38, rue des Tournelles
Metro Station: Bastille (Lines 1, 5, and 8), Chemin-Vert (Line 8)
Type of cuisine: French
Days & hours of operation: Mon to Thurs Noon – 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. Fri Noon – 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. – midnight Sat 7:00 p.m. – midnight
Credit card: Visa, MC, Amex
Having recently dined at its sister restaurant L’Oulette, we decided to try the Bistrot de l’Ouette for lunch.
Chalkboards affixed to the handsome red façade of this restaurant announce the dishes of the day, as well as the names of the proprietors and the date that it was founded. We entered and found ourselves in a narrow, carpeted room with pale yellow walls and pictures displaying old-time photographs and sketches.
The waiter had reserved a table for us in the section at the back of the room, near the kitchen. Contrary to the disruptiveness that one might anticipate sitting near a restaurant’s kitchen, we were rather comfortable there.
We both ordered an apéritif called Salers Labounoux, a liqueur made from the root of Great Yellow Gentian (Gentiana lutea) that grows in the Massif Central. I found that the taste was similar to that of Suze, which also contains gentian, but more bitter.
As the restaurant offers a three-course, fixed-price menu for 33€, we decided to order from that. (For the lunchtime service, the restaurant also offers a one-course, fixed-price menu for 13€, and a two-course, fixed-price menu for 18€, but the choice is limited.)
For the starter, I chose the Salade d’éffiloché de lapin à l’estragon, croutons aux oignons rouges. The waiter presented a plate containing a square-shaped mound of moist and tender shredded rabbit, a small, mixed-green salad, and a thin slice of baguette spread with a confit of red onions. The rabbit had been flavored with tarragon and the onion confit was an ideal accompaniment for this country-style dish.
My partner ordered Asperges vertes à la crème de citron. Her asparagus was just a tad overcooked, but flavorful. It was sprinkled lightly with caraway seeds—not something one often encounters! A small, thimble-shaped glass of whipped crème fraîche, subtly flavored with lemon and peppered with caraway seeds, was served on the side. The flavor of the seeds provided zest to this unusual and inventive dish.
Spotting a main course on the menu that I had never seen before, I decided to try the Salmis de pintade, comme en Gascogne. I received a portion of guinea fowl that had been stewed with button mushrooms in wine sauce, according to the Gascony tradition. It was served in a small crock pot next to which was a flat ramekin containing gratin dauphinoise (sliced potatoes cooked in cream). This latter dish was so rich that I only dared to sample a small portion! The pintade-potato combination made for a delicious, hearty course that was a welcome delight, even if it conjured up notions of a meal that is best eaten on a winter’s day.
My partner opted for the Magret de canard rôti, jus au Porto, a serving of sliced duck breast prepared in Porto sauce. She declared herself neutral on this course, more because of the choices that she made than because of a lack of quality in the food. Because she is careful about her waistline, she asked for a substitute for the gratin potatoes that are normally served with the duck. She accepted the offer of a mixed salad, but later said that it would have been better to request green beans. This was because the salad was dressed with a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, and curry, which would have been wonderful on its own. Alas, it was not the best accompaniment for duck in a slightly sweet Porto sauce. When she tasted my gratin potatoes, she said immediately that they would have been the best accompaniment. She ruefully indicated that sometimes it is better to sacrifice the waistline for a great taste sensation!
For the wine, we chose a half-bottle of Château du Cèdre Heritage 2005, a red wine from a wine-growing area near the town of Cahors in southwestern France. We both found this to be intensely flavored, yet not too tannic. It was a great accompaniment for our meal.
Thick-cut country bread was served alongside in a basket.
The dessert menu displayed some interesting choices. I placed my bet on the “Soupe” de chocolat blanc aux fruits de la passion, and I was served with a real winner! It was a small soup bowl containing chilled white-chocolate-flavored light cream in which floated a scoop of iced passion fruit. How imaginative! And how delectable! My partner staked her fortune on the Croustillade de pommes, granite d’Armagnac. Here, too, fate smiled. She found the spiced apples wrapped in a sheet of flaky pastry, accompanied by a scoop of iced Armagnac, to be superb.
The bill for two, including two apéritifs, two three-course, fixed-price menus, a half-bottle of wine, and an espresso, came to 91.80€.
The service was slow to begin, even though the restaurant was less than half full. Our waiter took our aperitif order at the same time that he asked for our dining preferences, which meant that we sat at the table for several minutes with nothing to take the edge off of our hunger. But once the aperitifs arrived, service became normal. At one point, the waiter noticed that we were toying with our camera and offered to take a photograph of us.
This is a restaurant to which we would not hesitate to return!
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.