Photo of the Week

Paris-Update-Louvre-evening

The Louvre at nightfall. © Paris Update

 

Paris Update This Week’s Events

For full details about an event, click on the title to visit the official Web site (in English when available).

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Hélène Angel's Primaire. Cinéma Le Brady, Paris, Feb. 24

Virtual reality on show
> Virtuality will host speakers and networking sessions on this hot topice. Centquatre, Paris, Feb. 24-26.

Contemporary textile art
>Miniartextil is an exhibition of new textiles from around the world. Le Beffroi, Montrouge, Feb. 22-March 19.

A barnyard in Paris

ParisUpdate-cow
> The Salon International de l'Agriculture brings the best of the country's livestock and crops and the products made from them to Paris. Porte de Versailles, Paris, Feb. 25-March 5.

Before and after ecological disaster
> The Chic Planète festival presents two types of films, those celebrating the bounty of the earth and science-fiction views of what will happen after an ecopalypse. Forum des Images, Paris, March 1-April 13.

Paris semi-marathon
> Starts and ends on the Esplanade du Château de Vincennes, March 5.

French film with English subtitles
> Lost in Frenchlation shows Matthew Lancit's Flâneurs (Street Rambles). Cinéma MacMahon, Paris, March 3.

Literary conversations
> The festival New Writings, New Styles brings well-known Irish and French writers together to discuss contemporary literature in the two countries. Irish Cultural Centre, Paris, March 3-4.

Indian film scene
> The festival India Express takes a tour of new and classic films focusing on the subcontinent’s major cities. Forum des Images, Paris, through Feb. 26.

Young European photographers
> The Festival Circulation(s) features emerging photographers. Centquatre, Paris, through March 5.

Frank Capra Retrospective
> The great American director in the spotlight. Cinémathèque Française, Paris, through Feb. 27.

 

Restaurants - Classic

 

Au Bascou

Basquing in
Fine Food and Drink

au bascou restaurant, paris

The food and welcome were all that could be desired, but the decor could use a little refreshing.

Reading Jonathan Nossiter’s musings on wine, the universe and everything, reviewed here last week, and Hugh Johnson’s delightful A Life Uncorked, a Christmas gift, has made me eager to delve deeper into the dreadfully complicated world of wine, so I rather pushed the boat out at Au Bascou, where Bertie the gastrohound and I dragged my girlfriend, Katherine, and John, a long-time friend, the other evening.

The wine list is concise and, this being a Basque restaurant, includes a strong contingent from Southwest France: Irouléguys and Madirans and Jurançons, along with a generous sprinkling of bottles from the other French regions. We chose a half-bottle of 2005 Chablis for the first course and followed that with a 2001 Château Maucaillou Moulis. Both were excellent, the Moulis still having quite a lot of mileage in it, judging by the tannins, and the Chablis with a big, honeyed nose.

We took to the place as soon as we crossed the threshold, where we were greeted warmly by the serving staff and chef Bertrand Guéneron, who took over Au Bascou last year after loyally serving Alain Senderens at the three-star Lucas Carton and his subsequent upscale eponymous brasserie. Guéneron has tweaked the menu of Bascou, a long-time favorite of many a discerning Parisian, but has left the down-market decor as it was: wood paneling, ocher walls stained a deeper yellow by cigarette smoke (no more of that now, hallelujah!), posters for all the Basque apéritifs you could want and a pictorial course on pelota, not to mention the mandatory strings of dried Espelette peppers.

I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I don’t see why French restaurateurs are so attached to the folkloric aspects of their terroir that they must festoon their dining rooms with dusty bric-a-brac. Still, that was a small price to pay for an excellent meal comprising first courses of a sautéed shrimp and fennel salad, scallops with a serving of slightly cooked mushrooms, and snails and ham cooked with Patcharan. This last was as earthy as it gets and warmed to the Chablis.

Main courses included a juicy pyramid of hen pheasant on a serving of Savoy cabbage, the whole topped with a sliver of pan-fried foie gras – lovely to behold and completely lacking in artifice. A veal hanger steak was served on a heap of carrots cooked with orange, ginger and parsley, a fine way of dealing with a vegetable I find a bit boring without a little help from its friends, and a joue de boeuf vigneronne, beef cheek stewed for an eternity in a red-wine and a shallot reduction as black as tar. This cheap cut absorbs all the flavors and is nowhere near as stringy as other stew cuts can be. It melted all too quickly in the mouth, along with the circle of mashed potatoes it sat on.

Katherine sipped a sweet Jurançon, which came with a haunting nose of quince, for dessert. I had a Basque cheese served with preserved cherries – a bit too much for the subtly smooth cheese – while John opted for the gateau au chocolat coulant, satisfyingly chocolatey and runny in the middle and complemented by the house vanilla ice cream.

Altogether a standout meal. I don’t think even fans of Au Bascou’s genial former owner, Jean-Guy Lousteau, will be disappointed by the restaurant’s new incarnation.

Richard Hesse

Au Bascou: 38, rue Réaumur, 75003 Paris. Métro: Arts et Métiers or Réaumur Sébastopol. Nearest Vélib’ station: 57, rue de Turbigo or 7, rue Sainte Elisabeth. Tel: 01 42 72 69 25. Open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner. Closed Saturday and Sunday. A la carte: €35-40.

© 2008 Paris Update

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