My first night in Paris is a Friday night, and parking is scarce. Corinne and I circle round and round the 9th until we finally give in to a parking garage. Then we circle round and round the parking garage. I have never seen spots so tight. Parisians should win medals for squeezing into these tiny spaces, and then extra points for the flexibility required to climb over seats and out of their trunks in order to exit the vehicle. We squeeze into a spot too small for a toy car and make our way to Les Canailles.
Les Canailles is a neighborhood restaurant frequented by local Parisians and those in the know. It is a casual, no frills space with only one waiter. We arrive “early” (7:45pm) and have the narrow, simply decorated room to ourselves. The solo waiter thoughtfully explains each wine to Corinne, herself a connoisseur of fine wines. Corinne translates the chalkboard menu while I try to convince her that I’m not very hungry. I am jet lagged, I am fine with something light and on the smaller side. This turns into a three course meal. Of course, there is no other way in Paris.
I love the salade d’artichauts with juicy tomatoes, pine nuts, fresh lettuce, and a perfectly balanced dressing. Corinne’s beef carpaccio is stellar: my taste buds are awakened, and I know this woman is a professional ‘orderer’. By the time our main courses arrive, the dining room is filling up and friends are laughing and leaning across tables, sipping red wines and breaking bread. Parisians take meals seriously: they care about the plates placed before them and the ingredients that are imaginatively featured in each dish. They take the time to discuss the details of the menu with the one waiter, who covers the entire floor with grace and ease. One gentleman arrives for dinner with his mother and his bulldog. I learn it is acceptable for dogs to accompany their owners to restaurants, and I watch the adorable creature take part in the meal by sampling small pieces from his owner’s hand. The dog barks once in a while, voicing his approval of the jambon, I am sure.
For my second course, Corinne explains to the waiter that I am trying to be healthy. He modifies the roasted white fish course for me by serving it with simply prepared vegetables. They are moist in a light olive oil dressing (no beurre, s’il vous plaît.) For dessert, Corinne and I both choose the simple roasted fig plate. September is the height of fig season in Paris, and we take advantage of the juicy, succulent fruit in all of its natural glory, although I would rather vanilla ice cream over the very dense cream. Dinner at Les Canailles is a terrific value. Each dish was supEer.
Corinne Preteur is a bon vivant, a professional food and lifestyle tour guide, and a wonderfully warm and hilarious friend. Peruse her food and cooking-centric tours across France. You will not be disappointed.