One of my favorite feelings has always been one of community. I find it deeply gratifying to have a sense of place and belonging among a group of people or the intimate knowledge of the ins and outs of a quiet neighborhood. As an adult this is epitomized by individual relationships built over time at places where, after many late nights, everyone knows your name. I have found a few of these places in Paris where I actually feel like a local. I have recently discovered another – Verjus – and I am completely infatuated.
Let’s start by acknowledging that Verjus is no longer the hidden jewel it had been since their opening last October. After recent reviews in Saveur and Bon Appetit, this much-buzzed-about, American owned and operated wine bar/restaurant is definitely on the map for food savvy tourists and the Paris ex-pat community alike. This means, mainly, that it is mostly English spoken around the bar – a fact that, to be honest, does not bother me at all. Sure, perhaps we are indulging in a bit of Anglo-self-segregation, but stepping into a room where most everyone speaks my language, gets my humor, plays my music (this playlist rocked my world) and plies me with indulgent food and drink after a long week (or long Monday) can feel like heaven.
Speaking of otherworldly goodness, let’s gawk at and drool over the food. Verjus is divided into an upscale, multi-course/chef’s tasting menu-type restaurant upstairs, and a wine bar serving small plates in the cave below. Although I did have the pleasure of indulging in the full restaurant dining experience once and highly recommend it (if your budget allows), what I cannot get enough of are the small plates at the funky wine bar down below.
Combined with a tasty and affordable list of wines by the glass, a few of these small plates can easily be combined to complete a stellar dinner – especially if you bring a few friends and can try one of everything. Case(s) in point:
Celery root dumplings with dan-dan sauce, chives and toasted peanuts
Skillet broccoli with Korean rice cake, anchovy and parmesan
Buttermilk fried chicken with napa cabbage slaw and micro-greens
Veal meatballs, shaved fennel, lemon and truffle oil
Crispy Basque pork belly, grilled and pickled chiles, spicy mayo
Shoestring fries with togarashi and catsup
Selection of cheeses and house accompaniments
I have been several (ahem) times in the past few months and every time the food is deliciously spot-on, the company (both with me and behind the bar) is good fun and I leave wondering when I can return next – just so they remember my name, of course.
Verjus Bar à Vin
47 rue de Montpensier
01 42 97 54 40 (reservations not accepted at the bar)