Monday, February 1, 2010

Gastronomy in Paris: Chez Dumonet.

with SJX and RobG

My memory of Chez Dumonet was crystalized years ago, when a good friend invited me to dinner at the restaurant to sample the confit du canard. That momentous occassion defined my taste for this delicacy, and ever since, I have been searching incessantly, to relive the moment. I came close several times, at now defunct Sebastian Bistro and at Black Sheep Cafe in Singapore, and at Lolo Dad's in Manila...but no cigars. Somehow the duck Chez Dumonet was better, more sublime, more wonderful in Chez Dumonet...perhaps its the fading memory which is cast in glowing gold.

I have been back to Paris several times since, but everytime, something crops up, and I have not managed to visit till now.

The restuarant is actually very old, and known as Restaurant Josephine, named after the founder owner/chef's wife in 1898. In the 1960s, the current owner Jean Dumonet took over both the ownership and helm as chef. It is common to have the chef's name and the original name of the restaurant on the signboard.

I had my good friend and Parisian foodie Alberto Schillo do the honours of booking Chez Dumonet - Josephine for me. He told me of the wonderful dinner and wines he had there when we met just a few days before my dinner in Geneva, and my excitement grew even more.

The restaurant is a typical Parisian bistro...informal though nicely decorated, but typical of Parisian bistros, the tables are set very close together...I guess by necessity, as real estate in this glorious city is very expensive, and guest stay for dinner throughout the night...meaning that the restaurant can turn the table once during the course of the evening.

We started with a complimentary glass of dry white wine...quite a nice crisp start as an aperitif. And a small amuse bouche of pumpkin soup:

Typical pumpkin soup. Very good, especially for a cold night. Though we had the good fortune of a dry winter, the temperature outside was still dipping close to 0C. The soup warmed us up...nice.

As an appetizer we selected the croquant de gambas es a vinegrate a lla bisque: prawn fritters with vinegrate and bisque sauce.

Gorgeous! The prawns were very fresh, crunchy, sweet tasting, and fragrance of the sea was in abundance. The fritters were quite light, but provided a crispy counterpoint to the succulent prawn within. Excellent, and delicious start.

Of course I had to order the confit du canard maison:

As I outlined in my review of Black Sheep Cafe, confit is a method of preparation of meats before refrigeration was the norm. This is a slow cooking process, at low temperatures, where the meat is cooked in its own rendered fat. Then stored in the fat for as long as 6 months. When needed, it is flash fried in a pan to make the skin crisp and served.

This was confit as it was meant to be. The skin was super crisp, one fears it will shatter with a strike of the knife. But fortunately it does not...and survives the trip from plate to mouth for the supreme sensation of tasting the crisp skin...yet clinging ever so gingerly to the skin, a thin layer of fat, to provide umami and a robust flavour. The meat was fall of the bone tender, and as it was slow cooked in fat, is meltingly soft, and succulent. The amount of salt was just right, and I am guessing there must be some other spice used.

Supreme! Best duck confit I have tasted, and I am tasting yet again!

Went wonderfully well with the wine I ordered:

The pinot noir from this southermost village of Cote D'Or, the tannins were nicely elegant to provide a good balance. Delicious with the confit.

JX and I also had the Grand Marnier Souffle...a veritable dish in this establishment...not for the faint hearted:

To be it takes some 15/20 mins to prepare, the souffle is not one of those small ones for diners watching their diet. This was a huge pot...with the souffle rising to overflow. A thin, elastic skin develops as the souffle is exposed to the cold when it is brought out from the oven. Breaking this, reveals a gorgeous, moist, sweet, wonderful interior. The mouthfeel is indeed luxurious. A small glass of Grand Marnier sits ready to serve as a digestif after the heavy meal.

Rob had the tart pie:

Looked wonderful...I did not try it, but he approves of the dessert with a double thumbs up.

Truly a wonderful restaurant, with great friendly, cheerful waiters. Service was excellent that evening when we dined there. Cooking was excellent, albeit a bit heavy, hearty....this is one chef who does not care about diets, and only concerned about taste and gastronomic experience. If the recipe calls for a wallop of butter, you can be sure he won't cut it down to make it a healthier dish, but will meet the recipe ounce for ounce to give you the full flavour.

For me, a staple of Parisian cuisine.

Josephine aka Chez Dumonet
117, rue du Cherche-Midi, 6th (Metro : Duroc)
T :
Closed Sundays and Mondays

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