Wed 30 May 2012
3, rue Jouye-Rouve, in the 20th Arrondissement.
01 43 49 39 70. Tues–Sat, lunch and dinner.
On a recent Friday it was a rainy day in Paris for what seemed like the hundredth time. I was debating whether it was even worth it to venture outside in the wet mess when I got a call from a friend who asked me to join her at the cozy Paris bistro Le Baratin for some good French home cooking. It sounded like the perfect cure for my rain-dampened blues.
Located in Belleville, in the 20th Arrondissement, the restaurant is a bit of an institution and an anomaly, having been around for almost 25 years with the same folks at the helm. Raquel Carena may be an Argentinean chef, but she might as well be your best friend’s mom. Her salt-and-pepper hair is pulled back neatly in a low ponytail. She deftly manages a little kitchen, producing just what your best friend’s mom might make for you on a rainy night.
At the front of the house is Philippe Pinoteau, running a tight ship, seating people and overseeing the wine list. While eliciting a warm smile from Pinoteau may be a challenge, enjoying the fruits of his efficiency is not.
The dining area is a no-frills two-room setup with basic bistro wood chairs and tables set against neutral walls decorated here and there with pictures. The menu changes daily and is brought to your table via chalkboard and explained in greater detail if necessary.
There was a variety of fish and meat to choose from, so we sampled a little bit of each. We started with a tender calamari in its black squid ink, topped with fresh green herbs that brought some color to the earthy, dark dish. Our other starter was a trio of white-fish rounds prepared with Mexican flare—the tomato, cumin and cilantro were a surprise and a treat.
Bone-in lamb with wilted spinach and baby potatoes.
Next up was a bone-in lamb that cut without much effort. It was cooked well, but I would have loved a better showing of seasoning to brighten the dish. The lamb sat simply with staple sides of wilted spinach and baby potatoes. No foam, no fuss. My white fish was straight-up home cooking, done in a nice, light lemon and butter sauce. It was garnished with more spinach, white onions and small French peas.
The Morgon we drank did a good job of transitioning us through our mix of fish and meat, adding hints of soft fruit flavors to the homey fare.
Dessert was an apple crumble whose big, chunky bites of fuit were encased in a sweet crunch. The chocolate fondant made the perfect companion with dense, lush cocoa and a texture that struck the right balance between creamy and firm.
In a nutshell: A neighborhood bistro serving straight-up French fare just like your mama would make (if she were French!).
Price check: Lunch menu: 18 euros; dinner: 35–50 euros.
If Le Baratin sounds good, you might also like the nearby Chapeau Melon. Read the review.
Le Chapeau Melon
92, rue Rébeval, in the 19th.
Wed–Sun, dinner only. Reservations a must.
01 42 02 68 60.
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