Wadja is a feel-good bistro par excellence. I have been going to this small restaurant – whose unusual name can apparently be traced back to the misspelled name of a Polish couple who once owned it – on and off for years. Each time, I am surprised by how much I like this place, located on a quiet Montparnasse side street, with its simple, unchanging decor: zinc bar, red banquettes, wooden furnishings and a few Art Deco details.
The food is pretty much the direct opposite of the wonderful Mâche, reviewed here last week. The chef at Mâche traffics in exotic ingredients and combinations, with amazing results, while the chef at Wadja produces the classics of everyday French cuisine and does them extremely well. I love both.
Amusingly, Wadja bills itself on its website as a “semi-gourmet” restaurant – I’d say that’s just about right – with a “simple and warm” atmosphere, which is exactly right. The blackboard menu offered a three-course prix-fixe for €36 and a few à la carte choices. The two easygoing and attentive servers told us there was no problem mixing and matching them.
Of the six of us, four ordered a starter of Borlotti bean hummus, a tasty variation on the usual chickpea version, topped with a lovely salad of al dente vegetables.
For the main course, one brave soul (for an American visitor), ordered the knife-cut steak tartare, which was properly prepared at the table in a veritable performance by one of the servers, who added all kinds of good stuff for texture and flavor: salt and pepper, mustard, a raw egg, olive oil, capers, pickles, house-made ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce. It was pronounced delicious.
The one vegetarian in the group was delighted with a colorful and flavourful plate of veggies of all sorts, along with mushrooms, grains and fresh herbs, while the rest of us chose the succulent pork loin, accompanied by some of those luscious mushrooms, grains and veggies.
The desserts – blancmange with confit strawberries and fresh verbena leaves, apple clafoutis, and panna cotta with apricots and almonds – were in the same vein: simple but very good, made with well-sourced, seasonal products.
We ate and drank very well, but, more importantly, we had a great time and left the restaurant laughing and happy – isn’t that the way it should always be?Favorite