Postcard From Tom: Paris

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema revisits three of his favorite Parisian bistros in his monthly report from the road.

LE COMPTOIR (9 Carrefour de l'Odeon, 01-44-27-07-97)

One trick to getting a coveted weeknight dinner reservation is to stay at the adjoining Hotel Relais Saint-Germain, which the acclaimed chef Yves Camdeborde also owns. His crowded dining room looks like dozens of other bistros, but the cooking elevates Le Comptoir from the pack. A savory custard of foie gras dappled with basil juice is spectacular, as are sheer ravioli with celery root and chopped veal. Did I mention a help-yourself cheese tray? The biggest thrill is the bill: half a dozen courses for about $60.

L'OURCINE (92 Rue Broca, 01-47-07-13-65)

It doesn't look like a trendsetter, but this tiny, tidy dining room in a nondescript swath of the 13th arrondissement is all the rage: rising stars serving classic food at gentle prices. Detailed in beautiful script on chalkboard menus, the dishes (from Sylvain Daniere) run to such pleasures as fresh sardines atop a salad of warm seasonal vegetables, roast pork shoulder that reminds you what pig can taste like, and a very large, very rare steak paved with a carpet of minced scallions, parsley and red onion. Save room for the fetching desserts, which look and taste like something you would find in a grand restaurant but are pleased to find as part of a $40, three-course package.

RIBOULDINGUE (10 Rue Saint Julien Le Pauvre, 01-46-33-98-80 )

Owner Nadege Varigny is the daughter and granddaughter of butchers, which explains the emphasis on innards -- brain, kidney, tripe, even lamb testicles -- on the menu of her intimate, two-room restaurant near the Notre-Dame cathedral. But a diner doesn't have to appreciate offal to enjoy this fresh face on the scene. Beef cheeks on a bed of noodles, an intriguing wine list and the desserts, including a silken coffee pot de creme and rice pudding tarted up with orange marmalade, also keep seats filled. Three-course menu is $35.

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