Soft-boiled eggs contained bits of salmon and mushroom and were topped with egg-white froth.
Pros: Quiet, plenty of space, easygoing service (could also be a con if you’re in a hurry)
Cons: Slightly uneven food quality
Funny, the things you can be forgiving about. The waiter at Bernard du 15, whose very first day it was, was forgiven everything, including his apparent near-total ignorance of anything to do with food and drink. His natural charm took him through with flying colors – that and the chef’s ability to faultlessly turn out the very decent food correctly, if not at breakneck speed.
The oddly named restaurant (it’s in Paris’s 15th arrondissement, and the chef use to work at the famed Quinze  restaurant, as well as Crystal Baccarat) is just down the street from Stéphane Martin and seems to be plonked down in Little Iran – there are several Iranian grocery stores and a travel agent called Persepolis near the restaurant. My girlfriend, Katherine, who is in the midst of a Middle Eastern food jag, says a little prayer to Claudia Roden, goddess of all good things Middle Eastern (and then some) each morning. I made that up. But it is a fact that her current Bible is definitely Roden’s Arabesque, and that K. will soon be wanting to check these stores out.
One of my two companions for lunch at Bernard du 15 expressed disappointment with the food, but I was fortunate in my own choices, which began with shrimp ravioli with a Thai-style lime and chili sauce that was an absolute stunner. The four flavors (pasta, shrimp, chili-lime and dark, rich soy sauce) sounded a perfect chord, each note separate, but the whole a perfect harmony.
The other starters were an artichoke salad set out very handsomely on the plate, the vegetable freshly cooked that morning, by the taste of it, and its delicate simplicity given full expression; and soft-boiled eggs (three of them!) with some of the white taken out, frothed up and put back in with small pieces of smoked salmon and mushroom, atop a liquid yolk. Simplicity itself, in a sense, but very satisfying. I must try it for breakfast.
The slow-cooked lamb my dissatisfied companion had was, well, disappointing, considering how very good slow-cooked lamb can be. This turned out to be slightly dry and stringy and didn’t pack the flavor I would have expected. It was served with some very good sautéed potatoes, which he didn’t eat (I helped!). My other companion had suprême of guinea fowl with the same sautéed potatoes and pronounced it very good. For my part, I had a fillet of sea bass, with the crispy skin left on for maximum flavor, served with what the French call “cocos plats” and we Brits “runner beans.” They had been sliced very thinly and briefly steamed and tossed in a frying pan. Impeccable all the way, as were the mashed potatoes served on the side.
We had a leisurely three courses, opting for tiramisu, a flambéed pancake and pannacotta with strawberries for dessert. The Italian advertising standards agency might have jibbed at the name “tiramisu,” but it was light and creamy, so we’ll let that go. My flambéed pancake was, we all agreed, excellent, crispy and toothsome. The pannacotta hit the right buttons, without being voted best dessert ever.
What’s different about Bernard du 15 is that chef Bernard Sellin has created a cozy home away from home, simply decorated, with fine table linen, soft carpeting and plenty of space between the tables – a toned-down, smaller version of a posh restaurant, but serving more than decent bistronomy food, much of it with a slightly exotic twist that never overturns the solid classic French roots, at prices that are also fairly easy on the pocketbook. Lunch here is a quiet, relaxed affair. Now that’s different.
Bernard du 15: 62, rue des Entrepreneurs, 75015 Paris. Tel.: 01 40 59 09 27. Métro: Commerce or Charles Michels. Nearest Vélib stations: 88-90 rue de Lourmel; 5 place Violet. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Friday and for dinner only on Monday and Saturday. Closed Sunday. Fixed price menus: €24 (lunch) and €34 (dinner). A la carte: around €45.
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