Le Maquis

Taming the Maquis

June 12, 2019By Heidi EllisonRestaurants
Le Maquis on Rue des Cloys in Paris’s 18th arrondissement.
Le Maquis restaurant on Rue des Cloys in Paris’s 18th arrondissement.

Not much is happening gastronomically out near the northern edge of Paris, although there are some cool places like the eco-friendly café/restaurant the Recyclerie. Now, however, a modest little bistro with equally modest prices and above-average food has opened. It’s called Le Maquis (not to be confused with another restaurant of the same name on Rue Caulaincourt), after an old nickname for the area when it was a wasteland inhabited by squatters, but the dilapidated sign outside still reads “Cave de la Villa.”

Inside this former punk bar, however, everything is fresh and pretty, with red banquettes, arches framing the mirror behind the bar and shelves bearing jars of preserves and antique coffee grinders.

The cooking is handled by Paul Boudier and Albert Touton, who once worked together in the kitchen of Iñaki Aizpitarte’s famed Châteaubriand.

The lunchtime menu the other day offered a couple of choices for each course, with all three going for only €18.

Lentil salad.
Lentil salad.

For me, the no-frills meal started with a very simple and tasty lentil salad with a nice vinegary sauce. Absolutely no effort was made to doll it up, which was a bit disappointing considering that I can easily make something similar (or even better) at home.

Cervelle de canut.
Cervelle de canut.

My friend enjoyed his cervelle de canut, which literally means “canut brains (“canut” was a derogatory name for a silk worker in Lyon), but is really just a mixture of fromage blanc, chives, shallots, salt and pepper, olive oil, and vinegar. In other words, it’s a poor silk worker’s version of a rich man’s lamb’s brains. Again, it was basic and tasty.

Mussels in white wine.
Mussels in white wine.

My main dish of mussels was a bit more complex, with a lovely, buttery white-wine sauce spiked with little hits of chili pepper. Instead of the usual fries, they were accompanied by excellent roasted potatoes with leeks.

Pork belly with green beans.
Pork belly with green beans.

The other main course was pork belly (seen everywhere lately). This one wasn’t as insanely fabulous as the one at L’Office, but it was very good and served with fresh green beans and spinach. The greenery is another trend I’ve noticed lately, and a happy one for those of us who have long regretted the near-absence of vegetables in French restaurants.

Grapefruit salad.
Grapefruit salad.
Chocolate cake.
Chocolate cake.

The desserts followed the general trend here, at least at lunchtime (as the prices rise in the evening, so, apparently, does the complexity of the dishes): simple but good. I had the grapefruit salad, which was just that, slightly sweetened grapefruit slices with a few threads of fresh mint. My friend had a plain chocolate cake, also quite good.

Although this sounds rather Spartan, the fine ingredients made everything highly palatable. We enjoyed a bottle of 2018 all-Gamay “vin de France” from Le Clos du Tue Bœuf {€26).

Like Padam Padam (in a different part of the 18th arrondissement), reviewed here last week, Le Maquis is a solid, better-than-average neighborhood bistro. I wouldn’t hesitate to return to if I were in the area, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to go there again.

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