Good news! The famous Régalade restaurant, located far out in the 14th arrondissement and previously owned by megastar chef Yves Camdeborde before being taken over in style by Bruno Doucet, has now opened an annex in central Paris.
More good news: the atmosphere is quite different from that of the original, where diners are jammed together at tiny tables. The new branch is light and airy, with a stripped-down bistro decor, and talking to your fellow diners doesn’t involve shouting or being forced to listen to your neighbor’s conversation.
Just after we sat down, we were treated a generous terrine de foie de volaille (chicken liver pâté) served with crunchy cornichons. After digging into this fine example of the genre with much gusto, we realized that if we kept it up, we would have a hard time getting through our meal, since the Régalade is not known as a temple of nouvelle cuisine. The €33 fixed-priced menu (same price for lunch and dinner) includes dessert, and it would be a shame to miss out on it (although as we all know, sweets go into a different stomach, which always has a little room even when you’re stuffed).
It was hard to make up our minds as everything on the menu seemed to be calling out, “Eat me, I’m delicious.” After much hesitating and NATO-style negotiations with my companions – “If I take the tartelette de thon, will you sign this agreement saying you’ll share your pressé de lapin et salade aux truffes d’été” – I decided to start with the aforementioned tuna tart, or, as it is described on the menu at typical length, fine tartelette feuilletée de thon rouge juste raidi, oignons nouveaux confits aux olives noires (lightly seared red tuna tartlet with slow-cooked baby onions and black olives). It was okay, but reading its description was more exciting than actually eating it.
My main course, risotto du moment au parmesan, suprême de volaille jaune des Landes rôti sur la peau tout doucement (risotto of the day with parmesan, breast of chicken slowly roasted in its skin), was more chicken breast than risotto, but the chicken had the added bonus of being liberally stuffed with foie gras, always a nice surprise. The creamy risotto, dotted with fresh peas and topped with two spears of green asparagus, was perfectly cooked (not always the case in restaurants) and thoroughly enjoyable.
For dessert, I ordered fraicheur de rhubarbe et crémeux mascarpone aux fraises gariguette, émietté de sablé Breton (rhubarb compote, creamy mascarpone, gariguette strawberries, crumbled Breton shortbread), which was lovely, fresh and slightly tangy.
My friends were also pleased with their dishes, which we all shared as per our preordering agreement, although the poitrine de cochon was far too salty, and the summer truffles on the salad accompanying the fine lapin pressé (which added €6 to the price of the menu), were perfectly tasteless, and even more sadly, odorless.
The wine list contains all the information you need and more, as it not only gives you the name of the producer, the vintage and the grape varieties, but also a short description of the wine itself: fruity, spicy, friendly, tannic, elegant, etc. Our €25 bottle of Reuilly was just right for lunch: crisp and lively.
One thing we felt was missing was a more “bistro-like” atmosphere: the waitress might at least have cracked a smile when she arrived with the poitrine de cochon and asked, “Who’s the pig?” All three waitresses were efficient but quite uninterested in us or the food and wine they were serving. One of my companions referred to one of them as “the prison guard,” perhaps unfairly, since she did warm up a bit later. There was also a slight feeling of letdown – the food was very good but didn’t provide that exciting extra something you felt you were getting at the original Régalade far out in the 14th arrondissement.
La Régalade Saint Honoré: 123, rue de Saint Honoré, 75001 Paris. Métro: Louvre Rivoli. Nearst Vélib station: Temple de l’Oratoire. Tel.: 01 42 21 92 40. Open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner.
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