La Cantine du Troquet
Wed 23 Dec 2009
La Cantine du Troquet
101, rue de l’Ouest, in the 14th Arrondissement. No phone and no reservations.
Mon–Fri, opening at 8:00 p.m.; closed Sat and Sun.
Arrive at opening time for your best chance of being seated.
It’s been more than a year since my last visit to La Cantine du Troquet. Since that time, I’ve told countless friends that this informal Basque resto is among my favorite spots. Still, it’s been hard to find my way back to this southern corner of Paris, which lies three subway lines away from my nest in the 19th. I suppose I was also afraid that it wouldn’t be as good as I remembered.
That meal last winter was a revelation. I arrived at opening time (8:00) with two boys and ordered more food than is really polite. We shared and devoured nine plates, starting with some fat white beans and sliced gizzards and a pucker-inducing goat cheese with piquillos. We also nibbled bravely on the pig ear salad.
We smiled through a rascasse and some pleasing seared scallops, then came close to stabbing one another with forks to get the last bite of the poitrine de porc. Served with a side of well-salted and crispy frites (magically refilled throughout the night), this belly was by far the winning dish of the night/week/season.
We finished with a slice of tarte, some sautéed peaches and a bit of Basque brebis with black cherry preserves. We also consumed two liters of wine and a round of coffees. At the end of the night, we walked (OK, staggered) away, having spent less than 40 euros each.
I returned last night with a girlfriend and the intention of restraint. I had the idea that one could eat well here for a mere 20 euros. I still believe that this can be done. Just not by me.
To fend off the bitter cold of the December night, we both started with soup (6.50 euros). As seems to be the trend these days, two bowls of garnish (toasted pine nuts and buttery crumbs) were served with a pitcher of soup on the side. And by pitcher, I mean an enamel goddess that poured six bowls full of warm delicious.
Grilled razor clams (8 euros) arrived next and were a nice change after our creamy cauliflower bath. The bowl was overflowing, but we made quick work of the couteaux and cleared a path for the coming lomo (14 euros). This dry-cured pork loin was lovingly lathered in a sauce spiked with piment d’Espelette. To avoid the oncoming coma, we opted for salad (7.50 euros) instead of dessert. Of course, it was topped with half a pound of creamy Roquefort.
The meal was a delight—every bit as good as I remembered—and our 30-euros-per-person tally included an absurd amount of food and a liter of wine. The more reasonable man sitting next to us dined solo on oeufs mayonnaise (4.50 euros) and that delicious lomo, bringing his own bill to under 20 euros. I may not be able to hit that magic number myself, but I can attest that other, more moderate souls have done it.
In a nutshell: La Cantine du Troquet is a generous table where you can eat and drink big for 30–35 euros or with restraint for around 20 euros. Safe choices like roasted chicken and steak frites coexist with more adventurous nose-to-tail preparations. Informal and buzzing, with friendly service and a very local clientele.
If you like the sound of La Cantine but want to spend more and have a proper reservation:
Le Troquet (the mothership)
21, rue François Bonvin, in the 15th.
01 45 66 89 00.