Relais de l'Entrecote

If you ever visited Paris for more than a day or two, chances are you heard about this unassuming restaurant. Make that plural, as there are several.

The original restaurant was established in by Paul Gineste de Saurs 1959 in Porte Maillot. He bought an existing Italian restaurant called Le Relais de Venise and didn't change the name for a while. He just added "et son entrecote" to the name of the restaurant.

His goal was to find a secure outlet for the wines produced by the family Chateau.

So he borrowed an idea from a Geneva restaurant called Cafe de Paris which simply served steaks and fries. The dish is considered the most popular comfort food in France.

The plate to the left is an actual Le Relais de l'Entrecote steak and fries.

The idea worked so well that there are now several Entrecote restaurants all over the world. His three children each head a group of restaurants under the names
(a) le Relais de Venise - Entrecote (Paris, Barcelona, London (2), New York)
(b) L'Entrecote (Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes, Montpellier, Lyon) and
(c) Le Relais de l'Entrecote (Paris (3), Geneva, Beirut (3), Kuwait, Doha, Dubai)

There are three secrets to their success. Consistent quality, fast service and excellent desserts.

I ate in most of their Paris locations, in Geneva and in New York, the meat is consistently tender and the sauce is well made. And the house wine is very pleasant and good value.

I am not sure about their other locations but in Paris, on a regular night between 7-11 p.m. they manage three seatings. And on the weekend, they can get a fourth one. The fact that they are one of the very few Parisian restaurants to employ and all female serving staff might be a factor in this rapid turnover.

Finally, their desserts are excellent and their profiteroles might be one of the best in Paris.

While the cut called Entrecote is properly translated as rib eye, in this case, it refers to sirloin (contre-filet in French). What is special about the food is the sauce, which is a closely guarded trade secret. The original formula was developed by the founder of Cafe de Paris in Geneva, Freddy Dumont. Gineste de Saurs licensed it from him and all these various Entrecote restaurants are still serving it under that license.

Apparently Le Monde suggested that the main ingredients of the Cafe de Paris sauce (the French name is Beurre de Cafe de Paris) were blanched chicken livers, heavy cream and thyme flowers.

But here is a recipe for Cafe de Paris butter that I find more convincing than the blanched chicken liver and cream version. I can tell you that it is too much work to prepare it at home. Just go to one of their many locations and eat it there. Don't forget the profiteroles afterwards.

Beurre Café de Paris

1 kg butter
60g tomato ketchup
25g Dijon mustard
25g capers (in brine)
125g brown eschalots
50g fresh curly parsley
50g fresh chives
5g dried marjoram
5g dried dill
5g fresh thyme, leaves only
10 leaves fresh French tarragon
Pinch ground rosemary
1 garlic clove, squashed then chopped very finely
8 anchovy fillets (rinsed)
1 tbs good brandy
1 tbs Madeira
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp curry powder (Keens)
Pinch cayenne
8 white peppercorns
juice 1 lemon
zest of ½ lemon
zest ¼ orange
12gm salt

Mix all ingredients with the exception of butter in a glass bowl and leave
to marinate for 24 hours in a warm part of the kitchen (a slight
fermentation occurs). Purée the mixture in a blender and push through a
chinois. Foam the butter and mix with the purée. Cover and store in the
fridge. It is customary to form the butter into a log, freeze it and cut off slices as you need them.
Keeps for several weeks.

Upon service a round of frozen butter is placed on the cooked sirloin and put under a VERY hot salamander for just long enough to begin to brown the top of the butter (while the butter underneath stays cold).

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