Standing in line behind a half dozen other Americans waiting for Frenchie’s Wine Bar to open, I glared across the street at the full-fledged Frenchie Restaurant that I had been trying to make a reservation at for literally, months. Zut alors! I thought to myself as I watched the staff efficiently set the tables in the itsy space that had all of the food world talking about it. Having to be content with the first come, first served wine bar just across the narrow street, is not really in my DNA. I want to experience the best myself….but let me tell you, I don’t know how much better the restaurant could be, the wine bar was exquisite and dare I say it, probably more fun!
Chef Greg Marchand, nicknamed Frenchie during his time in the kitchen with Jamie Oliver in London, has created a frenzy unlike many I’ve come across in the restaurant scene, and I’ve fallen for it, hook, line, and sinker. I follow the restaurant on Facebook and gawk at the latest wines they’re touting, I’ve watched Anthony Bourdain food porn as he ate a meal with Eric Rippert in the restaurant, I read reviews obsessively and fantasize about the meal I would have here, and oh, the hours I’ve spent trying to call Paris between 3-5pm when they’re reservation line is supposedly open. Since I get to Paris quite often, you’d think I’d get my act together and get my ass into this place, alas it hasn’t worked. (Oh, and this is how fantastic they know they are – they’re closed on the weekends!)
However, the wine bar seems to suffice for many a Parisian. Once the doors opened, each group was pointed to a space at the high industrial tables and within an hour the two small timber-framed rooms were standing room only. Across the way I saw couples sashay into the restaurant and have their coats taken – all sedate and nice. This was, by comparison raucous but such a joy to watch Parisians (the early bird Americans got the tables and quickly went home to bed) congregate after work and drink a few glasses of wine, nibble at a small plate of food. It’s perfect food for sharing over a lovely bottle of wine: chacuterie, pastas, cheese, and all sorts of special combinations in between.
Sadly, I was by myself but managed to focus and order (enough for 2) a nice variety of items that I devoured completely. Burrata with black pudding, and apple chutney (cold creamy cheese, hot crispy black pudding, a true chutney complete with golden raisins and mustard seeds). Scallops with suckling pig belly, sage, and a scallop foam (unlike my time here in July when I couldn’t find scallops to cook, they are now on every menu – add a little pork belly and delightful morsels along with it and bliss). Shavings of cured ventreche (like a extra porky streaky smoked bacon) served with the best rosemary flatbread I’ve ever tasted. And a sage panacotta with butternut squash foam and lemon (this is one dish I will play with at home to try and recreate).
Perhaps Chef Greg thinks his wine bar is a little more fun too? He was at the pass on this Tuesday night and even served me one of my dishes himself. He obviously had friends in the room and stopped to have a quick chat but he was primarily in the tiny niche they call a kitchen with three other guys, heads down, knives flying. It really is fantastic with inventive, complex flavors and textures at play – much like what Chef Pierre Sang is doing just east of here. And not a tablecloth in sight nor a waiter grimacing at my grade school French. These are friendly joints (yes, joints is the word) serving outstanding, internationally influenced food to a whole cross-section of people.
I’m still going to try and score a table at Frenchie proper for one of my upcoming Paris trips, but knowing the wine bar is there brings me a warm fuzzy feeling, because who doesn’t love popping out for a complex glass of red wine and a little snack to go along with it on a cold Paris winter’s night? Plus, in spite of always being alone, I never feel alone, talking to locals and getting more restaurant tips to try on down the road.
6 Rue de Nil75002, Paris http://www.frenchie-restaurant.com