Le Bel Ordinaire is a rarity in France: a restaurant/shop funded by crowdsourcing. A goodly amount must have been raised to finance this handsome restaurant/fine grocery with a long wooden table running down the center and an open kitchen in the back.
Le Bel Ordinaire has a laid-back feel to it. Customers are greeted by the charming owners, Cyrille Rosetto (friendly, with a sense of humor) and Sébastien Demorand (Old World charm – he’s a hand-kisser – and perfect English). The latter may look familiar as the once-upon-a-time presenter on the French version of “MasterChef” and at many foodie events in Paris.
Since just about everything served at the table is made from ingredients already found in the store, I can vouch for the quality of the products on the shelves.
The menu is a bit confusing. Dishes are listed under the headings vert (veg), mer (fish), chair (meat), desserts, and en cas (snacks). You can mix them up as you wish, but basically they are all small plates.
We started with purple asparagus, a single large stalk, with an unusual and delicious accompaniment: a confit egg yolk with soy brine. On the other side was a lemony mousse that was like a light-as-air hollandaise sauce.
Our other “starter” was a cauliflower salad “en deux textures.” The two textures consisted of a lemony cream topped with finely chopped cauliflower mixed with fresh herbs. Delightfully light and refreshing.
Then we sampled the duck hearts with yakiniku (Asian barbecue) sauce on a skewer: rich, meaty, mildly flavored and cooked nice and rare. It was served with an excellent red cabbage salad.
The pasta a la stracciatella (a type of buffalo cheese) was slightly less successful. The pasta itself was slightly overcooked and, while the bits of confit tomato and blobs of cheese tasted great, the latter did not blend into the whole.
The wonderfully crusty dark bread was from the Panificia Bakery. Once again, as I did at Orties recently, I ate a lot of it to fill up, but was still hungry a few hours later.
We tried one dessert, a pastis Landais, a type of brioche with a heavier texture, more like a panettone, which was taken down from a shelf, opened up, sliced and served with a blob of jam. Not much work for the chef there, but it was quite tasty.
I sampled a glass of Anjou from Pithon-Paillé called Grololo (big tits), a play on the name of the grape it is made from, Grolleau. The label shows two naked young women with just that attribute. It was quite enjoyable in spite of its political incorrectness.
While the food was a treat and the prices reasonable (the most expensive dish on the menu was squid-ink risotto at €13), I have a few quibbles. While I liked that laid-back feel I mentioned, I felt it went a bit too far. Even though both owners and two servers were on the job, we still had rather long waits (not acceptable at lunchtime) and had trouble getting their attention. And this in spite of the fact that the long table was only about half full – luckily for us, since the chairs are placed so close together that private conversation would be impossible on a busy day.
Still, it’s a worthy enterprise, and I wish them success. Their second location is already in the works. Vive le crowdfunding!