42, rue Saint-Louis en I’île
Metro Station: Pont Marie (Line 7)
Type of cuisine: French
Days & hours of operation: Weds to Sun Noon – 2:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Credit card: Amex, Visa
Located in the heart of Ile Saint-Louis, the sparkling-clean windows of this restaurant afford a view of contented diners enjoying a fine meal in a quasi-rustic setting. Upon entering the establishment, one immediately feels comfortable in the old-time ambiance of exposed beams and bare-stone walls. However, make no mistake about it—though the food served here mostly traditional, it is created and presented with modern flair.
We were enticed to return to Le Fin Gourmet on the weekend of Valentine’s Day, when we learned that the restaurant was offering a half-bottle of Billecart-Salmon champagne to diners who ordered either the 33€ menu or à la carte. Having dined here on several occasions since the establishment opened in 2005, we were eager to claim our prize.
Choosing from the 33€ three-course menu, I began my meal with the Tarte fine d’andouillette AAAAA et confiture d’oignons, consisting of light, thin pastry supporting thinly-sliced andouillette sausage, topped with a small rocket salad. Balsamic vinegar and sweet, onion confit garnished the plate. Andouillette has a strong “welcome-to-the-farm” aroma, making this a dish that only incorrigible lovers of traditional French cuisine could enjoy. And enjoy it I did!
My partner opted for the Ravioles à la duxelle de champignons et bouillon d’ail doux. A duxelle is a mixture of minced mushrooms and shallots or onions. It is used as a garnish, a stuffing, or to flavor sauces and soups. In this case, she received a serving of thin sheets of pasta encasing the duxelle mixture, bathed in a light cream sauce flavored with garlic. Though the aroma of the garlic was mild, the flavor was intense. Finely chopped parsley served as garnish.
For the main course, I selected another unusual dish, ordering Risotto d’encornet, moules et coques, a risotto dish of squid, mussel, and shellfish. The squid was cut to serve as a cone, into which was stuffed a mixture of risotto, mussel, and shellfish, the whole resting in a frothy lobster-based sauce. It was a delicious, filling dish.
My partner decided on Canneloni croustillant de volaille fermière et champignons, a serving of chicken breast pressed into the form of a spring roll and coated with a light, flaky pastry. A creamy dipping sauce flavored with nutmeg was served alongside in a shot glass. Accompanying the chicken was a méli-mélo of shitake, oyster mushrooms, and Paris mushrooms. The flavors of the dish were delicate and pleasing.
To accompany the meal, we ordered a half-bottle of Joseph Drouhin Rully 2007. This pale-gold wine conveyed a subtle hint of caramel and apricot.
Bread rolls were served alongside in bread dishes.
For dessert, I ordered the Verrine rhubarbe et banane. It was served in a small canning jar containing a multi-layered dessert of chocolate wafer, rhubarb purée, and banana-cream mousse, topped with another chocolate wafer. The inside of the open lid of the jar supported a scoop of caramel ice cream. It was an imaginative dessert and a delicious conclusion to a fine meal.
My partner chose a Mœlleux au chocolat et mousse de fraises Tagada. This chocolate concoction was baked in a coffee cup that doubled as a serving dish. The cake was topped with a mousse made from strawberry Tagada, a child’s candy invented in 1969 by the Haribo Company. A moelleux should have a soft, semi-liquid chocolate center, but my partner’s serving was cake through and through. It had been overcooked, but she was only mildly disappointed, for it was delicious nonetheless. Berry sorbet was served alongside in a ramekin.
The service was efficient, friendly, and correct.
The bill for two, including two three-course menus, a half-bottle of wine, and an espresso came to 87.50€.
Except for the minor disappointment of the overcooked dessert, we were quite pleased with our meal. We left the restaurant happily carrying our half-bottle Valentine’s Day gift of Billecart-Salmon brut rosé champagne.
Tom Reeves has been a confirmed Francophile since he first traveled to France in 1975. A native of northern California, he moved to France permanently in 1992. Reeves’ love of French language and culture inspired him to create Discover Paris!, a travel planning service that caters to Americans interested in cultural travel to Paris. His book, Paris Insights – An Anthology, has been called “the kind of insider’s view of the French capital…that first or even second time visitors pine for.” He publishes a monthly newsletter entitled Paris Insights about history, culture, and contemporary life in the City of Light, and posts daily information about the French capital on Facebook.