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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 La Cave l'Insolite (1)

Tuesday
Nov222011

LA CAVE DE L'INSOLITE--A Swell Little Bistro in the 11th, B

 
  In Paris, the new-wave bistrot a vins, or casual wine-oriented bistro with a short changes-often menu and a carefully selected list of wines that are usually organic or naturel—made without sulphites, is filling the hole in the local food chain left by the slow-rolling but ongoing demise of the traditional bistro. How are these places different from trad bistros? Well, the food is lighter, produce-centric, seasonal, inventive and often comes in a small-plate format. A real effort is also made to write menus that flatter the wine list and vice-a-versa.

  In Paris, the new-wave bistrot a vins, or casual wine-oriented bistro with a short changes-often menu and a carefully selected list of wines that are usually organic or naturel—made without sulphites, is filling the hole in the local food chain left by the slow-rolling but ongoing demise of the traditional bistro. How are these places different from trad bistros? Well, the food is lighter, produce-centric, seasonal, inventive and often comes in a small-plate format. A real effort is also made to write menus that flatter the wine list and vice-a-versa.
  
 
   This trend is so important and constantly gaining in momentum that barely a week or two goes by without the opening of another neo-bavins (my accronym for neo bistrots a vins). Neo-bavins Au Passage, reviewed on this site, was one of the big hits of the summer in Paris, too, and now the fresh-out-the-gate La Cave de l’Insolite is the address that has fans and followers of this welcome trend talking.
  
 
  Stopping by for dinner mid-week on a night when we were tired shading to cranky, Bruno and I immediately appreciated the friendly welcome of one of the two brothers who runs this place and a delicious glass of Touraine Fie Gris as an aperitif. The chalkboard menu was brief but appealing, and after we’d ordered we got up and went over to the open-shelf wines to select something for dinner. A long-standing fan of Cotes du Rhone, I’ve recently grown tired of them and have been liking lighter French reds like Irancy and Arbois red recently, so we plucked a bottle of Arbois Pupillin de Chez Bonnard from the shelf and returned to the table to wolf down good bread and wonder at the provenance of several large tables of young Russians in this off-the-beaten-track new spot. I was also curious to see what the chef from Belfast would get up to.
  
 
  Things got off to a half-full, half-empty start. Bruno’s home-made salt-marinated salmon with an arugula salad and a dab of excellent mayonnaise with tiny cubes of red peppers and all kinds of fresh herbs was outstanding and generously served. My veloute of leeks and parsnips came to the table as a very thick micro-waved puree and lacked panache. Not only was it an ugly pea-green color but it needed help—maybe a dribble pumpkin-seed oil, a few grains of coriander and a big pinch of sea salt.
  
  
  Next, it was a bit dull of us, but this meal was about being hungry, not writing a restaurant review, so both of ordered the veal steak with beets and potatoes. It was great meat cooked rare and served with perfectly cooked sliced beets of several colors and quartered oven-roasted baby potatoes, and two hungry men loved it, especially with the Arbois Pupillin, which had been decanted into a squat carafe. We recovered our usual exploratory tandem with dessert, with Bruno wolfing down a terrific rice pudding with sour-apple compote and me racing through a homey, old-fashioned crumble made with quince, a much under-rated fruit, confit (poached in sugar syrup). 
 
  “Aside from the food, which I really liked, what was wonderful about that place was that we had so much space at the table, there was the great atmosphere that’s generated by people eating well, and the service was really friendly,” said Bruno in the car on the way home. “If it were in our neighborhood, I’d go often,” I replied, a comment that drew a snort and the sweet snipe, “You say that all the time.”  I suspect that this place is going to heat up fast, especially because the prices are so fair, so if you’re curious about the neo-bavins trend in Paris, hit this one soon.
  
La Cave de l’Insolite, 30 rue de la Folie Mericourt, 11th, Tel. 01-53-36-08-33. Metro: Saint-Amboise. Open Tues-Sat for lunch and dinner. Sunday lunch only. Lunch menu 14 Euros. Average 30 Euros.