Back in the day when we had just begun dating, P, already a Francophile then, brought me to my first French restaurant, Bistrot Margot, in Chicago. There, we celebrated my 20th birthday over French onion soup, coq au vin and creme brulée. That evening, I felt so worldly and sophisticated seated amongst much older diners, supping on those oh-so-French dishes. For many years ensuing our dinner at Bistrot Margot, we considered the three dishes we had ordered the gold standards of French bourgeois cooking and P would unfailingly order those dishes whenever he could find them, variety be damned.
Ever since we’ve moved to Paris, we’ve found plenty of good and not-so-great takes on onion soup and creme brulée, but appearances of coq au vin on menus had been few and far between. When cousin bean visited last week with the specific request for the wine braised rooster, I had to call multiple places, all restaurants specializing in Burgundian cuisine before finding a place that was 1) open on the weekends, 2) not already full, 3) and had solid food reviews. That place was Auberge Bressane.
Auberge Bressane, translated literally means a country inn in or operated by people of Bresse, a French region put on the culinary map by its famous chicken. Poulet de Bresse is the only varietal to be awarded an AOC status and is thus proudly emblazoned on the restaurant’s signs and cloth napkins. In keeping with the country inn theme, the dining room is also decorated in an old-fashioned and rustic way, and its a place you can imagine drinking a tankard of beer (or a bottle of Burgundian red) before packing in the rich food before you.
We started with a classic Burgundian appetizer, a dozen escargots bubbling away in shallot and garlic butter. The snails themselves are plump and not too grassy in taste, but the sauce was absolutely yummy, super fragrant with shallots and garlics cooked so thoroughly that the aggressive flavors of the bulbs gave way to a soothing sweetness.
Naturally, cousin bean ordered the coq au vin. She was not disappointed by Auberge Bressane’s rendition, the meat tinted duck purple and completed infused with the deep flavors of red wine, the sweetness of pearl onions and the saltiness of bacon bits. Not to forget the sliced mushrooms that becomes hundred times tastier after they’ve soaked up the excess sauce. Auberge Bressane actually uses the tough rooster instead of fatter, younger chickens, ideal for this dish that subjects the chicken to long hours of cooking.
P decided to skip coq au vin for once, opting for the game menu instead. Still, his jugged wild boar, also braised in a rich, deep brown wine sauce had shades of coq au vin in it. The sauce while similar to the coq au vin’s was spicier, and the addition of sweet chestnuts and juniper berries further imparted a feeling of autumn. Oddly, thanks to the acidic flavor profile of the berries, the dish also tasted uncannily like Chinese pork trotters with ginger and vinegar, the must-eat dish for all new mums.
The restaurant’s namesake was of course on the menu too, immersed in a morille cream sauce. The chicken was very firm and meaty, a tad bland compared to the other savory dishes. The creamy sauce, packed with the earthiness of mushrooms was delicious with the chicken and the fries that came with the dish, but to fully appreciate the unctuous feel of cream on my tongue, I had to filch some noodles from P’s dish.
Auberge Bressane has a good selection of souffles, both savory and sweet, on the menu. Cousin C’s crab souffle, though a tad too salty, was packed with crab flavor both from the shredded meat in the souffle and the decadent sauce served on the side. Her side salad, curiously tasting of curry, was also much appreciated by the rest of us, who for vegetables had only mushrooms, berries and fried potatos in our dishes. We could not resist ordering another souffle for dessert, and were quite happy with the salted caramel souffle, looking nice and tall, before collapsing into airy fluffiness as we dug into it. The souffle was already flavored with some caramel, and came with another jug of liquid caramel to add as required.
The omelette à la Norvegienne, aka Baked Alaska on fire was a simply majestic sight, an imposing cube of meringue encased ice-cream and cake ablaze with Grand Marnier. While the ice cream and the biscuit swathed in meringue was quite satisfying, the fun factor definitely had the taste factor beat, a constant contrast between hot and cold, hard and soft, in a haze on lingering alcohol no less!
Good food, a very convivial atmosphere with servers who are eager to please and fantastic company. If you are looking for coq au vin in the city, this is the ticket!
Auberge Bressane: 16 Avenue de la Motte-Picquet, 75007