No Mystery for Maigret
|The homey atmosphere is complemented by the friendly service and good cooking.|
I’m a trusting soul. At the prompting of a friend who had seen it warmly recommended in a free publication, I recently dragged my usual companion to Chez Oscar near Bastille, but I shall not be talking about it here today or ever. That saved my informant, who had been casting around for a place to play Ladies who Lunch, from having a meal she might have regretted. She did, however, come back with a glowing report of her Plan B lunch at Les Côtelettes, also near Bastille, but on a different planet from the joint aforementioned.
After a boozy dinner at Les Côtelettes with two friends the other night, we had a warm chat with the crew who about six months ago took over L’Impasse, once a favourite haunt of Georges Simenon and his unflappable Inspector Maigret (a commemorative plaque hangs over his favorite table in the corner). The name “Impasse” probably tickled him, as his domestic tragedies often forensically detailed dead-end existences. But in these economically challenged times, something a bit more uplifting was called for, and so the restaurant was renamed Les Côtelettes (meat chops), which has a feisty, comfort-food ring to it, a rallying call to trenchermen (and women).
The new team does a very good job, I must say, which is not surprising when it turns out that they had all worked together at Au Bascou in its last avatar but two. They pay the same attention to quality ingredients and have a shortish, well chosen wine list, skewed toward the new generations – contrarians like Eric Pfifferling (whose Domaine de Anglore is classed as an anonymous Vin de Table) and Jean François Nicq. And they seem to have a genuine desire to give you a good time.
One of my companions had the beautifully garlicky pan-fried shrimp from Charentes, and I got to suck the heads. The melting mackerel fillets with white wine were lightly marinated, almost raw and not oily at all. And a generous serving of rabbit terrine came with crunchy dill pickles. Although very good, this came off rather badly in comparison with the other starters – perhaps some vinegary chutney or caramelized onion might have jazzed it up. It needed a bit more bite.
Wild sea bass with a flavorful risotto, duck breast and roast leg of lamb followed: all of them fresh and perfectly cooked and presented without the slightest pretense.
We were all in the mood for dessert. The fondant au chocolat was as it should always be, and the délice of autumn fruits a refreshing display of ripeness and zing. The croustillant was a sublime mess of fresh raspberries and cream hiding beneath a nougatine wafer.
All that put us in the mood for digestifs (Calvados and Armagnac), hence the “warm” bonding with the chef and two owner-servers afterward…
Les Côtelettes doesn’t seem to have attracted a great deal of attention yet: They aren’t doing anything trendy, there’s no sturm und drang (the noise levels are very acceptable), and it offers an elegant sufficiency of space. It is an object lesson, in fact, in how to do contemporary classic Paris bistro food at affordable prices. There is no mystery about it.
Les Côtelettes: 4, impasse Guéménée, 75004 Paris. Tel.: 01 42 72 08 45. Métro: Saint Paul or Bastille. Nearest Vélib’ stations: 11, rue de la Bastille, 105-109 Terre Plein Saint Paul. Open Tuesday-Friday for lunch and dinner; Saturday for dinner only. A la carte: around €35. Fixed-price lunch menu (two dishes): €15. www.lescotelettes.com
* three courses, not including wine
© 2008 Paris Update
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