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Four Baguettes
Chez Stella
3, rue Thérèse
Closed Saturdays & Sundays
M° Pyramides

Euro - 9 to 16
Nez was in for a certain shock yesterday when we tried going to her favorite Chartier only to find it closed – but only for renovation (phew!) – until July 1.  At least, we would still be able to make one last visit before we leave town.  So, today, after an unsuccessful attempt at Indonesian food at the Indonesian Embassy, Riot thought he would brighten Nez’s day by taking her to a place he had only read about:  Chez Stella.

On a quiet street, off of the Japanese District and not far from the Louvre, sits a small storefront that looks just like any others.  Of the many reviews plastered on the window, one proclaims:  “One of the last of a dying breed in Paris.”  We arrived near the end of the lunch period but the 30-seat interior was still fully packed.  The busy and chatty proprietress, the restaurant’s namesake, spotted us out of the corner of her eye and flashed a smile that said, a table would be yours, soon.  We passed the time hungrily eyeing the dessert table near the front entry, already devouring that last course in our minds.  (The large punch bowl of crème anglaise, in Riot’s estimation, could be a meal in itself.)
  A different kind of pâté:  The terrine de saumon.

  The egg is underneath, really:  The oeuf dur mayonnaise, on a bed of potato salad and obscured by a load of sauce.
We were seated at a long series of connected tables running the length of the room; the squeeze was tight but all the more personable.  Here, there were to be no worries of disturbing one’s neighbor with a loud conversation.  Everyone seemed to be having one heck of a jolly time talking to Stella.  Everyone also seemed to be a regular, with us being the only odd newbies, in a setting that evoked the décor of Nez’s grandmother’s in Tennessee.  We soaked it all in with beaming smiles as we awaited our meals.  They soared.

Nez started with her standard bearer, oeuf dur mayonnaise, which came heaped high with a swirl of sauce and a large clump of potato salad.  It might as well be a meal on its own and it was as tasty as such a simple dish could ever be.  Riot selected the terrine de saumon, a spongy, scrambled-egg-texture version of the regular pâté.  It went well with the bread.  When the waiter saw that we were done with the first courses, he ducked into the kitchen and yelled, “Chef—”  Soon came our main courses:  escalope de dinde for Nez and something mysteriously called Mississippi for Riot.  Nez’s turkey breast was tender and subtly flavored; Riot’s was essentially a burger patty – unlike any burger patties he had ever had – simmered in a delectable sauce and capped with a mount of finely-chopped, grilled onions, served with three little scoops of rice.  Both of our dishes were utterly simple and correspondingly satisfying.  To finish, we revisited the dessert table and ordered the gateau du chocolat and gateau fromage blanc, each with a healthy dose of the crème anglaise, of course.
  It does not get any simpler than this:  The very tasty escalope de dinde.

  Much more than just a hamburger patty:  The mysteriously-named Mississippi with a thin coat of delicious grilled onion concoction.
If we were excited when we sat down, we were blown away by the time we wiped the last crumbs from our lips.  Wow was the only fitting word.  This was one of the best, no-frill three-course dining experiences we have had in this town.  Skip all of the over-priced, just-average brasseries populating touristy areas and make your way here at once!  Our complete meal cost a mere 13€ each, or roughly the price of a main course anywhere else in this arrondissement.  Chez Stella is truly a throw-back to a bygone Paris.

And that is the rub.  Inspired by all of the lively banters, we finally worked up our courage to initiate a conversation with the consummate host herself.  Immediately, she made us feel like we were guests at her house (which we were, in all senses of the concept).  She and her husband had been at it for 34 years, but never once forgetting to take two months off each year.  Hearing that, we both had the same typical American thought:  How do they make ends meet, especially charging such low prices and having so much downtime?  We need not worry, the bustling restaurant and all the smiles assured that all was well indeed.  “I’m turning 60 in a month and a half,” Stella said, not looking a day out of her 40s.  Before we could throw in our congratulations, she dropped the bomb.  “I’ll be retiring and we’ll be closing the restaurant.”  The only hint of regret came from the listeners, us.
  It has to be chocolate:  The gateau du chocolat constrasted by a bed of crème anglaise.
  Kind of like a cheesecake:  The gateau fromage blanc with more crème anglaise.
No!  That cannot be!  We have just discovered the restaurant and already it’s taking its final bow.  Then, we remembered that we, too, are also making our final rounds in Paris.  And more importantly, we could not possibly expect Stella and her husband to keep toiling away forever for our own sake or for the sake of other would-be diners.  This is how it goes.  So, if you’re around, be sure to pay a sure-to-be-memorable visit to Chez Stella before it closes its door for good on July 1.  We will definitely return for another meal or two, and then return again to all the memories contained herein.
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