Chez Denise: My Paris Place

PARIS – I want for you to have a place like Chez Denise in your everyday living. A tiny cafe, unassuming and unpretentious but snug, where you’re identified and greeted as a regular. A menu that is generally familiar and foods that is generally, usually to start with charge.

Even far better if it is in Paris.

I don’t recall what calendar year I first started off to occur to Chez Denise it will have to have been additional than 25 a long time back. But I try to remember the initially time vividly, a chilly working day in November.

Chez Denise, which is also regarded as La Tour Montlhéry, does not cater to visitors. Its menu, written on a chalkboard, is in French (be sure to have your smartphone’s translator application helpful for the reason that there is no English variation). And it was not right up until not too long ago – 6 several years in the past, to be specific – that we uncovered a waiter who spoke English. But I’ll arrive again to that.

On that 1st go to, Rick and I entered and have been quickly intimidated. It is a pretty cramped eating home and we were seated at a smaller desk where two other guys were being presently seated. No smartphones then, and we’d remaining our French-English Dictionary paperback at the hotel.

We managed to get some food items and I asked for in my stilted French (which you’d consider would have improved by now, but no) two glasses of wine, just one red and just one white. The waiter returned with two bottles.

“No, no, no,” I mentioned, “un verre.” The waiter indicated, in English that was much better than my French but only marginally, that we could pour what we needed and would be billed at the finish of the meal. Hmmm, we thought, a further rip-off on holidaymakers. Why should really Paris be any unique than Rome or Prague or any of the other cities we’d been taken edge of?

But we had been thirsty, and also hungry, and we did not know if the basket of bread that was on the desk was for us or for the two other men sitting down next to us. But one particular of them noticed us looking at it and probably read us debating whether or not we ought to get a slice or not and indicated to us to support ourselves.

That began a conversation that lasted the rest of the meal – it turns out a person of the adult males experienced been a basketball player and had toured the U.S. and spoke some English. We talked about Florida (he particularly favored Sarasota) and we talked about Paris. We poured our wines freely.

It turned out that we hadn’t purchased sensibly we could not figure out how to question for the marrow bones that a person of the menu experienced on his plate. When we questioned him about it, he explained that they arrived with the steak that was on the menu. Rick mentioned he wished he had gotten individuals, so the guy termed the waiter over and experienced an buy of the marrow bones brought to the table.

We chatted and laughed and ate and drank for a few of hours. Men and women at a neighboring table joined in, far too. And following we had finished and compensated our bill (I do not imagine they billed us almost sufficient for the wine we drank) and remaining the cafe, the specific day transpired to me: it was Thanksgiving Day again home. This had been our turkelyless feast.

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Chez Denise became the one particular restaurant we normally came again to, filling the other evenings with new sites to consider. And it stayed the exact, though smartphones at last arrived and we figured how superior to purchase. And then 6 yrs in the past we satisfied Cyril, who has turn out to be our favourite waiter.

It is straightforward to bear in mind that it was 6 decades in the past because our trip to Paris came just a couple weeks following the Pulse massacre. Cyril experienced a friendlier demeanor than the other waiters and he chatted with us, inquiring, of training course, in which we were being from. When we explained to him Orlando, he left and came back with his cellular phone.

There was a drawing on it, a cartoon, of a rotund tiny person sporting an American flag necktie and with a rainbow coloured scarf in his pocket. A term bubble explained, “Je suis Orlando.”

It turned out that Cyril was a budding editorial cartoonist whose drawings appeared in Paris publications. His signature is Noder, which is his surname spelled backwards. He experienced been doing work only one month when he did the Orlando drawing. (I wrote about it right here.)

In excess of the earlier six years I have retained in touch with him and his drawings by social media, and on subsequent visits we usually test to make certain he’s working the evening we want to go.

He was there very last 7 days and Chez Denise was as energetic as at any time (like a table occupied two of my Orlando neighbors who experienced arrived before and have been by now enduring the custom of chatting with the persons at the following door tables).

And the food stuff was as fantastic as at any time, way too. We began with appetizers of pork rillettes rimmed with mouth watering body fat, and escargots. (This right after Cyril had brought a plate of prosciutto as effectively as the basket of bread and creamy butter.)

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I requested what has become my go-to dish, haricot de mouton, a cassoulet-like dish of white beans and lamb. I can in no way finish it myself and I almost advised we get only 1 entree, but in its place we also ordered the confit de canard. And we could not believe that we’d never ever experienced it right before. The skin was impossibly crispy and the meat moist. The duck was served on prime of sliced potatoes that soaked up the drippings. In the photo at the top of the page, the confit de canard is depicted by the vacant serving dish.

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For dessert, a incredibly light creme caramel.

It was not right until the food was more than that I realized that Chez Denise experienced been through a alter in ownership. Cyril explained to me the new proprietor was creating some adjustments, which startled me. But most had been cosmetic or operational – there are no options to adjust the food items.

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1 of the modifications is that the cafe is now open up on weekends. Mainly because of its proximity to Les Halles, which was the city’s principal current market at a person time, the restaurant’s hours have been established largely for the marketplace staff. The marketplace was shut on the weekends so Chez Denise was, too. The current market moved out yrs ago and the internet site now holds a shopping shopping mall.

The new proprietor also put bathrooms in the restrooms. Previously, at the very least in the men’s space, there was only a hole in the flooring and two pads to stand on. It was up to the gentleman to pick which way to face. That’s a alter I can tolerate. But I hope the new operator never messes with the food stuff, the environment or the good quality of support.

I hope to go back again before long to see.

Chez Denise does not have a internet site (I advised you it does not search for to catch the attention of travelers). It is at 5 Rue des Prouvaires, 75001 Paris. The cellphone quantity for reservations is +33 1 42 36 21 82.