Young(ish) restaurateur par excellence Charles Compagnon, who also owns the delightful bistros 52 Faubourg Saint Denis and Richer, has opened a new place, the Café Compagnon, no small bistro this time but a large restaurant with three dining rooms of different sizes and a fancy decor of blond wood paneling with cutout patterns and modernist figures, created by his wife, designer Gesa Hansen.
We were seated the other evening in the small room in the back, which was noisy because of a large group at another table and the music (not too loud) coming from the speaker above our head. Although we had to raise our voices to hear each other, we managed to block out the distractions.
We started off by sharing two first courses. The beef croquettes were not as moist as I would have liked, but the beef was of good quality, and the gribiche sauce, made with chopped egg, pickles, onion and tarragon, added a tangy contrast to the mild flavor of the beef.
The other starter was an original and tasty ravioli made of thin slices of raw kohlrabi filled with confit seaweed, ricotta cheese and cubes of raw apple.
One of the main courses was available only for two people, which worked out perfectly because we both preferred it over the other offerings, two of which were vegetarian choices, along with one fish and one beef dish. Our grasse (fatty) pork chops were served off the bone and cut into strips with, as promised, a plump chunk of fat attached to each one. The “gravy“ consisted of liquefied black pudding. An interesting idea, but we felt that it lost some of its flavor in the process.
The meat was fine, but I felt that it could have benefited from being cooked a little less. The generous serving of pork was topped with tasty bits of crunchy rice crackers and curly endive, which I ignored at first, thinking it was just a superfluous garnish. One taste, however, and I was sold. It was surprisingly tender and delicious, a sign of the quality of the ingredients here. The spicy cooked apple wedges, a wonderful foil to both the pork and black pudding, were another well-appreciated extra.
The desserts were high points of the meal. I had the caramel and rice-pudding tart with a lovely flaky crust, topped with an airy dome of slightly sweetened whipped Greek yogurt, a pure delight.
The other dessert, just as delicious, was ginger carrot cake with puréed dates, cream-cheese whipped cream and lots of crunchy walnut crumble.
It’s a fine thing to have a big, handsome new restaurant in Paris serving bistronomic-style food, with a large staff of friendly, professional servers. Its size alone will make it easier to get a reservation than it is in most of Paris’s good little bistros, unless, of course, Café Compagnon becomes so popular that it fills up every night. Let’s hope it continues to live up to its ambitions.Favorite