Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week: Lunch at Paris 66

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     We enter the small restaurant and we are greeted with one word that brings a smile to my face and ignites memories instantly:  "Bonjour."  Am I in Pittsburgh or have I just travelled to my favorite village in France?   The restaurant looks as though it was plucked from Paris.  A long mirrored wall, low lights and two-top tables that can easily be joined to make room for four or more.  Framed French prints adorn the walls and while the decor is a bit kitschy, it is not at all surprising and strangely comforting.  All in all, it was a good beginning.
     I wasn't disappointed when that one French word was the last I would hear until we departed.  The good vibe continued as the waiter greeted us and asked us if we had a preference of dining inside or out on the patio, "Although, it is pretty warm out there..."  Continued good sign.  He expertly seated us in the small dining area, keeping us just separate from the other diners on either side.  I suspect it could get quite loud during a crowded weekend evening but for lunch on a Monday, the noise level was manageable.
     The waiter presents us with menus and then explains that as this week is Restaurant Week, there is a special prix fixe lunch menu consisting of a choice of two starters, three entrees and one dessert.  The main menus are never opened as we are specifically here for the first of our Restaurant Week meals.

     You have heard me go on and on about our love of long, luxurious, multi course French Sunday lunches.  However, we also are very fond of the weekday set menu, which usually includes a starter, the plat du jour and dessert or cheese at a price of $10.90 without wine or $13 with 1/4 liter of wine.  The lunch would be simple, really tasty and quite economical.  We have noticed that this is not at all a popular option in the States.  While you may have an hour plus for lunch in many places in France, here in the U.S. many have barely enough time to grab a sandwich and eat while answering emails.  But, that is an entirely different rant...
     So, we were all excited to have a Monday prix fixe lunch at Paris 66, which is touted as being the best French restaurant in the city.  Hearing "Bonjour" when I entered, I was really looking forward to reliving some wonderful memories.

     Vegetable puree or a goat cheese salad were the two starter choices.  None of us were interested in soup so we each had the salad.  Simple (which it needed to be), a mound of dressed greens centered the plate along with walnuts (for crunch) and halved cherry tomatoes.  The sliced cucumbers were a bit of overkill in my view.  To each side was a slice of baguette topped with goat cheese, which was then toasted.  At my favorite working class brasserie in France, we would have had just the dressed greens and goat cheese toasts...that simple.  However, this was very good and we were excited for the main course.

     We had three options for the main and as we were a party of 3, we chose one of each.  Dear Husband opted for the daily quiche.  He is quite fond of ordering quiche or an omelet at brasseries and the description of this one sounded quite yummy:  Three Cheese Quiche with blue, goat and swiss cheeses.  A small salad accompanied it.  The custard was thick and rich; although the temperature was extremely hot and the top, a little overly browned. Once it cooled down a bit, it was very good and dangerously filling.

     I ordered the Chicken with Mustard Sauce.  Again, this was a simple dish, which is what I expected and wanted.  Yet simple should not mean devoid of flavor.  The chicken breast had a rubbery consistency and the sauce had NO flavor - honestly, I could not find any hint of mustard and its strange orange-brown color was a bit distracting.  I did bring the remainders home and tried it again...and I still do not get any flavor whatsoever.  It wasn't bad...but it definitely was not in the least bit memorable in a positive way.     The fries; however, were superb.  Crispy, flavorful with just the right amount of salt, they were expertly accompanied by a small jar of mayonnaise.  The Belgians would have been proud!

     Dear Daughter had the Mussels in White Wine - Moules Mariniere.  Honestly, this is a tough choice for us.  We love mussels. We make mussels.  We have even foraged for our own mussels.  Finally, we love Breton mussels...so small and so sweet - they need just a bit of sauce.  So we can be a hard judge of mussels and while we desperately want them - we have not even summoned enough courage to make them here.  We do not want to be disappointed.

     The sauce must have been good because every bit of DD's fries were dunked into it - as it should be.  Frankly, with Moules Frites...there does not need an accompaniment of mayo...you have the sauce.  But sadly, the mussels tasted really old.  This was confirmed when we overheard the teenage boy sitting next to us explain to his father that he did not like the mussels.  Perhaps, it was because we were dining on a Monday and maybe the next shipment was occurring on Tuesday.  But where I could say that perhaps my option was just created for Restaurant Week; the mussels are consistently on the menu. It was...disappointing.
     Dessert was a savior.  The previously advertised Almond Tarte was gone and in its place was Creme Brûlée, which happens to be DD's favorite.  She wholeheartedly gave it a thumbs-up, which was the only way she could communicate while devouring it.  DH and I opted to take ours home to enjoy (or perhaps for DD to enjoy) later in the week.
One of the advantages to this restaurant week is that we plan to visit and explore our local restaurants in order to learn more about our new community.  Paris 66 has some great items and we liked the vibe.  On the regular menu are galettes, which are crepes made from buckwheat flour and a specialty of Brittany, France.  I am not sure if we would make the drive into the city to have dinner there, but I would be willing to meet DH for lunch one afternoon and sample the galettes.  Maybe they will sell me a few and I can assemble them at home.

Paris 66
6018 Centre Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA

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