La Boulangerie

September 15, 2009By Richard HesseArchive
La Boulangerie restaurant, Paris

High-quality food, wine and service in an agreeable setting.


Pros: Great buzz; comfortable noise levels; pleasant bistro décor (note the tiled floor); great service, discreetly delivered; good food; special wines.

Cons: None worth mentioning

Another unexpected find, La Boulangerie, was recommended to me by the chef who runs the Atelier cookery classes for the Art Home project at the Palais de Tokyo, where I lunched at Nomiya (Editor’s note: this pop-up restaurant is now closed) back in July. To sum up her story: after she decided that a career as an opera singer was not for her, she decided to become a chef, found a Compagnons du Tour de France chef to train her, passed all her exams and did what Compagnons do: continued learning her trade from a succession of other chefs. Now she is teaching people like you and me how to do interesting things to raw food with knives and heat.

Anyhow, the girl made good, and we had a truly satisfying meal at La Boulangerie. Since it’s not far from Père Lachaise, you could do much worse than walk over there for a bite after you’ve paid your respects to Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, etc.

The restaurant is billed as “cuisine inventive” on the Web, but there was nothing that Aunt Agatha would have balked at, unless it was the rhubarb compote accompanying a heavenly smelling pan-fried slice of foie gras that was brought to me by mistake for my starter and then whisked away from under my nose.

All evening the contented buzz of the local crowd (average age: 30-something) provided evidence that the owner and his partner have got something right. Noise levels were more than comfortable (possibly because the space is divided into two), and we were able to talk without injuring our vocal chords and share bits of each other’s dishes without let or hindrance from the other diners.

The wines are well chosen. We began with an organic 2007 Côtes d’Auxerre Pinot Noir by Guilhem and Jean-Hugues Goisot. It comes from Saint Bris-le-Vineux, a couple of miles from Auxerre, where I spent a very formative year working in a lycée in my late teens. The first (and almost last) time I got blind drunk was during a wine-tasting, held deep underground in Saint Bris, that got rather out of hand.

The evening’s other libation was the patron’s wine of the month, a Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil, also organic, by Frédéric Mabileau. It was sold au compteur, which means that you pay only for what you actually drink from the bottle. We paid €27 (I can’t believe we drank the whole thing…). We just lapped up this silky, complex blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Since La Boulangerie’s owner is from Burgundy, the region was quite well represented on his unusually extensive wine list, ranging in price from €20 to €80 and more.

Truly memorable among the dishes was my hanger steak (onglet), cooked exactly as I like it (very rare) and served with a mess of tiny chanterelle mushrooms. A ratatouille-filled spring roll accompanying some fillets of just-right red mullet was also interesting, as was the crushed hazelnut crust on the melting, flavorsome fillet of lamb, which also came with a spicy lamb meatball, chosen by the third member of our party.

Passing on dessert, I plumped for the cheese plate: half a dozen beautifully ripened chunks, including a quite rare Soumaintrain from northern Burgundy, refined with marc de Bourgogne and appropriately served at room temperature, as were all the cheeses. They were supplied by Monsieur Alleosse, whose Web site alone is guaranteed to raise cholesterol levels.

I mentioned the restaurant to a friend I e-mailed this morning, who wrote back saying it sounded good and asking if would I be ready to go back. You bet.

Richard Hesse

La Boulangerie: 15, rue des Panoyaux, 75020 Paris. Tel.: 01 43 58 45 45. Métro: Ménilmontant. Nearest Vélib stations: 137, bd Ménilmontant; 33 rue Duris. Closed Saturday lunchtime and all day Sunday and Monday. Fixed-price menus: €14 and €17 (lunch); €32 (dinner).

Reader Darcy writes: “For once I discovered a Paris restaurant before you did! I have eaten here at least once on each of my last four trips and it is one of my favorite restaurants in my favorite city. I hope that your review won’t make it impossible for me to get a reservation next month!”

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