I came across a brief entry about this bistro in a 2001 Gourmet Magazine special Paris issue and added it to my shortlist of Paris restaurants I wanted to try. After satisfactory results from a Google of the bistro, it went on my reservation list I sent off to my concierge in Paris a few weeks before the trip.
The night we dined there – last Thursday (has it really only been a week?) — was the day Brian and I had our day on our own in the city. This was an experiment, we’ve never split up for more than an hour on our trips, but this being our third time in Paris I was confident we could get around fine on our own. I shopped the day away and Brian wandered the city using his five words of French, and we met for dinner at 7:30. Unlike most restaurants in Paris, L’Epi Dupin has two seatings. We chose the earlier due to our 4:00 wakeup call the next morning for the Rungis Market tour.
I took the Metro to the Sevres Babylone stop where I planned to dash in to La Grand Epicerie for a quick grocery-shopping spree before dinner. As I exited the metro to ground level I heard my name and spotted Brian across the street having a Kronenbourg beer at a sidewalk cafe while he waited for me. I was glad to see my husband but had only 20 minutes until dinner so after a quick kiss hello, I ran to the glorious foodie heaven and stocked up on my European goodies such as sea salt with fennel, truffle mayonnaise and olive oil soap.
We were a bit late but the friendly staff welcomed us, gave us our choice of one table surrounded by two others each two inches away, and another table surrounded by two others each two inches away. We chose the one easiest to clamber through other tables to.
The menu was entirely in French, as were the specials on the board, and neither of us had brought the Marling Menu Master with us. I made out some of the items – notably the St Jacques, but fortunately our charming waiter patiently went through the offerings. It was a prix fixe of 32 euros for a starter, plat and frommage or dessert – very fair prices I thought. There were at least half a dozen options for each course.
I chose the house specialty of tatin of endive and goat cheese for my starter while Brian had an eggplant, tomato and mozzarella creation. While the warmly-lit bistro buzzed and hummed with the many conversations of happy diners around us I consulted the wine list and finally arrived at a choice of a Cote du Rhone. I couldn’t be any less of a wine expert but I remembered reading that this was a great standby kind of wine and it was reasonably priced. The waiter was quite pleased with my choice – his favorite wine, he said. And you know, I think he was being genuine.
The starters arrived in record time for France (part of the high energy of the bistro was the fact that they had two rounds of diners) and I was struck almot speechless by the marvelous taste of my tatin.
Who caramelizes endive? Well, the chef at L’Epi DUpin does, and boy am I glad. It was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. A pastry crust formed the base upon which a generous slathering of goat cheese was layered, and it was all ensconced by the richly sweet (but not cloyingly so) caramelized endive. And, as if that weren’t enough bliss on a plate, the caramel from the pan curled all around the tatin. Mmmmmmm. I grudgingly shared a little with Brian who quite enjoyed his dish as well.
My next course was scallops in a citrus vinaigrette with spinach and fennel. I was happy to have spinach for starters (in light of the whole no-fresh-spinach-at-home situation) but the scallops were succulent and flavorful. Perfect.
Brian as usual had fish – it looked nice other than the ham bits garnishing the plate. My dessert was the only disappointment – mainly because I just don’t love eggs. It was a blackberry tart, but a little too ggy for me. Brian had a rhubarb dish, primarily because of fond childhood memories of rhubarb. We didn’t linger as the tables on either side of us had already been turned, staff frantically whipping out new tablecloths and place settings. We did have the chance to chat a bit with fellow diners, in English with the two sets of Japanese diners on my right (I helped one of them with the menu as their English and the waiter’s English weren’t jiving), and in kindergarten French with the two friendly French couples on my left.
I would have gladly broken my don’t-eat-twice-at-the-same-restautant rule in order to return for the tatin, but this is quite the popular place and reservations are somewhat difficult to snare.
Maybe next time.