Le Mordant stands out with its great interior design.
The bistronomy movement has given Paris many great little restaurants serving creative, carefully sourced food at reasonable prices, but it has done little to make a mark on the design scene. Most of new bistros are content to cosmetically spiff up the interior of the restaurant or café they have taken over and add a few fancy light fixtures. Here, however, is an exception to the rule: Le Mordant.
If first impressions count, Le Mordant makes a great first impression. Just inside the door of the spacious restaurant – located on a nondescript but obviously up-and-coming street (after you leave, check out the high-class bakery, Monsieur Fernand, on the corner) near the wonderful Saint Quentin food market and the Gare du Nord – are a couple of inviting dark-blue sofas with lots of plump cushions and two pretty elongated-oval coffee tables where you can just picture yourself having an apéritif before dinner.
The walls have been scraped down to the original brick and stone. Nothing unusual there; what is unusual is the creative use of wood by architect Lucie Lepage-Depreux of the agency Mur.Mur to create angles and faceted projections, shaping the space into a handsome modern cave. The wood is echoed on the ceiling as well, in the form of box-shaped light fixtures. Off to the side, a small private dining room offers a pleasing contrast to the main room’s wood, brick and stone, with its black
wallpaper covered with big, bold white blossoms.
The restaurant’s overall effect is impressive yet cozy, and, wonderfully, the noise levels are low, perhaps thanks to all that wood and the cushioned banquettes.
As for the food, I can’t say that I was bowled over by its stunning originality, but I can say that I was extremely pleased by its quality and flavor. When I arrived, my friends were nibbling away at what were some of the best French fries I have tasted in a long while, crispy and perfectly salted.
I started with an extremely creamy burrata
served with an excellent earthy green olive oil, even earthier shiitake mushrooms and a few pieces of courge (squash). While each ingredient was top notch, there was no linking element to allow them to speak to each other or create a little excitement.
One of my friends ordered the cabbage stuffed
with veal for her main course and found it, too, a bit bland, although she enjoyed it. Her husband was in heaven with his “Daddy Roger”
pork ribs, made with a barbecue sauce whose recipe the restaurant’s owner, Lucas Blanchy, stole (with permission) from his American brother-in-law in Portland, Oregon (eventually, Blanchy hopes to bring the same brother-in-law to Paris to set up a smoker oven in the street outside; ribs are the next big American thing in Paris after the burger). They came with a generous serving of buttery mashed potatoes.
I had the pot au feu, a classic French dish, but in this case made with magret de canard (duck breast) and noodles rather than the usual beef and potatoes. I found it good if a bit dull at
first, but it grew on me, and I found myself spooning up all of the subtle broth. I must say, however, that I missed the traditional leeks, gros sel and cornichons that are usually part of this dish.
The wine, a 2013 Costières de Nîmes, Domaine de la Patience’s Nemausa, testified to the talents of Blanchy, a sommelier by training, in choosing fine quaffs.
Our desserts were a rich pain perdu (French
toast) with salted-butter caramel sauce, and a Guayaquil chocolate tart. Once again, both were very good but lacked that extra spark of originality.
I hope this review doesn’t sound negative, because I actually love this place. All it needs is a tiny extra bit of creativity in the kitchen to make it perfect. I plan to go back soon for the “Sunday roast” served on the first Sunday of every month for expatriate Brits who miss that time-honored tradition.
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