Dinner and a night out with old friends

If Saturday’s visit to the Ritz was new, Saturday night’s dinner and drinks renewed old acquaintances.

We summoned Uber for the short ride down to Ciasa Mia on rue Laplace across the street from last year’s apartment, even though it is only a 15-minute walk from our current place. As we approached the Pantheon, we ran into a wall of traffic, police and crowds of students. Apparently, the students returning to the Sorbonne were staging some sort of mass demonstration, and the local authorities were taking no chances. Police wagons with flashing blue lights were lined up a full block of the street alongside the Pantheon, and SWAT teams in full riot gear stood by, shields in hand, ready to fend off any violence.

The crowds seemed to be peaceful, perhaps partying as much as anything. We remembered pretty much the same event last year when the students returned to school from Christmas break. As a result of the police barricades, we were forced to make a long, circuitous route to the restaurant that in all took longer than the 15 minutes it would have taken us to walk.

The two attractive servers and the chef at Ciasa Mia welcomed us warmly, even as we walked in a few minutes early. The women dress in some traditional outfit from another day and another country. The proprietors, Francesca and Samuel, are from Italy, and their wine list is almost exclusively Italian, even if their food defies geographic definition.

Three hours and at least eight courses constitute the SMALL tasting menu at Ciasa Mia.

We ordered the small degustation, which is preceded by no fewer than three amuseé bouches not listed anywhere on the menu. Three hours later, we were the first to leave the restaurant. We simply could eat no more.

Again, we marveled at Samuel’s concoction of a single egg yolk the innards of which he drains with a syringe, then injects truffle oil. Served in a single spoon, the truffle-filled yolk is consumed in one obscenely rich gulp. This too is not a published element of the tasting menu.

The three main tasting courses included smoked duck with a shredded potato pie and chickpea pureé (hummus); stuffed chicken roll presented cooking over an open flame of pine needles accompanied by stuffed spinach rolls and finally an offering of a small but thick perch filet accompanied by sauteed vegetables.

Those are just the listed dishes. That doesn’t include the palate cleansing chocolate/licorice wafer or the weightless spongecake that gets you ready for dessert of mousse under a paper-thin wafer with rich cocoa sauce ladled over the top. After all that, we had no space or desire for café.

Waddling out before anyone else in the tiny but packed restaurant, we walked to the other end of rue Laplace and down to Pomme d’Eve, a South African bar occupying the former wine cellars of the medieval Eglise St. Genevieve on the street above. Pomme d’Eve’s proprietor recognized us as soon as we walked in; we shook hands warmly a year after we had last visited.

Pomme broadcasts NFL games, so we watched the first half of the Atlanta-Seattle game while sipping Havana Club on the rocks (he remembered that too). Our host updated us that his business has fallen off, because of the fear of terrorism. After three attacks in Paris and the most recent one in Nice, not to mention Turkey, Germany and the U.S., people young and old, he said, have become wary of congregating in crowds these days. And that has affected bars and restaurants all over Paris, giving the barbarians a short-term victory.

Terrorism or not, by now we were well past our time for us to summon Uber again for the short ride back up to our rue Mouffetard neighborhood. The streets around the Pantheon and the Sorbonne were quiet again, as the demonstrating students had found a much warmer, more welcoming atmosphere in the local bars that are omnipresent in the Latin Quarter.

Our night of reacquaintance was done. Time to climb the 61 steps up to the fourth floor. Snow is predicted for Sunday.



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