Today, we rode the Paris Canal boat up the St-Martin Canal. I've never been in that part of Paris. It was really nice -- the boatride was pleasant (although we couldn't understand most of the narration -- even when he was talking in English, it sounded like French, and was too quiet and very mumbled). When you turn up the canal off of the Seine, you first go through a lock (I've never been through a canal lock before, so that was pretty cool), then through a 2km tunnel that feels ancient and mysterious, then through four more double locks through the neighborhoods of eastern Paris before you arrive at Parc de la Villette -- about a 2.5-hour ride altogether. A very pleasant way to spend a beautiful morning!
I've never been to the Parc de la Villette before, either. It's really great -- very large and spread out, with lots of different areas -- incredible playgrounds for kids, quiet hideaways for adults, a bamboo garden, cafes, strolling paths and benches. We wandered around and down to the southern side of the park, had one of the best lunches I've had in Paris (see below), and then tried to go to the Museum of Musical Instruments -- but sadly, they are closed for renovation until mid-October. It looks like they have a really amazing collection, so I will try to go back the next time I'm in Paris.
Lunch was at Le Local Rock, a tiny bistro on Avenue Jean Jaurès. We sat at outdoor tables with just enough shade (and wonder of wonder, nobody near us smoked the whole time, so we could enjoy the air too!) As Caroline pointed out later, sometimes the restaurants with the smallest menus have the best food, and that was certainly the case here. They only had maybe half a dozen appetizers, half a dozen main courses, and half a dozen desserts -- but the formule midi (appetizer/main or main/dessert) was only 14,95 and all of the food was wonderful. I had the croustillant St-Nectaire, not sure what it would be but thinking it might be something crusty/crunchy. St-Nectaire turns out to be a kind of delicious cheese, and the croustillant was basically baked cheese en croute. So good!! Caroline had boeuf tartare (the waitress looked surprised and said, "Ce n'est pas cuit -- it's raw -- it's OK??" -- not the first time somebody has been surprised that a 17-year-old will eat anything), which was very good and even I (who don't usually like steak tartare) enjoyed it. I had the baked salmon, and it was incredible -- meltingly, perfectly cooked, with a crisp skin, in a cream sauce that was to die for. For dessert, we had a crême brulée aux amandes amères, and each had a cafe express. Such a perfect, perfectly French meal!
Since the museum was closed, we were somewhat aimless, and decided to go back to our neighborhood and see whether there was a movie playing. We decided to see Les recettes de bonheur (which is the French title for the Helen Mirren movie, "A Hundred-Foot Journey"). We had a little time to kill, so we sat at a cafe and had a chocolat chaud (Caroline) and a kir vin blanc pêche (me) -- both very refreshing!
The movie was wonderful -- uplifting and heartwarming without being cheesy, and full of delicious food!
From there, we went directly to dinner at Shu, a Japanese cafe I had read about online, on rue Suger near St-Martin. (Yes, the door is really that tiny! You have to duck going in -- the restaurant is half a level below the street.)
Wow. Just wow. Really terrific, creative, delicate food -- every bite was a work of art. Again, it was a tasting menu that included an amuse-bouche, sashimi, three "seasonal dishes," nine skewers (their specialty), and dessert.
Amuse: tofu with horse mackerel
Sashimi (not shown): sea bream, yellowtail, and sea bass
Seasonal dish #1: scallop, salmon roe, and seaweed
Seasonal dish #2: minced chicken and dashi
Seasonal dish #3: sea bream en croute
First three skewers (which were all incredibly crispy outside and delicately cooked inside): shiitake mushrooms stuffed with shrimp, chicken with miso sauce, eggplant (not shown)
Next trio of skewers: rice ball with mushrooms, scallop (the best one of all of them, I thought -- perfectly cooked inside), and baby corn
Last trio of skewers (not shown): shrimp, broccoli, and crab
Dessert: yuzu(?) jelly with grapefruit. Note where we were seated -- at the counter by the kitchen, the two best seats in the house. Really special and a wonderful evening out!