Paris: Le relais de l'entrecote - missing out would be a misteak
When people ask me what my last meal on earth would be, I always respond without hesitation: a lunch at Relais de l'Entrecote on rue Saint Benoit. I know my statement will ruffle many feathers, but for me, their steak is one of the best meals one can have in Paris! And for visitors, a stop as essential as going to the Orsay museum or the Tuileries gardens.
Don't be disheartened by the queue; every place that's worth it in Paris has one. Hold on tight and wait for one of the waitresses, dressed like a French maid, to look down on you and show you to your table. Parisian manners aside, I promise, the experience will leave you begging for more.
No menu at Relais. All you need to do is specify how you like your steak cooked. Anything more than medium rare is subject to a lot of judgment - rightfully so, as the meat is so tender it melts in your mouth.
Eating at Relais requires a strategy that I have mastered over the years, having become my family and friends' laughing stock for insisting that a lunch at Relais is the first thing we HAVE to do when we arrive in Paris. I’ve never heard anyone complain at the idea though!
First of all, as delicious as it may look, ignore the bread. You will need it later to dip it into the delicious secret sauce that comes with your steak. Enjoy the salad, but keep A LOT of room for the piece de resistance. The steak comes with thinly cut crispy fries - need I say anything else?! Once you've finished your first plate, hold on tight, a second serving is on its way. This is how I test my friends: if you manage to finish both plates, you've made it to the inner circle.
Take your time, enjoy every mouthful. This is where you tell the difference between the Parisians and the tourists. I've seen tourists eating their first plate with such gluttony that they're out of the game by the time their waitress nudges them for a second serving, leaving them to wonder: "How do these bloody French eat the whole thing and still manage to stay thin?"
And when you think you can't handle enough food, here comes the dessert menu. I'm always torn between the profiteroles and the creme brulee, yet my mother would argue that red berries and whipped cream are the best way to finish off the meal. To each their own, I can have the whole plate of profiteroles to myself.
As for your drink of choice, it would be a disgrace not to go for red wine. Their house red is perfectly fine, served a tad chilled. If you know your wines, their list will provide you with some good options from Bourgogne or Bordeaux.
I know I'm supposed to find even a single point of critique for Relais to show how balanced of an amateur critic I am. But quite frankly I can't. Probably because the taste of a Relais steak is linked to some of my fondest memories, and like everything in life, even if something is not perfect, it's the aftertaste that matters.