2nd Arrondissement

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Aux Lyonnais

32 rue Saint Marc (2)
Tel: 01-42-96-65-04

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Alain Ducasse purchased this venerable restaurant some years ago, but you would hardly know it, which is good. A few inauthentic elements.

FOOD

Spruced up bistro; very good. Classic Lyonaise dishes. Some unusual.

SERVICE

Casual; professional; appropriate.

PRICE

Medium.

(2x) (2011)

Bistrot Capucine

22, rue des Capucines (2)
Tel:  01-49-26-91-30

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

We enjoyed a wonderful cote du boeuf for two, but it wasn’t quite like going out to dinner.

A small, narrow wine bar with food. A handful of tables. What was on the plate was very good, but the choices are limited in the extreme. Similarly, the bartender/server was exceptionally pleasant and helpful, but it was not a real restaurant experience.

FOOD

Three course “market” menu with two choices in each category, plus at night a steak special for two at 48€. We ate Spanish bellota ham while we waited for our steak, cooked beyond bloody as requested, and very good. Shared an equally good apple crumble.

SERVICE

Helpful. Friendly. Bilingual.

PRICE

Set meal 30€. Steak 48€. For two, with recommended Margon, 97€.

(1x) (2013)

 

Bourse Ou La Vie (La)

12, rue Vivienne (2)
Tel:  01-42-60-08-83

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Two things are going on in Paris, both impacting on and reflective of this (then) 22 day old restaurant from American chef Daniel Rose of Spring (See 1st Arr.)

Paris is crazy for everything American at the moment.  It is evident on the streets of New York and on every flight between Paris and New York:  planes full of French tourists of every age.  Paris retail stores are branding themselves with a “Brooklyn vibe”.  Hamburgers and hamburger spots have become ubiquitous.  Bagel stores abound.  Stories appear in the English language food press about a spate of new Paris barbeque restaurants. And American chefs cooking French food like Spring, the nearby Verjus and the mini-empire of Frenchie (See 2nd Arr.) are jammed with French and American clients. Some of this may reflect the French economic malaise, but the trend continues. Verjus opened a second spot last year. And now Spring opens a “traditional French bistro” manned by American cooks.

Except a traditional French bistro it is not.  In fact, despite a level of hype reminiscent of the opening of Spring itself, it is no better than pleasant and fair.  Despite its very small size and an instant reputation of a hot but impossible table, there were tables to spare.

FOOD

Five or so traditional a la carte starters:  three delicious oysters with cream served hot from the broiler, leeks, beet salad, cold mackerel, foie gras.

Plats included a pot au feu specialty, a workman-like steak frites with pepper sauce, skate and duck breast.

Great chocolate mousse among desserts.  A giant gougere served for the table at the start.

More than acceptable food, but not special, and no obvious connection to Spring, which with its act now well together continues to turn out 4 distinguished courses, albeit at a very high price, and the chef himself headed for New York.

SERVICE

A young, friendly bilingual woman takes the orders and serves the food.

PRICE

A la carte and reasonable.  Entrees 9€ – 14€, plats 26€ – 28€.  Let’s hope this is a work in process, and not the final product.

(1x) (2015)

 

Photo from “Trip Advisor”

Brasserie Gallopin

40 rue Notre-Dame des Victoires (2)
Tel:  01-42-36-45-38

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

The only consolation from the otherwise wasted lunch at Terrior Parisien (see 2nd Arr.) was that we walked by Brasserie Gallopin across the street. Elegant and refined in appearance, I later looked it up in multiple sources.

Dinner confirmed the published reports: an adult restaurant. Tablecloths, an extensive a la carte menu of traditional dishes with an occasional nod to Asia and modernity, plus a 35€ 3 course menu of four choices, a bargain.

But nothing comes easily. There was a downside too, in the form of a completely out-of-place giant screen TV over the otherwise quite stately bar, with music to supplement it. Out of place hardly describes it.

We were offered the more crowded (but hardly full) front bar room, or the sparsely populated, more sedate back room. We chose the company and the TV. More guests and no TV could elevate this to a favorite.

FOOD

The food was far beyond what we expected. Compared to the steam table of some large brasseries (see Brasserie Lipp, 6th), this was refined, unusual and freshly prepared. Marinated salmon and grilled dorade with sautéed Asian vegetables, open ravioli of pigs feet and almonds in a sauce of rich foam, and slow cooked shoulder of lamb with mashed potatoes. For preordered desserts, orange tart with orange sherbet and molten chocolate cake. All from the a la carte menu offered as a nightly formula.

SERVICE

Indications suggest this is a more popular lunch location than dinner. That may explain the large staff who, while attentive and professional, seem to enjoy one another’s company. The TV may be for them. (And, as the waitress explained as she turned it off when asked, for the bar traffic at lunch watching news and markets.)

PRICE

35€ for the three fine and perfectly executed courses we ordered was a standout bargain, even among a Diary replete with 34-38€ menus. This came in a more refined, historical environment, albeit without evidence of the young crowd which normally predominate in other neighborhoods. Of course, for the TV, no supplement.

With drink, wine, water and coffee, 120€.
(1x) (2014)

Chez Georges

1, rue du Mail (2)
Tel: 01-42-60-07-11

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

There is more than one Chez George, each unrelated. Book the right one. Situated in the 2nd, a beacon of warmth on an otherwise deserted street. Terrific, busy; the good news and the bad news. Reportedly, lunch is all French. At dinner, half American. It doesn’t change the food; it does compromise the ambiance.


It was announced in the fall of 2010 Chez George had changed hands, not good news. The buyer owns Bistro de Paris and Chez Rene. In fact, so far, so good. Nothing changed, including classic bistro food, friendly service and high prices.


A return after several years to Chez Georges, which used to be a favorite.

The good news: high energy, classic bistro menu, very good food all intact, along with the traditional décor. A Hollywood French bistro.

The less good news: If it was half Americans before, it is 2/3 foreigners today, mostly Americans. Tables packed tightly, so highly likely your two is an effective table of six with Americans (or Japanese, or Italians) on either side. Service and turnover quick – too quick, allowing for at least two turns. In some ways Chez Georges has become so authentic it is inauthentic, a problem if you are looking for the same great food, classic preparations and attractive décor, but in a French environment.

The restaurant is doing just fine. It has not changed its standards except to accommodate to the demand, but it is not the French bistro experience it once was.

Roasted cepes couldn’t be better. Grilled Dover sole (no sauce offered, even though I asked), impeccable. Tarte tatin and profiterole with chocolate. Great meal, but a compromised experience.


A return visit to what was once a favorite three years later, a paradox.

Chez Georges is an old, traditional French bistro, physically authentic in every way and movie set perfect exactly as is, including the efficient, black-clad team of hardworking waitresses. Crowded. Busy. Always full. The menu is as authentic as the surroundings; classic French specialties unchanged from three years ago; well-sourced, well-cooked, quickly served, accompanied by a long and varied wine list at every price level. One or two seasonal blackboard specials. So the good news is very good still, and unchanged.

But so is the bad news: alongside the two long mirrored facing walls tables for two or four, with a long banquette and facing chairs. Not uncomfortable because of the spaciousness of the room, but literally no space between the tables. And to the left and to the right, English – almost exclusively. English spoken mostly by Americans, but also by English, Germans and Italians. Some French squeezed into the bar area.

Try to explain it: Among the most historically correct and attractive French restaurants taken over by American visitors.

We prefer to experience France among French, but it often means passing up the few remaining French restaurants still true to a history which has mostly passed them by.

FOOD

Bistro classics – salads, terrines, a famous smoked herring, meats, plenty of fish, all with wonderful sauces. Profiterole an irresistible dessert. Entrees slightly boring, served family style. Serve yourself. Wonderful, though pricey fish.

SERVICE

Efficient and friendly. Like the food, without finesse.

PRICE

A la Carte. Medium/High.

(5x) (2010-2017)

Frenchie

5 rue du Nil  (2)
Tel: 01-40-39-96-19

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Small room. Minutes from Les Halles. 22 seats, some on stools. Semi-open kitchen. Chef plus two helpers. Three relatively ambitious courses, 35€.

Reports of attitude and a mostly American clientele. Disconcerting.

It is hard to know why some formula spots get hyped, as this one does, while others not. As good as/no better than L’Agrume, Temps Au Temps, Itineraires, Affriole. Chef worked in New York.

FOOD

A notch more ambitious in terms of the combination of ingredients than the average. Well thought out, unusual dishes. Two choices for each of three categories. Every choice a winner.

SERVICE

Not in any way bad and surely friendly, but the one waiter has more to learn and maybe needs help.

PRICE

The 35€ standard, and another bargain at that. Maybe the shape of the room causes the physical space to sap some of the energy. It does not buzz like some of the others, but always full. Diners certainly seemed pleased with their choice.  (Now 45€)

(2x) (2010)

Goust

10 rue Volney (2)
Tel: 01-40-15-20-30

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

No personal pride of “discovery” of the new restaurant, Goust. Alex Lobrano, a normally dependable blogger, alerted readers to what he described as the best new restaurant to open in Paris in recent years. Others echoed his praise.

Whether the superlative is fully due can be debated. What cannot be is the combination of elegant surroundings, polished and attentive service, unusual and careful selection and presentation of a multi-course menu, amazing and bountiful wine pairings, and fair prices, albeit at the high end.

Enrico Bernardo calls himself “the world’s best sommelier”, presumably on the basis of a 2004 competition. He owns this restaurant and chooses the wines. Located just off the Place Vendome on a one block quiet street, on the first floor.

FOOD

An all-Spanish kitchen crew serving French/Spanish dishes characterized by unusual ingredients and extraordinary flavors. A la carte, plus two menus, 75€ and 110€. For lunch two courses for 35€, plus dessert (10€). A large wine list or pairings at 25€, an amazing bargain characterized by variety and abundance. This is very fine food, if not at the level of a 2 or 3- star, but close enough.


Michelin star in 2014 Guide.

SERVICE

Intelligent, solicitous, friendly, informed and attentive – from every member of the young team.


Surely one of the most pleasant and helpful bilingual service experiences ever.

PRICE

A la carte – 3 courses 75€±, menus at 75€ and 110€. Lunch a la carte at 35€. Wine pairings 25€. The only extra, a cheese course (36 month Comte), 12€. Very good value.


Now a la carte. Plus 85€ tasting, with pairings at 35€. With a la carte, pairings at a giveaway 8€ per glass refilled 2x.

(3x) (2013-2014)


RECENT UPDATE:

As of Fall, 2017, permanently closed. Sad.

Gyoza Bar

56 Passage des Panoramas (2)
Tel:  01-44-82-00-62

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Passage 53 (see below) is now a two star Michelin destination. About three years ago it opened a simple, modern, apparently authentic gyoza bar (Japanese dumplings) two doors away in the same historic, but now somewhat rundown passage, the antecedent to today’s shopping mall. By itself the passage makes an interesting visit, one of about 20 which still exist in Paris.

This is a one trick pony: gyoza only, cooked to order. One variety, sautéed and steamed. Sides of rice, noodles or edamame available. Only choice: platter of 8 or 12. A second location in the 3rd.

FOOD

Gyoza. Delicious. Inexpensive. Very popular.

SERVICE

Four hardworking Japanese women behind the bar sauté, steam and serve. About as much “service” as at a McDonald’s, and equally efficient.

PRICE

8 gyoza 7€; 12 for 9. With two waters, one side and one glass of wine, 33€. Not for every day, but Paris is an international city devoted to Japanese food.

(1x) (2014)

Joia

39 Rue Des Jeuneurs (2)
Tel: 01-40-20-06-06

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Joia is the second Paris restaurant of the chef Helene Darroze, whose other restaurant, a more formal Michelin 1 Star, reopens following a major renovation in a few weeks, with a new name. She also runs the formal dining room of the Hotel Connaught in London. Her family restaurant credentials go back several generations.

Joia is a modern, casual and, for Paris, unusual concept. It is fun and very good. Where the fun comes from depends on where you sit.

Downstairs has a large communal high-top, a bar virtually in the kitchen and a scattering of tables. Up a beautifully executed reproduction staircase leads to a large, high-ceilinged, less casual room, featuring a beautiful cocktail bar offering snacks and nicely spaced tables serving the full menu.

FOOD

A modern mix of dishes assembled to please. Our meal began with a prepare-your-own guacamole (a traditional mortar and pestle to mash perfectly ripe avocado, with all of the traditional mix-ins in bowls to add to taste).  Most main dishes are offered for 2 (turbot, chicken, etc.). Ours was a single giant slow-cooked short rib served on a cutting board with implements to slice and serve ourselves. Deeply seasoned, beautiful and delicious. For almost the first time ever in Paris, they offered to pack up what we couldn’t finish, including our 2 sides, cauliflower with stilton and fried potatoes. Very large portions. Wine list featuring female wine makers only.

SERVICE

Informal, but effusively friendly. They are having fun, proud of the restaurant and trying hard to assure that clients are too.

PRICES

Not cheap. 164€ with one drink, 4 glasses of wine, one dessert.

(1x) (2019)

 

 

Photo from “Trip Advisor”

Oseille (L’)

3 Rue Saint Augustin (2)
Tel: 01-45-08-13-76

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Our last night in Paris on a recent 2 week visit. Tired, stuffed, but we must eat dinner. We’ll try an unknown name recommended by American/Paris acquaintances who say it is one of their favorites. A home run.

A larger room, but spare and dressed down. As many as 60 seats, with decent space between them, plus a small outdoor terrace in the 2nd near The Bourse and Palais Royale. Working in a busy open kitchen, what appears to be a real chef of some age (and experience) assisted by 3 hardworking assistants. On the floor, several young, but proper waiters overseen by an even younger maître d’.

This is in no way a fancy restaurant, nor is it trying to be. But neither is it the standard 4 choice formula for 35€, so ubiquitous in Paris (and in this Diary), invariably manned by young people, some gifted, many promising, but necessarily of limited experience. This chef has been around and he is a pro. It is reflected in the menu, on the specials blackboard and, most importantly, in the food. It is fresh, unusual, carefully sourced and served with garnishes and accompaniments of startling complexity given the relative modesty of the surroundings and the prices – and in very large portions. You will not leave hungry.

FOOD

On the 36€ prix fixe, two entrees, one hot, one cold. House smoked salmon served in 3 thick slices served with sorrel cream, mussels served out of the shell in a rich nage bouillon. A thick slice of chicken liver pate served with fresh toast, cornichons, caramelized onions and celery root remoulade, and a Breton crepe (gallette) “sandwich” of beets and warm meat.

For mains, sweetbreads (a special, at 10€ premium) served with just cooked potato puffs and roasted merlu with peas and fava beans.

For dessert an apricot tart and raspberries in pastry cream served between wafers.

Together, the meal was imagined and executed at a level far above our expectations. Between the menu and the specials, at least six other choices for entrees and plats.

SERVICE

Kind. Earnest. Casual.

PRICE

Reasonable. Regular 3 course formula menu at dinner, 29€. With 2 entrees 36€. Wines across a range. Our Chinon, 34€. For 2, 121€. In quality, surprise and value, hard to duplicate.

(1x) (2018)

Pascade

30, rue Daunou (2)
Tel:  01-42-60-11-00

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

One good thing leads to another.

 

With all of the restaurant choices in Paris, there is no likelihood we would risk or “waste” a dinner slot at a small, casual, modern, almost-fast food restaurant in the 2nd Arr., a safe but commercial area near the Opera. Except two nights before on a weekend excursion to Honfleur in Normandy we had one of our best meals ever in the Michelin 2-Star SaQuaNa.  The set menu there began with a crepe-like dish from Aveyron, the chef’s home region, almost like a soft tarte crust of popover-like consistency, a modern version of a traditional pascade (a word and dish I had never heard of).  In Paris, the same chef owns Pascade, where the namesake dish is all they serve, with truffle oil and chives as a first course, filled (with cod and chorizo; with curry chicken, shrimp and penne; with vegetables) as a plat, and with several fillings in a miniature version as dessert.

 

As elegant, upscale casual food, it was delicious.

FOOD

Better, lighter and more delicious than the best pizza.  More sophisticated than a crepe.  Perfect for lunch.

 

SERVICE

Simple food served simply by two helpful, accommodating waitresses.

PRICE

Three courses, wine, water and coffee, 114€.

(1x) (2015)

 

Passage 53

53, Passage des Panoramas (2)
Tel: 01-42-33-04-35

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Situated in a now somewhat honky tonk 19th century arcade, a form which anticipated the modern shopping center. This arcade the oldest remaining in Paris, a combination of inviting bars, bistros and stamp dealers. Go figure. Right in the middle, an austere, spare restaurant. 22 seats spaciously arranged. Mostly Asian staff formally dressed. Up the narrowest staircase in Paris to the kitchen. Four Japanese chefs. One menu. No choice, 85€.


Now a Michelin 2-star, menu 130€ (2014)

FOOD

A near perfect marriage of Japanese sensibility with French ingredients. Each course a marvel to look at and to taste. None more than two bites, each anticipating the next. An extraordinary meal.

SERVICE

Choreographed, proper, practiced, but friendly and informed.

PRICE

85€. No extras. No shortcuts. Wines moderate to pricey. Mostly Burgundies. The location a paradox, but one which makes it more intriguing. An exceptional experience. Now 130€.

(1x) (2012)

Racines

8 Passages des Panoramas (2)
Tel:  01-40-13-06-41

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Even part-time Parisians like me count the available nights.  I hate the idea of squandering a night on a disappointing choice, recognizing that a miss here and there is inevitable.  Some people – locals particularly – avoid the risk of negative surprise by limiting their dining options to a concentrated few favorites.  We go farther afield, recognizing that we rarely do more than scratch the surface.  This is one reason why guides such as this Diary exist.  To avoid disappointment, to avoid the misses.

Racines was a miss – big time.  Long a darling of the often unreliable food press when it grew to a two location wine bar, it was evidently sold to an Italian chef of some local renown.  It is located in the charming, if extremely tired Passage des Panoramas (see Passage 53, Gyoza Bar in the 2nd), a mid-19th Century shopping mall.  It is possible within a crumbling building to freshen the restaurant space, as some neighbors have.  Racines has not.  Everything about it fell short.  Not an awful experience (we were with close American friends), but a disappointing one.

FOOD

Small blackboard menu, with an Italian bent, including one main course, pasta.  I would put it, along with the veal cutlet Milanese (large enough to share) on a par with similar dishes from my home kitchen, not French restaurant caliber.  No wine list per se.  Choose your bottle from a wall of bottles, each marked in white chalk with a price.  A tart du jour for dessert, nicely prepared under an excessive mountain of whipped cream.

SERVICE

Two busy servers having a good time handling the 30 or so guests, mostly adequately, with no attempt at finesse.

PRICE

With one bottle of wine, for 4, 235€ all in.

Ignore the PR sirens and use your precious Paris night more carefully.

(1x) (2018)

Stern Caffe

47 Passage des Panoramas (2)
Tel: 01-75-43-63-10

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

In the still-tired, but on the upswing Passage Panoramas, an intact engravers shop taken over by an Italian 3-star Michelin restaurant group (Padua) and made over into a chic, upscale, pricey, Italian café and restaurant.  High-quality food and service.  A nice lunch.

FOOD

Largely a la carte menu with 38€ limited choice lunch:  entrée of 6 tastes of Venetian cicchetti (Italian tapas) followed by seafood risotto, followed by dense espresso.  No dessert on lunch menu.  Worth trying.  Not sure whether worth returning for.

SERVICE

Busy at lunch, but overseen by immeasurably able, attentive, considerate tri-lingual Italian general manager.

PRICES

High

(1x) (2016)

 

Photo from “Out and About in Paris”

Terroir Parisien

28 Place de la Bourse (2)
Tel:  01-83-92-26-31

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

In a gesture of wasted objectivity (this Diary makes no claim of objectivity), we visited for lunch the second branch of 3-star Chef Yannick Alleno’s Terroir Parisien (see 5th), this one located in what was once the employee cafeteria of the Bourse (stock exchange) building, literally above the Bourse metro stop

In most ways, the one or two good elements (the fine design of the open kitchen and eating counter, with tables flanking) and the longer list of less good ones (food without character, absent management, smiling but unprofessional young service staff, etc.), the two branches are duplicates of one another, proving the same core point: a Michelin listing does not always travel well (although it can, see Le Coq Rico, 20th, Laraze, 8th).

FOOD

Fine for lunch if in the neighborhood, although better choices, including directly adjacent across the square. Pate en croute and sliced raw mushrooms, scallops in foam, and ham and grilled endive with cheese sauce. Perfectly fine. Entirely forgettable, more so than the décor, which is radical in departure and surely influenced by American restaurant design in the causal vs. “white table cloth” sector.

SERVICE

A duplicate of all of the shortcomings of its 5th Arr. sibling. Inexplicable. Casual young servers may be a new phenomenon in Paris, but no reason it cannot be combined with experienced adult professional supervision. Absent. Indeed, the open kitchen also showcases a goofy playfulness not typical of French kitchens.

PRICE

Where they should be for casual chic, under a stellar brand name whose provenance is not really connected to the concept which carries his name. 91€ for two, no desserts.


Closed. Deservedly. Now a rebirth of the Alan Ducasse casual, vegetable-focused restaurant, Spoon, first opened 15 years ago.

(1x) (2013)

Vaudeville (Le)

29, rue Vivienne (2)
Tel: 01-40-20-04-62

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Across from the old Bourse in the 2nd. Large, noisy, Art Deco interior. Marble walls. At Saturday lunch, every seat taken, every terrace seat taken and a line out the door.

Not calm, but wildly popular. All French. Perfect for lunch

FOOD

Plateau of shellfish and oysters. Traditional dishes plus plat du jour served hot, with appropriate sauces. Seasonal mushrooms. Traditional desserts, baba a rum, oeufs a la nage, profiterole.

SERVICE

It may be the brasserie style, but service noisy and chaotic, yet always with a smile. Waiters running, pushing, dishes crashing. And yet it gives energy to the environment.

PRICE

Medium. A la carte.


A brief mention in an English language food blog noted new ownership (to a different commercial brasserie group) and an uptick in the kitchen.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, a short walk through the Louvre and across the beautiful gardens and arcades of the Palais Royale. A small table on the large terrace facing the plaza and colonnade of the classic Bourse across the street. With almost no traffic on a Sunday, some street theater, but no commotion.

Oysters and shrimp, two beautiful grilled Dover soles expertly boned, served with fresh string beans and delicious béarnaise. A warm chocolate mousse/soufflé for dessert. Service friendly, if haphazard, about what we experienced on our original visit, but an otherwise perfect Sunday lunch 138€.


Same weekend lunch one year later. Weather not as nice. A Saturday, which meant the possibility of Yellow Vest demonstrations (we saw none). Restaurant much quieter, but food and service equally satisfying.

(3x) (2010-2019)

Versance (Le)

16 rue Feydeau (2)
Tel:  01-45-08-00-08

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

An enigma which should have worked better as a complete package than it did.

Complex, modern food from a small menu (five choices per category). Imaginative. Exquisitely plated. A large, two-level space with spaciously placed tables for 35, including a salon for drinks or coffee.

Very expensive a la carte prices. Deliberate pacing makes for a long evening, sapped of joy. You must bring your own.

The space and food make this an attractive possibility, but with too few guests (albeit on a Tuesday) leaving each room half full. (They would have been better to fill one.) Ironically, all of the energy of the well designed, quite elegant 19th Century space was in the kitchen in the hands and mind of the owner/chef. Once it left the pass, it became somewhat drained of excitement. I kept looking at my watch.

FOOD

Easier to describe than to fully capture. Minced sweetbreads in an egg-shaped fried crust paired with a beautifully soft-boiled egg, roast scallops, lobster served two ways, raw and with tails warmed in poured-over broth.

For plats, turbot served in smoke-filled bell jar, Spanish-sourced pork chop with multiple intricate accompaniments, chicken breast with crayfish sauce, sweetbreads. Complex desserts which impact on the eye better than they excited the mouth.

SERVICE

Somber. Knowledgeable, formal servers without the real skill to do formal and without the personality to animate the overly serious atmosphere of the experience.

PRICE

Shockingly high relative to this Diary. A la carte entrees 25€ ±, plats 39-59€, desserts 13€. Range of wines. Less expensive formula lunch.

(1x) (2014)