There are so many good bistros and restaurants to choose from in Paris, the possibilities can be overwhelming. Over the past couple of years I had read about Les Papilles (“taste buds”) many times, and liked the idea of dining in this combined bistro-tiny épicerie-wine bar near the Luxembourg gardens where you can pick a bottle of wine from small producers right off the shelves (for a small corkage fee) and purchase gourmet packaged items like foie gras, confit, terrine, soup, vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil to take home. On the chilly, gray day I visited the idea of simply prepared, home-style cuisine beckoned. The dark wood shelves, tables, and chairs of this small, narrow restaurant are also a simple rendition of traditional bistro décor done in a welcoming, relaxed way.
A seasonal €31 four-course, prix fixe menu is offered at lunch, and in my opinion was a bargain considering the top quality of ingredients used, huge portions, and delicious preparation of dishes. The cuisine is of southwest France, where owner Bertrand Bluy is from, and is expertly executed by chef Ulric Claude. A colorful mosaic of zucchini, carrots, feta, and bacon served as a backdrop for a starter of steaming zucchini cream soup presented in a tureen at the table. Braised veal in a skillfully prepared sauce with vegetables arrived piping hot in a copper pan (shown above) accompanied by cheese-crusted potatoes. It was enough for two people! More followed. The next course was cheese, a slice of bleu with a marinated plum. And dessert was a panna cotta with diced fruit topped with a caramel sauce. Thank goodness I was wearing a belt-less outfit and had no plans for eating the rest of the day!
Although the prix fixe menu is usually the way to go in most bistros and restaurants, Les Papilles offers a number of interesting dishes on the regular menu and is flexible about options for those wanting a lighter meal (say, two courses instead of four). The older couple dining next to me were regulars, and said they often order just a main dish. They also turned out to be the producers of the extra-virgin olive oil for sale, which comes from Luberon (yes, think Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence). When we were done with our meals and as I was checking out the food items afterwards, the man stepped over to point out the drawing on the label. It included his grandfather next to a wooden cart. How cool to see the pride in his product and family, I thought, as we parted ways.
Bistoy … Les Papilles
30 Rue Gay-Lussac
Tel 01 43 25 20 79