6.0 Le Chalbens, 33, rue de la Chine in the 20th (Metro: Pelleport), T: 01 40 33 48 01, closed Sundays and Mondays features 2 courses for 27 (I think) and 3 for 30 € and is in an area bursting with babies, bobos and bunnies.
"John," my female dining partner said yesterday,"how do you find and choose these places?" "Ah," I said, playing the inscrutibility card, "sometimes, people email me, sometimes I walk by a new place and get their card, sometimes the drumbeats call me, and then sometimes a blogger will have an early warning, but mostly I just read about them in the press."
So Le Chalbens, where did that come from? Well, I read about Vin Chai Moi moving and a new place moving in and I keep a list, a rolling list, things roll on, roll off and sometimes it takes me sometime to warm up to the idea. Today seemed one of those days.
My one date couldn't hustle up the dough to spring for a 110-150 € meal at Les Ambassadeurs (he was last seen with a sap looking for wealthy old ladies in the 16th to mug) which was probably just as well since Emmanuel Rubin called the prices "fatally sulphurous" and another friend touted the new Ralph Lauren Ralph's that features Danny Meyeresque hamburgers for was it 26 € ?- I love Danny Meyers and all his places but that's ridiculous.
So to the famous list. Le Chalbens kept winking at me; OK, I'm a sucker, what do I have to lose? My waistline, a few Euros and my dignity/pride, but hey, it just might turn out OK. And it did, marvel of marvels.
The schlep over to Pellepont/Gambetta even on the superunspeedy #60 bus is painful but ethnically enlightening. I arrived only 15 minutes late - no matter.
Lots of interesting stuff on the ardoise; start with green asparagus with rocket salad and parmesan (no pix) which was a cut above..... and some 20 Euros less than my yesterday's eating companions had the day before. And while I never talk about wine mainly because I'm too cheap and ashamed of what I order, I will say that the wait-guy touted me to an excellent bottle of "Le Secret de Frere Nonenque" from the Valmagne Abbey and it was terrific - fruity, gutsy, not rough and ideal as an apero, with vinegar, digesto, etc.
I was going to go with the rabbit parmentier but thought that I'd maybe better have the last scallops of the season and once we negotiated a replacement of the sweet potatoes with the classic puree I thoroughly enjoyed them with were certainly the best corals I've ever had (who knows why?) - the praline sauce definitely added to my pleasure.
After a brief tussle with myself (pain perdu like Mom made or three cremes) I went with the banana flambee, not a la Foster but in its skin - delicious and perfectly cooked.
At some point the curious waitguy came over and asked why I was taking notes?, was I foreign?, he couldn't pin down my accent. I said well, I lived in the 18th, took notes because my memory was rapidly disappearing and did my best to come across as an elderly, confused tourist.
After a coffee I asked for the bill. Now discounting the supplement for the scallops and slightly pricier wine, it would have been under 50 €; but would it have been so good?
Go? My yes. The fact that the world hasn't beaten its way to its door since July is sign enough that nobody's paying attention. Tant pis.