A typical French bistro with a Japanese chef and an adorable staff.
Traditional French cuisine with a Japanese twist? That’s what you might expect if you knew that the chef beavering away in his tiny kitchen was Japanese. If you were not aware of that fact, however, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was just one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of ordinary-Joe bistros turning out decent food at affordable prices in the capital. Not for chef Hide Kobayashi any of those often brilliantly used Eastern-delight ingredients that are so fashionable with today’s bright new French chefs.
Take the veal chop “cooked in salted butter.” It is exactly that and nothing more. The huge hunk of meat fills the dinner plate all by itself. The helping of mashed potato is served on the side, as there’s no room for it elsewhere. Excellent meat it was, too, although cooked well beyond the “rosé” stage we had ordered. This is the house’s signature dish and could be seen on most of the dozen or so tables in this smallish, unassuming space.
Starters were a seasonal fricassee of creamed chanterelle mushrooms with truffle juice, sitting on top of a perfectly-cooked poached egg, and a raviole with a crawfish stuffing and lemony sauce. Both of these were fine, if not particularly inventive.
My main dish of saffron risotto with monkfish and a cream of black-olive tapenade was not a winner, mainly because the risotto had been cooked to a bland porridge. I would have had a hard time identifying it as rice, in fact, if the menu hadn’t said so. The two chunks of monkfish were fine, but the tapenade had a tendency to overwhelm everything in its path.
The chocolate millefeuille with chocolate ice-cream and chocolate mousse that we shared looked and tasted good – no carping there.
What is really pleasant at Hide (it’s pronounced in two syllables) is the down-home atmosphere – unexpected in a place so close to the Arc de Triomphe. The two front-of-house staff were absolutely charming and clearly knew many of the diners from long acquaintance. I felt a definite sense of privilege at being included in the glow. This is one of those places where you can turn up alone, feeling miserable after a grindingly dull day at the coal face and be very well-looked after as you bathe in the warmth of genuine human kindness.
Another very diner-friendly practice here is that all the wines are served by the glass, the quart (25 cl), the demi (50 cl) or the bottle, making it very easy to mix and match as you go through the meal. We shared a bottle of summer-fresh Morgon Vieilles Vignes (which could have been a fraction cooler) and washed down our coffee with a quart of a very creditable Loupiac dessert wine.
There’s absolutely no gastronomic reason on earth why you should beat a path to Hide’s door, but you wouldn’t be short-changed if you did, especially if you needed your faith in human nature and the fundamental niceness of folk to be restored or further confirmed.
Le Hide/Koba’s Bistro: 10, rue du Général Lanrezac, 75017 Paris. Tel : 01 45 74 15 81. Métro: Etoile. Nearest Vélib stations: 8, av. Carnot; 19 av. MacMahon. Open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner only. Closed Sunday. Fixed-price menus: €22 (two courses), €29 (three courses). www.lehide.fr
© 2009 Paris Update
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