We also ordered a small serving of chanterelle mushrooms, (chanterelles, how could I resist!) but given the size of our meals, didn't really need them.
Fricassée de giroles au jus de viande - (+8€)

For dessert, I went for the chocolate option: smooth and quenelles of Guanaja chocolate cream, drizzled with an intensely coloured but mildly flavoured saffron custard.  The accompanying puffed-rice stick provided a nice textural contrast.  The quenelles were very rich though, and I only managed to eat one.  I didn't struggle to find volunteers to eat the rest, though!
Quenelles de chocolat guanaja, crème anglaise safranée, crunch de riz soufflé
Both Sandra and Clarice went for the blanc mangé, a dessert I'd never eaten, but only read about in Enid Blyton books.
Blanc mangé à la vanille, confit d'abricots au miel d'acacia et pistaches
The little mound of gelatin-set vanilla cream were surrounded by intensely perfumed apricots and pistachios,  and a drizzle of pistachio sauce.  Accompanying was a crunchy poppyseed tuille biscuit, and an absolutely perfect raspberry.  I always wonder where restaurants and pâtisseries find such perfect raspberries.  You may remember, when I made Nigella's slut-red raspberries in chardonnay jelly, they tasted great, but looked quite odd as the little raspberry hairs were suspended in the jelly.  Do farmers reserve the best raspberries for standing orders from restaurants and patisseries?  Or is there someone in the kitchen whose job it is to pluck all the little raspberry-hairs out?

Anyhoo... back to the topic at hand.  I loved the meal at L'Ourcine, and we walked out into the warm night, full and happy.  I'd definitely want to visit again the next time I go to Paris!

2 comments:

Esz said...

It all looks divine! Wow.

You know, I think someone DOES pluck all the little raspberry hairs out lol!

Sarah said...

Thanks Esz!!

I reckon it must be the newest kitchen hand's job to do, lol!

xox Sarah