The zinc bar at Au Bon Coin.
Those who, like my friend Helen (as mentioned in last week’s review of La Marée Jeanne), are allergic to foam and other niceties of so-called molecular cuisine, and those who just crave good old-fashioned French food now and then would do well to have a meal at Au Bon Coin, where the classics of French bistro cooking are still made up fresh, not out of the freezer or a vacuum-packed plastic bag.
I had lunch there the other day with my friend Joan. The restaurant, with its appealing retro decor – zinc-topped wooden bar, white-tiled walls, old enameled advertising plaques – offers a reasonable price for lunch menus: €15.90 for two courses and €19.90 for three (fixed-price menus are also available in the evening).
I started with the hearty chicken-liver pâté
with cognac, served with salad, cornichons and big, fat capers. Joan skipped the starter and went straight to her main course: a whole calf’s
kidney with a sauce flavored with violet mustard and balsamic vinegar and baby-spinach salad on the side. My main course was a delicious crispy-tender-fatty
piece of pork belly with a Xeres-flavored jus, served with a generous helping of mashed potatoes.
Like the other courses, the desserts were classics with an added twist. The floating
island was streaked with pink praline and floated in a pool of pistachio-flavored crème anglaise. My crème caramel was flavored with bergamot and came with two almond sacristans (stick-shaped cookies made with puff pastry). The floating island was tasty, but I found the crème caramel rather pedestrian.
Places like Au Bon Coin, a haven for meat-and-potatoes fans (although the chef added a few little flourishes, unnecessary in my book), are becoming increasingly rare, but there are still a few left – I had a similarly simple, satisfying, high-quality meal recently at an old standby in the 10th arrondissement, La Marine – offering hope to those who are fed up with frills and tired of trends.