5.0 La Rotonde Villette, Place de Stalingrad aka 6-8, place de la bataille de Stalingrad in the 19th (Metro: Stalingrad & Jaures), 01.80.48.33.40 (but they have an online reservation system - whoa!) is a place I and I suspect you've been going past for years. While it was designed by Ledoux in 1788 as one of Paris' toll houses, since the Commission du Vieux Paris moved out of it in 2004, it has not really functioned. Why this history lesson?
Well, because Ledoux and his constructions are and were quite amazing and you should see the mock-ups of his toll-houses and wall around Paris which are dazzlingly displayed at the Royal Saltworks in Arc et Senans, one of the most undervisited and underappreciated but glorious sights in France and this place represents one of Ledoux's remaining gifts to us. A culinary footnote: some were called barrieres, hence the Barriere de Clichy, birthplace some think, of nouvelle cuisine, where Verger and Loiseau introduced many of us old guys to fine food long ago. But back to the present.
Someone had the notion of reviving it, a while back, and the interior is bright, light and fun.
How much fun? Well, how many times have you seen Charles Baudelaire and Jimi Hendrix's names on the same list of anything (yes, it's a multi-cultural center too).
And someone had the bright idea of getting Gilles Choukroun (he of the Café des Delices, MBC and countless menu designing efforts at places ranging from the MiniPalais to the Café Very) to "do" the carte which is reasonable and smart. It calls itself a Brasserie: Festive et Creative and I guess it is.
Now the food is not as dazzling as the surround, especially with screaming kids closely contained under a stone dome (I guess these families forgot to read Pamela Druckerman's "French Children Don't Throw Food," but the potiron soup my companion had was better than average and my roulade of beef with Thai spices and rocket salad was Choukroun at his best.
Then we both had the entrecote which was barely average and the preparation adequate (Grand Mere used lots of ham and potatoes apparently) but there were no fireworks here.
Our bill with a bottle of Burgundy, no bottled water and two coffees was 78.20 E.
Go? If you live nearby and have kids to feed on a weekend (I'm talking to you P.,) indeed, if only for the supercool toilets (below).