Les Enfants Rouges, a cozy little Marais bistro, takes its name from the food market next door, itself named not for any revolutionary connections, as one might think, but for an orphanage that once stood on the site (it closed in the 16th century) and whose inmates were dressed in red.
The restaurant, which has been through various permutations, was recently taken over by a young Japanese chef, Dai Shinozuka, who used to work at Yves Camdeborde’s Le Comptoir du Relais. We have lost count of the number of French restaurants in Paris with Japanese chefs (Abri, Noglu and Passage 53, to mention just a few), and so far it always seems to be a recommendation.
Les Enfants Rouges is no exception. The simple but pretty decor has been left unchanged, just brightened up a bit. It features a small wooden bar in the entryway, a white-painted dining room with touches of red trim, a couple of abstract paintings, wooden tables and a bit of exposed stone wall. The tables are placed rather too close together, however, as my tall dining companion and I soon discovered. We had to sit sideways to avoid bumping our chairs against those of the people behind us or bumping knees under the table.
The charming waitress (the chef’s wife, Tomoko) and her male helper took good care of us. We started off with a complimentary appetizer of lentil soup with a slightly smoky
flavor, topped with chives. One of the first courses was a fine, delicate cold cream of
lobster soup with a remoulade of crab, avocado and chives. The other was a soft boiled egg served on a tasty bed of chanterelles cooked
with onions and pine nuts and topped with parsley foam.
When it came time for our main courses to arrive, something went wrong in the kitchen. Fortunately, my friend and I had decided to share each dish, so it wasn’t too much of a disaster when the partridge (an extra €8 added to the €35 fixed-price menu) arrived long before the veal. We both tucked into the generous serving of perfectly cooked partridge,
which came with a purée of celeriac, a paste of the bird’s liver spread on toast and what seemed to be the same delicious preparation of wild mushrooms served with the starter.
The other main course finally arrived and was perfectly delightful: succulent, tender,
flavorful breast of veal, served once again with – you guessed it – wild mushrooms.
The waitress brought us the dessert menu and then came and took it away again, explaining that the chef was preparing something special to make up for the late delivery of the veal. It turned out that he was cooking up an extra dish of sweetbreads for us, news that didn’t
exactly thrill us since we were already quite full, but they were extremely delicious. We guessed that few people had ordered them that evening, since they cost €12 above the menu price.
Even fuller now, we decided to share only one dessert: tapioca pudding with fig jam. It
called up unpleasant memories of schooldays for my British friend, but even he had to admit that it was divine.
Verdict: all was not perfect, but Les Enfants Rouges still goes on the list of favorites for the quality of the food, the charm of the setting and the amiability of the staff. And it’s open on Sunday!
Note: Les Enfants Rouge has been named one of Paris’s 15 Best Restaurants of 2013 by FigaroScope.Favorite