June 6, 2011
I’ll admit: when I first heard of the cave à manger concept, I was skeptical. “The restaurant is a wine store? That looks like someone’s kitchen? And you still need a reservation?” In a city filled with countless decadent, exquisite options, this sounded rather pedestrian and misguided, like a basketball player deciding to transfer his skills over to the golf course.
Call me what you will—ignorant, pessimist, hater—but I promise to be none of those any longer: Mon Oncle Le Vigneron has me sold on the trend, with this small, family-owned place as the current apex.
Tucked away in the 19th, MOLV only recently expanded to its current food-serving capacity. The owners made their name selling wine, but seem to have shifted gracefully into this new phase, turning their home/wine store into a home/restaurant. Bottles of wine and jars of honey line the walls, flowers jut out of a severed plastic water jug, silverware is pulled out of the cupboards, and a glass-partitioned kitchen allows you to peruse the cooking process from your seat. The tables are simple, and few: only two were set during my visit, and when attempts were made by unsuspecting passersby to grab a seat, they were sadly turned away—if you don’t reserve ahead of time, they won’t have enough food for you.
Everything about the place screams “family affair.” As the chef prepares the meal, her husband handles the wine (made by his cousin in Germany), the cheese (another cousin with a fromagerie) and the pickles (tiny, sweet, and also in the family). The wine here is 100% organic, mostly Riesling grapes, and in very high demand. And there is a special emphasis on their personal relationship to their products and food—like the charcuterie platter, accompanied by a picture of a fuzzy pig who the husband insists is the “before” to your appetizing “after,” like it or not.
Because of the nature of the place, where ingredients are bought fresh every day for something different, each meal will have to be a surprise. For us, it was a crisp salad with homemade dressing and a French-Brazilian fusion chicken, in a sauce so layered with flavor that each bite seemed to alternate from spicy to savory and then from good to better and better. Dietary restrictions can also be accommodated —just be sure to mention any when you call.
Informal without being impolite would be the perfect tagline for this place: the cookies that went with our homemade crème fresh and apple preserves came in plastic wrappers; the restaurant’s card is a post-it with their name stamped on it; both husband and wife discuss wine choices and food origins with you. Being here is like having dinner at a friend’s house where you’re expected to eat and drink, but not help with the dishes afterward.
For this warm, friendly, delicious experience, 29 Euros/person was the easiest 29 Euros I’d spent in this city. It would be difficult to explain how content I felt leaving MOLV without resorting to hyperbole, so suffice to say this place is worth a visit. Just remember to call ahead.
Mon Oncle le Vigneron
71, rue Rebeval, 75019
- I Heart Paris has the scoop on the Ritz’s new terrasse, the perfect place to dodge the crowds and enjoy a cold glass of champagne
- If you like Mon Oncle Le Vigneron, you might also like Le Verre Volé
- Les Caves à Manger: Gourmet Traveller has an interesting roundup on the trend
Written by Eric Goldschein for the HiP Paris Blog. All photos by Julien Hausherr; Contact: [email protected]. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.
Written by Eric Goldschein
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Eric Goldschein is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and an avid writer and traveler. Frequent adventures in the Americas have only piqued his interest to eat, stroll and write his way around the rest of the world. Luck and circumstance brought him to Paris and he hopes they will keep him here.
Website: Eric Goldschein