Le Tintilou

May 3, 2011By Heidi EllisonArchive
le-tintilou, restaurant, paris

The decor of many colors is not to everyone’s taste.

Pros: Delightful, original cuisine; charming service; great wine pairings

Cons: Decor needs work

In many ways, Le Tintilou is still a work in progress – chef-owner Jean-François Renard took over a restaurant called L’Aiguière in Paris’s 11th arrondissement in mid-March, and as of late April he still hadn’t changed the sign to the restaurant’s new name – but the all-important elements of food and service are well established and remarkably good.

The first impressions were not auspicious. The friend I was meeting there couldn’t find the place because of the wrong name on the sign, and I detected a strong smell of mildew as I walked through the door. The friend turned up, however, and the smell seemed to be restricted to the threshold, so all was well, especially since we were greeted so pleasantly by the waitress and the young maître d’.

An amuse bouche of small pieces of toast and a spread made with fennel and curry – not an entirely successful combination, with the curry overwhelming the fennel – arrived quickly and kept us from starvation while we examined the menu, which offers two fixed-price choices: €35 for three courses or €58 for three courses with wine pairings. Four choices were available for each course.

My friend started with the white asparagus, which was cooked to perfection and served with a balsamic vinaigrette and strawberries, a fresh, sparkling combination.

I ordered the macaron 4 épices, rouget barbet, fruits de la passion, which sounded like something intriguing that could easily go wrong. Instead, it went very right: the sweet-and-spicy (so much more interesting than the omnipresent sweet-and-sour at Qui Plume la Lune last week) macaroon was cut in half and slathered with passion-fruit chutney to make a sandwich with a nice chunk of red mullet inside. Together, the contrasting strong flavors, tempered by the mild fish, created marvelous fireworks in the mouth. Delicious.

For her main course, my friend had scallops, again cooked to perfection, served with thin slices of chorizo, the perfect foil for the bland crustacean. She was also pleased with the little cast-iron pot of baby vegetables that came instead of mashed potatoes at her request.

I was more than pleased with my succulent, rare squab, which was surrounded on the plate by calamari – an unnecessary but enjoyable accompaniment – and served with spelt and flat green beans in a tasty sauce.

So far, so very good, and we were not let down by the desserts. My friend, a rhubarb lover, wondered where it was when she was given a plate with a small white dome on it. She found the rhubarb, cooked and sweetened just right, by cracking open the meringue crust. I had another taste sensation, the “caramalo”: a luscious apple tart with Royal Gala apples and melt-in-the-mouth short-crust pastry, topped with a caramel sauce made with salted butter and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Although we didn’t order the wine-pairing menu, we decided to order wine by the glass rather than a bottle and trusted the charming young maître d’/sommelier to choose for us. The most expensive of the offerings by the glass (five reds and five whites) was only €7. His suggestions hit exactly the right spot, especially a South African Shiraz with the squab and a sweet Gaillac with the apple tart, neither of which was on the list of wines by the glass but were offered to us anyway.

The meal wasn’t finished yet – the servers occasionally passed by with an extra little treat: tiny, crisp-and-tender madeleines fresh from the oven, and soft little marshmallows flavored with orange-blossom water.

My only small complaint about the meal was that the main course was served only seconds after we finished the first course, with no rest in between. And Le Tintilou’s decor of many bright colors is not to my taste, but that is a minor consideration.

We left the restaurant grinning with satisfaction, delighted to have found a good restaurant that hasn’t yet been discovered by the rest of the world. It will be soon.

Heidi Ellison

Le Tintilou: 37 bis, rue de Montreuil, 75011 Paris. Métro: Faidherbe-Chaligny. Tel.: 01 43 72 42 32. Open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner only. Closed Sunday. Fixed-price menus: €25 (“Bento,” lunch only, includes coffee), €35 (three courses), €58 (three courses with wine pairings).

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