Diner's Diary

The best 102 Paris restaurants are reviewed in Hungry for Paris. Since the Paris restaurant scene changes constantly, I regularly post new restaurant reviews and information on the city’s best places to eat on this site. I also review selected books with various gastronomic themes and comment on favorite foods, recipes, cookware and appliances. In addition to the reviews and writings here, I'd also invite you to follow me on Twitter @ Aleclobrano. So come to my table hungry and often, and please share your own rants and raves in the Hungry for Paris readers forum.

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Entries in Charles Compagnon (2)


LE RICHER -- A Perfect Neighborhood Joint That's Worth A Journey Across Town, B+

   I know, I know, I'm a bit odd, because I actually like winter. Some part of this preference may be due to my New England upbringing, but most it surely comes from the DNA I inherited from stalwart ancestors 95% of whom lived in cold, light-deprived parts of Northern Europe my surname notwithstanding. So sallying forth on a winter night when big fat lazy snow flakes were whirling to the ground, I was in fine fettle, because I was meeting a friend at the new Septime La Cave, the wine-bar annex of Septime, a restaurant I like very much.
  Alas, my pal didn't turn up, and though Septime La Cave is a pleasant enough spot for a glass of wine or two if you happen to be in the neighborhood (the deep 11th arrondissement in eastern Paris) on your way to dinner at Septime, Le Bistrot Paul Bert, L'Ecailler du Bistrot or Le 6 Paul Bert, it's not really a destination in and of itself. So after a bracing pour or two, I got on the horn to the indefatigible Bruno, and we met at another place I've been wanting to try, Le Richer, which is in the buzzy quarter around the rue du Faubourg Saint Denis in the 9th/10th.
  The already flannel-clad Bruno nicely agreed to change back into street clothes and meet me, and as soon as I walked in the door at Le Richer, which is run by the same team as the swell L'Office across the street, I knew I'd love this place. First of all, the aesthetics were impeccable, with an old corner cafe having been transformed into a really good-looking neighborhood bistro with exposed stone walls, perfect lighting, an oak bar, and a sound-proofed gray ceiling which meant that you could enjoy the funky retro music but still here a pleasant background noise of conservation.
  Since every table in this no-reservations place was full, we sat at the bar, and had a glass of excellent of Vin de Pays d'Allobrogie Domaine des Ardoisieres Argile Blanc, a superb Savoyard white, and studied the short menu. Though starters like a saute of butternut and pumpkin with mustard greens and burrata and cream of celery soup with blue-cheese whipped cream, sliced pears and walnuts sounded terrific, we both just ordered a main course, since it was late. 
Pan-roasted duckling breast
Roast lamb in potato foam
 Both of them were brilliant winter eating, which is to say really consoling and warming food that also surprised by being light, precisely cooked and cleverly garnished. Bruno's ducking came rare as ordered with sliced beets, beautifully made gnocci Parisienne, and a sublime mole-spiked nougatine, while my roasted lamb was tucked under an airy potato foam with firm chunks of Jerusalem artichoke and a scattering of verjus-moistened mustard grains. Accompanied by a terrific Domaine Combier Crozes-Hermitage, these dishes vanished in a heart-beat, and suddenly we were very happy for having a place we really liked not too far from home that we could go to last-minute seven-days-a-week.
  The charming and attentive service of Raoul, the friendly bar tender-barrista, added a lot to our good time, too. Like all really good restaurant people, he takes sincere pleasure in seeing other people enjoy their food and their wine, and this sets in motion a pleasant pendulum of mutual satisfaction between the server and the served. He also filled us in that the chef in the kitchen is a really talented young Japanese man and that Le Richer's coffee comes from Coutume, the great little cafe and roaster over in the rue de Babylone.
  We hadn't really planned on having anything more, but Raoul vaunted the cheese plate from a fromagerie in the rue Cadet, so we decided to share one and were generously served. The cheeses were terrific.
  The apple tart with lime-spiked cream and the floating island with caramel and mango both sounded wonderful, but struggling to stick with a new (and miserable) low-calorie regime, we gave them a pass, although I know I'll definitely have dessert when I come over here on my own for lunch without Bruno sometime very soon. So let's let this be our little secret. As it is, I doubt Bruno would be very happy to know that I've already let the cat out of the bag by blogging about a place he liked so much, but with any luck at all, this terrific place will serve as a model for the renovation of many other drab and struggling neighborhood cafes all over Paris.
  Le Richer, 2 rue Richer, 9th, No phone/no reservations, Metro: Poissonnière, Grands Boulevards, Bonne Nouvelle or Cadet. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Average two-course dinner 30 Euros. Sandwiches, tapas and other light eats are always on offer.
  Septime La Cave, 3 rue Basfroi, 11th, Tel. 01-43-67-14-87. Metro: Ledru Rollin, Voltaire or Charonne, Closed Sunday and Monday.

L'OFFICE--Good Eating in This In-Box, B

N.B.: Chef Kevin O'Connell is imminently to leave this restaurant; Charles Compagnon is a smart guy who knows good food, though, so stay tuned. 
  If I very much liked L'Office in its previous incarnation, the new one is terrific, too, and the change in chefs and ownership here adds momentum to one of the most welcome and interesting trends in Paris right now, which is that the city continues to be a magnet for talented chefs from all over the world. This internationalization of the city's culinary talent pool mirrors what happened in the French fashion industry a longtime ago, and it's adding a lot of energy, creativity and good food to the Paris dining scene. Among really good recently opened Paris restaurants with foreign-born chefs in the kitchen, there's of course Chicago-born Daniel Rose at Spring, but also Mexican-born Beatriz Gomez at Neva Cuisine, Australian James Henry at Au Passage, Italian Giovanni Passerini at Rino, and a whole brigade of exceptionally talented Japanese chefs.
  Meeting Judy for dinner the other night, a lunch-less day meant that I was really hungry, and so a ravenously receptive audience for the cooking of the latest American chef in Paris, Kevin O'Donnell, who worked in Italy and at New York City's excellent Del Posto before teaming up to take over this restaurant with Frenchman Charles Compagnon, whom he'd met at a dinner at the James Beard Foundation in New York. 
  Arriving, Judy was already set up with a good glass of Riesling at a table with an L-shaped banquette up-front, and the dining room looked very handsome after a recent redecoration, which gave it sea green walls--a beautiful color that was likely Farrow & Ball, parquet floors, a couple of stag's heads on the walls, and draped lighting fixtures with exposed copper colored filaments that created a warm, pretty light. The welcome was charming, too, and the very brief menu--three starters, three mains, a cheese plate, and a dessert, was helpfully explained by the waiter. We ordered, and moved on to a wonderful bottle of Rui Priorat, one of my favorite Spanish wines from a really good wine list, and were chattering away when a couple sat down at the table in front of us. Since this small shared space created an automatic intimacy, I discreetly screened them out of my vision, until the gent in front of us with an attractive blonde woman greeted me by name. I hadn't seen Benedict Beauge, one of my favorite French food writers, in a longtime, and it turns out that Charles Compagnon is his cousin. Le monde est petit!
  Served with excellent bread, my first course was a clever comfort-food composition that came off as an Italianate riff on a really good breakfast, or a chunk of tender oven-roasted pork belly with a fried egg, a swirl of rich puree made with slow-baked tomatoes, a few leaves of arugula and a scattering of pickled red onion.
It was delicious, as was Judy’s white bean soup, which was intriguingly garnished with a tiny island of toasted bread topped with laser-fine slices of lardo si colonnata and a few sprigs of wild fennel.
Meanwhile, the restaurant had completely filled up with the sort of hip attractive young crowd that indicates that buck-shot style word-of-mouth is working on this address. Judy was a little puzzled by the texture of her chicken, which had been cooked at a low temperature for several hours to give it firm but creamy consistency, but served on a bed of girolles and garnished with a blanched baby radish of two and a dollop
of airy celery root puree, I thought it was excellent. My main was described as ‘pot au feu’ on the menu, but was actually a deboned osso bucco with tender chunks of braised meat and a marrow-filled bone in a rich reduced beef bouillon deepened with tomato coulis and garnished with soft carrots and crunchy slices of celery. Served in a bowl, it was deeply satisfying on a cool night, although a side of grilled polenta might have been nice. 
  If I was impressed by O’Donnell’s technically impeccable and very personal Italian accented bistro cooking, the meal tapered off with dessert, a square of brownie-like cake with hazelnuts, grilled bananas, and freshly made banana ice cream. Though perfectly pleasant, it lacked the quiet but authoritative elegance of his savory dishes. This is a terrific little restaurant, though—and also an excellent buy for the money at 27 Euros for two courses, 33 Euros for three, and as O’Donnell settles into Paris, I suspect his food will just get better and better, and that this place is going to be very popular.
  3 rue Richer, 9th, Tel. 01-47-70-67-31. Metro: Cadet or Bonne Nouvelle. Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday. Lunch menus, 19 and 24 Euros; dinner, 27 and 33 Euros.