February 8, 2010By Richard HesseArchive

Where Chefs Dine

The deep-fried langoustine tails were perfectly light and crisp.

The restaurant Christophe, metaphorically speaking, had been sitting in the back of my mind for several months, but was recently foregrounded when Alain Pramil of the eponymous restaurant and his neighbor Rick of the Chais Rick wine shop across the street, took me to task for having misled them about prices at L’Arôme. I don’t know what happened, but they ended up paying about twice as much as I had suggested a meal would cost. Be that as it may, the fortunate outcome for me was that they warmly recommended Christophe as the kind of place they like to go and eat together on their night off, at their kind of prices.

Something that immediately recommends Christophe is the fact that it is open on Sunday and Monday – the two nights that a lot of your bistronomy places are closed, and usefully plugs a hole … metaphorically speaking. The second thing that recommends it is chef Christophe Philippe himself, who has the kind of build and bonhomie that immediately inspire confidence (mug shot here).

The third thing is the food, of course, which ranges from classic rôtisseur work to touches of Eastern magic. My first course of crispy, deep-fried langoustine tails (pictured above), creamy and full-flavored, were wrapped in a twist of something half-way between tempura and filo pastry and were perfectly light and crisp. No complaints were heard about one of my companion’s plate of Basque ham, consumed in reverent silence, while the other’s crispy spring rolls with a superb filling of chopped Basque pork belly and blood sausage received rave reviews from the whole table.

Of the half-dozen specials on the chalkboard for the main course, two of us chose to share a prime slab of Coutancie steak (the nearest France gets to Kobe beef, fed on beer and massaged daily) for two, while the third person had the excellent Challans duck prepared two ways – roasted and confit, and served with a winter-perfect combination of pears and turnips.

Once in a while I get an urge for lightly cooked red meat with plenty of marbling. This hunk of steak was all that, and came off the grill beautifully charred and rested, and deliciously red inside. The mashed potatoes that came with it may not have been of Robuchonian caliber, but were nevertheless magisterially turned out.

Then followed as fine a piece of unpasteurized Camembert as ever graced a cheeseboard, and a mouthwatering millefeuille with candied lemon. Not having a particularly sweet tooth, I always prefer the acidity of citrus at the end of a meal, and a nibble of the millefeuille was just the ticket. The third dessert was a perfectly turned-out rich chocolate cake.

The decor is Japanese minimalist, with dark brown tables, comfortable (though they don’t look it) chairs and off-white walls with paintings that might not be to everyone’s taste. The lighting can only be described as gloomy. There are only about 20 covers, so a reservation is essential. I’m sure you’ll love the food (and the carefully chosen and reasonably priced wine list, for that matter).

A very happy festive season to all our readers, with plenty of good cheer. I’m looking forward to more restaurant adventures in 2009.

Richard Hesse

Christophe: 8, rue Descartes, 75005 Paris. Tel.: 01 43 26 72 49. Métro: Maubert Mutualité. Nearest Vélib stations: 17, rue Descartes; 2, rue Valette. Closed Wednesday and Thursday. A la carte: around €45*.

* three courses, not including wine

© 2009 Paris Update

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