I went with Eliana to a dairy restaurant on Rue de Berry near the Champs-Elyseescalled Il Conte. I told her that I wanted to eat dairy for lunch and she was almost floored. “I don’t get why you Americans always insist on eating light lunches.” She told me that in Paris, almost everyone eats meat for lunch. The restaurant was near the Chomps Elysees in the 8th arrondissement. We went at around 2:30pm and the restaurant was packed with what mostly seemed like business people. Since we had to wait for so long, the restaurant gave us complimentary glasses of an apertif (pre-meal drink) called Kir. Kir is a popular French cocktail made with blackcurrant liquor and white wine. It was sweet and very delicious. I have decided that Kir is my new favorite drink in Paris…for now. The menu was very large, and the food sounded delicious. There was also an English menu available.
They brought us a basket of bread and bowl of olives while we waited for our food. This bread was one of the most amazing breads that I have ever tasted in my life. It was just out of the oven and baked with olives inside the dough. This was the moment I knew that bread would become a good friend to my new and improved Parisian palette. Eliana ordered the Insalata Nicoise, a salad that is typically on Parisian menus. This one was made of tomatoes, eggs, tuna fish, potatoes, red belle peppers, and green beans (12 Euro). Most salads on the French menus have some sort of mix of tuna fish, cheese, eggs, olives, and tomatoes. Sometimes, you can find a Caesar salad, but good luck finding a simple chicken salad with mixed greens and balsamic vinaigrette, or a spinach salad with mixed fruits and candied nuts.
I ordered an eggplant parmesan (12 Euro), which was truly scrumptious. There was significantly more oil on my dish than I have ever seen on eggplant parm in the U.S., but it was fabulous! The dish consisted of four layers of non-breaded eggplant slices, each layer topped with fresh mozzarella cheese and a very light amount of tomato sauce. The plate was garnished with a delicious parmesan cheese.
I liked this dish so much that when I went back to Il Conte with Josh on the following Tuesday evening, I ordered it again. We shared a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. My dish was good, however not as spectacular as I had remembered it, and the bread was not fresh out of the oven like it was last week. Josh ordered Salmon in a tomato sauce with onions, garlic, bell peppers olives and a side of pasta marinara (18 euro). Since we did not arrive until 10:30pm, the restaurant was not packed with people, as it had been the week before during lunch.
A couple of months later, we came here for dinner with Anton and my brother who was visiting us from NYC. He doesn’t like cheese, so he ordered a cheeseless pizza with tuna, olives, anchovies, peppers, and onions. Even though pizza topped with tuna and everything that follows is a risky order in my mind, he liked all of the ingredients listed and thought what could be bad? While the rest of us liked our food (we ordered more objectively mainstream dishes), my brother really disliked his pizza. Firstly, it was served with a raw egg in the center. I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised, since it seems that most dairy restaurants here serve raw egg with a variety of dishes (especially those that come with tuna and olives)! The tuna on his pizza was so extremely salty that he could not finish it since he was becoming nauseous. It’s a shame that he ordered such a poor dish, since there are so many tasty items on this menu, and I have enjoyed my meal every time I’ve been here. Il Conte is the restaurant that I have eaten at most frequently since we moved to Paris. Their pastas and pizzas are scrumptious, but stay away from the cheeseless tuna pizza unless you love sodium!