Aux Verres de Contact
Wed 17 Aug 2011
White bean purée with squid and ham.
Aux Verres de Contact
52, blvd St.-Germain, in the 5th Arrondissement.
01 46 34 58 02. Mon–Sat, noon–10:30 p.m.
Jadis, in the 15th Arrondissement, has joined the parade of Paris bistros that have opened offshoots, with a new address in the 5th called Aux Verres de Contact.
The name means “contact lenses,” but “Verres” means “glasses,” intimating that this is a place to drink. That said, this feels much more like a bistro than a wine bar. It’s tucked into an odd space at the joint of two buildings and enclosed by a windowed facade, which makes the small front room the place to sit. There you’ll get a view of both the sidewalk and the open kitchen, visible across a high bar with heavy hams hanging above. The main dining room is a little dark and something of a hodgepodge, though the chairs are more comfortable.
At Jadis, chef Guillaume Délage received acclaim for bringing new life to old recipes; Jadis is a modern Paris bistro with very old underpinnings. It’s hard to say what direction he’s taking at Aux Verres, where his partner, Sarah Barrandon, is doing the cooking. The prices here are actually higher than at Jadis, and the menu is a slightly bipolar mix of classics (warm potato salad with herring, frogs’ legs, tartare with fries) and contemporary attempts, sometimes with a Basque touch (a squid ink croque monsieur), other times not (shrimp with curry and smoked duck).
Stuffed piquillo peppers.
To start we had a snack of stuffed piquillo peppers, slippery with their oniony filling, sweet and just slightly piquant. Nibbles like this should pack a punch and get your mouth watering, but these were timid. We also tried that squid-ink croque, which turned out to be a graphic red and black cross-section of a multidecker sandwich of ham, more red peppers and ink-stained bread—ultimately much more fun to look at than to eat.
A chilled white bean purée followed, topped with calamari and some slices of good Bayonne ham. I liked the flavors here, the salty spike of the ham. Braised pork belly, a Paris bistro standby, was served in an imposing arc of a slice that spanned the width of the plate, its richness nicely balanced with a dark, herbaceous jus. I just wish it had been more tender. Finally, we had the oeufs au plat with a garnish of ratatouille and flakes of assertive, oily smoked tuna. I set it aside and enjoyed the egg and vegetables.
We did drink well, starting with a bright Cheverny and moving to a bottle of grüner veltliner, an Austrian white that is all but impossible to find in Paris. The meal ended on a high note, too, with a fragrant, verbena-poached peach served with mascarpone cream, slivered almonds and a few pops of tart red currant. I wish everything we’d eaten had been so clear and unmuddled.
In a nutshell: If I find myself in this corner of the 5th, I’ll go back for a glass of wine, a plate of ham or a snack or two. And maybe, after some time, a full meal. After all, there’s no question that there’s talent in the kitchen. I’m hoping that, still in its infancy, Aux Verres de Contact is just a little out of focus.
Price check: First courses, 7–19 euros; mains, 17–29 euros; sides, 3–4 euros. Wines start at 5 euros a glass.
If you want to visit the mother ship, head to Jadis.
208, rue de la croix Nivert, in the 15th.
01 45 57 73 20. Lunch and dinner, Mon–Fri.