Aux Deux Amis
45, rue Oberkampf, in the 11th Arrondissement.
01 58 30 38 13. Tues–Sat, lunch and dinner.
“A real neighborhood place,” I kept hearing a man say at the table next to us, at Aux Deux Amis, and he’s right. But this can have wildly different meanings, depending on the neighborhood. In this case it’s Oberkampf, lively and mixed, with plenty of unglazed cool.
I reserved a table, but in the future I’ll belly up to the bar or try my luck for a spot outside; it’s a casual way to eat, but Aux Deux Amis is nothing if not casual.
The room could be called retro, but that would imply that it was redecorated at some point, and it doesn’t appear to have been, ever. I found the midcentury-feel fun, but if you want classic charm or flattering lighting, this is not an address for you.
Still, the yellow glare didn’t change the fact that most of what we ate was very good. The food here is in many ways typical wine or tapas bar fare, with Spanish, French and Italian elements, but somehow none of it seems . . . typical.
Sweetbreads with chive blossoms, white asparagus.
There was no printed menu, only a very sweet, very cute waiter (this is apparently a requirement at his former place of employment, Le Chateaubriand) wielding a list of offerings scribbled on several slips of paper. There was one plat chaud available, a saucisse de Morteau with potatoes, but we opted for a series of small plates.
We had white asparagus, cooked (barely enough) and served cold with very good olive oil, salt and pepper. A trembling mound of the Italian cheese burrata, looking like it might burst out of its seams, was served the same way. A wedge of Spanish tortilla arrived, and I did something I’m sure I’ve never done in Paris before: I asked the table next to us to pass the Tabasco.
Less classic was the dish of beets with cod liver and sesame seeds. Though I liked each of the elements, together they didn’t entirely work for me; sometimes a mix of strong flavors adds up to less than the sum of its parts. But a plate of panfried sweetbreads, topped with a scattering of chive blossoms, was disarmingly good; the ris de veau were cooked just right, and the tiny flowers packed a peppery, oniony punch.
Poached rhubarb was dessert. It was utterly simple, but we fought over the last drops of vanilla-flecked juice.
The wines are, naturally, natural, and available by the glass or pot or bottle. We didn’t look at a list but instead put our faith in Mr. Handsome, who came through with a bottle of white Burgundy for 29 euros.
In a nutshell: You may not be able to look as effortlessly cool as the hip clientele at Aux Deux Amis, but you can eat and drink very well here without trying at all.Price check: Small plates, 3.50–7 euros. Lunch menu, 19.50 euros. In general, count on 25–30 euros total, with wine.
If formica isn’t your thing, try the cozy Coinstot Vino in the charming passage des Panoramas:
26 bis, passage des Panoramas, in the 2nd.
01 44 82 08 54. Mon, lunch; Tue–Fri, lunch and dinner; Sat, dinner.