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Where to Drink Like a Parisian in L.A.
Domaine L.A.’s Jill Bernheimer relives her recent Parisian jaunt without leaving town
I was fortunate to be offered an apartment is Paris’s Marais neighborhood recently, and honestly I didn’t want to come back to L.A. Ever. It was the first time I’ve had the joy of experiencing Paris from the comfort of a residence (rather than a hotel room)—not that I took advantage of the kitchen. We dined out often, and well.
But as much as I wish I was still on vacation, I’m lucky to live in a city with wine buyers who are nearly as Francophilic as I am, and whose lists contain many of the bottles I enjoyed during my travels. So, for a little piece of Paris in Los Angeles, here’s a little guide to where you can bottles from there, here.
There: Le Verre Volé
It’s the wine here that’s the star of the show, more so than the food, which is good—don’t get me wrong—but humble and rustic. Lots of people are packed into this restaurant’s tiny space, and one’s meal is generally punctuated with passers-by coming in not for a table, but for wine “a porter”: this restaurant doubles as a bottle shop.
Bottle: 2005 Jerome Lenoir Chinon, Cabernet Franc. This is an earthy, leafy, substantial Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley, and went perfectly with the saucisson.
Here: Trois Mec
Ludo’s restaurant features the bottle on its list in a way that showcases the wine’s impressive versatility and seriousness. What in the Parisian setting was a more humble offering, at Trois Mec becomes something nuanced. Adam Vourvoulis will likely decant the bottle so that all sorts of secondary and tertiary components come out—it’s a layered wine that can stand up to Ludo’s complex food.
There: l’Avant Comptoir
The offshoot to Yves Camdeborde’s famed “Le Comptoir,” l’Avant Comptoir is a long, narrow stand-up bar with the distinct advantage of being open throughout the day, seven days-a-week (a Parisian rarity). Come here for an in-between meal bite, or a meal itself. Or just for a drink. The bottle and by-the-glass lists are stellar, with many wines poured from large formats—which, you know, makes it more fun.
Bottle: 2012 Binners “Les Saveurs” Alsatian White Blend
Specifically I’d recommend this bottle with Goldie’s Sunday night fried chicken dinners. You want a white with some fruit and a lot of acid to pair with the fattiness and richness of that dish. This will do that very nicely.
There: Le Dauphin
This is the wine bar and small plates sibling to Inaki Aizpitarte’s Bistronomy temple, Le Chateaubriand, two doors down (sandwiched in between is a lovely wine shop selling only “vins etranger”—meaning, non-French wines). There was a lot to drink here including Jacques Lassaigne’s basic bottling from Montgueux, Champagne, a by-the-glass staple at a host of trendy Parisian locales including American chef Daniel Rose’s perennially booked Spring.
Bottle: While we started with glasses of the aforementioned Lassaigne, I couldn’t resist the 2013 Puzelat “Nouveau” I saw on the list. (Full disclosure: I have a tattoo of a different Thierry Puzelat label on my wrist.)
Here: Night + Market
Okay, Puzelat’s Nouveau, a young, fresh and tart Gamay from the Loire Valley, can only be had in Paris. Maybe only even at Le Dauphin and Le Chateaubriand (I didn’t see it elsewhere). But you can go to Night + Market and grab a bottle of Puzelat’s Cheverny Rouge “Caillere” for a similar experience—albeit the Cheverny is a little more serious in scope (and made from Pinot Noir grapes rather than Gamay). In fact, Yenbamroong’s list in general most closely resembles the lists of the Parisian restaurants I went to, so plan to spend some time here and delve into the offerings, which are as adventurous as the food.
There: Le Severo
A tiny restaurant that specializes in red meat, Le Severo has a wine list that’s as serious as its dry-aged beef, including a deep Burgundy selection and many bottles from cult Jura producer Jean-Francois Ganevat. I couldn’t resist ordering a bottle of the J’en Veux, as it’s nearly impossible to find in the States (as are most of Ganevat’s wines). The cramped quarters proved a boon: We were dining next to friendly neighbors who invited us to share a second bottle for “dessert.”
Bottle: That second bottle was the 2010 Georges Descombes Brouilly, Vieilles Vignes, a Gamay with some structure, grip, and concentration.
Here: My shop…
While the Brouilly Vieilles Vignes isn’t available at the moment, nor the 2011, the delicious 2012 Morgon from Descombes is available by the bottle at my own store. Sorry, I searched long and hard for a local restaurant but only San Francisco seems to have bitten on this one! When I’m roasting a chicken or grilling some ribs, I often grab a bottle of this Gamay from my own shelves.
There: 6 Paul Bert
The prix-fixe sibling to Bistrot Paul Bert, which is more traditional in nature, 6 Paul Bert offers a casual Bistronomy menu with a compact but very well done list of natural wines.
Bottle: Dining with a group of four, we shared two bottles: a Burgundy from Cossard that I’ve not seen in California, and the 2012 Agnes & Renee Mosse “Magic of Juju,” a bright Chenin Blanc with more of an acid backbone than the 2011, the latter of which I’ve enjoyed here on many an occasion in Los Angeles.
While dark and more brooding than the casual and bright atmosphere of 6 Paul Bert, the food style at Ink. is actually a pretty good match. Michael Voltaggio’s restaurant has fairly recently dedicated a portion of its wine list to exactly the style of bottles found at the trendier spots in Paris. While I wish they weren’t segregated in their own section, the “Natural Wine” page makes it easy to navigate for the less-experienced diner looking for grower-driven, food-friendly bottles. On that page, you’ll find the 2011 Magic of Juju. The 2011 is softer and rounder than the 2012, but it’s a highly versatile crowd-pleaser of a wine.
There: Le Baratin
My favorite meal of the trip, complete with an Inaki Aizpitarte cameo—he was dining at the bar here on a rare night off, since Le Chateaubriand was closed for renovations that week. This spot, in Belleville, is in a neighborhood tourists might otherwise ignore (though the descent from the metro stop yields a lovely view of the Eiffel tower from up high). But the trek is worth it. The food here is unfussy, the plating humble, but every bite truly delicious. The wine list is filled with gems. As with many of these spots, you have to engage in conversation to get beyond what’s on the ‘by the glass’ chalkboard list, to the treasures of their collection. Either way, you’re in good hands. There wasn’t a bottle I wouldn’t have consumed.
The bottle(s): We ended up with the 2009 De Moor Chablis Bel Air et Clary to start, and the 2007 Foillard Cote du Py 3.14 to finish.
Sadly, neither of these bottles is available anywhere in Los Angeles. When they do come around, I’m afraid they’re gone just as fast due to their limited nature. I guess that means I’ll just have to go back to Paris…
-Jill Bernheimer is the proprietor of the Melrose Avenue wine shop, Domaine L.A.