Sunday, 21 November 2010

Two bistrots

Two unassuming Parisian bistrots where the food is terrific: La Marmotte and Le Baratin

A few weeks ago, my cousins Jenny and Andy came to Paris to celebrate their 25th anniversary. You'll have to speak to them about the palaces of gastronomy they visited, but this is a post about a small bistrot that Jenny took me to her last night in Paris. (She stayed an extra day.) It was not easy to find a place both good and open on a Sunday night, but I looked in my trusty "Pudlo" Guide and found a coup de coeur in the 6th arrondissment: La Marlotte, which is open 7 days a week. (Coup de coeur is a "love at first sight" designation that Pudlo awards to his favorite restaurants in each of the 20 districts of Paris.)

La Marlotte was not crowded on a rainy Sunday but those who were there, appeared to be enjoying themselves. We relaxed in our banquette and studied the menu which was quite appealing. Jenny and I always share everything. As this is oyster season, we decided to try a few as a pre-appetizer. We chose the Speciales Prat ar Coum and found that they were very salty. This is probably a characteristic of this particular type of oyster which are very much in demand.

For appetizers, we had a delicious lentil salad with shallots and a lovely bib lettuce salad with fresh, thinly sliced artichokes and parmesan cheese. The main courses were both excellent: roast cod with a delicious red pepper sauce and a wonderful duck with honey and spices. We each chose a side order: frites wrapped in newspaper and served cone-shaped in a glass, and a purée of fresh peas.

The wine that the server recommended was excellent and the least expensive on the menu. It was a Côtes du Rousillon and went well with both the duck and the fish.

The best part were the profiteroles au chocolat. You could tell that they had been freshly made perhaps a few hours before we ordered them. This is one of my favorite desserts and I know how to judge a great one. La Marlotte's version was flawless.

Le Baratin in the 20th arrondissement is a place that is very popular with French people and is a typical small neighborhood bistrot. However, what is special about this place is that the very creative chef is an Argentine woman. She works in a tiny kitchen in the back of the bar and from this little room great dishes emerge. The restaurant also showcases different wines and if you are not happy with your choice, they will be happy to bring you others to try.

I went there with my friend Gaby and we had a terrific meal. We shared a dish of veal brains that were served in a chive, garlic, butter sauce--perfect as a dipping sauce with the excellent crusty baguette. There were also ravioli filled with a spicy pigeon mixture. The ravioli were served floating in a flavorful bouillon with turnips as a garnish.

Gaby and I both opted for the duck dish: cooked in two ways with fresh ginger and crunchy cabbage. Although it was quite good, I preferred the duck I had at Le Marlotte which, in its sweet sauce, was made in a more traditional way. And the flavor of Le Baratin's ginger didn't come through in this preparation.

As we didn't want a whole bottle of wine, we were able to order from the list in a size made to our wishes. Instead of a full bottle of 75 cl, we had them open the bottle and serve us 50 cl and this is acceptable and done quite frequently. Our Chinon was full and fruity and went well with the duck.

I was very happy with end of my meal: a perfect smooth luxurious mousse au chocolat. When it comes right down to it, I so prefer delicious and simple desserts that are perfectly made than the many creative concoctions that are offered both in restaurants and in the best bakeries.

One of the best things about Le Baratin is the price. You can get a wonderful meal for about 50 euros with wine and coffee. With the chef's talent, notoriety and popularity, the owners could definitely move their restaurant into fancier and more attractive quarters, but they seem to enjoy what they do so well: running a simple neighborhood bistrot that is always full and always noisy with happy customers.