THUMBS UP: There’s something almost poignant about the number of foreigners who stalk the streets of Saint Germain looking for the type of bistro they first saw in “Funny Face” (Audrey Hepburn as an ingenue in Saint Germain when it was still bohemian). You know, a cosy little spot that smells delicious when you open the front door and where the wry owner seats you at a table with a checked table cloth and pours a complimentary glass of white wine. A place where you then feast on such Gallic dishes of anthology as boeuf bourguignon, blanquette de veau, coq au vin, etc. Unfortunately, however, it’s now easier to find a plate of spaghetti in Saint Germain than it is a good, decent French meal. Why? The locals, professional types who watch their waistlines and their wallets, don’t do restaurants per se during the week. Instead, they’ll stop somewhere for a plate of smoked salmon and a glass of white wine, some pasta and a bit of rouge, etc. High rents and heavy tourist foot traffic further explain this conundrum–what many restaurant owners want is turn over in front and easily assembled dishes in the kitchen. And so many of the neighborhood’s bistros have become clothing stores or Italian places, which is why I treasure L’Epigramme even more.
Just steps from the Odeon, I’ve had one excellent meal after another in this tiny little place with exposed stone walls and an amiable host in Stephane Marcuzzi, who previously worked in several Guy Savoy bistros. After stints at Guy Savoy, Alain Ducasse and the Hotel de Crillon, young chef Aymeric Kraml has really come into his own with an excellent and reasonably priced chalkboard menu that runs to clever dishes like potato soup with vieux Comte cheese, pig’s feet croquette on a bed of lentils with red peppers, braised duck with sauerkraut and pollack with a fennel bulb compote. If the kitchen suffers from an occasional imprecision, one is more than forgiving for a prix-fixe menu of 28 Euros, especially when the overall quality of the cooking is so good.