Pros: Eager-to-please staff; fresh, well-sourced, well-prepared food
Cons: Not much in the way of decor
Things are looking up on the canal-side culinary front. New boutiques, cafés and restaurants are springing up nearly every day in the wildly popular (especially with sun-seeking young picnickers) and quickly gentrifying Canal Saint Martin neighborhood, but foodies are a bit short-changed by the restaurant selection. You can always be sure of getting something good to eat at Le Verre Volé, the Hôtel du Nord and Le Poisson Rouge, but one of our former favorites, Garance, is no closed, and Le Sporting has been transformed into an “Asian” restaurant.
Luckily, there is a new arrival on the scene, Les Enfants Perdus, where an eager-to-please crew of servers takes good care of diners, who are seated in a succession of three rooms with sparse decoration that includes lots of colorful cushions and a crumbling exposed stone wall in the glass-ceiling back room, where the open kitchen is partially hidden by a folding screen.
A chalkboard on the folding screen announces that “all our meat was born, bred and slaughtered in France… and eaten at Les Enfants Perdus” (the name, meaning “The Lost Children,” refers to soldiers on dangerous missions – not exactly encouraging to passersby thinking of entering for a bite to eat). The menu further notes where the salt and pepper come from (respectively, Guérande and Kampot, Cambodia) and the provenance and “red label” credentials of the Charolais beef and veal, and the pork from the Auvergne.
We were duly impressed on our first visit by the freshness of the food and the care and creativity that goes into cooking it. One starter was a verrine (glass) containing a layer of brousse (a creamy cheese from near Marseille) topped with a layer of spicy tomato sauce, a poached egg and asparagus. The other was a bowl of crab ravioli swimming in one of the brilliantly creamy yet light sauces the chef seems to specialize in. The crab was rather overwhelmed, but there was something tantalizingly sensuous about the big, silky ravioli in a shellfish-infused sauce with a sparing touch of garlic.
Unusually for a restaurant in Paris – where a vegetable is a rare sight – a main course of a tender and tasty (French-born, -bred and -slaughtered) veal chop was smothered in fresh, perfectly cooked green beans and peas – delightful and refreshing. My friend ordered the cassolette of calamari, which came in a copper pot so hot that its handle burned her hand. The calamari, sparked with Thai lemongrass, sat atop a lovely squid-ink risotto.
The cream of pumpkin soup I ordered as a starter on a return visit was anything but hot, but I forgave the kitchen staff (who reheated it) because it, too, showed the chef’s light touch with anything creamy. The same talent was evident in the carrot purée, with its perfect texture and lovely sweet-but-not-too-sweet, nutty flavor. It was served with a main course of dorade (sea bream), crispy on the outside and moist inside, with a mushroom sauce that also managed to be creamy yet light. The crusty baguette was perfection.
We haven’t yet tried the desserts, but we will next time (and there will be a next time). They sound intriguing, especially to those of us who are getting fed up with the same-old (moelleux au chocolat, pannacotta, three-flavored crème brûlée, etc. ) on every Paris menu. Among other things, Les Enfants Perdus offers a chocolate tart cooked on the spot and served with coconut sorbet and “pain des enfants perdus.”
While the food was priced at the going rate for this type of restaurant (i.e., not so cheap), the extensive wine list included many interesting bottles at surprisingly reasonable prices. We tried a wonderfully mellow Pinot Noir from Antonin Rodet.
Les Enfants Perdus: 9, rue des Récollets, 75010 Paris. Tel.: 01 81 29 48 26. Open daily for lunch (brunch on Sunday) and dinner. A la carte: around €36*. Fixed-price lunch menu (two courses and coffee): €15. www.les-enfants-perdus.com
* three courses, not including wine
© 2009 Paris Update
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