I ask because we overheard a conversation in a bistro last weekend – a young tourist came in and asked the waiter, with the help of the French translation App on her smartphone, about the menu. She was looking for traditional French onion soup, frogs legs and snails. The waiter was quite patient and helpful but could only offer the onion soup so off she went in search of frogs and snails. We finished our French onion soup (delicious) and debated what we thought were traditional French dishes, concluding that although frogs’ legs and snails might be iconic we didn’t think they were traditional in the sense of typical everyday French food. But perhaps we haven’t explored enough yet?
Whenever we have friends and family visiting invariably the request is to eat somewhere that offers “real” French food. It’s all part of the adventure and fun. The good news is that we now know a handful of restaurants that serve traditional French food that’s interesting, good enough to make holidays memorable and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
One of these is Les Domaines qui montent on rue Cardinet in the 17th (arrondissement). It’s actually a wine shop and delicatessen that doubles as a lunchtime restaurant. There’s a sister restaurant by the same name in the 11th too. Each day (except Sunday) there is a set menu with variation in the courses you can choose; entrée and main, main and cheese, main and dessert. The menu is published for the week or 2 ahead and is usually a typical tasty French dish with wine to match from the range available in the shop.
There is a lovely ambience; tables are tucked neatly into corners and beside shelves of wine bottles, the service is friendly and you dine alongside lively locals who know their food and wine. We came here to celebrate my 56th birthday the week before last. I felt right at home nestled amongst the aged single malt whiskeys and the fine red wines, all of us maturing nicely.
The main course that day was tartiflette, a potato gratin dish with bacon (lardons) and onion. The essential ingredient for this traditional dish is the Reblochon cheese from the Haute-Savoie region (in the Alpes). We chose the cheesboard instead of dessert and were treated to a delicious jelly made from Gewurztraminer wine to accompany the cheeses. This is just the kind of traditional food that is ordinary in the sense of being authentic but far more special than ordinary when it comes to taste.
It made for a bon anniversaire and bon appétit.