Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dinner in Paris: Gerard Depardieu's La Fontaine Gaillon

Gerard Depardieu, best-known in the U.S. for his Oscar-nominated role of Cyrano in Cyrano de Bergerac, is owner of a classic French restaurant called La Fontaine Gaillon and located in the heart of Paris at 1, place Gaillon in the 2nd Arrondisement. describes the cuisine as "traditional French" and the establishment as a "... beautiful restaurant nestled in a 17th century beautiful mansion" with cuisine "... at par with the decor."

The restaurant having been recommended by the hotel concierge, and confirmed with vigorous nods by people that I queried during the course of the day, we set out in an under-air-conditioned taxi in search of a gastronomic tour de force.  We were not disappointed.

The restaurant is located at the confluence of Rue Gaillon, Rue St. Augustin, and Rue de Port-Mahon, directly in the vee formed by Rue Gaillon and Rue de Port-Mahon.  This geographical location places the restaurant in a position of prominence as viewed by the approaching patron and provides a commanding view of the surroundings looking from the inside out.  When recommending the restaurant, the concierge had suggested we sit on the terrace if possible and I had requested thusly when making the reservation.  When we presented at the entry, it became clear why such a recommendation had been made.  Check-in was at the gate of a half-moon-shaped courtyard which had seating for about 50 people and which was protected from the outside environment by well-manicured window boxes along the perimeter and by two large, off-white tents above.

Directly across from the entrance, and hard against the building wall, was a massive, two-level fountain which reached almost to the eaves (In a 2004 article in the New York Times, Dana Thomas reported that the original building was constructed in 1872 for Sieur Fremont, the guardian of the royal treasury, and that the fountain was rebuilt in 1828 by Visconti, the architect who built Napolean's tomb.).

Our reservation was at 8:00 pm so it was still very bright outside when we were seated directly adjacent to the fountain.  We noted the sharply dressed, black-clad wait staff with vests and black ties for males and open-necked white shirts for females.  We were presented with an extensive wine list, once comfortably seated, and selected a 1998 Pommery Cuvee Louise to start the evening off.  The pale straw color and small, tight bubbles in the glass were harbingers of the full-mouth-enveloping acidity, the bread, the minerality, the burnt orange and long finish of this wine.

Our entree (remember, we are in Paris) was a Ravioli de Crevettes au Persil Chinois.  This was shrimp (large) in a see-through casing and flavorful it was.  It went wonderfully with the champagne.

Our main courses were, respectively, Aladdin de homard Breton (lobster), Cote de Veau (veal) a la creme et de Truffles Blanche, and Entrecote Black Angus Grilled, sauce Bernaise.  We paired the meats with a 2007 Chateau Giscours.

The desserts were an Assiette de Fruits rouges, glaze vanille; Soup de Peches blanches aux framboises basilic; and Profiteroles au Choclat chaud.

This was a Monday evening but by the time we were on our second glasses of champagne, the restaurant had begun to fill up.  It was a calm, unhurried environment, well-suited to enjoying the delicacies which had been placed before us that evening.  By the time we got up to leave, darkness had enshrouded the plaza and, as we got into our taxi, we cast one last, longing look at the vista shown below.

Goodbye for now, friend.  I will see you again.

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