Arriving in Paris late morning, we were faced with the decision of whether we should try to nap a bit after not getting any sleep on the plane, or truck through the first day. We chose the latter, and what better way to keep me alert than throwing back some head and brains for lunch? We met up with some friends of Liz and ambled into one of the many rather anonymous bistros lining the streets in the 6th arrondissement. The second i saw “tete” I closed my menu and smiled and the sleep started to lift from my eyes. The head and brains were served in a crock pot, as a kind of stew – smothered in a sauce that I was unfamiliar with (grabiche i think it was called? it was egg-based and rather runny) and with some small potatoes.
The brains and head were delicious, though there was one cut of meat that I had trouble identifying. There was the fleshy tongue and cheek, but also a long thin extremely fatty cut that appeared to have shaved hairs running down one side. It was too fatty and giving to be the skin, but maybe the layer of fat directly underneath the skin? I wasn’t sure. As I poked and prodded at it and voiced my confusion, one of our friends exposed her quasi-vegetarianism and her near nausea at my little endeavor, so I stopped my exploration. Either way, it was a lovely little introduction to our vacation. For dessert we went on the hunt for some of Liz’s favorite desserts in the world – Parisian macaroons.
Dinner was at Il Vino, a restaurant that Liz had read about in the Wall Street Journal. Their schtick is that the menu only shows their wine – you order a bottle/glasses and then they pair it with food. You could either buy wines by the glass or choose from one of three tasting menus. The “blind” menu for 95 euro consisted of 4 mystery wines that were served in black tasting glasses and 4 mystery courses. The Italian menu for 135 euro consisted of 4 Italian wines with 4 mystery courses. Finally, for a whopping 1000 euro you could get the Grands Terroirs de France – 5 impressive wines with 5 mystery courses. We opted for the Italian menu which was the following:
Course # 1: roasted vegetables and mozzarella over tomato puree
This dish was totally unimpressive on several levels. First, taste. The tomato puree was clearly from a can. Second, creativity. This was just some eggplant, a pepper, and some fresh mozzarella. Finally, price. As part of a 4 course menu for 135 euro I think it’s reasonable to expect something a little more interesting. I don’t care how good the wine is or how well it’s paired; a restaurant that claims to serve dinner better have good food or it will die quickly. The wine was good, but it didn’t wow me enough to get over this pedestrian dish.
Course #2: homemade bigoli with a seafood tomato sauce
Pasta was good, sauce was good, wine was good and paired well with the food. But again, did I really just pay 34 euro for this? I could get this dish, this good at a roadside trattoria anywhere in Italy for 5 euro.
Course #3: vitello tonnato (veal with tuna sauce)
This wine was outstanding and made the course worth it. But the pairing was off. Even though this was a veal dish and that seems like it would be good with a Barolo, the dominant flavor here was fish. That yellow sauce you see was basically pureed tuna salad and the caper was wrapped with an anchovy. It knocked out my taste buds a bit, and I couldn’t enjoy the wine as much as I wanted to.
Course #4: tiramisu, sort of
This was mostly cream with some small ladyfingers hiding underneath. It was tasty nonetheless and went very well with the Birbet which is a very sweet sparkling red from Piemonte.
Overall, we were dissatisfied with our experience at Il Vino. Although all the wines were interesting and tasty, the disappointment with the food was too much to overcome. I think they would be better off advertising as a wine bar with small plates as opposed to a dinner establishment. That would create fewer expectations of the food and allow them to take advantage of their true knowledge and skills.