Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

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IlkkaL
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Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

#1 Post by IlkkaL » December 27th, 2018, 8:16 am

Two weeks ago I spent six days in France with the missus, splitting our time between Paris and Lyon. Andrew Kotowski did a fine job with his Paris thread but I figured there just cannot be too much Paris on the forum and some Lyon cannot hurt either so why not share some of our experiences?

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Our agenda was a bit funky as we flew to Paris only to stay there for one night before taking the train to Lyon. Our first hotel was in Le Marais, well within a walking distance to the Gare de Lyon station. We took the RER line from Charles de Gaulle to the Châtelet-Les Halles station and walked a while before deciding to have lunch at a cozy small restaurant called Le Metropolitain. The plat de jour with café gourmand was excellent value and the restaurant is really a great getaway from the crowds. Quite refined cooking for such a casual place in fact.

Afterwards we took our bags to the hotel, wandered around a little bit before ending up at the nearby Caves du Marais wineshop. We had been there in 2014 when I had scored some cheap Dauvissat and I would not have minded a déjà-vu. As it happens that was not to be as the prices had nearly doubled in four years. Still, it remains a recommendable shop with lots of nice producers represented, such as Rousseau, Sauzet, Droin, Chermette etc. It is as tightly-packed as it gets, high piles of cases of wines everywhere and very little room to move. The owner sits calmly in the corner behind the counter but speaks good English and kindly offered to help should we need any. Aftering wondering a bit I bought some Sauzet and a bottle of Clape's Vin des Amis for my friend and we left.

For dinner we would meet my cousin and her boyfriend and I had booked a rather relaxed spot called Au Passage (pictured, kind of). Someone had described its location on a dark alley next to waste containers as seemingly a "fine place to get mugged" and I have to say I concur. That said the restaurant had garnered lots of praise for its awesome atmosphere, simple yet fine cooking and good selection of mostly natural wines.

The food is mostly small plates but they also offer a shoulder of lamb for the curious (compared to the rest of the list) price of 50 €. We assumed that this would be a dish for two so tried to order it accordingly but fortunately the waitress kindly told us that she would not allow us to order what would be more or less 4kg of meat. Indeed one shoulder combiner with various small plates turned out to be more than enough for us. At times the small plates were really too small for four but we managed to share them in a peaceful manner and tasty they were without a doubt. For the first bottle we got my gf's favorite, 2012 Domaine de Terrebrune Bandol, which despite the young age was not hard, angular or mute. In fact it was a great success around the table with its strawberry-laden fruit, power, structure and a healthy dose of spice. Not animalistic at all yet still very much what I am looking for in a Bandol.

For the second bottle I craved for a Cabernet Franc and wanted to order a 2013 Hardouinos Saumur Champigny by Domaine Bobinet. The sommelière was very hesitant as she was afraid it would be too light for us after the Bandol. After I explained that it would not be that serious she gave in but said that I could try the wine and if it was too light she would put it on the by the glass list and we could choose something else. Unusual perhaps but great service I have to say! As it happens the wine - while lighter for sure - was extremely delicious and brimming with energy. Irresistible tangy red fruit, high acidity and delicious savory character. It was actually the perfect wine for the fatty, slow-cooked lamb. For a more natural wine oriented crowd there would have been some interested stuff such as several bottlings from L'Anglore and the fantastic Susucaru rosé from Frank Cornelissen. We were very happy with our choices, with the food and the service. The informal atmosphere suited us very well and unlike some online reviewers we did not find the music too loud. Could be an age thing.

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Next noon we took the TGV to Lyon's Perrache station which is very conveniently located in the central part of the city. The previous day there had been a terrorist attack at a Christmas market in Strasbourg and as a result there were at least a dozen heavily armed soldiers patrolling at the Lyon Perrache station and the Christmas market right next to it. Naturally we were not in a mood to spend time at the Christmas market so we grabbed a light lunch and took our bags to our hotel. This rather B&B kind of an establishment called Hôtel Vaubecour was very nice - on a quiet yet central location and basically formed the second floor of a classy apartment building. Extra kudos for the great breakfast and very good coffee.

In case it does not translate from the image it was COLD in Lyon. Despite the temperatures being pretty much the same as in Paris the humidity made it feel a lot worse. On the other hand we also felt like we were the only tourists around so I guess you win some, you lose some.

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After strolling around in the Vieux Lyon a bit we magically ended up standing in front of Antic Wine, probably the most famous wine shop in town. Several winemakers have endorsed this shop in the past and it was not hard to see why. The first floor was filled with recent vintages from nice producers, but downstairs one could find some pretty magical stuff. Until this I had never seen unopened bottles from René Engel or Noël Verset but here they were in good quantities alongside some more attainable yet still in demand producers. Having recently torn my ankle ligaments it was actually not a very easy walk up and down the ancient stone steps so make sure to be in shape and healthy if you decide to come here, as you should.

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Being the poor bastard that I am I opted for some considerably more affordable bottles from PYCM, Henri Boillot and Jean-Luc Jamet. Really looking forward to the 2015 Côte-Rôtie Les Terrasses from the latter - at 60 € it could be quite a value if it manages to reach the heights of Jean-Paul's wines.

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After Antic Wine it felt right to compensate so we spent a couple of hours visiting normal people's shops. Not nearly soon enough it was time for dinner and we had booked a place called L'Âme Soeur a bit outside the commercial center. As the name suggests there was a huge bottle of Ogier's identically named wine sitting on the counter in this intimate restaurant the size of one room. On a Wednesday evening we were only the second customers but it filled up almost instantly.

As far as value goes L'Âme Soeur is right up there with the best of them. A fine three course menu for 25 € and a compact, moderately sized list of smart wines means you will have both good time and feel good about your finances afterwards. The wine list (can be seen online) is unsurprisingly very strong when it comes to the Rhône Valley with Jamet, Allemand and Reynaud being the stars. Additionally their selection of Ramonet is nothing short of fantastic and indeed we ended up with a bottle of 2014 Puligny-Montrachet Les Enseignières as I had not had this cuvée before. In retrospect it is not as great a wine as the Chassagne Ruchottes which would have been only ten Euros more but I feel like it is always nice to try something new. A good wine it is most definitely; thoroughly salty on the nose with notes of lemon, spearmint and smoke. On the palate dry, savory and moderately rich with a fine touch of oak and quite powerful acidity. It was a bit timid early on but certainly got better and better as the evening went on would surely do well in the cellar.

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The 25 € menu is considerably better than could be reasonably expected and offers quite a lot of choice. Strong, rich sauces, fresh ingredients and just simply delicious. With the starter and the main I could hardly wait to get to the part where I clean the plate impeccably with a piece of bread. I would say that the cooking is quite perfect for their wine cellar. Overall, a brilliant restaurant that cannot be recommended highly enough. Not that Lyon isn't packing when it comes to options but surely you could do a lot worse then L'Âme Soeur!
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Re: Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

#2 Post by Barry L i p t o n » December 27th, 2018, 1:31 pm

A little more on the Au Passage meal please. Was it a good place for a fish lover?

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Re: Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

#3 Post by M.Kaplan » December 27th, 2018, 1:45 pm

I like Au Passage, but I wouldn't go there primarily to eat fish. The lamb shoulder for two is their signature dish and it is very good. I've seen multi-person fish dishes there from time to time, but am uncertain whether it is a daily occurrence. You might want to call them and ask.
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Re: Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

#4 Post by Barry L i p t o n » December 27th, 2018, 2:14 pm

Thanks Mark!

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Re: Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

#5 Post by IlkkaL » December 27th, 2018, 9:57 pm

For sure Au Passage is not the best place if you are looking to eat fish. They had oysters and another dish with fish but otherwise there was not much seafood on the carte.
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Re: Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

#6 Post by IlkkaL » December 28th, 2018, 8:47 am

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Crêpe salée, or a galette. Fantastic! We had these twice for lunch and between an almost overwhelming breakfast consisting of croissants, pains au chocolat, baguette and yoghurt and multi-course dinner I find it to be the perfect thing. The drink of choice seems to be cider from Normandy but we prefer beer. A lunch at this place, called Crêperie des Gones, was like heaven after walking all morning in the cold. We checked out the Confluence part of Lyon where one can find most modern apartment buildings by the rivers and a shopping center.

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Malleval is the other famous wine shop of Lyon and quite different from Antic Wine in many ways. Whereas Antic Wine's focus is 98 % in wine and it is located a bit on the side in the old part of the city, Malleval has a ton of booze and liquor as well as food produce and is located right there in the thick of it, in the middle of the Presqu'ile part of Lyon. It seems to be the sort of place where the well-off older people go buy their Christmas Bordeaux and eaux de vie and there are tons of staff to wrap the bottles carefully for them. That said while Malleval does not offer the kind of über rare wines Antic Wine does (at least not on the shelves) it is still a worthy place to visit for any wine geek.

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In addition to solid selections of Bordeaux and Champagne the high points are clearly Rhône Valley and Bourgogne. I suppose it is a rather good sign when on a special display for Christmas ideas they have a gift box of Chassagne-Montrachet in both colors from Ramonet for the rather decent price of 68 €. Almost similarly were priced Ramonet's Saint Aubin Les Charmois and Roulot's Bourgogne Blanc which are what I decided to leave with. Their pricing for the wines of Bérêche was really killing me but in the end I had to exercise self-control. The staff all seemed super excited to work in Malleval and were more than helpful. All I can say is there should be more shops like Malleval.

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I had really been looking forward to our second dinner in Lyon as it had been a bit of a trouble to get it booked. The restaurant in question, called L'Ourson Qui Boit ('the cub who drinks', I believe) is a rarity in that it has no website, no Facebook page and no email address. Only phone number is given and being that I do not really speak French despite having some kind of a vocabulary and decent pronunciation (well, depends who you ask) this was a challenge. However as all I could find was raving reviews I felt like I had to give it a shot. I went through all the critical data in French to be able to deliver my message if no English was spoken and I felt confident. Indeed on the phone I was quickly told that only French will do so I tried my absolute best for a second felt good about myself. I think I was clearly understood but once the lady on the phone shot back a question I did not even begin to understand I knew that was that: I would need help. Fortunately that could be arranged and in the end we got our reservation.

The location is clearly outside the city center and the block a bit rough looking but in a trendy "there used to be a factory here" kind of a way. Similarly to L'Âme Soeur it is one open room but bigger and taller than the previous one. Some graffiti up high on the wall tells you that it is a trendier spot. The staff are all of Asian descent (the chef is Japanese) and do not speak any English indeed. That said they are very kind and attentive. It is a Bib Gourmand restaurant and a very affordable one at that: there is only one menu (entrée+plat+dessert/fromage) and it costs 32 € with 4 € extra if one wants both the dessert and the cheese. The wine list is quite compact and focuses once again on Burgundy and Rhône Valley but without the most famous names.

Having had a very positive experience with Bernard Moreau's Bourgogne Blanc recently it was an easy decision to order a bottle of this 2015 Chassagne-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes Rouge, especially as all the Northern Rhônes were very young and mostly from the ripe 2015 vintage. It was also only 50 € which felt very fair. On the table there were the sort of small, generic wine glasses one would expect to drink a house Côtes du Rhône in a bouchon. Sure enough I was disappointed when our bottle arrived and the waiter poured the wine to these sad glasses. It was bound to be one of those moments where I just cannot hide my disappointment from my girlfriend and she is praying for me to not say anything. However as I saw that behind the counter they had some very decent looking Burgundy bowls eventually I just had to grab the waitress and ask for the "grand verre" and lo an behold she understood my request and brought the glasses. Success! Suddenly the wine was tasting fantastic and my dinner was saved. It is a delicate wine with cherry-laden fruit, forest floor, Christmas spice and moderate oak on the nose. Quite light-bodied yet very flavorful and tasty. Very little tannins, however it had good lift and presence nicely supported by the gentle oaking. Immensely elegant with the brightest fruit it paired very well with the skillfully cooked food.

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Due to enjoying my escargots the night before I ordered them again and the dish could not have been more different. Inside the spring roll there was Marsala, Emmental cheese and mushrooms and the pairing was very nice.

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My gf is not the biggest fan of tuna (I know, weird) but she loved her tuna tartar. I did too, almost to the point of being envious.

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The veal we had for main was really, really good. In addition to the red wine sauce it was accompanied by rather fantastic apple purée that had some Yuzu fruit in it. Once again, excellent with the Chassagne.

Overall I would say that while the Japanese influence was clearly there the cooking showed a lot of respect for the French tradition and ingredients. Japanese cooks and chefs seem to be more and more commonplace in France and I have to say that based on this one and my other experiences it is a really good thing.
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Re: Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

#7 Post by T Klonoski » December 29th, 2018, 8:07 am

As always, great photos and text. Thanks for taking the time.
Could you say a bit about the food shown in the L'Âme Soeur photos? Looks like escargot in two sauces and fish in beurre blanc?
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Re: Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

#8 Post by Andrew Kotowski » December 29th, 2018, 7:56 pm

Breaking my heart with your Lyon notes!!! We overnighted there on the way to the Alps... but was a Saturday night and the wine stores were all closed on a Sunday. Awesome.

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Re: Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

#9 Post by patrick c albright » December 30th, 2018, 8:36 am

I have been to Lyon at least twenty times and I still feel as if I am just scratching the surface.
Just an amazing city.
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Re: Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

#10 Post by IlkkaL » December 30th, 2018, 8:47 am

T Klonoski wrote:
December 29th, 2018, 8:07 am
As always, great photos and text. Thanks for taking the time.
Could you say a bit about the food shown in the L'Âme Soeur photos? Looks like escargot in two sauces and fish in beurre blanc?
Thanks! The escargot dish had a sauce called Meurette, fried vermicelli rice and scrambled eggs with garlic butter. The fish dish was 'sea bream, mousseline potatoes with artichoke and gray shrimp juice emulsified with anchovy butter.' So no beurre blanc, but soooo hearty and delicious.
Andrew Kotowski wrote:
December 29th, 2018, 7:56 pm
Breaking my heart with your Lyon notes!!! We overnighted there on the way to the Alps... but was a Saturday night and the wine stores were all closed on a Sunday. Awesome.
Such a shame! Especially Antic Wine is a can't miss destination.
patrick c albright wrote:
December 30th, 2018, 8:36 am
I have been to Lyon at least twenty times and I still feel as if I am just scratching the surface.
Just an amazing city.
Yup, can't wait to return there myself. The hotel owner/manager said that they are struggling a bit to get tourists there this time a year, too bad really as it is such an awesome place.
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Re: Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

#11 Post by IlkkaL » January 1st, 2019, 3:01 am

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After two nights in Lyon we headed back to Paris for another two nights. Our first hotel had been on a quiet street in Le Marais which I found to be a rather attractive part of the city. The second one however was on the other side (north) of Place de la Bastille which felt a whole lot livelier - on one of the streets leading to the traffic circle there were 13 police cars parked in a row, apparently ready for whatever might take place. After a light lunch and checking in to our hotel on Boulevard Richard Lenoir we hiked to the other side of the river to spend some time in the 5th and 6th arrondissements, both of which I really like.

Choosing the restaurants for our time in Paris was a bit of a struggle as there is so much to choose from in all possible styles. Eventually we knew we had to return to Willi's Wine Bar and Au Passage felt like a rather perfect place (it was) to spend a relaxed evening with my cousin and her boyfriend but locking the third one was hard. One placed mentioned on this forum would have had some very affordable Raveneau but I got the impression that the food was very rustic and heavy and I was confident my girlfriend would have let me hear about it for the next year so that was out of the question, no matter how much I love Raveneau. Then at some point I remembered someone - either a retailer or a winemaker - recommending a joint called Le Petit Sommelier in Montparnasse during my previous holidays in France this year. I did my research and suddenly it felt like a total no-brainer.

Le Petit Sommelier is pretty much as traditional as it gets with its white tablecloths, properly dressed staff and all around extravagant decorations. In fact if I were to walk by it I would probably think that it is a tourist trap were it not for the abundant empty bottles in the window, many of which are of the "holy f*ck" kind. The same theme continues in the restroom where one wall is decorated with some rather fine empty double magnums.

Faithful to its appearance on the menu - while quite sizable - there is nothing that feels out of place. For entrées you have all the usual suspects from oysters to foie gras and whatever you might choose off the extensive wine list you can be sure to find the right classic French dish to accompany your bottle. There are some pricier cuts of meat but mostly Le Petit Sommelier is a fairly affordable place.

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One could spend hours going through the wine list - it is easily one of the better ones I have come across. I know for sure that I will return with fellow wine geeks to take advantage of its contents more thoroughly but this time I wanted something I knew my gf would enjoy to the fullest. As she loves Provence more than anything besides Tuscany I picked a bottle I had only had once before: 2013 Château Simone Palette Rouge. It was fantastic. Plum, blackberry, smoke, eucalyptus and some animale on the nose. Medium-bodied, rich, slightly warm and spicy on the palate. Juicy, chewy and really grippy. Despite showcasing quite clearly the southern sun I also find it to possess even Burgundian levels of elegance. Even if it is not a very often talked wine for my palate it is one of the finest to come from the south of France.

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For starters we ended up having a charcuterie platter for the simple reason of not having had one yet on this vacation. High quality produce all around, I particularly enjoyed the terrine.

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Guineafowl for main. Well cooked and thoroughly tasty, it paired very well with the wine that was not over-powering. Boeuf Bourguignon was not one bit bad either.

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My dessert was straight up fireworks. I had never had Baba au rhum before but from now on I am going to order it whenever the opportunity arises. Incredibly delicious and big enough portion to make me a very happy camper. They left the bottle of rum to the table in case I would have wanted to pour some more but there was definitely enough already in it. My girlfriend was very satisfied with her dark chocolate tarte which was good for her because I would not have switched plates half way through for any amount of Euros.

Le Petit Sommelier takes you back in time but only in a positive way. It seems like their goal is to make people happy and they really succeed in it. Only when it was time for the check to come we waited for longer than one would hope but that was just ants at a picnic - it did not come close to ruining our dinner in any way.

The next day - our last full one - was Saturday and as such we were expecting to see some yellow vests. That we did as we were about to exit a shop there were maybe a couple of hundred of them marching towards Seine. It seemed mostly peaceful to me, even if a few of them were looking to disturb traffic by stopping for a short while to stand still before cars while crossing the street. The shop's security guard seemed somewhat worried, holding the key in his hand, ready to lock the doors should the yellow vests try to enter the shop. That did not happen though and after a while we decided to follow the demonstrators over to the other side of Seine as that is where we had been headed before it all got started. Shortly after it began raining quite heavily so the rest of the day was mostly spent inside.

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On our first trip to Paris a few years back we had fallen in love with Willi's Wine Bar, dining there twice in a week's time. Back then this restaurant specializing in the wine's of the Northern Rhône and Burgundy had by the glass a certain 2005 Cornas Chaillot from a producer I was not familiar with, Thierry Allemand. That was of course turning point for me and I have since become a rather big fan of him and his wines with a visit to the domaine being one of my biggest fan boy moments. Such has been the general development that it would be unlikely to find Allemand's wines now by the glass and if you did the mark-up would probably reflect the heightened fame.

That said Willi's wine list continues to be awesome and for the fans of the Rhône and Bourgogne - Provence even - there are still lots of good options. Mature Jamet was awfully tempting but in the end I chose a producer I am rather fond of even if on the forum they do not seem to be considered part of the absolute elite of the region. While Viallière is my favorite cuvée from Clusel-Roch I know the Classique to age well too and I like really like the style and thus a vintage like 2001 seemed highly interesting. I did not know when they had refreshed their labels and thus was surprised to see the old-fashioned one. I commented that I found it pleasantly ugly and the waitress smilingly agreed.

The wine was awesome from the get-go and just authentic, classic Côte-Rôtie all the way. Blackberry, smoke, olives and stems on the nose with a slightly sauvage feel. On the palate dry, lively and most bright-fruited with fantastic grip. Impeccably balanced and all class with just the right amount of wildness to it. Perhaps the best part? The awesomely fine-grained tannins you feel in the end. So, so savory and tasty - might get better still but so good right now that it does not matter. In a way I am happy that Clusel-Roch is not championed like some others and one can buy a wine like this still for a very reasonable price.

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Even though not in Alsace I went with foie gras for a starter and did not regret my choice. It was really good with the wine as well as there were no sweet elements on the palate - just the essentials. Really tasty.

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For main I had the most flavorful and succulent Bourbonnais lamb. Such a simple dish, absolutely perfect for the wine. I felt here like the restaurant had really stepped their game up. On our previous visits the food had been good but now it was without a doubt better.

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Gf's Charolais steak was really top notch as well, although at this time I preferred my lamb as it gave more room to our fantastic wine to shine.

It should not go unsaid that at Willi's Wine Bar the waitresses seem to really enjoy working there. They also seem to be really excited about the wines which I feel truly adds to the experience. As much as I enjoyed Le Petit Sommelier to me this place is even better, damn near perfect actually. I know it for a fact already that whenever I'm coming to Paris the next time I will make sure to book a table at Willi's again.
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Re: Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

#12 Post by IlkkaL » January 1st, 2019, 3:02 am

oops, double
Last edited by IlkkaL on January 2nd, 2019, 12:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

#13 Post by Craig G » January 1st, 2019, 1:13 pm

Thanks, that was a fun read and makes me want to go back to Paris. We had the Baba au Rhum at D’Chez Eux and they also left the rum on the table - after the waiter did a shot with us!
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Re: Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

#14 Post by IlkkaL » January 5th, 2019, 6:04 am

Craig G wrote:
January 1st, 2019, 1:13 pm
Thanks, that was a fun read and makes me want to go back to Paris. We had the Baba au Rhum at D’Chez Eux and they also left the rum on the table - after the waiter did a shot with us!
Awesome! Yeah, I can't wait to go back either.
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Re: Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

#15 Post by alan weinberg » January 12th, 2019, 8:50 am

great read. Thanks for posting. I want to go back to Lyon now.

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Re: Eating, drinking and buying some wine in Paris and Lyon

#16 Post by Robert Dentice » January 12th, 2019, 11:48 am

Barry L i p t o n wrote:
December 27th, 2018, 1:31 pm
A little more on the Au Passage meal please. Was it a good place for a fish lover?
If you want a fish centric place similar to Au Passage try Sur Mer (it is owned by Thomas the mgr of Le Verre Vole and his Chef Wife Olive). We went in November and it was excellent.


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