Even better than a good restaurant in the middle of nowhere is a good restaurant in the center of town. One of the only faults of La Régalade, started by Yves Camdeborde in 1992 and turned over in 2004 to up-and-coming chef Bruno Doucet, was its location in the southern 14th arrondissement – horrid by Parisian standards. After several years at the helm at La Régalade in the 14th, Doucet opened another branch of the restaurant on Saint-Honoré, right by the Louvre. How convenient! Now he is installed in the open kitchen at this sharp new bistro moderne, which has been a tough reservation since it opened last year.
The decor here indicates what is to come: the elegant curve of the ceiling is a nod to the restaurant’s lofty ambitions, but a plain polished cement floor signals its lack of pretention. The dichotomy makes you think twice, as does a lot of the food – its initial simplicity gives way to layers of complexity.
For starters came a traditional bistro pork terrine served all-you-can-eat style in a casserole dish, cornichons and bread. La Régalade’s terrine was meaty but light, perfectly balanced.
An appetizer of calamari with squid ink risotto was like a fabulously complex “surf and turf”: porcini mushrooms and shallots inflected the risotto beneath with woodsy flavor, and the ribbons of tender baby calamari layered on top were sauteed in garlic infused olive oil in the traditional seaside style.
An appetizer of thon mi cuir was a triumph of simplicity: excellent quality tuna, barely cooked, with few distractions. What’s underneath looks like beets, but it’s actually celery root sliced razor thin, soaked in red wine for an acidic note that brought out the richness of the fish.
A modernized boeuf bourgignon has all the stewy goodness of the original with much more pronounced notes of smoky bacon, which perfumes the whole dish with umami flavor, further accentuated by the demi glace, mushrooms, oniony carrots and red wine in the sauce.
The tender duck arrived in a Côtes du Rhone-based sauce, served with potatoes cooked “à l’ancienne,” which seemed to mean under the duck, in duck fat. Delicious.
I rarely get dessert in the States, but I rarely skip it in Paris. And, dessert was part of this very reasonably priced €32 prix fixe meal here – an incredible bargain for the quality of the food, atmosphere and service. The rich and creamy rice pudding à grandmere had all the comfort factor of granny’s rice pudding plus the Scandanavian spiciness of cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon, much like Marcus Samuelsson’s cooking.
An aged, dense and creamy goat cheese, the cheese du jour, arrived with a tangle of greens and freshly cut baguette.
Just as it’s a pleasure to see an excellent band in a small venue before they’re so big they’re playing stadiums, it’s a treat to experience chef Doucet’s cooking in such an intimate setting, so go while you can. Before Yves Camdeborde became Yves Camdeborde, he was doing exactly the same thing.
La Régalade Saint-Honoré
123 rue Saint-Honoré
1st arrondissement, Paris
01 42 21 92 40
Closed Saturday and Sunday