Dinner at Benoit in Paris

Benoit ExteriorFollowing our recent visit to Champagne we spent a couple of relaxing days in Paris. No visit to Paris is complete without having a great meal. We chose to do that at the city's legendary bistro Benoit, located near the Hôtel de Ville and not far from the Louvre. Of course, we brought a bottle of Champagne to accompany the meal—a vintage 2006 Louis Roederer Brut.

Benoit is a Paris tradition. First established in 1912 by a butcher named Benoît Matray, it was passed on to his grandson Michel Petit in 1961 and later managed by other family members until 2005 when it was sold to the Groupe Alain Ducasse. In the ensuing period, the restaurant has maintained its seductive charm as a traditional Parisian bistro in both its atmosphere and its culinary repertoire.

Benoit menuFor our dinner at Benoit we ordered two dishes—a seared John Dory fillet served with braised lettuce and country bacon (Saint-Pierre poêlé, laitue braise et Lard Paysan, sucs de cuisson) and roasted duckling served with figs and white and green Swiss chard in a bigarde sauce (Canard croisé roti aux figues, verts et blancs de blette, sauce bigarde). We paired these dishes with the Louis Roederer Vintage Champagne.

Dinner began with some house paté, gougères and a delicate and tasty bowl of beef soup. These were followed by the John Dory, which was ethereal in flavor and rich in texture. The sucs de cuisson, made with white wine, shellfish shells and vegetables, was rich and satisfying. The roasted duckling was beautifully prepared, crisp, rare and flavorful and enriched by harmonious and savory figs, swiss chard and the bigarde sauce.

The 2006 Brut Vintage Champagne of Louis Roederer is a ripe and generous wine that shows the rich, round and full fruit flavors identified with the house. A blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, all estate grapes, Roederer's vintage Champagne is matured for four years on the lees with a dosage of between 8 and 10g/l. It has fine bubbles, a rich mousse with aromas of minerals and chalk, and a creamy mouth feel, good acidity and perfect balance. It was absolutely superb with the John Dory and vegetables and was an excellent but not a perfect pairing for the duck; the 2007 Roederer Brut Rosé we enjoyed at lunch earlier in the week with Louis Roederer's Chef de Caves Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon and Directeur Genéral Frédéric Rouzaud would have worked better.

Our dinner at Benoit was memorable and we enthusiastically recommend the restaurant. It is warm and inviting with terrific food, ambience and service. By the way, it has a wonderful wine list with many fine choices from Burgundy and Bordeaux, as well as from Champagne. In addition to the wines of the Grand Marques like Dom Perignon and Dom Ruinart, we found excellent grower Champagnes like Agrapart 2005 Mineral and the Vilmart NV Grand Cellier.

Benoit, which is Michelin rated at one star, is located just off rue de Rivoli on a pedestrian stretch off rue St. Martin in le Marais. Its address is 20 rue St. Martin (see map below). Dinner reservations are essential. Tel. 01-42-72-25-76

Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler

October 2012

Paso Robles