Well, Omnivore can talk of Generation “C,” and indeed, I respect them for their dedication to searching out new directions in French cuisine, but there’s another new trend in restaurants in
When did it start? I’m not certain, but I date it to the 1980’s, when Alain Passard started spending more time in the front than behind the piano.
Much as I like the formality one is treated with, in say, the starred hotel places such as le Bristol, les Ambassadeurs and le Meurice, etc., as if I ever go to those places anymore, a place like I ate at last week – a mere hole in the wall, out of the way, restaurant/bistro called Ripaille, demonstrates this new and very pleasant type of experience.
It started when I called to make a reservation. The person answering the phone asked for the details and I, as always, to make sure people understand my name despite my horrible accent, said (in French) that it was for “Mr. Talbott - like the wine or the car.” The usual response is a stiff-to-pleasant “I much prefer the wine,” but this guy broke into a har-har-har laugh and said he looked forward to my visit.
I entered and he bounced forward to greet me; welcoming me and giving me several choices as to where to sit. Making sure I was comfortably installed, the next few minutes passed in the standard manner – did I wish an aperitif, would I care to hear about the specials and could he supply the wine list?
From there on in, it just got better and better. When I ordered, he acted tickled pink at what I’d chosen (a carpaccio of scallops, pintade and moelleux of chocolate), as if I alone had hit on his favorite dishes. Immediately on serving the scallops he wanted me to know that if I needed more (or less I guess) salt, pepper or olive oil, I should let him know pronto.
Then he said that unfortunately the pintade that day came with rutabagas not cabbage as he had originally announced – “was that OK?” – and I got the sense that if I’d said no, I could have had anything they had in the larder.
When I ordered the wine and asked his opinion, he suggested a slightly less expensive one that would better complement what I had ordered – earning my respect for honesty and the lack of money-grubbing in pushing for a more expensive choice.
Ambiance: the music was not entirely to my liking in choice or sound level, but when I commented that the last two songs by Astrid Gilberto were terrific, he acted like I’d just won “Questions for a Champion.” Other points: there was no bottled water and were no pretentious aspects of service (this was the 17th after all, not LA or the
And I don’t want to imply that Ripaille is the only place like this in Paris; indeed, just this year I can count numerous places this friendly all over; restaurants such as La Cerisaie, Ze Kitchen Galerie and Pinxo.
No, I think there’s definitely a trend - and a most welcome one. There’s nothing like a combination of friendliness and good food – nothing. Remember, ripaille means feast, closely allied with fete, and one certainly feels they fulfill the definition.
My favorites this week are:
69 rue des Dames, 17th (Metro:
Closed weekends (but check, because the information on their card differs from that in Figaroscope)
Formulas at 11 and 15, menus at 23 and 29 €.
70, Boulevard Edgar Quinet, 14th (Metro : Montparnasse-Bienvenue)
T : 01.43.20.98.98
Closed Saturdays and Sundays
A la carte 25-30 €.
Ze Kitchen Galerie
4, rue des Grands Augustins, 6th (Metro: Saint Michel)
T: 01 44 32 00 32
A la carte 30 €.
9, Rue d’Alger, 1st ( Metro: Tuileries)
T : 01 40 20 72 00
A la carte 20-60 €.
* Originally published in December 2005.