A Bistrot Fitting Our Fantasy Of Paris
It’s getting tougher all the time to find restaurants in Paris that fit this genre. It used to be the norm…classic bistrot decor, traditional, but creative cooking, professional wait staff providing friendly and perfect service.
Eva Lee, an American mediator by profession who lives in Tranquility, New Jersey (yes, such a place exists!), spends about one-quarter of her life in Paris, and does nothing but explore the city including seeking out great dining spots. Lucky for us, she will be writing a regular column called “Crème de la Crème” in our new online newsletter, French Insider, starting next month. She’s got a natural “nez” for the best affordable restaurants, and regularly provides me with great finds for the Insider Paris Guide for Good Value Restaurants.
This time was no different and I had the pleasure of joining her and friends to discover one of Paris’ little-known truly French bistrots…the kind we all imagine in our fantasies of Paris.
A Turn-of-the-Century Bistrot Over 80 Years Old
By Eva Lee
Au Petit Marguery, long known for game-in-season, is worth the trip to Gobelins.
Around the corner from McDonalds, we walk in under the red awning, past the long zinc bar to have our coats whisked away by a waiter in a white shirt and long black apron. Seated at a banquette, we are surrounded by soft peach walls, glazed Victorian light sconces, teal framed mirrors reflecting the ornate chandelier, white linen napery, weighty table silver and happy diners buzzing softly.
Concupiscent rolls beckoned from the service plates. “Amuse bouche” — puffed pastries, lightly flavored with cheese, arrived like manna from heaven. The excellent butter tastes of freshness, of Normandy and contented cows. A leather clad menu gives us varied selections of demi-bouteilles, along with full bottles and glasses.
Somehow, you know you’re in a venerable, classic French restaurant, where great thought has been given to your dining pleasure.
The menu entices, like a lover’s promise of pleasures to come. Entrées include delic
acies from “la chasse.” Tempted by everything,
choice becomes a delicious dilemma: Feuilleté de gros escargots de Bourgogne — crispy and melting in your mouth, plump escargot and walnuts play a chewy, satisfying counterpoint. Salade tiède de gésiers, magret fumé, foie gras et brocolis — silky on the tongue, caressing your taste buds. Purée de grouse au genievre et gin — light and airy, retaining a slightly gamy taste reminiscent of kissing a man’s skin after making love. Canard sauvage sur chou vert et foie gras — resting on its bed of green cabbage, was woodsy yet delicate. Poêlé de Saint-Jacques aux girolles et cèpes — large, juicy scallops, straddling a mount of sautéed wild mushrooms, unencumbered by sauce, happily wed sea and mountain.
Perfectly prepared to the pinnacle of each flavor, nothing destroyed a diet. Not fatty, not greasy, cooked light, and tasty, each dish gave full play to the flavor of the food.
Dessert? The tumescent seven-inch high Soufflé au Grand Marnier, a delight to behold, is airy light, just slightly sweet. Three boules of poire sorbet with pear liqueur, mixed sweet and pungent — the penultimate course. Accompanying coffee, a silver salver of pastries and chocolate are irresistible.
Neighboring French diners talk to us, to rave about the food, to exchange other excellent-restaurant tips and stories. They accept that Americans dine here (although we were the only ones), and know good food. They appreciate recommendations. On another occasion, French diners arriving later have asked us what is best to order.
At Au Petit Marguery one dines well…very well. Portions are generous. You feel well satisfied, not stuffed. Here flavors offer counterpoints to each other; each ingredient savory, the tastes are clear and fresh, they embrace in your mouth. Nothing is drowned in sauce. All is perfectly prepared and cooked. Service is professional, considerate — the appear-from-nowhere-at-the-right-time, unobtrusive service one hopes for but rarely receives.
Au Petit Marguery
9 bouldevard de Port Royal, Paris 75013
Three Course Fixed Price Dinner 33.80 euros
Eva Lee for Parler Paris
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
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