Travels with a Gourmet

a food lover's travels, memorable meals, culinary trials and gastronomic experiences

Our last dinner in Paris was at a restaurant in the quiet 14th arrondissement that has been getting good reviews ever since it opened a few years ago.  We tried to go on our last trip to Paris in January but ended up canceling because we were too cold and lazy to travel all the way to this quiet area of Paris on a winter’s night.

Le Severo is a tiny bistro complete with the zinc topped bar right smack in the middle of the room and the typique blackboard menu except that here the blackboard is large enough to cover one whole wall and is actually the wine list rather than the menu.  The wine list is pretty impressive with fifth-growth Bordeaux and excellent Burgundies on the long list plus lots of very, good wines at reasonable prices.
The menu is limited with a few starters  – white asparagus, goat’s cheese salad, jamon Iberico (again) and boudin noir (blood sausage).  Don’t come here if you’re not a meat-lover because this place is all about steak, some sausages and veal liver. Owned by ex-butcher William Bernet who serves only Limousin beef, he is also the bartender/server/sommelier and manages to move around the packed restaurant taking orders and serving plates plus clearing tables with impressive speed and efficiency.  The only other person working at the restaurant is the white-jacketed chef who stays quietly behind the bar/kitchen searing the steaks and preparing the starters while also managing to fill the dishwasher with dirty dishes and stack the clean plates neatly on a shelf.  It’s a multi-tasking two-man show and probably what makes this little place homey.
Conveniently located on a corner with two large windows, less than a dozen tables are lined on all sides plus a few in the middle which seat a total of about 28 diners in a box-like space. Tables are set simply with a linen napkin and a fork and steak knife etched with 927 (not Laguiole), plates are plain white and glasses aren’t fancy. (Watch out when you use the knife as both sides look exactly the same and may end up slicing the meat using the dull side).
Our starters arrived: in season white asparagus with a chive vinaigrette (€10) and a large hunk of fresh Chevre (creamy goat’s cheese) with a green salad (€8) and a basket of sourdough bread were placed in the center of the table to share.  The wine we chose was a Catherine et Pierre Breton Chinon 2006, a red wine from the Loire for a reasonable €34.  We were surprised to find out that not only was organic but that it wasn’t the only organic one on the long wine list. (This trip’s biologique theme continues.)
Having heard so much about the steak tartare (€18) my mind was made up while my mom decided on the classic bistro steak dish – bavette à l’échalote (€18).  My mom wanted to order hers medium-well but I convinced her to have it saignant (medium-rare) instead.  By the time our main courses were served, the place was packed and we were now elbow-to-elbow with a Greek family to our left, a group of four English-speaking suits right behind us and a French family to our right.  The place was now well and truly packed and leaving the table at that minute would have been almost impossible to do.

Our steaks arrived – my mom’s bavette (flap steak from the sirloin) perfectly seared and came with lots of shallots.  My steak tartare was the largest I had ever been served in my life.  I guessed it was almost half a kilo and when we asked we were told it was 350 grams (close guess).  The tartare was hand-chopped and came with capers and was very good but not as spicy as I’m used to so I asked for some Tabasco and the pepper grinder to adjust the seasoning and give it that extra kick it was missing. Both came with fresh-cut homemade fries which were seasoned perfectly.  Although not as crisp as I prefer, they were very good and a nice change from the frozen fries usually served in bistros nowadays.  We tasted each other’s plate and I prodded my mom to try my tartare although she wasn’t all that sure about eating a plate of raw meat.  We tried our best to clean our plates but after eating two thirds of my steak, I just couldn’t eat any more meat.

To end the dinner there was fromage –  Saint Nectaire fand a limited dessert menu of chocolate mousse, creme brulee and fraises gariguette.  After all that meat, we decided to share the bowl of fraises gariguette (€6) – small strawberries from Southwest France which were very sweet.  Illy espressos to end our meal and a promise to come back and have the faux-filet or the côte de bœuf (for two) or maybe even the andouillete on our next visit.

Le Severo is a convivial bistro devoted to meat and is the type of place where one ends up conversing with the diners at the next table (as we did) since the place is quite cramped and noisy.  Don’t expect fancy sauces or sides – here it’s the meat that’s the star and most, if not all dishes are served only with fries or mashed potatoes.   Go for a simple steak meal and enjoy it with a good bottle of wine. 
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Le Severo
8 rue des Plantes, 75014 Paris
Tel. +33 1 45 40 40 91
Open for lunch and dinner, Mondays to Fridays
Open for lunch only on Saturdays
Closed Saturday dinner, Sundays and the whole month of August.
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