6.5 L'Hedoniste, 14, rue Leopold-Bellan, a sleepy, almost closed street in the 2nd (Metro: Sentier or Etienne Marcel), 01.40.26.87.33, closed Sundays and Monday, weekday lunch formulas at 18 and 23.50, about 40 E. a la carte, opened to good reviews but not a lot of web buzz and I worried that its location, nearby the Montorgueil market street of mixed quality food/oyster/resto places, might have blighted its chances. No such misfortune.
Plus, I worried that the chef, Sebastien Dubrulle, who has had a checkered career, according to my co-equipier at Paris by Mouth, Chrisoscope, passing through places I hate (Hélène Darroze), like (the Pourcels) and love (Père Lapin), might be quirky, so I didn't know what to expect. Not to worry.
The setting is great; a sort of cross between a down-home, neighborhood bar a vins with lots of wines on shelves to take-out and an old cellar resto on the via della Conciliazione leading up the Vatican City in Rome with thick stone walls and beamed ceilings. But the food, while sounding fungible with that of a thousand of other places serving "traditional French food" in Paris, was anything but.
Colette started off with a sliced ceviche of chinchard (trans. horse mackerel, scad) that came with tiny balls of avocado on small sections of grapefruit and I had what looked like a small clump of shredded confited duck surrounded by thousand-time-fluffed potato puree with butter (and no cream chef?), topped with toasted hazelnut-halves; both "creative, solid and just plain good."
Then, Colette had four sea scallops in a bed of root veggies with an Asian-inspired sauce and I had a thin faux-filet on a bed of pureed parsley with meaty mushrooms on top. A side dish of what were almost cruller-like deeo fried potato batons were good - cue the chorus in again for the verdict - "creative, solid and just plain good."
The dessert that we shared was a classic baba au rhum with creme fraiche a top a most unclassic cooked pineapple slices.
The bill, with good bread, no bottled water or coffees but a bottle of wine came to the magical 100 E.
Go? If Chicago is Sinatra's kind of town, L'Hedoniste is my kind of restaurant/bistro - inventive cooking in a neat setting with reasonable prices. This is the find of 2011. But then, the year is young.