Fried chicken. And how do I know? Well today's brush with fame for us was lunching at the table next to the Smith family at Percy's Place in the Auteuil area of the 16th in Paris.
Percy's place is a charming American restaurant which used to be just around the corner from us before we moved to the 17th. It is still a charming little restaurant, but now we have to make an effort to go there. As I was in the neighborhood today on a fruitless search for my favourite honey supplier (more on that later) the Critic and I met up for lunch. It has long been our contention that Percy makes the best cheesecake in Paris and you really have to check up on these claims from time to time to make sure they are still true, right?
When we arrived, there was already a large party filling the entire right side of the restaurant, and two small tables filled on the left. We took the one remaining table. (This should give you a measure of what I meant by small: 15 people make Percy's feel like it's really hopping!) The party on the right was a lively one, with lots of laughter and chatter. The first sign we had that something special was happening today was when the server brought out Percy's daughter and wife to meet someone at the big table next to us. Clue number two was when I noticed that the guy with his back to us looked suspiciously like Will Smith.
Being a discreet person, I texted the Critic. "Oh." He raised his eyebrows and looked again at the table next to us. "You might be right!"
In the meantime, we had our menus are were making our choices. It's not a very long menu, with just four or five starters and the same number of main dishes. The Critic chose well; he went for the crab cakes, which were very savoury and not at all greasy, served with a kind of cheese and herb sauce. Myself, I was less happy with the starter, which was chicken wings. I guess since I wrote about buffalo wings recently I was really expecting something greasy, gooey and spicy, preferably with blue cheese on the side. What I was served was a salad with little chicken wing bones, each with a bite-sized piece of meat on the end, fried to a crispness. It was very nice and probably a greater testament to Percy's culinary skills, but I wished I had asked in advance what they were like.
For main dishes, the Critic again beat me to the better dish by ordering a jumbalaya, which was moist and full of flavour. I didn't get a taste of the sausage (he eats fast) but they looked very good. I went for a much less exotic choice: meatloaf with mashed potatoes. The meatloaf was very tasty, with pepper flakes and a rich gravy. The potatoes were delicious. In France one doesn't usually get real mashed potatoes. At best, you get a soupy purée of potatoes (often made with olive oil instead of butter) and at worst you get something from a package. These were lovely potatoes. I'm glad they didn't serve more as I would have eaten it all regardless!
And now we come to the part where Percy's really shines: dessert. When we lived around the corner from Percy's we would sometimes order an entire cheesecake to take away if we had dinner guests. It was not cheap (40 euros) but worth every cent. And it still is. Absolutely delicious. It's light without being gelatinous, rich without being cloying and always served with a fruit coulis that sets off the sweet/tart ratio perfectly. From time to time, they do a seasonal variation on the cheesecake. The Critic tried the Tropical Fruit one today and although he said it was very good I must note that he made an unsuccessful attempt to switch with me halfway through them. I tried his and took mine back. Rumour has it the key lime pie and brownies are also very very good, but unfortunately we are slaves to good cheesecake and will never know.
The atmosphere and service are lovely at Percy's too - Percy himself often comes out to chat when things are quiet in the kitchen and the waiter is friendly and always happy to explain the items on the menu. Today, of course, all three staff members were more than happy to chat about the Smith party and the time that Will came for lunch two years ago when in Paris to promote Men in Black II. This time around, he was promoting I, Robot, which comes out in Paris next Wednesday.
And the Smiths themselves? They seemed a charming group: happy, relaxed and enjoying their time in Paris. Which is partly why we refrained from asking if we could take their picture. (The other part is that we are too shy.) But we know they were there and if you don't believe us you can ask Percy!
15, rue d'Auteuil 75016 PARIS
01 42 88 53 02
Cost: lunch for two, including starters, mains and dessert and bottled water came to 87 euros. Not cheap, but the food was very good and the cheesecake sublime...