The revival of the previously nondescript streets south of the Canal St. Martin continues apace. Just a month or so ago another new restaurant replaced a pizzeria behind the facade of a rustic-looking building at the corner of Rue Lucien Sampaix. The pretty interior is also rather rustic, with lots of wood: bar, tables, chairs, spiral staircase and exposed beams.
Named after the street it is located on, Les Vinaigriers is run by a charming young couple who serve up beautifully presented dishes made with quality ingredients. We went at lunchtime, when a fixed-price menu offers two courses for €19.
I ordered from the regular menu instead and started with the burrata with tangerine and pomegranate, a combination that sounded intriguing. It didn’t really work, however, even though all of the ingredients were of excellent quality. The creamy mozzarella and acidic fruit clashed instead of enhancing each other. My
lunch partner went for the small plate of charcuteries, with four different varieties, all of them mouthwateringly good.
He stuck to the lunch menu and next had the orecchiette with cockles, dried tomatoes and citrus zest, breaking the Ellison rule: never order pasta in a French restaurant. I thought it
was quite tasty and only a tad overcooked, but he was unimpressed. I opted for the pollock with vegetables, Parmesan “crumble” and tapenade sauce. The best thing about it was its presentation: the colorful winter vegetables were decorated with slices of pink-and-white radish formed into little cone-shaped bowls holding pools of bright green herb sauce and sprinkled with fresh herbs. This pretty dish tasted fine, with a little extra pizzazz added by the crouton-like Parmesan crumble.
We pressed on to dessert even though the choices were not very original – molten chocolate cake and crème caramel – and we were not sorry we did. I didn’t mean to, but I
totally demolished the delicious chocolate cake, with its nice counterpoint of citrus caramel sauce and orange-peel powder. My friend’s crème caramel was also excellent and somehow repeatedly acted as a magnet for my spoon.
Les Vinaigriers has a lot going for it. It’s friendly, welcoming and comfortable, and the food is above average. My only reservation is that it lacked that extra spark of originality that would make it worth crossing town for. If you live in the neighborhood or happen to be there, however, you can be sure of having an enjoyable meal.Favorite