Le Cercle Rouge

Mother-Daughter Bistros: Follow the Red Line

January 27, 2014By Heidi EllisonRestaurants
Paris Update Le Cercle Rouge restaurant
This cozy bistro was named after a film starring Alain Delon.

Many years ago, Parisian wine lovers followed the charming Dany Bertin-Denis, a former investment banker, from her little wine bar/bistro Le Moulin à Vins in Montmartre, where many boisterous evenings were spent singing chansons françaises to the tune of an accordion, to a new location, Les Enfants Rouges, in the Marais. When Dany retired, her daughter Emanuelle took over and continued to run the business in the same convivial spirit. Now Les Enfants Rouges belongs to a Japanese chef, and Emanuelle has moved across town to another bistro with “red” connotations: Le Cercle Rouge.

I went there for lunch the other day with a fellow restaurant reviewer. The restaurant is reminiscent of Les Enfants Rouges: a pretty bistro with red banquettes and a small bar on which a red meat slicer was in near-constant action, slicing up charcuterie for the crowd of hungry lunchers. The only added decoration was a huge poster of the eponymous French film Le Cercle Rouge (1970), directed by Jean-Pierre Melville and starring Alain Delon.

I decided to skip the €17, two-course fixed-price lunch menu and chose from the main menu. Both offer traditional bistro dishes with a twist.

My starter was an update of one of my favorites, œufs meurettes, poached eggs in a

Paris Update Le Cercle Rouge restaurant oeufs meurette

rich red-wine sauce. This version included rather a lot of too-sweet red onions and matchstick lardons. It was tasty, but I prefer a more traditional interpretation of this comforting dish. My friend was in heaven with

Paris Update Le Cercle Rouge restaurant foie gras

his pan-fried foie gras served with mango, a truly delicious combination I hadn’t encountered before.

For the main course, I had a generous helping of veal tenderloin served with celery purée and a radicchio salad. The two big chunks of tender, flavorful veal came with a delectable

Paris Update Le Cercle Rouge restaurant veal

truffle-oil-enhanced celery purée and gravy. High quality, high pleasure.

My friend had the brandade, a mashed-potato-and-fish dish usually made with salt cod but

Paris Update Le Cercle Rouge restaurant brandade

here prepared with pollock, jazzed up with fennel seeds and topped with salad. This is not my favorite dish, but I found it tasty enough and less salty than it would have been with salt cod.

We shared a light, delightful dessert: “cannelloni” of exotic fruits. Thin slices of

Paris Update Le Cercle Rouge restaurant dessert

mango replaced the pasta and were wrapped around a lovely fruit salad of kiwi, pineapple and passion fruit, with no sugar or other sweetener added.

When we ordered coffee, we were told by the friendly waitress that the coffee machine had broken down. Luckily, Dany dropped in just then and saved the day by rushing to her daughter’s nearby apartment and bringing back her espresso maker.

After a bit of gossip with Dany about the habitués of her first wine bar in Montmartre and a chat with chef Hervé O’Neill (who has worked in the kitchens of three other fine Paris bistros, L’Avant Gout, L’Ebauchoir and Au Bascou), we left to continue our labors, warmed by a generous, well-made meal and the homey ambience of Le Cercle Rouge.


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