Mad About Paris, Much more than a guide
Antoine Westermann is one of the unsung heros of French cuisine. You won’t see him on televised cooking shows, he’s not an actor in today’s media circus, he is just doing what has to be done and what he considers right – setting up pleasant restaurants offering excellent food at fair prices that leave costumers deeply satisfied.
“Mon Vieil Ami” is a marvellous place. Situated in one of the narrow lanes of Ile St. Louis you would expect nothing else than a tourist trap. But Westermann, born in Alsace where he climbed to the 3-star-heaven before coming to Paris, isn’t one of these con men, he’s quite the opposite. He’s a decent cook and a passionate host, a modest man who really knows food and who wants to share his knowledge.
Right now, during the wintertime, the menu at “Mon Vieil Ami” reads like a seasonal shopping list: you’ll find beetroots and pumpkin, parsnips and carrots, artichokes and chestnuts, the whole family of winter vegetables combined with excellent meat products and seafood of all kinds.
Westermann’s chefs masterfully turn these ingredients into dishes that are generously portioned and beautifully arranged. It is a great experience.
You might go for a rustic boar stew topped with an elegant apple-and-parsnip-puree – and you’ll be stunned by the accompanying taste explosions. You may choose the risotto mixed with winter herbs and vegetables or just a pumpkin soup seasoned with coriander – and you will ask yourself how on earth a simple dish like that can be turned into such a breathtaking delicacy.
And there are more wonders to be admired once you’ve entered “Mon Vieil Ami”. The staff is as un-Parisian as it can get – with waiters that go out of their way to please and serve you, whether you’re a regular costumer or a tourist. The wine-list is short but brillant. The whole atmosphere is cosy and comforting even though you’re sitting in quite a clean and sober, full-blown designer’s setting. And the bill? Well, you won’t need a platinum card to settle it. The set menu comes at 39 Euros and, given the pleasures it contains, that’s a pretty cheap ride. You’ll end up somewhere at a hundred Euros for two – and that’s a real bargain in Paris for a fabulous meal.
Hard to say how they do it. But I’ve seen Antoine Westermann once at his other restaurant, “Drouant”, just around the corner from Opéra Garnier. He was walking around, a modest man with spectacles, friendly, almost shy. He looked like a guy who just wants to get things done the right way. And that’s what he does. Let me say it in plain words: “Mon Vieil Ami” is one of the best restaurants in Paris. So don’t miss it.Mon Vieil Ami