Les Fondus de la Raclette

29 03 2009

In Which I Dine in a Savoyard Restaurant and Learn that I Am a True Parisian

Tuesday night, I finally made it to Les Fondus de La Raclette, the Savoyard restaurant that recently opened in my neighborhood.  Nick being out of town, my friends Hope and Delphine graciously offered to join me in the name of food journalism.  It turns out that the traditional cuisine of Savoie is pretty cheese-heavy.  I suppose this is to be expected, considering it is (quite literally) an Alpine region bordering Switzerland, home of its own cheese-centric cuisine.  Judging from the menu (and the name!) of Les Fondus de la Raclette, the two most important regional dishes of Savoie are fondue and raclette.  Since I was a raclette virgin, the choice was clear.

Charcuterie Savoyarde

Raclette is basically the inverse of fondue.  Instead of a pot of wine-spiked melted cheese into which bits of bread and meat are dipped on long forks, each person gets an individual pan in which to melt slices of cheese before pouring it over bits of meat and potatoes.  At Les Fondus de la Raclette, each of the rustic stone-topped tables has a grill in the center which is turned on when the food is delivered.  With the warmth of the grill radiating to our faces, it was easy to imagine why this is such a popular dish in Savoyard ski chalets.  It’s a warm and convivial dining experience.

Melting raclette cheese

None of my melting cheese photos came out very well – have you ever tried to take an action shot of bubbling cheese?  It’s not easy, especially when there’s bubbling, melty cheese in front of you, just waiting to be scraped out of the pan onto tasty slices of charcuterie or chunks of baked potato.

See what I mean?

A light meal it is not.  Fortunately, the wines of the region are perfectly matched to the hearty cuisine.  We chose the Savoyard red and were pleased to find it light and fruity with well-balanced acidity.  It was the perfect foil to all that cheese and cured meat.

Rouge de Savoie

With its wood-paneled interior, Les Fondus de la Raclette definitely calls to mind a ski lodge, if there were ski lodges in the heart of Paris.  The casual atmosphere is just right for a homey meal shared between friends. 

But wait, you say.  What’s this about you being a “true Parisian?”  Well, over the course of the evening the conversation turned to food, as it often does.  I was telling Hope and Delphine that my former favorite neighborhood bakery, Au Levain du Marais, used to be situated just down the street from where we sat.  It recently changed ownership, and after buying two just plain bad baguettes (I had to make sure the first one wasn’t a fluke) I’ve stopped going there entirely.  Listening to my lament, Delphine nodded knowingly and told me that you know you are a true Parisian if your local bakery changes owners and you view it as nothing less than a catastrophe.  There you have it!

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In other Paris-related news, I have two more articles up over at Secrets of Paris: one is a piece about Brûlerie des Ternes, where I’ve started getting my coffee beans despite the fact that it’s ALL the way across town; and the other is a review of Le Pamphlet, an excellent modern bistro on the edge of Paris’ Marais neighborhood.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


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