First, the bagel saga continues. A French guy named Patrick, who's spent a lot of time in California has come to town and opened Bagel House, which is, besides a bagel joint, kind of an all-American theme restaurant. What exactly the bulldog has to do with it, I'm not sure.
There's a menu of bagel sandwiches, genuine New York cheesecake, pecan pie, hot dogs, Budweiser (in very elegant metal bottles, but it's still Budweiser) and Miller Genuine Draft. The bagels on offer the day I went were plain, sesame, sesame-poppy seed, and olive, which Patrick says is a concession to French tastes. They toasted up nicely and -- surprise! -- the texture was perfect! At €2 per bagel, though, this could be an expensive habit to acquire, although he swears he's going to lower the price to €1.50. Thursdays and Fridays are American sports nights on the big-screen television, and they're open until 10pm those nights for sports fans.
The place is kind of hidden away in a tiny street not far from the Opéra, but I've been in twice and there's been customers each time. I'm about to become another one, since the Inno supermarket's now carrying genuine Philadelphia cream cheese, and, of course, smoked salmon's no problem in France. Uh-oh.
Bagel House, 6 rue Loys, 34000 Montpellier. Tel: 04 67 67 07 02.
* * *
In other news of exotic cuisines, for some time I'd been hearing about an Asian supermarket called, oddly enough, Paris Store, on the edge of town, and last week I caught a ride out there with a couple of Australian Asiaphiles.
It's huge. There's a reason it's out there in warehouseland: it takes up a hell of a lot of space. And there's almost everything you'd want out there to make Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, or Cambodian food, plus some Indian basics, the usual enigmatic Antillean French stuff (I must find a restaurant that does this kind of food, because I have no idea what it is) and a smattering of Japanese and Filipino ingredients. There's a virtual wall of dim-sum, frozen, which could enable someone to open the biggest dim-sum restaurant in the south of France (and, MSG notwithstanding, I wish they would), and, outstandingly, a full complement of all the odd fresh herbs and vegetables you need to cook Southeast Asian foods. As with the place I used to go in Berlin, Vinh Loi, I don't recognize about 3/4 of these things, but they're all clearly labelled and at some point I'm going to get a Vietnamese cookbook and work some of it out.
The Paris Store is part of a chain of stores, most of which are in Paris. (We joked that there's probably a Beijing Store in China selling French food). It serves a dual purpose, supplying individual consumers as well as restaurants: there are big packs of take-out boxes, wholesale lots of chopsticks, and even some decor. It's got an outstanding selection of woks, cooking tools, and dishes, although I'd get my Chinese cleaver elsewhere, from the selection I saw there.
My one criticism -- and to tell the truth, I'm not sure I found everything, the place is so large -- is that there are still some ingredients, specifically some of the cooking pastes and sauces for Chinese food, which I still haven't found around here, things like yellow bean paste and black-bean chili paste. There's a chili paste that's essential for making the dipping sauce for Vietnamese summer rolls I haven't found, and I'm out of it, although I did buy a product that was unfamiliar to me that might turn out to be the same thing. At any rate, I'm mostly restocked now, so it's time to fire up the wok.
I think that this place is accessible by Tram #2, direction St. Jean de Védas, getting off at Victoire 2 and walking to the big commercial center. There are some chain restaurants (and a non-chain next door to the Paris Store where we had coffee, which looks excellent for lunch), a big garden store, and way in the back, the behemoth.
Paris Store, La Peyriere Business Park, Avenue Robert Schumann, 34430 St. Jean de Védas. Open Mon-Fri 9am-1pm, 2:30pm-7:30pm, Saturday 9am-7:30pm.
* * *
Man, talk about your best-laid plans. I've been promising myself that I'd go out to a new, inexpensive restaurant as soon as I could justify the outlay. I had a couple of ideas for places to go. And then, one day after I'd been working hard all afternoon, I realized that I had no ideas whatever for cooking dinner that night, and that the smart thing to do would be to go out. And I had the money to do it, as long as I didn't go over €30, which is quite do-able around here. There was one problem.
It was Sunday.
Sunday and Monday, as I need tell no one in France, are dead days. I knew that Bistrot d'Alco was open, but I'd just written about them and getting a miette out of the deal was part of my goal. I knew one place over in Gourmet Gulch I hadn't even seen, but someone had recommended. I headed over there. No go; with the exception of the Chat Perché, which I've also written about recently, nothing was open. I hiked clear across town on a hunch. Nope, those places were closed, too. I knew what I had to do: go to Chez Doumé.
Chez Doumé is very popular with the locals because it's open when others aren't, and because it's a basic steak-and-potatoes kind of place. I was just hoping for something a little more creative, a little more varied. But...
The place was full, but not obnoxiously so, mostly families, and there was a sign announcing that lunches were now featuring a different dish each day of the week. Given that that week's lunches were mostly variations on lambs' brains (seriously: cervelle d'agneau) I was glad I don't usually eat big lunches. Dinner doesn't have a huge selection, so I ordered from the menu bistrot (€16) and got steak and potatoes. First, though, there was a poireau vinaigrette, a poached leek with vinaigrette and a home-made mayonnaise that was excellent. I could have had another choice from the menu, but one of them was andouillette, a kind of sausage that smells like a urinal which is inexplicably popular in France, and I forget what the other choices were. Nope, it was the pièce de boucher, or steak, with a sauce, of which I chose pepper. And here's another reason people come to Chez Doumé: the steak (less tough than a lot of French steaks, but that's not saying much, and the pepper sauce seemed not to be too full of pepper) comes with fries. Amazing fries. And lots of 'em. They're homemade, not frozen. Some of them still have a bit of skin on them. They're cooked in regular oil, not duck fat, but they're the best non-duck-fat fries in town. I had to stop eating them to avoid potato overdose.
A 1/4 liter pichet of an okay Côtes de Languedoc was another €4.50, and all in all it was a good meal. Not great, not even very good, but it got the job done. I was stuck, and this is the kind of place you go when you're stuck. In the summer, it's light on tourists, too. And it has lamb brains for lunch.
Chez Doumé, 5 rue des Tessiers, 34000 Montpellier. Tel: 04 67 60 48 70. Open daily for lunch and dinner except Saturday and Sunday lunch.