Wed 1 Jun 2011
21, rue François Bonvin, in the 15th Arrondissement.
01 45 66 89 00.
Tues–Sat, noon–2 p.m. and 7:30–10:30 p.m.
I first visited Le Troquet almost two years ago with a couple I knew from New York. At that point, I thought I had visited a fair number of Paris restaurants, but in retrospect I realize that I had barely scratched the surface (I still feel this way, actually). Case in point: I hadn’t been anywhere in the 15th, home to no small number of good Paris bistros, including Jadis, Le Grand Pan and, I soon learned, Le Troquet.
The bent here is Basque, evident in chef/owner Christian Etchebest’s consonant-rich last name and the pinches of piment d’Espelette on the rim of your plate, not to mention the menu. The room has a fairly typical Paris bistro feel, with tiled floors and bric-a-brac, fresh flowers on the bar and jars of cornichons and griottes stacked on the shelves.
Like many Paris bistros, Le Troquet has a prix-fixe menu. Dinner is a three-course, 32 euro affair, barring any items that come with supplements, which is the case with most of the offerings on the board of “suggestions,” or daily market additions to the main menu.
We could have happily stayed within budget; the standard menu included a mushroom bouillon with sorrel and foie gras, a board of Ospital charcuterie, spring vegetables with pesto, and fresh chèvre with chives, shallots and tomato salad. Alas, we strayed. My pal Shelli chose a dish of morels, that fleeting spring treat, with a poached egg that broke open to enrich the earthy sauce and creep into the crannies of the honeycomb caps. As an asparagus lover, I was in heaven. Some may be bored by the repeated use of an ingredient, but I love the full exploitation of seasonal products, and on this night asparagus appeared in no fewer than three starters: as a velouté, with vinaigrette and sautéed with ham. I chose the vinaigrette, which turned out to be more like a relish, piquant with capers and diced tomato, lightened with lacy chervil.
Cod with Bayonne pork belly.
Perusing the main courses, I was immediately drawn to the cod over pork belly, sauced similarly to my asparagus and served with a side of deeply caramelized braised endive—a collection of satisfying, bold flavors. Shelli had the foie de veau, a sensibly sized sliver of calf’s liver with a simple red wine and shallot sauce, served with potato purée. She gave me a bite right away, which was lucky, because if she had tasted it first she might have guarded every bit for herself, and I wouldn’t have blamed her.
For dessert we had strawberries with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and fromage blanc sorbet, along with an oddly wintry pear and chocolate clafouti. I guess cherries weren’t yet in full supply.
But we were plenty full, and fully satisfied.
In a nutshell: Le Troquet serves thoughtful, Basque-inflected market cooking.
Price check: Dinner menu, 32 euros; lunch, 26. Attention aux supplements! (Watch out for dishes with supplemental charges.)
If Le Troquet sounds good but you want to spend a little less, try La Cantine du Troquet, the nearby no-reservations offshoot. Read the review.
La Cantine du Troquet
101, rue de l’Ouest, in the 14th. No phone and no reservations.
Mon–Fri, opening at 8 p.m.; closed Sat and Sun.
Arrive at opening time for your best chance of being seated.