The dining room at Café Philippe.
I must be losing my touch. Not far from where I live is a restaurant called Café Philippe that has been there for two-a-half years but that I had never noticed before. I discovered it while searching for a lunch spot in the Marais.
It is on the large side for a Paris restaurant, but the space is broken up into different areas with varying ambiances: two bright rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows on the street (the better to watch passersby and be watched by them) and a cozy small one in the back with exposed brick walls. In the Christmas spirit, a little pot of holly had been thoughtfully placed on each table.
The restaurant is run by two Philippes, one who was very jolly but sometimes made us wait too long and the other who never even acknowledged our existence. Neither did the waitress.
The fairly priced lunch menu offers two courses for €19 or three for €26.
There were no surprises on the menu, just dishes that are fairly standard in Paris bistros, all housemade and nicely prepared and presented. The chef here is a fan of fresh herbs, which adorned every savory dish. Judiciously used, they enhanced the dishes with their fresh greenness but were a bit samey.
I started with the currently trendy œuf parfait, which sat atop also-trendy Jerusalem artichoke
purée (fairly tasteless) and was generously showered with some very fine lardons. My lunchmate Pierre aptly termed it “sophisticated bacon and eggs.”
He had a warming carrot soup with an
undercurrent of ginger and a bright flash of fresh coriander.
He followed that with a lovely smoked haddock Parmentier, the kind of fish pie all my British friends love. It was perfect balanced between
properly cooked potatoes and haddock that was not too smoky or salty. The garlic cream mentioned on the menu was not in evidence.
I had the quasi de veau (veal fillet), tender and
flavorful, with creamy (slightly too creamy) polenta and, my favorite part, pleurotes (oyster mushrooms) with a little less gravy than I would have liked.
The chef is generous with herbs but very sparing with the salt, which I found myself adding. Better too little than too much, however.
We went all chocolate for dessert. Pierre had
the dark, rich fondant, and I had the chocolate cream topped with meringue “crumble,” so rich that I could barely make a dent in it and asked for a doggie bag, which was granted.
Café Philippe is a pleasant neighborhood restaurant, but I wouldn’t cross town to eat there.