This small néo-bistro located in an out-of-the-way neighbourhood in the 5th may have only opened in late December, but it’s already getting lots of press, and with good reason. The simple, modern dining room may not be much to look at, but the food more than compensates and the prices are unbeatable considering the quality and attention given to the food.
The night started on a low note. Our hard-to-get reservation at the counter overlooking the open kitchen was botched and we ended up in the dining room. A round of drinks and many apologies followed however and our disappointment vanished with the first course of the 35 € tasting menu, a delicious combination of creamy buffalo mozzarella, shavings of black truffles and a fragrant asparagus coulis.
The next course was just as good with delicate shredded crab, “petites legumes”, and a hint of tart green apple and lime.
The third course was perfectly cooked roasted merlu (hake) served with celeri rave and a delicate sauce scented with orange zest.
Next came chicken poached in a ginger infused kombu broth, probably my least favourite of the night, but still good.
The counter seats finally vacated and we had coffee at the bar and got the chance to talk to the charming chef who offered limoncellos as he finished up for the night. He told us about his stint at Le Bernadin in New York and generously showed off many of the products he uses each night.
This is definitely a restaurant I would return to and quick, especially knowing that once word gets out in the mainstream Anglo press, this bargain gastro bistro could soon become a very hard reservation to come by.
15, rue des Fossés-Saint-Marcel
01 43 31 86 48
Métro: Les Gobelins / Saint-Marcel
Lunch: Plat du Jour: 11 €, Plat, wine and coffee: 14 €; Plat, dessert: 14 €; à la carte: 35-45 € for 3 courses
Dinner: 5 course tasting menu: 35 €; à la carte: 35-45 for 3 courses
Closed Sundays and Monday for lunch.
See it on the Map
L’Agrume in the press
It’s too bad that every neighbourhood doesn’t have a restaurant like Jean Marc Notelet’s recently-opened, pocket-sized bistro, Zinc Caius, which is just a few minutes walk from Etoile. The décor, like the food, is simple yet soignée with steel grey tones and a hip, industrial feeling.
Notelet, who once worked at the three-star Boyer Les Crayeres before opening the since closed “Le Troyon” in the 17th and the more grown-up Caius up the street, is known for his judicious use of unusual spices and original take on traditional French cuisine.
The food here is simple, yet very good. I am not really a boudin fanatic, but this house-made boudin noir Bernais with Bordier’s beurre au sel fumé was delicious, as was the warm salad of Puy lentils garnished with Lardo di Colonnata, walnuts and tarragon and the Piquillos peppers with creamy goat cheese, basil and yellow pepper coulis. Mains were equally good with a perfectly seared Simmental strip steak and hand-cut steak tartar served with crisp, fat polenta fries. Desserts didn’t disappoint either with a crème caramel, nage de rhubarb with fromage blanc ice cream and mint, and chantilly de semoule with Amarena cherries.
A lot has been written lately about the demise of French cooking and how it’s not all that easy to find exceptional cooking in France these days, but thankfully inexpensive neighbourhood bistros like this, with high-quality products and cooking at affordable prices, continue to pop up and prove the naysayers wrong.
Entrees: 7€-12 €
Desserts: 5€-8 €
11 rue d’Armaillé
Telephone: 01 44 09 05 10
See the map here
Open daily for lunch and dinner, except Sunday.