Monday, 23 January 2012

Les Cocottes, a Christian Constant restaurant

15-20 years ago, Christian Constant, a two-star chef at the Hotel de Crillon, left his post to go off and do other things. He spawned many of Paris' most creative young chefs who also opened their own restaurants. Eric Frechon had a little place in the 19th arrondissement before being awarded three stars at the restaurant of the Hotel Bristol. Yves Camdeborde opened the wonderful La Regalade, where he reigned for several years before going off to open the wildly popular Comptoir du Relais d'Odeon--always booked and always crowded. And Thierry Faucher continues to have success with his two restaurants: L'Os à Moelle and La Cave de L'Os à Moelle.

So much wonderful food and pleasure have all these chefs brought to the Parisian population!

Over the past 10 years, Christian Constant has taken over the 130 block of the rue St Dominique with his two restaurants with one star: Le Violon d'Ingres and Les Fables de la Fontaine. But in addition we find Café Constant and Les Cocottes. Violon d'Ingres is a palace of refined cuisine and Les Fables devotes itself to fine preparations of fish. Cafe Constant and Les Cocottes are more casual restaurants where you will get wonderfully prepared French bistrot food.

Today I had a wonderful lunch at Les Cocottes. This is a very popular neighborhood restaurant which doesn't take reservations and is very crowded at the peak hours of lunch and dinner. One sits on stools at the bar or at tables behind the bar. The walls are decorated with shelves housing Constant's many cookbooks, bottles of wine, cocottes to purchase, jams. The menu is simple yet extensive with salads, verrines, cocottes appetizers and cocottes plats principals . The dessert list is long and full of delicious choices. The food served is beautiful to look at and tasty to eat.

I started with the appetizer of the day: a cocotte of oeufs brouillés with truffes. This was rich and flavorful and served with two long feuilletés with which to dip in the eggs and savor. Next came a perfectly prepared magret de canard smothered in chervil and served with a lovely jus, purée of patates douces and gaufrettes--beautiful house-made potato chips. I chose a light Burgundy wine to go with the eggs and the duck.

No one can resist dessert and although there was a lovely moelleux au chocolat that day, I opted for the fabulous tarte au chocolat de Christian Constant served with a bit of crème chantilly and caramel. The tarte was not fabulous: it was sensational!

No wonder this place is as popular as it is. So as to avoid the line at dinner, I would recommend skipping lunch and getting there at the beginning of the service. But don't put it off. Hurry to Les Cocottes and you will not be disappointed.