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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Paradoxe Restaurant Francais, Crows Nest

EDIT: Paradoxe Restaurant Francais has closed

Paradoxe is one of those "locals' secrets" you don't hear of except by word-of-mouth. Sitting on its own some blocks down from the main drag of Crows Nest, it's not a restaurant you would notice as you zoom past in traffic, although its quaint appearance is pretty enough.

Luckily for me, foodie fiends R and A put me onto this hidden French gem.

R waxed lyrical about the joys of this cosy establishment where three courses of fine French cuisine set you back a mere $43.

"The restaurant itself is really small though," she warns. "It's cosy. But the food is really really good."

Cosy is certainly a word which springs to mind as we approach the restaurant. Through the large bay window I see people, people, people, wall! Will we be able to fit? I wonder.

We scoot into the restaurant out of the cold and, with the door ajar for ten seconds, immediately lower the room temperature of the tiny front room by about 10 degrees I'm sure.

But we are seated quickly and I am rather enamoured with the heavy table setting, the sparkle of crystal wine glasses, and the cute little scroll of a menu which has been tied with pink ribbon.

I am also somewhat impressed by the presence of a large group of French diners (some who are authentic Parisiens, I glean) who add that air of qualified reassurance to the authentic quality of the establishment (am I the only person who likes to see Vietnamese locals in Vietnamese restaurants etc etc).

The set menu has a wealth of options but I already have an idea of what I plan to order having already perused a fax of their sample menu (they have no website--they are determined to keep their diners local I'm sure).

Entree choices
Champignons Parisiens sautéed with thyme and bacon
Petit pot au feu aux legumes
Escargots Bourgogne au buerre Maison Paradoxe
Tasmanian scallops baked in their shells with garlic chive sauce

We make our selections and whilst we wait, I gaze about the room and try to peer my way down the narrow corridor. The restaurant is indeed tiny. The front room holds twenty closely-packed diners and the narrow corridor holds another twenty. The kichen can be glimpsed through a sliver of a pass and a small back room acts as a private enclave for a group of ten.

The walls are a whitewashed salmon-pink with a number of impressionist paintings by the same person (an ex-chef, we later discover, who donated them to the restaurant).

Escargots Bourgogne au buerre Maison Paradoxe

Tasmanian scallops baked in their shells with garlic chive sauce

I have ordered the scallops but I end up wishing I had had the escargots. The scallops are tasty enough but the escargots are divine... small but meaty and drenched in a sticky garlicky oh-so-good mass of melted butter.

Sorbet aux fruits

The fruit sorbet tastes of pineapple with ginger and is a welcome palate cleanser for any lingering garlic residue.

Main course options:Half lobster garnished with seafood, in a creamed saffron sauce
Grilled beef tender lion (aged and grain fed) with sauce Bearnaise
Lamb shank baked with capsicums, tomato and rosemary jus
Roasted half duckling with chestnut and hazelnut with port sauce

Half lobster garnished with seafood, in a creamed saffron sauce

Grilled beef tender lion (aged and grain fed) with sauce Bearnaise

Roasted half duckling with chestnut and hazelnut with port sauce

Roasted potatoes and garlic butter vegetables to share

I am absolutely ecstatic with my choice of main this time. I sample some of the lobster, which has been diced and enveloped in a creamy sauce and put back into the shell.

I also try the beef which is quite gamey but tender, and accompanied by a rich Bearnaise sauce.

However my first taste of the duck has me gasping with delight. Duck can be a tricky dish and all too often I have endured its crusty dryness, with the meat almost resembling duck jerky.

This duck is nothing like that. The skin is so crisp it almost cracks underneath my knife. The flesh is moist and juicy as it falls off the bone. And the thin layer duck fat is warm and rich and sinfully satisfying.

The duck tastes as though it has just emerged from the oven--for the first time. And the accompanying hazelnuts and chestnut impart a delicate but not overwhelming flavour.

Dessert options:
Creme brulee, sugar pearled with almond nougatine and vanilla ice cream
Caramelised warm apple tart with caramel ice cream
Pear and fig poached in blackcurrant juice
Chocolate fondue with season’s fruit

Pear and fig poached in blackcurrant juice

Creme brulee, sugar pearled with almond nougatine and vanilla ice cream

Caramelised warm apple tart with caramel ice cream
The poached pear recipient's face falls when she spies the creme brulee and apple tart's arrival. Tis no greater despair than that of a sugarholics mis-ordering. The poached pear is lovely. A deep russet colour and suitably elegant. But given the choice of fat-free or fat-overload, I always know which one I will choose!

Surprising to those who know them then, I didn't opt for the creme brulee, although this, too, is decadently delicious. The caramelised lid is thick but not solid, more crumbly and bubbly in its crystalised setting. The custard within is also more eggy than I've usually tasted. It tastes richer and heavier too, and doesn't have the trembling jelly-like consistency I've usually had, which now seem hollow and artifical by comparison.

I've opted for the warm apple tart which isn't the tarte tartin I've expected but is country comfort at its finest. The apple wedges are thick and chunky, and the sweetcrust topping is thick and sugary.

We chat to maitre'd and co-owner Makiko and discover Paradoxe has been around for thirteen years. That's thirteen years of exclusivity to Chef Michel's expertise by Crows Nest locals in-the-know.

You've got no excuses now. Consider yourself known.

$43 for three courses from a choice of set menu options.
Includes mid-course fruit sorbet palate cleanser and coffee with mints.
Set menu options changes daily.
BYO (no corkage).

Paradoxe Restaurant Francais (CLOSED)
98 Falcon Street, Crows Nest, Sydney
Tel: 02 9956 8898

Open Monday to Saturday for dinner
9 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 8/14/2005 11:57:00 pm


  • At 8/15/2005 1:35 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If you've been to my blog.. you would noticed i donch eat out much. Not because i do not want to... but because we do not have gems like you have in Sydney.
    Everytime i come to your blog.. i cannot but feel envious.. and wished i was back in Sydney..!
    Thank you for sharing everything ... it makes me feel good.. that someone love food as much as i do.. or even more.

  • At 8/15/2005 3:07 pm, Blogger 2-minute Noodle Cook said…

    Yum! Love the the writeup and pictures, especially of snails and the desserts. The pears look great - I had pink pears for Paper Chef #9 which accidentally went brown. $43 per head, including sorbets and coffee, with no corkage sounds well priced if not very cheap for a French restaurant!

  • At 8/15/2005 7:55 pm, Blogger syn said…

    AG, you're fantastic! Last week I had a serious craving for really luscious and well-made pastries from a proper pattiserie, and then you write about Beb patisserie... then my boyfriend and I start talking about trying out French restaurants but not sure which ones, and you go and write about one. hahah!

  • At 8/15/2005 9:09 pm, Blogger Joycelyn said…

    hi ag, this restaurant sounds like a real gem - that lobster, in particular, looks spectacular! also love your vividly captured (in words and in gorgeous pictures) blow-by-blow account, as always! cheers,j

  • At 8/16/2005 5:41 am, Blogger boo_licious said…

    ooo, I love the food. Can't decide what I like best but I know I'll order the escargots as I love them.

    Congratulations on the good news!

  • At 8/16/2005 2:26 pm, Blogger Kelly said…

    Hi AG, this place looks fantastic!

    BTW, Tana from SmallFarmsBlog.com has set up
    this world map of food bloggers - there's plenty of wide browned land for a some more Aussies to join in!

    (I zoomed right in on the satellite view and parked myself in the park where we tied the knot!)

  • At 8/17/2005 1:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow, great post and pictures, as always! I'd love to have a taste of that duck. It's true, duck is incredibly tricky, but when done well, it's incredibly delicious. At $43, this is a fantastic deal for a quality French meal!

    I'm still saving for that plane ticket. :P

  • At 3/26/2009 9:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was a waiter at Paradoxe in the early nineties (it was called Paradox without the 'e' back then). It was the most physically demanding job I'd ever had. There were so many courses to serve and moving around the narrow spaces with all the expensive tableware and exquisite food was a bit terrifying at times. The style of dining seems to be the same as it was back then. I don't know if the chefs / owners are still the same though. One thing is for sure, if you've been saving a great bottle of wine, this is the place to find the perfect meal to accompany it.

  • At 4/01/2009 10:51 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Adrian - Ahh I didn't realise that Paradoxe only recently adopted the 'e'. Thanks for your comment. Always interesting to hear stories from the other side of the table :) I do admire the nimbless and dexterity of waitstaff in tight spaces. Great service also turns a good meal into something special too :)


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