I had heard high praise of Rillettes, a mom-and-pop restaurant in Paris’ ninth arrondissement, from two different friends, but it had been on my list for a while before I finally got there. When we arrived in this homey, cozy bistro with a provincial feel to it, Mom was rushed off her feet and not paying much attention to us. We finally managed to order some rillettes, a house specialty (no surprise there) as a starter, but she didn’t ask us what kind we wanted, even though the menu offers a choice of three: duck, goose, and pork. It came in a little glass, which did not look like enough for three people, but turned out to be quite sufficient. It was delicious, and
we guessed that it was duck, but when we asked her later, she said it was pork, “the best.”
The other house specialty, made by Pop in the kitchen, is called an “entrepan.” Described on the menu as a French version of the hamburger, it is a sort of hot sandwich made
with a gougère split in half. It sounded a bit gimmicky and I was skeptical, but I ordered one anyway. My initial reaction had been right: it was a messy concoction with too many ingredients thrown together, among them sliced beef, foie gras, ham, onion compote and red-pepper ketchup, not doing much justice to any of them. My friends did better by ordering
the lamb stew with spring vegetables from the short list of ordinary main courses.
The high point of the meal, besides the rillettes, was the desserts, a Fontainebleau (a mixture)
of fromage frais and whipped cream) served with chestnut cream and a truly rich and satisfying moelleux au chocolat (soft-centered
chocolate cake) made with Weiss chocolate.
When things calmed down a bit after the initial rush, Mom turned out to be a very kind and attentive mother figure indeed. She and her husband obviously care a great deal about the quality of the food and especially about the wine they serve. The wine list is presented in a photo album, with a full page for each of the carefully selected vintages, complete with a photo and description. When I asked for a glass of red wine, Madame took the time to discuss with me what type I preferred and was in the mood for. Since I was having beef, I opted for a 2004 L’Egregoire Bordeaux made by Bernard Magrez, which was rich, spicy and satisfying.
It was raining when we left on that first evening. Madame accompanied us to the door and kindly offered me an umbrella when I said I had forgotten mine. I declined, but was touched by this motherly concern for my welfare.
A return visit with a group of mostly French friends celebrating a birthday confirmed my first impressions of Rillettes: the service is adorable, but the food, while made with good products, is lacking in excitement and originality.Favorite