The food at 122 is impeccably prepared. Above: snails in “angel hair” batter.
Pros: Great food, well-chosen wines; pleasant, attentive service
Cons: Decor a bit Spartan for my taste.
Walking into 122, a memory resurfaced of a journalist’s comment about a visit to R.D. Laing’s “anti-psychiatry” unit in the early Sixties: you couldn’t tell the patients from the caregivers. I was greeted by two people – husband and wife? – who had neither the look nor the feel of restaurant owners. It was almost as if I were being invited into their home. That says a lot about the easygoing, unpretentious house style, which, given the high concentration of government ministries (and hence, ministry wonks) in the area, is rather unexpected.
The easygoingness stops when it comes to the food, though. Chef Alban Drevet turns out some highly original, impeccably presented dishes that you don’t need to take out a loan for and that tickle the taste buds and leave no regrets – quite the opposite.
The award for originality goes to the snails in “angel hair” with a warm parsley emulsion – pretty, bite-sized morsels in a sort of batter, boosted by the chef’s own take on the traditional Burgundy butter/garlic/parsley accompaniment. Brilliant. My risotto with ham and baby chanterelles, if less original, was equally perfect, especially as it was complemented by a self-assured underpinning of smoky flavors and Parmesan.
The pig’s foot served next had come a long way from the animal it had once been attached to. A great deal of the chef’s expertise had gone into taking it apart and adding ceps and foie gras; the result was otherworldly. More memories, this time from childhood, were triggered by the grosses frites de pommes de terre au romarin. These were not French fries, but fat, shaped blocks of flash-fried mashed potatoes with a hint of herbs and perhaps cabbage in the background – more like the “bubble and squeak” fry-up made from Sunday’s leftovers of mash and boiled cabbage on the other side of the Channel than anything else. But light and lip-smacking, crisp outside and unctuous inside.
This being lunch, with the prospect of work afterward, I took the light option for my main course of delicate rolls of whiting “boudin” with prawns sitting on a bed of celery mousse, with a dash of walnut oil. I was not disappointed here, either.
The Loire Valley wine, attractively priced at around €25, got the royal treatment of being carafed. We drank it to the last drop.
No dessert for us. And none of the expected crowds of ministry personnel in the restaurant. Go now, and take your friends.
Le 122: 122, rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris. Tel.: 01 45 56 07 42. Métro: Solferino. Nearest Vélib station: 19, rue Casimir Perrier. Open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner, except Thursday evenings, when only snacks and pre-dinner drinks are served. Fixed-price menus: €16.50 (lunch only), €27.50 and €35. www.le122.fr
Reader Shelley Keane writes: “Some feedback on 122 rue de Grenelle: we ate there in January and loved it. The service was excellent, the food was serious, well thought out and balanced. The wine list, although small, was well chosen. We recommended it to friends who were also visiting Paris at the same time and they loved it too. I enjoy reading your recommendations and take note of them, not that I get to Paris as much as I would like.”
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