Lunch at Le Réfectoire

Denim, Converse, Boozy Brunch and BBQ are some of many American inventions that have become popular in France as of late. Hipster eats are widely available, everything from artisanal bagel sandwiches and bacon maple donuts to fish tacos and elaborate vegetable juices served in mason jars. And food trucks. They started popping up in Paris around 5 years ago, with Californian owned and operated Camion Qui Fume leading the way with American style burgers and fries. And then there was Camion à pizzas du Centquatre with its pizzas, Bügelski Deli with its bagels, Clasico Argentino with empanadas and Mum Dim Sum with dumplings.

And then came Le Réfectoire with its made-in-France take on classic street food. Ask any true food lover in the know about where to get the best burgers in Paris and they’ll tell you about the airy brioche buns and signature stewed beef patties at Le Réfectoire. Not long ago they set up a brick-and-mortar location inside the Marché Saint Martin market of the 10th arrondissement. Their menu proudly lists the individual suppliers they work with (patties of French Charolais beef from butcher Eric Martin, cheese from cheesemonger Laurent Bouvet, bread from the Ganachaud bakery). As for their veggies, those are sourced directly from neighboring vendors in the market. It’s pretty much like having a colossal produce garden in your backyard to pick and choose from each morning. Pretty convenient, and as local, seasonal, sustainable and fresh as you can get.

Classic Americana make up the “Street Food” section of the menu – corn dogs, hot dogs, grilled cheeses. There are also some pretty little snacks to share before your burger and fries. Breakfast and brunch include eggy options, granola, tapioca pudding and toast with handmade rillettes. Good for breakfast, good for lunch, good for apéro or dinner pretty much any night. But perhaps best for a boozy brunch of burgers and wine on a morning when the market buzzes with local life.

12To share, something French. Plump pockets of stinky and delicious melted Camembert oozing out of a crunchy panko crust, fried to golden brown perfection. The bread crumbs had a wonderful sandy texture that rubbed the tongue pleasantly before the creamy cheese flooded my mouth, sticking to my palate and soothing my soul. I really enjoyed the nutty, comforting flavor of the fried bread against the, pungent funk of the cheese. The perfect two-bite treat to start with.

3For carnivorous types I’d recommend the Petite Planche de Boeuf de Galice. The thin slices of cured Galician beef were packed with flavor, salty and nutty and aged to achieve an earthy depth. The marbled meat ribbons were served with bits of crumbly goat cheese and plump cherry tomatoes.7Our friend got the soft-boiled eggs from the breakfast menu. The eggs seemed perfectly cooked, giggly and wet, with the whites forming a pretty translucent blanket for the bright yolks. Billowy protein pillows practically screaming to be poked so that they could ooze all over the bed of cabbage underneath. Also on the plate were a few rashers of crispy bacon and silky smooth pearl onion.

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What happens when the French make a grilled cheese? It looks like this. Crunchy, flour-dusted pain de campagne with gorgeous bumps, lumps and crevices. Nutty Comté, mild emmental and sharp cheddar melting against the heat of the toasted bread and oozing out, mixing with aromatic truffle oil and some luscious cream cheese on the bottom. Sprinkled with spring onion to make things pretty. Crispy, gooey, decadent and immensely satisfying.

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And then one of their famous signature burgers to share. We chose the Le Bourguignon, featuring moist boeuf bourguignon braised for 7 hours, salty and crunchy grilled bacon, melted AOP Comté, crisp iceberg lettuce, and pickled carrots and onions on a pillowy brioche bun. The flavors were bold, the meat juicy and tender, reminding me in this context of a brisket sandwich. The size was also just right, not too big and sloppy or too stingy for one person. Side of homemade fries were good too, sliced thin as I like them and fried to a perfect crunch.

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