Lamb three ways with lentils.
5–6, rue du Nil, in the 2nd Arrondissement.
01 40 39 96 19. Mon–Fri, 7:00 p.m.–10:30 p.m.
Conversations about Frenchie tend to focus on the difficulty of scoring a reservation. It’s true that this is one of the hardest Paris restaurants to book, and successes are usually the result of intrepid dialing or sheer luck. But I’d like to forget about that for a minute and just talk about the food.
I’m a devotee. I have been, I suppose, since my first visit in the summer of 2009. Chef Gregory Marchand has a style, a point of view—surely influenced by stints in New York and London—and it comes through in every colorful dish, brightened with herbs, a bite of something pickled, the punch of lemon or peppery greens. This food is unfussy, and based on good ingredients, but it’s not the minimalist cuisine we’re seeing at other contemporary Paris bistros. There’s plenty going on these plates, and yet the flavors are always clear, never muddled.
Dinner last week started with the signature smoked trout, this time served with celery root purée, celery leaves and matchsticks of tart apple and paper-thin radish slices. Plump ravioli of escargot with a wild mushroom butter sauce were rich and woodsy. Heavenly, really. But it was the dose of pungent fines herbes that lifted the whole thing, made it a Frenchie dish.
For the main course there were three cuts of lamb: the loin, the saddle and the “flaps”—part of the belly, cooked long and slow—served with lentils brightened by preserved lemon. Seared scallops were given a little heat with crisp slices of chorizo.
Smoked trout with apple and celery.
The wine list has expanded recently, thanks to sommelier Laura Vidal, whose border-crossing choices make sense with this food. I particularly like the lively whites, including the Saumur from Domaine des Roches Neuves, a rich chenin with a bracing streak of acid. I would only warn that the glass prices are very high. Order a bottle.
I’ve always thought of the desserts here as “cook’s desserts,” composed more around ingredients and flavors than any particular centerpiece, but I guess I had forgotten about the chocolate tart. It’s as technically perfect as any I’ve had, with a fine crust, silky filling and clean lines. It didn’t hurt that the tart was served with a pool of caramel enlivened by passion fruit, one of my favorite partners for chocolate. I liked the cheese offering, too: a wedge of Stilton with a cheeky smudge of spéculoos spread and a little leafy salad.
At only 38 euros, a meal here is, without question, worth every centime. But is it worth the trouble of a getting a reservation? That’s something you’ll have to answer yourself.
In a nutshell: With seasonal market cooking and bright, bold flavors, Frenchie epitomizes the contemporary Paris bistro.
Price check: Three-course menu, 38 euros.
If Frenchie sounds good but you can’t get in, try to score a seat at the wine bar across the street. Read the review.
Frenchie Bar à Vins
6, rue du Nil, in the 2nd.
Mon–Fri, 7 p.m.–10:30 p.m. No reservations.
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