Birthday dinner at La Régalade, Paris
Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Last Thursday, some friends and I got together to celebrate a birthday. The only problem was finding a place to eat. Paris’ culinary reputation had my expectations run high. But I have to say I’ve been a little disappointed with the average restaurant. Given the high cost of eating out, I would expect that ordering at any restaurant would at least give me something comparable to North American restaurant chains. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Many of my friends are finding that it’s either a really good meal or a really bad one in Paris. And to have a really good meal, it usually involves planning a week or more ahead. This time, we didn’t plan ahead and ended up scrambling to get a table for 7 for the same day. Luckily, there was a cancellation at La Régalade for 9:30 pm. We all arrived on time only to find that the reservation was for an hour later. Of course, we didn’t actually get seated until close to 11 pm. But the wait was worth it and it has overtaken the title of my best meal in Paris to date! We each ordered a set 3-course meal for €32, excluding wine.

Waiting outside the restaurant.

The generous all-you-can-eat homemade pâtés served with your basket of bread.

My friend's appetizer, scallops from Saint-Jacques, marinated in lemon, basil, and olive oil and topped with bacon and chives. My favourite appetizer of the evening.

My friend's crab, celery root and green apple appetizer was also very good. The crab was fresh.

My squid ink risotto appetizer (if you can call it that). There was a mountain of fresh prawns on top with fried garlic chips and parsley. All the ingredients were fresh, flavours beautiful, but a bit overly salted in my opinion. I would've preferred this as a main as opposed to an appetizer.

My friend's main dish: smoked pork belly on a bed of lentils. So good I ate a whole chunk of pork fat which I normally never do.

This was my main: roasted cod fish on top of gratinée of potatoes and comté cheese. An amazing dish. Unlike most cod I've had, the meat was so flaky, so fine, and just fell apart in my mouth without feeling oily. I'm not sure if it was characteristic of this type of cod, but it was seriously the best piece of cooked fish I've had! I'm coming back just for this!

By the time we got around to dessert, it was quarter past midnight. The problem was, the metro closes at 12:45 am at the nearest station. That means my friend and I need to be out of the restaurant by 12:30 am to make catch the last train. Unfortunately, dessert was not served till 12:20 am. Being pastry students, we ordered one of each, which was perfect because there were 7 choices for the 7 of us! Once all the desserts came, my friend and I stuffed ourselves with a bit of everyone’s dessert and sprinted.

It was very uncomfortable running after a huge meal while laughing the entire way, but we caught the last train on line 4. Unfortunately, the last train at our transfer station came earlier than scheduled, so we didn’t actually make it all the way home on the metro. We walked around for more than an hour looking for the right bus back to my place. We knew which bus we were looking for, but we could not find it going in the right direction. So we gave up and took a cab back. We finally made it home at 3 am and since we still felt stuffed, we stayed up watching some modern family. What a memorable night!

Grand Marnier Soufflé. This was good although I feel soufflés are a bit overrated. I love their pillowy, soft texture but I haven't had a soufflé where I fell in love with the flavor. This one was a bit too egg-tasting and could've gotten an extra kick of grand marnier.

The ridiculously massive portion of rice pudding with caramel sauce. This was one dessert I would've loved to take home and enjoy it slowly with a movie.

Caramel chocolate mousse with an almond crumble on top. Simple, but surprisingly good.

Vanilla custard with passion fruit jelly and langues de chat. The biscuits were too dry and thick but the custard was good.

Dark chocolate mousse on top of a flourless chocolate cake, served with vanilla sauce. Our least favourite, it wasn't bad but it was just too dry.

Like I said, I’m coming back for another meal here. Next time, I’ll book a table for 6 pm and enjoy my meal at a slow, steady pace.

Well? Let me know what you think. Write me a comment below!