In her continuing streak of good advice, my friend Elaine, the Francophile who visits Paris yearly, told me to stop by Le Petit Zinc in the Saint-Germain de Pres district. (I should note that I can’t find a way in Word Press to add the appropriate accent marks for French, so please excuse that.)
It’s easy to find. Just get off at Metro Saint-Germain de Pres, and it’s right around the corner, close to the Delacroix Museum. I spot the sign from the street, wander over, and am immediately in love. Art Nouveau in every aspect! I love it!
Since I forgot to eat lunch and have been roaming the area buoyed by the sugar from chocolates from Maison du Chocolate, I decide to stop and eat at Le Petit Zinc. (Note to self: do not stop in at Maison du Chocolate when you are starving and a ways from home. I wolfed down the six chocolates I bought while walking Rue Cherche Midi. I wish I could say I regretted it, but only in the caloric sense.)
But I digress. Le Petit Zinc.
I’m not sure if I can just have a snack here or if it’s only a full-fledged dining experience, so I ask the host before I’m seated. This confuses him, and he leads me to the manager. Evidently the confusion was only a matter of the host not speaking English. I am immediately seated, and decide to go for the cheese plate and an Irish coffee. Great choice. It is a special selection by the chef. It sounds like, from the menu, the chef chooses the best of whatever is at the markets that day, so sometimes stuff on the menu is not available. Fine with me. This selection is truly special.
I summon up my “mauvais Francais,” and ask the waiter what the name of the white cheese is. It is to die for. He doesn’t speak much English, but he kindly spells it out for me: Saint Maure. Friends, if you get a chance, try this cheese. It is complex and creamy with a bit of an edge. Very nice with the nutbread on the platter. And divine with the Irish coffee, which contains a relatively strong blend of whiskey and Irish cream. They serve it hot in a glass, so you have to be careful picking it up.
I admire all the little touches in this restaurant that make it special. The tiny little flower pot on the table. The different colored water glasses at every table and the pewter pitcher that they bring the tap water in. The crisp white tablecloths. The beautiful flower arrangement on a table near the cobblestone street. And the way they’ve mixed up the decor with the same style chairs in pewter on the street, with very beautiful art nouveau table bases.
As always, there’s no rush. So I just relax, savor the special selection of cheeses and jam. There’s a variety that works well, and they serve it with some mixed greens that include arugula; a perfect complement to the cheeses.
I’ve been exploring for several hours, so I ask for the restrooms on the way out. This may be the only time I post photos of a restroom, but the attention to detail does not stop at the restroom. Everything is marble and spotless and beautiful, and there’s classical music piped in. I’m impressed.
On the way out, I find the manager and tell him in my tres malle Francais that they get all the little things right. I definitely want to return here for dinner. Two lessons learned: always stop somewhere cute and linger. And never doubt Elaine!
Update: I splurged and went back for dinner. The service was still outstanding and the place was just as beautiful, but I didn’t find the food or the cocktail or the wine to be anything special. The salad was average and drowning in oil. The trout was perfectly cooked and delicious, but it came with the bone in. Evidently, you’re supposed to filet it yourself. Since I’m not that good at it, that meant I ended up picking fish bones out of my dinner, not exactly that classy evening I’d planned. Also, the mashed potatoes were cold. And the ice cream with pureed melon was interesting, but too sweet for me. Bottom line: Go for lunch or apres midi, have an entree (remember, an entree is an appetizer in France), order the Irish coffee, enjoy the service and the beautiful decor. But save your money on dinner.