It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… for steak tartare.
It’s 8pm on a Friday night. The sun’s still going strong, and so is the heat. Two of my fellow expat friends, Sezin and Erin, meet me at my flat and we take a walk over to a charming neighborhood favorite of ours. We decide to sit out on the terrace, and all order the steak tartare; A cold dish sounds like the perfect complement to the nice warm night.
In no time our plates come out, and we’re greeted by fire-engine red beef topped with golden yellow egg yolks. Matched with sea-salted potatoes, fresh greens, and the obligatory sliced baguette, raw meet never tasted so good. The only thing that makes it sweeter is a round of red wine and some pretty lovely company.
Fast forward to Monday afternoon in Belleville. I’m having lunch with my American colleague who’s only been living in Paris for a month. She’s looking over the menu until her eyes fall on the words tartare de boeuf classique. “What’s tartare?” she asks innocently enough. “It’s raw ground beef paired with a raw egg yolk and some condiments….usually ketchup and capers and the likes,” I say nonchalantly. I forget that “raw” is simultaneous with the word “poisonous” to an American’s ears.
“RAW?!” she’s horrified. “How is that…safe?!” I shrug my shoulders; I don’t know what to say. The French eat it all the time, and they’re not exactly known for their daredevil personalities. Of course it’s safe.
THE LESSON: Don’t believe the American propaganda.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Paris, get your tartare on, because this is the place to trust it and try it. It’s on the menu at most bistrots, and the chefs know how to handle the meat with care.
A staple of French cuisine, tartare is prepared in a lot of different ways – from the cut to the condiments, each restaurant has their own way of doing things. Since my friend Sezin is an expert on steak tartare (I can count the amount of times she hasn’t ordered tartare on one hand), I asked her to share a few of her favorite spots to enjoy this lovely dish. Here are her recommendations:
If you want the work done for you:Le Bistro Mazarin, 42 rue Mazarin 75006. The tartare here comes premixed with a perfect balance of ketchup, mayo, onions, peppers, and a dash of salt and pepper. Add on a side of fries and a lush,green terrace, and you’ve got yourself a great Friday night dinner en plein air.
If you want to do the work yourself: Les Garcons, 79 rue du Cherche-Midi 75006. Our neighborhood favorite, this restaurant serves up classic French cuisine in the simplest of ways. That means the tartare comes unmixed, so you can dress it perfectly to your liking. Extra points for the friendly staff and fast service.
If you want a feast for you eyes as well as your mouth: Bar des Théâtres, 44 rue Jean Goujon 75008. Thanks to its chic location right off of Avenue Montainge, the ambiance will be just as stimulating as your plate. If you’re willing to shell out a few more bucks than usual, your bio tartare will come with a side of some prime-time people watching.