Everyone seems to enjoy being at Le Bichat, even the staff.
A very un-Parisian restaurant recently opened in the slowly gentrifying area just north of the Canal Saint Martin. Le Bichat has no telephone, takes no reservations, has no table service and serves a limited selection of organic food that wouldn’t excite the taste buds of any discerning gourmet.
So why go there? For the bonhomie, low prices, happy and helpful staff and an overall good time, occasionally supplemented with live music.
When I arrived there the other evening, I ran into Carmela Uranga, performance artist extraordinaire, who lives in the neighborhood and introduced me to nearly everyone in the place, including the owner, Augustin Legrand, an actor and social activist best known for a brilliant coup de théâtre he staged in 2006, when just before Christmas a hundred bright-red tents inhabited by locals and homeless people suddenly popped up along the canal to draw attention to the need for more social housing.
The restaurant’s interior is bright and welcoming, with colorful paper light fixtures hanging from the ceiling, high wooden tables for diners, and a small mezzanine with a few tables.
The food, hearty and wholesome, consists of a starter at €3 – that night it was a soup made of pumpkin, carrots and leeks – followed by a
bowl of rice with raw and cooked vegetables, and a choice of meat, fish or more vegetables. My friend Helen and I, both confirmed meat eaters, chose pork and chicken. Unfortunately, the former was as flavorful “as blotting paper,” as Helen put it, and the chicken was seriously overcooked. For dessert, we had a “worthy”
(Helen again) buckwheat cake that was dry as dust and a dense chocolate cake that was actually rather tasty, though on the heavy side and not much to look at.
It’s really a shame that the food is so uninteresting. I see no reason why organic food can’t be creative and delicious, without the “worthiness” factor (anyone who has ever eaten at Greens in San Francisco knows that it is possible). Le Bichat could have been the perfect venue for that.
But, as I said before, it’s not about the food at Le Bichat; it’s about the rollicking, good-natured atmosphere. At the end of the evening, we were treated to a concert by singer Yvette and pianist Thea (check the Facebook page for future engagements). If food is your priority, however, eat first and stop by later for the music and a drink.
Click here to see a list of Paris Update’s favorite restaurants by arrondissement.
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