In Paris, as you probably already know, if you want to eat at a good restaurant, you can’t expect to reserve at the last minute or just pop in unreserved. A case in point: on Wednesday of last week, I was looking to book for two people for the following evening. I tried eight different places on my list of want-to-try restaurants. No room at the inns. Finally, I was saved by Le Jourdain.
Le Jourdain is a tiny, crowded, cozy little place with a simple decor (bar, wooden tables and chairs, one designer light fixture), rather far from the nearest Métro stop but worth the five-minute walk through the lively, restaurant- and café-filled neighborhood between Belleville and Menilmontant.
Somehow, the close-set tables are not as annoying here as they are in some places, perhaps because of the friendly ambiance. And, even though the restaurant was full, I wasn’t bothered by excessive noise levels.
In the evening, Le Jourdain serves sharable small plates. Our server recommended that we have two each, which turned out to be just right.
We started out with a simple but delicious pâté de champagne, zhooshed up with pickled red onions and greened with mesclun.
Then came a dish of wonderfully gooey eggplant treated Asian-style with soy sauce and mirin (rice wine), topped with coriander and crunchy bits of fried onion. I loved it, but my friend admitted to being averse to the texture of eggplant.
He was thrilled, however, with the dish of grilled leeks with an outstandingly good almond and basil pesto, topped with plenty of high-quality feta cheese.
Our third choice was the trout gravlax with ponzu, paper-thin slices of radish and dill. Comme il faut.
The server alerted us that the desserts made by chef Célia Nguyen (formerly of Chateaubriand) were not to be missed, and once again he was right. I absolutely adored the unctuous chocolate crème caramel flavored with tonka bean, something like a chocolate pudding but smoother, classier and more satisfying.
With its intense citrusy taste, the tender lemon cake with roasted figs and orange-blossom-flavored cream came in a close second in the bake-off.
Le Jourdain is one of those bistros you would like to have in your neighborhood so that you could pop in for a sure-to-be-good meal at a reasonable price – as long as you booked at least one day ahead, that is.Favorite