Second meal, Paris

April 12, 2023 • 11:45 am


I’m writing this while I’m quite tipsy, as the two of us consumed two bottles of wine during a nearly four-hour lunch. That’s par for the course for such a long meal, and as one of my old friends used to say, “One bottle equals one serving.”

Be warned: there may be typos which I miss as I am writing the first post I’ve ever written when not stone-cold sober.

Unfortunately, our return to Cartet, where I had one of the best meals of my life in February, 2020 (see description here), was not as glorious as expected. The food was not served in the usual copious portions (only one pate instead of three for starters, and two desserts instead of six, plus fewer side dishes), though the owner/chef/server was as affable as ever.

Perhaps it was because the meal featured fish, and I’m not a piscivore, but Winnie agreed that this lunch didn’t come up to the standards of the last. We’re going again next week and asked for lamb, so I’ll report back. But see the link above for what we had during our meal three years ago..

Cartet has a forbidding exterior: it’s dark inside, you can’t see in, the door is locked, and there’s only a small sign saying “Cartet.”

Here’s Winnie in front of the place. We’ve had many meals together, here and in Hong Kong, and have similar but not identical tastes in food (she’s more adventurous than I am). Further, though she’s a small woman, she has a big appetite and can pack away more than I, yet never puts on weight. She cannot explain this phenomenon. But she’s a fantastic eating companion, deeply enamored of food, which of course is a requirement for such a niche.

The interior. Usually there are only two people for lunch or dinner. The maximum number of people Dominique (the owner) ever served was 29—a birthday party. That party was for Pierre Bergé, Yves St. Laurent’s business partner (and life partner).

The reservation book. You can see that there are at most two people per each meal. Our reservation is indicated with the red arrow.

The tiny kitchen. As I’ve said, the guy who bought the place is also the chef, and serves the food as well as cleans up. With only two guests per meal, serving is not onerous. Dominique is quite chatty, especially about his philosophy of running a restaurant (it involves no profit for him, only pleasure and the joy of making his customers happy). He is a very unusual restauranteur.

A luscious white wine made from Chasselas grapes, a grape I’ve never tasted before (we were told they’re mostly eating grapes). There’s not much online about it (try here) and I’ve never seen it in the States. But this was definitely a keeper, with a flavor of Granny Smith apples and a touch of lemon, and definitely a dry white.

The name of the wine means “a morning facing the lake,” and, according to the chef, the wine tastes like walking through an apple orchard.

The back of the label if you want to find out more. I’m too tipsy to Google further.

A lighter red from Vacqueyras from the Rhone in southern France. I’ve had wines from this appellation many times in the U.S.; it’s a go-to red if you don’t want to spend a lot of dosh on a Côte Rotie or Chateauneuf. This was a good wine but not as outstanding as the white.

The chef’s paté to begin with (the last time we ate here they had four entire patés waiting for us, so though this was good, it was a bit of a disappointment.

Entrée number 2: Quenelles de brochet, pan-fried cakes with pike (these are characteristic of Lyon, but in that city they are usually poached or baked and served with crayfish sauce). They rested on a bed of endives.

Dominique cooking the turbot.  He wouldn’t let me take his photo face on, but permitted me to take this one.

The turbot. I’m not a piscivore, and didn’t expect fish, but the chef cooks according to the season, and I guess this is fish season (i.e., warmer weather). It was okay because it was not a fishy fish (my theory, which is mine, is that people prefer fish only when it tastes un-fishy).

“Snowball potatoes,” so called because they’re crunchy outside but softer inside, like a hunk of snow. These were terrific, and we polished them off.

We had 1.5 desserts as opposed to the six or more we had last time. Here’s the tarte citron: a lemony tart. Two large pieces each.

And chouquettes, a subspecies of creampuff covered with grains of sugar. They are usually hollow but these were stuffed with a rich cream filling.

I know that you’ll tell me that this was enough to eat, but it wasn’t, because while we weren’t starving at the end of the meal, neither were we full to satiation: my hallmark for a great meal.

Dominique’s card (he’s from Brittany). He also has another one that simply says “Cartet.” He’s a bit of a Luddite, and has, he said, “never opened a computer.” There’s a phone number, but no internet website; if you want a reservation, you have to reach him by phone, which is not always easy!

This is proof that neither of us were full: we repaired to a local ice cream place/wine bar, “Folderol“, after lunch. I had the matcha ice cream on the left; Winnie had olive oil ice cream (I tried it; it’s not as dire as it sounds) and a scoop of chocolate.

We discussed canceling our reservation for next week, but decided to give it a try but specifying what we wanted to eat, which was lamb with turnips (“navarin“), a French lamb stew traditionally served in Spring. If this next meal isn’t spectacular, I’ll be heartbroken. Today I’m just dysthymic.

Six more meals to go!

25 thoughts on “Second meal, Paris

  1. What a cool place, and the food looks fantastic. But how does a restaurant that only serves two people for lunch and two for dinner even cover its expenses and stay in operation??? I’m sure I’m being tacky by asking (and feel free to say so), but what does a meal for two people cost at Cartet?

  2. Dominique sounds a fascinating guy – what an unusual restaurant!

    [A]s one of my old friends used to say, “One bottle equals one serving.”
    I’ll try that on my wife, though I doubt I’ll persuade her…!

  3. Looks great to me, especially the Perch and the potatoes. A fun restaurant with a great dining partner. What’s not to like?!

  4. “… I am writing the first post I’ve ever written when not stone-cold sober.”

    Woo hoo! Yeah, man!!

    [ heavy metal ]
    [ hook ’em horns ]
    [ headbanging ]

    1. [ reads post]


      … so PCC(E) is “tipsy” but wrote and used the word “dysthymic” precisely. I am reminded of Christopher Hitchens, for some reason.

      100 points!

    2. Kinda makes me wonder whether our Jerry’s ever drunk-texted on old girlfriend.

      I’ve heard that sorta thing happens. 🙂

  5. Seriously, boss. If I weren’t such a lazy guy I’d click right over to Air France, get my lazy ass out to JFK and retrace your steps (and burps!) over there. I have the time, money and passport!!

  6. I read recently that neighborhood French bakeries are having trouble staying in business because their energy costs went through the roof due to the recent troubles. Keeping the ovens on is really hurting them. I expect restaurants are facing similar energy cost issues, probably causing cutbacks and price hikes.

  7. That meal does look interesting (and appetising). There seem to be some good flavour mixes in there. I’m not quite sure about the Vacqueyras with the turbot main course: I’d have been tempted to stick to the white.

    Anyway, bring on the navarin. That surely needs a beefier red!

    There may be a whole philosophical discussion to be had over the statement that ‘I prefer fish only when it tastes un-fishy’. What, one wonders, is the ontological nature of ‘fishiness’, and how unfishy does it have to be before it becomes palatable? PhDs have been awarded for less!

  8. It’s always a bit of a bummer when you go back to a place you once had a wonderful experience at, and it just isn’t quite as amazing as before.

    I really like that carbon steel pan the potatoes were cooked and served in. Beautiful. I need to figure out where to get one.

    1. Darelle, I’m just wondering if that is a copper-bottomed steel pan, which might help your search. There is a gleam of copper showing on the edge of the rim that we can see. The rivets of the handles look to be copper. My wife has a round one with a long handle that she uses mostly on the top of the stove but it is oven-safe. (The handle makes it an awkward fit in the oven.) I got it for her in a long-defunct cooking store in Toronto. It has no visible maker’s mark on it but it is stamped “Made in France”. It is heavy.

      The chef has a suite of copper-bottomed pans in his kitchen, including the one he’s cooking Jerry’s and Winnie’s potatoes in. I’m betting they are from Mauviel.
      Scroll down to where it says, “You absolutely love gratins and cheesy dishes?” and you’ll find his oven pans. The site says to try to buy the older ones because they are thicker.

  9. Danger of going back! We have a few restaurants that we had phenomenal meals at and we’re too afraid to go back in case the subsequent meal doesn’t live up to the memory.

    Not saying the case here, but in general it can also be things that the restaurant doesn’t have control over eg. your mood, the company you’re with, how tipsy you get, etc.

    One restaurant we liked hit the mark time and again and then messed up once, so luck’s definitely involved too. We were also very tired and had had several meals out leading up to it, most excellent, so probably both parties a little responsible!

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