April 20, 2010By Richard HesseArchive
clementine, restaurant, paris

Old-timey comfort and good, fresh food.

Pros: Fresh vegetables, well-chosen wines, pleasant atmosphere.
Cons: None to speak of.

Attentive readers will have noticed a second arrondissement bias in my recent reviews, and this one is no exception: I’ve been checking out the talent in the hood since I moved into a new office in Rue Montmartre a few months ago. I promise to venture farther afield soon.

For weeks, Clémentine had been giving me the kind of nods and winks I get from the hookers on the Rue Saint Denis when I don’t have Bertie the Gastrohound with me. What’s not to like about the restaurant’s old-fashioned frontage, lace curtains and cozy interior, not to mention its promise of wines direct from Touraine?

I’ve lunched there twice now and been charmed both times by the unfussy atmosphere, the rock-solid good humor of the waitress (I think she’s the chef’s other half), and the outright freshness and quality of the food.

It offers a basic menu (posted on the Web site) and daily specials. Last week it was all about rabbit: the starter, which I pounced on, involved a combination of rabbit parts (including kidneys and liver) in a creamy sauce on a lightly sweated bed of julienned leaks and carrots. As the main dish of the day was a saddle of rabbit with fresh vegetables and Tarbais beans, this showed a savvy use of every bit of the bunny. Hats off to the old-style chef, who wasn’t wasting anything.

After my companion had polished off her eggplant in honey sauce, we proceeded to attack the saddle of rabbit and beans (her) and a melting braised pig’s cheek “aux clémentines” (me).

My friend concluded with that old standby of the traditional French restaurant, a crème caramel. It was perfectly made (and served with two spoons). We hardly noticed that we had put away a bottle of a very well-made generic Rhône Syrah.

The many people who emerge from their offices at lunchtime in this area in search of food are very lucky to have Clémentine on their doorstep. Most of them don’t know how lucky they are, otherwise you would never get a seat. I was lucky twice in not reserving, but only did that by turning up shortly after noon. To avoid disappointment, make sure you book. There is also a dining room upstairs, which seems to be used for groups – we saw about 15 people turn up and troop upstairs one day.

Warm, generous and authentic, Clémentine is a rare breed and a great discovery, right on my doorstep.

Richard Hesse

Clémentine: 5, rue Saint Marc, 75002 Paris. Tel.: 01 40 41 05 65. Métro: Bourse or Grands Boulevards. Nearest Vélib stations: 21, rue d’Uzès; 42, rue Vivienne. Fixed-price menus: €23 (two courses), €30 (three courses). A la carte: around €35. Open for lunch Monday-Friday, dinner Tuesday-Friday.

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Reader Barney Kirchhoff writes: “Thanks for your review on Clémentine. It is only three blocks from my apartment in the ninth, so I ambled over there for lunch today. The food was quite good. I started with aubergine soaked in honey, then had the pork daube, washed down with a glass of Côte du Blaye. I skipped dessert, my usual custom to preserve my svelte 83-year-old figure.”

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