Parisians do well in appreciating a night out with good food and wine, all done at a leisurely pace. There is no urgency to finish up one's meal and why would there be? It's Paris. It's time to just soak up and smell the Parisian air. Dinner is a late affair in Paris. Restaurants usually open at 7pm and they don't get filled until about after 8:30pm and that's when locals come out to eat. If there are tables taken early in the evening, there's a good chance they are tourists.
Our first day here, after a late lunch earlier in the day and then checking in to the Westin, we finally are ready to head out for dinner. We leave the hotel at 8:45pm (perfect first day to be like real Parisians...by having a late dinner!) but first make our way to Avenue des Champs-Élysées to collect our advance tickets for the Musée du Louvre at the FNAC outlet. We finally arrive at Le Relais de l'Entrecôte at 9:45pm, the place where steak frites rule. and people are standing in line for a table. In general, restaurants in Paris like guests to make reservations so they know who is coming in that night. However, there are exceptions where certain restaurants do not accept reservations and Le Relais de l'Entrecôte is one of them. This restaurant opens at 7pm and a line usually starts forming before then though we hear that tourists are usually the early birds while locals go later. We join the line at 9:45pm and have full view of peering through the glass windows into the bustling restaurant where female servers are continuously serving delicious-looking steak frites with an equally delicious looking sauce. That sauce is what makes Le Relais de l'Entrecôte well loved. After about 40 minutes in line (though it feels shorter than that), we are seated.
Tables are huddled close together just like the way it is in Paris. If it seems like there's not much privacy for conversation, who cares, when everyone else is absorbed in their own table conversation without a care of what other tables are up to. There is no menu here as Le Relais de l'Entrecôte only serves traditional steak frites. Aside from ordering drinks, the only other decision you have to make is how you'd like your steak prepared. We order a demi bouteille de vin rouge (half bottle of house red wine) and choose to get our steak prepared saignant (medium rare but closer to rare). Bleu (very rare) is also how many French people like it. Everyone starts with a salad of frisée, lettuce, radish, walnuts, and vinaigrette. The salad is simple at best and nothing fancy but light enough to prepare you for what's coming next. After all, we all need to get some vegetables into our system before we start feasting on steak.
The steak is already sliced when brought to the table and with Le Relais' special sauce smothered over the meat placed on a huge silver serving platter. The server dishes the first half portion, about 4-5 slices of the steak, out onto each of our plates followed with spooning the special sauce. Then, a generous amount of frites are added to our plates. The steak is exceptionally tender and we let our thin and crisp frites absorb the sauce. Whatever individual ingredients are that make up the resulting flavor, they all worked perfectly together- the sauce is good, it's very good.
We finish the first half portion on our plates, relax, and take our time in conversation before our server returns a short while later with the remaining of our second half portions on the big silver platter. At Le Relais de l'Entrecôte, the meal is served with the first half portion first and followed by the second half later. This concepts plays out well so the entire meal doesn't appear too much and heavy. Plus, it's Paris. Parisians take their time. Everyone should be enjoying the conversation and food. Our server proceeds to put the remaining slices of steak onto each our plates and scoops more generous amounts of the special sauce onto the steak. Clearly we all are thinking the same thing: with sauce that good, why waste it? Admittedly, prior to this, T and I are purists when it comes to steak. A perfectly good piece of steak should be appreciated as it is so why "ruin" it with sauce? Le Relais de l'Entrecôte changed our minds. Our server is about to serve me a second of helping of frites when I say "Non, merci." She replies, "Non? Un petit peu?", and smiles. Oh, alright. "D'accord... oui, s'il vous plaît" I tell her. I'm not planning on wasting the sauce on my plate so I might as well have more frites to go with it.
I make sure to save room for the very good profiteroles while T makes me promise if we order dessert that I will eat up most of it since he is already having quite a lot of the frites which he loved. It turns out that the profiteroles are so good he ends up eating half of it instead of just a bite or two. Maybe next time I'll order the entire dessert for myself. These are easily one of the most memorable profiteroles we've had- airy choux pastry shells sandwiching the vanilla ice-cream while surrounded by oozing fudge... and crisp almond slices.
Le Relais de l'Entrecôte
15 rue Marbeuf
Le Relais de l'Entrecôte has several locations in Paris. Reservations are not accepted.