Au Bon Coin is the kind of restaurant you’d have a hard time finding unless you had a friend who lived around the corner, which, luckily, I do. Tucked away in a back street in the 5th arrondissement, it serves high-quality, slightly updated classics in a friendly, agreeable setting – zinc bar, white-tiled and exposed-stone or -brick walls, and red cushions to make the wooden chairs comfier – at reasonable prices.
The smiling waitress quickly served us an amuse-bouche of scrambled eggs with persillade that had been stuffed back into the eggshell. This was probably more trouble than it was worth.
My first course was a gâteau de foie de volaille (chicken-liver cake; sounds better in French, doesn’t it?), a specialty of Lyon, which I have eaten many times there, but this lovely version was much more refined and was covered in a foamy shellfish-infused sauce flavored with tarragon.
My friend Susan ordered the house-smoked salmon, delicious with just a little crème fraîche and toast.
On a cold winter’s night, there’s nothing like a comforting pot au feu, and this was a fine example of the dish, with tender and tasty meat, a flavorful sauce and the requisite leeks, carrots, bone marrow and gros sel. The only thing I didn’t care for was the potatoes, which were mealy and had an unpleasant reheated taste. A small amount of mayonnaise with horseradish served on the side was unnecessary, and the traditional cornichons were nowhere to be found.
Susan opted for a magret de canard (duck breast), which, for some reason, was very difficult to cut even though it was tender and flavorful to eat. It came with some equally simple mashed potatoes.
My dessert was a brilliant baba au rhum generously pre-soaked with rum and topped with lots of the best whipped cream imaginable.
Susan had the homemade – as is everything at Au Bon Coin – salted-caramel éclair, which was rather lacking in pep – not quite enough salt or sugar to properly bring out the flavors (I’m all for lowered salt and sugar content, but let’s not get ridiculous).
Au Bon Coin is simple and good. If you are lucky like Susan, you live around the corner from it. Otherwise, take a special trip to the 13th or drop in when you’re in the neighborhood. It’s a good place to be, as its name indicates.