December 12, 2003
From time to time, my dad offers to come and treat me to lunch on a weekday. My company offices used to be located in Nanterre, a cheerless suburban town, where we had to make do with an ordinary brasserie randomly called "L'Européen". But last summer, to everybody's relief and joy, we moved to the 13th arrondissement of Paris, close to the Parc Montsouris and the Butte-aux-Cailles and the Place d'Italie. A much much much better environment, it goes without no saying, and a great opportunity for me to discover an area of Paris I knew very little.
Last Tuesday, my father asked me on one of those father/daughter dates I enjoy so much, leaving me the choice of the restaurant. I accepted with glee, and in a heartbeat suggested we went to "L'Avant-Goût".
L'Avant-Goût ("foretaste") is a reasonably priced gastronomic bistro close to the Place d'Italie, and about which I had read excellent reviews. I had passed on the recommendation to my father, who went there a couple of times with friends of his, and added enthusiastically to the general praise.
So I left the office and walked to meet him at the restaurant, on a beautiful day, clear blue sky, crisp wintery air, a spring in my step. I'm always excited at the prospect of a good meal. And this one did not disappoint me. At all.
The restaurant is airy and bright, with red chairs and orange walls, very warm, and the service is friendly and fast, which is what you want for lunch. We were presented with the traditional ardoise, the chalkboard on which the menu is written out, and we both decided to go for the entrée-plat-dessert menu, three courses for 27 euros.
For starters, my father had the Foie gras à la vanille, a truly astounding slice of foie gras infused with vanilla. An unusual mix, and a very successful one. Leek-fan that I am, I went for the Tarte fine aux poireaux, Foies de volaille confits, a thin and biscuity crust, topped with strips of leek, a delicious layer of crumbled duck liver and salad leaves. The sweetness of the leeks perfectly answered that of the liver.
As a main course, my dad chose the Canard "Sauvageon" rôti, Croustillant de pommes de terre et Chutney. When I wondered what was special about the duck, the waiter told me lightly that it was suffocated rather than bled. I half regretted asking, but went on to know if this made the duck's end better or worse. He wasn't sure. In any case, the dish was fantastic : four pieces of tender roasted duck, served with mashed potatoes wrapped in crispy philo dough, like a big potato nem, and a little mound of sweet pickled vegetables. I had the Coquilles St Jacques rôties, Strudel de légumes. Four scallops, roasted to perfection - moist with a slight golden crust - adorned with a beautiful pink sauce in a circular trickle, and accompanied by a similar crispy roll, filled with a very tasty mix of vegetables. Surprisingly, the waiter had warned me that this dish was not very filling (did I look that ravenous?) but I thought it fine for my appetite, especially considering the excellent baguette that was on the table, and my need to keep a little room for dessert.
Dessert. One look at the ardoise, and we knew what to order. Chaud-froid moelleux de chocolat, Glace vanille et Caramel au beurre salé. Make that two. A warm and scrumptious little chocolate cake, with an oozing chocolate sauce inside and a very pronounced dark chocolate taste. A dollop of vanilla ice-cream, slightly melting and at the exact right temperature to complement the warm cake. A vortex of caramel sauce made with salted butter. We mmmmed in chorus. Now you know whom I got the chocolate gene from...
And this sure is a nice change of pace from L'Européen in Nanterre.
26 rue Bobillot
01 53 80 24 00
Paris Restaurant Picks: Bones, Walaku, Jeanne B., Septime @ Wanderlust
Twelve Hours in Paris
Twelve Hours in Paris