LE RESTAURANT DU MARCHE, A Superb Paris Bistro, A-

September 11, 2010

After dinner last week with two sweet and seriously tatooed guys from LA, and David and Romain, an adorable Franco-American couple who live in Paris, in one of the oldest and best-known bistros in Paris, Chez Denise, an old-timer in Les Halles, I had a bee in my bonnet as I walked home. If we ate well, the real pleasure of being at this place was the high-testosterone sepia-toned Parisian atmosphere. But since the Los Angelinos really know and love great food, I felt as though we’d let them down a bit–they were waiting to be clobbered by a knock-out good bistro meal, which, unfortunately, was what I had the following night at the Restaurant du Marche in a remote corner of the 15th arrondissement. Point blank, this was one of the best meals that I’d eaten in Paris for a longtime, and if the service hadn’t been a bit unfriendly–polite but poker-faced throughout the meal, I’d have rated this table a flat-out A.

It took Bruno and I a longtime to find it–it’s way out on the very edges of Paris between the Porte de Versailles and the Porte de Vanves, but the moment we arrived, I knew we were in the right place. I hadn’t even hung my jacket over the back of my bentwood chair when a saucer of finely sliced sausage arrived at the table, and it was delicious with a modestly priced glass of white Cotes du Gascogne. I’ve had this place on a Post-It note stuck to my computer for ages, but what finally propelled me to go was a rave review by Francois Simon, the estimable food critic of Le Figaro, one of the major French dailies. I’ve worked with Francois several times–I suggested that he write the endpaper for a GOURMET special edition of Paris–it seemed too colonial for us to do an entire edition with only American writers and not a single French voice, and then translated it into English as gently as I could, since he has a wonderfully idiosyncratic style, and we’ve also collaborated as editors on Zagat’s Paris Guide. Through this work, and having read him for years, I know that we share not only almost identical food but restaurant tastes, and so his enthusiasm goaded me on to this remote bistro.

Even before the chalkboard menu arrived, I suspected we’d eat well, since on a Saturday night, the snug dining room with a broken tile floor, bare wood tables, Bordeaux painted trim and a zinc-clad service bar was occupied almost entirely by folks from the ‘hood, or a quiet, residential corner of the quiet, residential 15th arrondissement. Then the chalkboard came, and we ordered salmon prepared like herring (translation) and cucumbers with crab to start, and roast shoulder of lamb and hachis parmentier made with confit de canard (duck preserved in its own fat). The starters arrived with lightning speed in little verrines, or squat mason jars, and were delicious, if rather modest, when eaten with some of the best bread I’ve had in Paris for ages. If these dainty first courses were appealing, however, the mains were just plain brilliant. Bruno’s shoulder of lamb was impeccably cooked, crusty on the outside and rare in the middle, and came with quartered sauteed baby potatoes, while my hachis Parmentier, a French take on shepherd’s pie, was an unctuous preparation of shredded duck in jus de truffe covered with mashed potato and served with an excellent little mesclun salad.

With a 22 Euro “wine of the month” bottle of very good Coteaux du Tricastin, from the Enclave des Papes in the Vaucluse, I was in heaven. Bruno skipped dessert, but since I never have anything sweet to eat at home, I went with the plum tart, which was fabulous–caramelized fresh plums with dollop of caramel cream on a disk of excellent homemade pastry. Even the coffee–almost invariably the weakest link in a bistro meal in Paris, was good, and we celebrated this great find with a shared glass of Vieille Prune from Souillac in the Lot. It’s really been an age since I’ve had such a good bistro meal in Paris, and this for 32 Euros for three courses, and despite the fact that it’s a pain in the neck to get here, I’m already looking forward to my next meal at a restaurant where I intend to become a very happy regular. Now if only the service was a bit less mannered and a little warmer, this place would be truly perfect.

Restaurant du Marche, 59 rue de Dantzig, 15th, Tel. 01-48-28-31-55. Metro: Porte de Versailles or Porte de Vanves. Closed Sunday and Monday. Prix-fixe menus, lunch 18 Euros; dinner 26 Euros, 32 Euros.

  • Alexander, thanks so much for telling us about Restaurant du Marche! We went tonight and had the most wonderful meal. We love your blog and look forward to every posting, just wish you'd post more often, but you're probably very busy. Best regards, Randall