Dining in Paris – Le Baratin

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Time to forego all the Michelin one-, two- and three-star discussions/restaurant visits and experience where many of Paris’ greatest chefs go to dine when they crave bistro home-cooking at its finest — lovingly created in a tiny kitchen by Raquel Carena at the restaurant she has presided over with her sommelier husband, Phillipe, for 30 years. On Rue de Jouve in the 20th arrondisement, Le Baratin is an easy Métro trip or cab ride and when you arrive you will be transported back to 1940s Paris, complete with a photo of a smiling Samuel Beckett (yes,“smiling”) on the wall as you enter. He must have enjoyed many happy dinners there, as we have.

Madame Raquel’s kitchen door is always open, and watching her prepare each dish while sipping her ever-present glass of red wine (her bottle has pride of place next to her stove) is one of my greatest joys. (We smile at one another and wink every time we go. She must know I love to cook.) Her menu, based as it is on whatever she has found fresh in the market that day, and reliant upon her seasonal and long-time purveyors, doesn’t announce itself as “farm to table,” or let you know every comestible’s origin. Nothing fancy about Le Baratin’s chalkboard menu, which waiters carry from table to table and prop up on chairs. My seared foie gras, gracing perfectly cooked creamy lentils has never been better, as was her signature sweetbreads, a dish I order every time I go. A roast lamb shoulder arrives as two full joints: falling off the bone meat redolent of fresh herbs accompanied by earthy vegetables in a delicate red wine sauce. A mussel appetizer, plentiful enough for a full dinner, arrived tableside, the bowl brimming with an array of tiny, sweet cockles and mussels of all sizes, thinly sliced leeks accenting her tasty broth. Too bad we didn’t have room for the stuffed savoy cabbage continuously parading past our table, a winter special at Le Baratin that everyone seemed to order.

Phillipe’s wine list is an education in itself, featuring small independent producers and natural wines.

We try to forego dessert, but the gorgeous rectangular chocolate pavé nestled on top of crème anglais, coupled with the choice of an almond crème brûlée, which was both comfortingly smooth and delicately textured with almond flecks and nestled on the requisite buttery caramel sauce, tempted us. Not only were we glad we indulged, but the caloric lagniappe gave us added incentive for our march to the Métro and subsequent walk across the Seine back to our Left Bank hotel. Another Parisian adventure. And, why not?

Linda Viertel

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