Wed 12 Jan 2011
14, rue Léopold Bellan, in the 2nd Arrondissement.
01 40 26 87 33. Tues–Sat, lunch and dinner.
There is plenty to like about L’Hédoniste, a new bistro near the rue Montorgueil, starting with the warm welcome. Owner Arthur Pétillault (a former food writer) presides over the room with a smile and eagerness to please.
It’s an old space, with exposed beams and stone walls. The partly open kitchen is guarded by a service counter where a slicer sits cradling a Spanish ham. A large mirror lists the wines by the glass and reflects the crowd.
The menu is short, with just three starters and three mains, plus one addition. I started with a delicious chestnut soup with foie gras and hazelnuts, silky and rich. A ceviche with grapefruit and avocado was refreshing and pristine.
My filet of maigre (similar to bass) was perfectly cooked and served with black risotto, a red-peppery relish, baby greens, strips of what I think were roasted persimmon. My friend somewhat reluctantly ordered the faux filet, which turned out to be the favorite. It was well-seared, tender and served with a piquant herb sauce, along with potato “churros,” or fried mashed potatoes, piped into the fryer like the famous Mexican fritters. Not good for you, but definitely good, with a golden crust and creamy interior.
Ceviche with avocado and grapefruit.
I suppose the food could be described as contemporary, but to be honest, there were elements that felt dated. A sprinkling of spices on the rims, rectangular plates, an amuse-bouche of guacamole with a papadam sticking out of it, black risotto molded into squares: these things prompted my dining companion and I to fondly remember our table-waiting days. In the mid-’90s.
L’Hédoniste is part of the natural-wine wave, with a succinct but varied list of bottles from producers like Tissot and Dard et Ribo, and a Bourgueil from the seemingly ubiquitous Catherine and Pierre Breton. There are a merciful number of bottles at 30 euros or under, and the glass choices are thoughtful, too, with four or five reds and whites offered.
Desserts left us nonplussed. My baba was dry even after a heavy dousing, and my friend’s vanilla “croustillant,” a sort of cream-filled spring roll served with a glass of coconut milk and tropical fruits, was just odd. The cheese plate, with selections from the Voys of La Ferme Saint-Hubert, would be a good bet.
In a nutshell: This contemporary bistro may not justify a trip across town but is a great choice after a day strolling around Montorgueil or les Halles.
Price check: Lunch formula, 17 euros; first courses, 10–18 euros; mains, 23–34 euros; desserts, 9–11 euros. Very reasonable wine list.
If L’Hedoniste sounds good but you’re stuck on the left bank, try Moustache, another new bistro with a contemporary twist.
3, rue Ste.-Beuve, in the 6th. 01 42 22 56 65.