Disclaimer: The following recap of my dinner at Le Baratin was written (read: tapped on my iPhone) shortly after I left the restaurant on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. I wrote half in the Uber and half when back at my AirBnB. I was more than half-tipsy. It was intended to be a caption for an Instagram post. I spent a week in Paris for my 40th birthday.
Dinner at Le Baratin: Mackerel tartare, veal sweetbreads, and cherry clafoutis—avec the pit. And some TL;DR. This is the post where you either feel me or are hitting The Unfollow.
I have so many words. So so many. If you know me as the introvert who can talk your ear off, you know how many that might be. I think this was the meal I came to Paris for; one of the #vacationrhianna experiences that brands me. This was the meal I feared the most. The FOH proprietor is notoriously grumpy and cold to Anglos. Many a Paris review give the thumbs down because of him and the lack of a compelling reason to hike to Belleville. But hike up that hill I did. In the +30 Celsius heat, with my nice shoes on. Forty minutes to see the sights. Why? Because one of my friends strongly recommended it, it’s a notable Bourdain stop (and today just happens to be the first Bourdain Day), and a notorious chef hang. That seeming grump is also notorious for his vin naturel knowledge. With another friend securing my place via a phone reservation with her mad French skillz, I sat at the bar, asked for a white with maceration, and ordered the “heart” of veal sweetbreads as my main.
Oh, those words. The ones that tell you that there’s a bit of destiny at play because I first tried sweetbreads on my 30th birthday trip when at La Quercia in Vancouver. There are the ones that relay my great effort to mind my Continental cutlery handling, as those behind and at the bar watched me eat, including that infamous Philippe. Those that tell you that the revered, sweet chef Raquel delivered my main; when I thanked her upon leaving, she was smoking in the kitchen, and my deep appreciation was received with a smile, but one as blasé as that which comes with an extended door open. How about those words about the butter that slicked the plate of sweetbreads and gave me strength instead of weighing me down? The ones that speak to the mountain of that offal heart that I never wanted to overcome because of its perfection. Then the rhubarb atop it that I almost forgot to mention. The FOH underlings who really run the show. There are those words that quake with fear as Philippe too-quickly rotated the bottle when I gestured to look at what he poured when in my crude French asked for a recommendation. Too quickly turned like he rightly knew I would’t really understand the content. And then those words full of shock when he asked, in English (!), if I liked it. There are those words full of victory when he learned I was Canadian and relayed how much he liked, again in English, The Cowboy Junkies (!!)—but not before boldly quoting me an Irish folk song about dying alone (?!). And those words full of gloat when a barmate shared a glass of his “bottle only” Italian orange. When pouring my glass, Philippe relayed, “In North America, this would be considered f*cking good wine.” In my mind, I clapped my hands when a member of the Japanese chef contingency in Paris showed up at the eleventh hour, confirming all the everything. All the money spent on all the other things was for this meal, this night, these memories. And I still have my birthday meal at Septime to look forward to!
The epilogue is that I ripped off a piece of my bill to write “Neko Case” for him; me, that awkward Canadian who pretended to know about maceration and ate alone with sweaty red lipstick and her new Les Soldes French bra on. Because, Paris. But to be Oprah for a moment, it’s actually because of the validation. In my mind, I did good. I made the right choice. And regardless of what anyone thought, I said some right words. As a high-achieving, grade-school student foolishly looking for gold stars in the real world, this felt like a big, f*cking gold star. So glad I had that wine to celebrate it with.
3 Rue Jouye-Rouve