Le Comptoir du Relais


Provence in Paris: stuffed tomato, peeled and filled with slow-cooked oxtail threaded with pesto.

Le Comptoir du Relais
9, Carrefour de l’Odéon, in the 6th Arrondissement.
01 43 29 12 05. Open daily, reservations only for dinner Mon–Fri.

This address has been packed since Yves Camdeborde left the beloved La Régalade, in the 14th Arrondissement, to set up shop in the decidedly more visitor-friendly 6th. He runs the hotel upstairs, as well, and if you really want a dinner reservation at the restaurant, you’d be wise to book a room; guests have priority in the booking process.
But you won’t feel like you’re missing out if you go for the no-reservations lunch (extended to dinner on the weekends and every night in August) and order from the broad brasserie menu.
First courses include some lovely salads, but meat lovers will appreciate the range of terrines, hams and saucissons. Foie gras shows up in five places. My favorite starter is a carpaccio of tête de veau (unpoetically called headcheese in English), thin slices of rich and gelatinous matter put on a very hot plate so that it melts in your mouth. A crisp salad dressed with pungent sauce gribiche is a worthy match for the unctuous meat.

Carpaccio of tête de veau.

For a main course I often get the brandade, piping hot with a crisp top. In cooler weather I also like the beef shoulder braised in red wine. The other day, though, I chose a stuffed tomato, peeled and filled with slow-cooked oxtail threaded with pesto: Provence in Paris. My friend ordered the lamb chops with sweet red peppers. I told him to use his hands to get at the best bits of meat, right off the bone, but he was too shy. I wasn’t.Desserts are simple but well executed. The coffee crème brûlée works, as does a classic riz au lait. A chilled soup of red fruits, studded with fresh berries and melon, garnished with a soup of sheep’s milk ice cream, hit the spot on a warm day. Less straightforward was an oversized macaroon with mascarpone cream, raspberries and piquillo pepper sorbet, more savory than sweet, with a touch of piment d’Espelette, if I’m not mistaken.
Locals and tripists fill the place every day, the queue for a table stretching out on the sidewalk. You can feel like you’re in a mill sometimes, rushed when you’d like a little more time. The service can seem lax when you’re pressed, but it is generally good, which I attribute to Camdeborde’s being there almost all the time, working as hard as everyone else.

In a nutshell: Le Comptoir du Relais is where to have lunch in the 6th, and everyone knows it.
Price check: First courses, 5–26 euros; mains, 12–24 euros; desserts, 6–11 euros.
If you’d rather stand than sit, belly up to the counter at L’Avant Comptoir, Camdeborde’s wine and tapas bar next door.
L’Avant Comptoir
9, Carrefour de l’Odéon, in the 6th Arrondissement.
No reservations. Open daily, all day.

Editor’s note: For a gourmet walking trip, check out our DIY downloadable trips.