Now I’m glad I waited. This dreary, rainy afternoon feels like the perfect time to write about the homey, comforting, and delicious meal I enjoyed at Astier.
On a cold night (although not as cold as last night, when we walked home in the snow after the Super Bowl) last weekend, Nick and I had the pleasure of eating our first meal at Astier. It won’t be our last. Entering the crowded restaurant through the velvet curtains, we were greeted promptly and enthusiastically by the host, who directed us to a tiny table in a corner near the kitchen. Nick noted that all the two-tops seemed to be in the least romantic spots, although the chances of a quiet, intimate meal à deux looked to be slim. No matter. As we were soon to find out, the food makes up for it and the place has a comfortable feeling that you don’t get in a quieter, less bustling restaurant.
We both ordered the menu, a deal at 33 euros for 4 courses, including the much-lauded cheese tray. Everything on the carte looked great, but I was quite hungry, so I let my stomach guide me to some quick decisions. I started with the poached egg in cream of celeriac soup, while Nick chose the salad with Lyonnaise sausage.
The egg was poached to perfection and the soup was silky and rich. Nick’s salad disappeared with alarming speed, but not before I managed to get a bite of the meaty, rustic-textured sausage.
When it came to the main courses, it was definitely a braise night. I selected the poulet fermier in beer, and Nick opted for the paleron of beef.
My chicken was tender and flavorful, but I was most impressed by the broth in which it was served: it was as clear and full-bodied as a good comsommé! The accompanying vegetables (broccoli and two colors of carrot – could explain this) were brightly colored and non-mushy, a treat when many restaurants tend to overcook their vegetables. Nick’s beef was equally skillfully cooked, and the marrow, well, you know how I feel about that.
The highlight of an already significantly above-average meal came in the form of the well-stocked cheese tray we had seen flitting around the dining room as we ate. We couldn’t wait for the lengthy descriptions and dove right in, sampling just about every cheese available.
From the sublimely creamy to the exquisitely stinky, every single one was a hit. Cheese à volonté is a pretty dangerous concept, though, especially when you’ve still got dessert on the way.
There was some awkwardness when I tried to order dessert – I’m allergic to walnuts, not in the way that will cause me to die, but I’d still rather not eat them if I can avoid it. Normally, it suffices to ask if something is made with walnuts (noix, which can also mean “nut,” though it is rarely used that way by French people). The trouble is that Astier gets a lot of English-speaking guests, and the nomenclature gets confusing when you’re trying to translate. I can imagine that someone (Anglophone, that is) who is allergic to all nuts would use the same phrase as I did. The waitress clearly assumed that I knew a) less French and b) less about food than I do, because when I tried to explain that it was only walnuts that caused me problems, she went into a lengthy description about how many things can contain traces of other nuts blah blah blah and I ended up ordering the nougat glacé instead of the pralinémousse and she still asked me if the chestnuts in the dessert would be ok (although strangely, no mention of the almonds). At any rate, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and Nick’s much more simply ordered tarte tatin was one of the best I’ve tasted, with a thick layer of deeply caramelized apples and a bowl of crème fraîche on the side to offset the sweetness.
We left the restaurant with full bellies and smiles on our faces, knowing we were going to sleep very well that night.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.