Wednesday, July 23, 2008

BrookLEn in Paris: Le Comptoir du Relais

This is no summer for Paris. The dollar scraped at it lowest value next to the Euro in July, killing the usual American summer European trekking, and coining a new, tacky line- "the American Peso." For myself and Mrs. LBT, the pull to Paris was two-fold, as we were visiting family, and taking advantage of our lighter summer schedule (the school calendar does have its advantages).

My last full trip to Paris was at the beginning of the birth of the Euro, where you could still pay with Francs, and the dollar reigned like the Roman-like dot-com era, ready to burst and deflate. Choosing restaurants was no hard feat, as long as you could get in. This visit, nearly a decade later, we chose to pass on the still-transcendent shopping, and focus our peso on some gastronomy.

In Paris, true home of the trend, the gastro-bistro has been on the rise for the past couple years. Small, modest pub-like atmospheres feature foams and terrines as if they were mayonnaise with your steak frites and fries, and priced to continue this illusion. Another feature of the gastro-bistro is extremely limited seating; on our weekday visit to Le Comptoir du Relais, the food patrons waited patiently with copies of Le Monde or the Herald-Tribune until the host nodded everyone in at the stroke of noon. Sure enough, even the few outdoor tables filled up on the rainy afternoon within minutes.

We started with a shared salad of artichoke, green beans and foie gras with a delicate mustard dressing. Not always versed on the varietal of words for meats, the Mrs and I both ordered chicken, but the contrast between the two only illuminated the great extension that a good French chef can confound the bird.

Mrs. LBT ordered a chicken terrine on a bed of risotto, complimented by a light, citrus foam. I went for the coquelet, which I fancied as some wild offal, but quickly discovered was merely a young chicken. However, this perfectly tender bird was complimented with a rich au jus to inspire a thousand blogs. The mode of wine in July is the rosé, and my glass helped break down all those food toxins only Americans worry about.

For dessert, we opted for a walk around Saint Germain, and then a visit to Crêpe du Jour, the latest addition to Le Comptoir's empire on the block, which also includes a hotel.

Le Comptoir du Relais
5, Carrefour de l'Odéon
75006 Paris
+33 (0)1 44 27 07 97

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