A new wave of young chefs is creating a renaissance on the Parisian dining scene, some 15-20 years after the first wave of bistronome chefs – Yves Camdeborde, now at Le Comptoir, for example, and Eric Fréchon before he went three-star at the Hôtel Bristol (many of them trained and spun off by the great Christian Constant) – transformed the city’s dining landscape with unassuming little bistros serving great, creative dishes made with quality ingredients at lowish prices. Many of them are still around, but the younger generation is now following in their footsteps and opening one new bistro after another: Bertrand Grébaut at Septime, James Henry at Au Passage, Romain Tischenko at Le Galopin and so on.
The other night we tested another one that has been receiving rave reviews, Le Pantruche, with an old-fashioned bistro decor, zinc bar, wooden tables and chairs, lots of mirrors and a few attractive modern touches like the round brushed-stainless-steel hanging lamps lined in red. Working the dining room were two young men who rather resembled each other. We soon learned to tell them apart, however: one was cheerful, helpful and friendly, the other a bit sour-faced.
With a lot of squinting at the faraway blackboard menu, we managed to decipher the offerings on the €32 set menu and make our choices. Liz started with the stunningly good oyster tartare with watercress bouillon, soy and wasabi. She lingered long over it, trying to decipher every element that contributed to the bright, fresh, briny flavors of the emerald green dish. She detected a few that weren’t listed on the menu: a little bit of very finely chopped shallot, and tiny beads that exploded in the mouth like caviar (they turned out to be flying-fish roe). For me, this dish was the star of the meal and attested to the chef’s good taste and top talent.
My starter was also fabulous, but in an entirely different register: cream of Jerusalem artichoke soup with bits of lard (bacon) and a scoop of truffle-infused whipped cream on top, served with a side of crispy, non-greasy and surprisingly delicious Jerusalem-artichoke chips. Rich, warm and satisfying.
We were well set up for the main courses. Liz’s generous, flavorful serving of filet of duckling from Doubes was covered with delicate, crunchy sweet-spicy crust and served with amazingly good boule d’or turnips in a rich, piquant, slightly sweet sauce. My tender suckling pig came in a sauce with little cubes of chestnuts, pear and celeriac, and caramelized pear on the side – pure comfort food. Roger Mézy’s 2009 Pic Saint Loup “Le Gamin” (€30) was a dream with both of these dishes.
Dessert was a Grand Marnier soufflé for me – perfectly puffed and browned, but a little too eggy for my taste, with not quite enough Grand Marnier flavor – while Liz hit the jackpot with a pool of dark-chocolate ganache topped with a dark-chocolate praline cookie and a scoop of pain perdu ice cream.
The smiley waiter turned out to be Edouard Bobin, co-owner of the restaurant with the youthful chef, Franck Baranger, who turns out to have been trained by – Christian Constant, a chef who deserves his name.
Speaking of names, “pantruche” is a 19th-century nickname for Paris.Favorite