Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Le Relais de l'Ilse: Magnificence Without The Stars

Yesterday, with all that talk about stars and fine dining in Paris, I got to thinking of some of my most memorable meals during my year of personal indulgence there.  I ate at numerous starred restaurants in Paris and do so once in awhile here in Chicago.  In my experience, over the top pretentiousness and uncomfortable theatre that one occasionally finds at award winning spots may not always be the best barometer for good memories--or meals.  

With no stars attached to it, Le Relais de l'Isle in a most humble way creates both meals and memories that you will want to go back to over and over.   A tiny place on Ile Saint Louis (it only seats 24), it is capable of making your mouth dance with delight no matter what you order. Stumbling upon it on my last day in Paris, I wasn't so sure what to expect but had walked through the entire city, breathing everything in and at this point found myself famished.  I know I ordered the déjeuner formule and all I can without question recall is the entree (appetizer).  Described as 'mille feuille tomate', I was envisioning thin layers of puff pastry with tomatoes worked in somehow.  Oh no.  A bit too simple and obvious that would be.  Instead the tomatoes were the mille feuille--thinly sliced tomatoes layered with delicate greens in a perfect dressing. Have you ever tried cutting a tomato to about 1/16th of an inch?  It was crazy and beautiful and art and all part of a relatively inexpensive lunch menu.  I have been back numerous times and have never been disappointed.   

This also happens to be a fairly popular jazz haunt for those of you looking for that.  I helped friends put together their first trip to Paris a few months ago who are jazz lovers and suggested they start here over their first weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday are music nights) as I knew the food was tremendous but had never taken advantage of the entertainment.  They did just that, had a great meal and were directed towards all sorts of late night haunts that kept them up until the wee hours.  

The proprietress is lovely and it is her husband working in a tiny second level kitchen that creates such beauty on a plate.  It is clear that all things at Le Relais de l'Isle come from the heart, not the stars.  

Additional information:  
37 rue St-Louis-en-l'Ile  75004
Métro:  Pont-Marie 

Photo credit:  Francis Demange


Khaled KEM said...

Thanks for the post. I do miss Paris and their undiscovered wonderful little restaurants, cafes and bakeries.

Taylor said...

Ahh! I loved this place!! My duck confit there was fabuleux.

Kim said...

Khaled KEM--there are so many. It could take a lifetime to find them all

Taylor--good food, good memories!

Eddie said...

My wife and I just ate there this past Wednesday night. The jazz piano was a perfect complement to the slow-pace of our date. I highly recommend the avocado & shrimp fraichette (I don't recall what it was called on the menu), and my wife loved her mushroom ravioli. I definitely recommend it as well - and the prices are low for Paris!

Kim said...

Ah, Eddie, very envious of you and your wife being in Paris and getting a chance to drop by this place. Hope your trip was magnificent.

Eddie said...

Thank you, Kim! Our first trip, and it was fantastic. It will not be our last!

Au revoir!