When dining at Café Paris, do as the Parisians do: bring your own bottle of wine, sit at one of the sidewalk tables (weather permitting, of course, as no one ever says New Jersey is more beautiful in the rain), and pretend you can pronounce the menu items written in French. Whether you’re dining inside or outside, this little café on Main Street in Metuchen will transport you to Paris and put you in the Parisian mindset.
Café Paris has been nestled between a Chinese restaurant and a nail salon for eight years now. Owner Marie-Therese Fuller first opened the café in Cranford to pay homage to the cuisine of her homeland and decided to open another café in the heart of Metuchen. The café has a quaint, cozy feel to it. The walls are painted with scenes of spring and autumn in Paris, and the dim lighting and French music playing in the background create a quiet and romantic atmosphere that suits any dining situation—lunch on the go, family dinner, a romantic dessert for two.
All the dishes on the menu are based on Fuller’s own recipes. She hired a talented cooking staff and trained them in the art of French home cooking. Everything from the vegetable soup made with carrots, potatoes, celery, green beans, and zucchini to the Quiche Lorraine baked light and moist with bacon, onion, eggs, and mozzarella cheese is made fresh daily.
Most people come to Café Paris for the crepes. A crepe is a thin pancake. The word is derived from the Latin crispa, which means “curled.” They are made from a wheat flour batter that is spread thinly and evenly over a circular hot plate.
The menu boasts an extensive selection of both savory and sweet crepes. The savory crepes are known as galettes that are made from unsweetened buckwheat flour, then filled with smoked turkey, tomato, brie cheese, Swiss cheese, sour cream, and topped with béchamel sauce, like the popular Galette Briard.
The sweet crepes are popular breakfast and dessert choices. They are prepared as simply as the Crepe au Sucre that is topped only with butter, sugar, and a touch of whipped cream, or as sinfully as the Crepe a la Banane that is filled with sliced bananas and walnuts and topped with chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and powdered sugar.
The crepes at Café Paris are so popular that customers will order a savory galette for their main course and close the meal with a sweet crepe for dessert.
While crepes are a customer favorite at the café, I decided to order Boeuf Bourguignon, which Julia Child declared to be “one of the most delicious beef dishes concocted by man” in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Boeuf Bourguignon is a stew in a red wine sauce historically known as a peasant dish. Peasants found that simmering browned beef in wine was a simple way to tenderize the meat, but over time this simple, hearty stew has become a staple in French cuisine.
At Café Paris, beef cubes are cooked slowly in a red wine and tomato sauce with carrots, onions, mushrooms, and bacon. The result is a smooth, thick, sweet stew that I ordered over pasta but is traditionally served over boiled potatoes. The flavor and aroma of the dish is robust, and the beef is perfectly tender and marbled. As I suspected, Mrs. Child knows exactly what she’s talking about. Boeuf Bourguignon is certainly not for those with meager appetites.
A great French finish to any of the meals is the cafe's purely traditional chocolate mousse. Fluffy and light, it's done with an amazing dark chocolate that makes every spoonful a true delight to the tastebuds.
Prices all around are moderate for the quality of ingredients and the authenticity of the French cuisine.
Café Paris is reminiscent of a charming sidewalk café on the streets of Paris. If you desire a café au lait, a hearty meal, or a decadent dessert, Café Paris has a sidewalk table waiting just for you.
Cafe Paris, 439 Main St., Metuchen; 732-603-9200; hours daily, 10 am to 9 pm, Friday and Saturday, 10 am to 10 pm.