Gilles Bénard, owner of another great restaurant, Quedubon, on why he doesn't cross town to see his friends at Le Dirigeable more often: "Ici à Paris, on est très sedentaire..." (Trans: Here in Paris, we're very sedentary.)
Let's see: a 35-hour workweek, an employment-for-life system that gravely disincentivises turnover in any form, lopsided rental law that pretty much prohibits eviction, powerful unions totally opposed to even reasonable sorts of labor reform, whose frequent crippling strikes are viewed as kind of national pastime... No kidding, Gilles! Getting Parisians to cross a medium-sized city for dinner is probably a little like raising the retirement age a wee bit.
But so it goes. Le Dirigeable, one of the city's most well-hidden dining gems, is way out in the 15eme arrondissement. Unless you're an entrenched Parisian family who lives out there, it's a hike. I can enthusiastically attest, however, that it's worth every step. Owned and run jointly by my friends Guy and Franck, this is the sort of natural, unpretentiously fine restaurant that in a perfect world would crown every neighborhood.
|Guy & me.|
Franck's menu, contemporary French and sourced entirely from fermier-type providers, changes nightly, and is known to include sheep brain and sweetbreads alongside your more customary steak tartares and onglets aux echalotes. Meanwhile prices for these plats are usually what you'd pay for a bad mojito or two in the center of Paris.
Most importantly, for the purposes of this blog: Guy's wine list contains exclusively natural wines, selected not for the fame of their appellation or producer, but rather according to his own well-informed whims. It's heavy on experimental dry cuvées from Banyuls, and Loire valley whites, and fantastic cru Beaujolais. (You may notice that I only seem to rave about restaurants that go deep on cru Beaujolais. This is no accident. So what.) The first time I visited Le Dirigeable we had a killer 2003 Bandol from Chateau Saint Anne, a real biodynamic monster of a mourvedre -
- all dark chocolate purple flowers and tea, a wine that changed the evening the same way a throne would change a living room. (A biodynamic Bandol is, for the record, about as rich as I'll go in red wines. Anything heavier just starts to paint the meal.) Pretty much everything I've had on his recommendation since then has been similarly fantastic.
|The ever-changing glass list.|
Why You Ought To Cross Paris For This Place: For me, what finally makes Le Dirigeable a destination is how unassuming the place is. There's a charming openness that I suspect speaks of Guy's time spent in the San Francisco restaurant scene. Nothing about Le Dirigeable screams HOT or AUTHENTIC, and this is of course the surest marker of authenticity. At Le Dirigeable, you aren't wedged into tables the size of playing cards; you aren't implicitly asked to genuflect before a 7-course tasting menu; no one pushes rudimentary cocktails on you. It's kind of like not being in Paris. Or perhaps some other, better Paris.
37, rue d'Alleray
Tel: 01 45 32 01 54
Closed Sundays & Mondays