Jeu de Quilles
Wed 6 Oct 2010
Maqui de veau with burrata.
Jeu de Quilles
45, rue Boulard, in the 14th Arrondissement.
01 53 90 76 22. Wed–Sat, lunch and dinner.
Ever since my friend relocated to the 14th Arrondissement, he’s been telling me we should eat at Jeu de Quilles. I wish we’d gone sooner.
It’s the kind of space that never fails to charm me. At the front of the bright little room are shelves lined with conserves and condiments, a tiny épicerie that is also chef Benoît Reix’s pantry. He stands behind the kitchen counter at the back, in plain view of the 18 or so seats, chatting with customers and turning out fantastic food.
The small menu changes regularly. The night of my visit, there were five starters on offer. I was tempted by a salad of heirloom tomatoes, a last summer hurrah, and by the wild escargots with cèpes, a harbinger of autumn.
We didn’t know what a maqui of veal was but were happy to find out. Three little rolls of tender veal carpaccio encased bites of milky burrata and sweetly concentrated tomatoes. Shaved Parmesan added a dash of salt, and the whole thing was doused with olive oil, every last drop of which was mopped up with bread. Our other starter was less interesting: a mound of what was essentially celery root rémoulade was topped with encornets—little calamari, delicately cooked. The elements were fine but didn’t really do anything for each other, or us.
Côte de cochon for two.
Still, there was no questioning the quality of the products, and in many ways the ingredients are really the stars here. The produce is mostly organic, the only main course fish offered was the sustainable anchovy, and the wines are natural. Meats come from neighbor Hugo Desnoyer, one of the finest butchers in Paris.
We ordered the artichoke-encrusted côte de cochon for two. The artichokes turned out to be less a crust and more a thick purée, a nutty green counterpoint to the beautiful pork, its well-caramelized exterior encasing tender pearl and pink striations, rich and sweet. It was delicious. Golden potatoes worth fighting over finished the dish.
But we weren’t quite finished. We ordered the small cheese plate and a wedge of tarte tatin, straightforward if not stunning. A dish of roasted figs at the next table was intriguing, and there was an oversize macaroon with ganache to satisfy chocolate lovers.
In a nutshell: If you want the best ingredients served simply and thoughtfully, Jeu de Quilles bowls a near-perfect game.
Price check: First courses, 10 to 14 euros; mains, 18 to 40 euros (for the pork for two); desserts, 6 to 8 euros. Very reasonably priced list of natural wines.
If Jeu de Quilles sounds good but traveling almost to the end of line No. 4 on the metro doesn’t, try Les Fines Gueules.
Les Fines Gueules
43, rue Croix de Petits Champs, in the 1st.
01 42 61 35 41. Open daily.