9, rue de Pontoise
Metro Station: Maubert Mutualité (Line 10) or Cardinal Lemoine (Line 10)
Type of cuisine: French
Days & hours of operation: Mon to Sun Noon – 2:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.- 10:30 p.m
Credit card: Visa, MasterCard, Amex
Light-wood cladding and a purple awning bestow upon Le Petit Pontoise an attractive façade that catches the eye on rue de Pontoise, a side street lying between boulevard Saint-Germain and quai de la Tournelle. Inside, the wood theme is continued with a wooden-plank floor, a bar clad in wood, dark wooden tables covered in butcher paper, and wooden chairs. The color purple also finds welcome here, with purple, vinyl-clad benches against the wall and purple theatrical curtains that hang on both sides of a buffet. The restaurant has a comfortable, homey ambiance.
Le Petit Pontoise does not have a fixed-price menu; hence, we ordered à la carte. Chalk boards on the walls display the wines and dishes that are served here. A menu in English is available on request.
Before we ordered our food, we each ordered a white wine apéritif, one flavored with zest of orange, the other with zest of lemon. The orange-flavored wine was slightly sweet and refreshing. The lemon-flavored wine was bittersweet, but no less invigorating. The waitress (who is also co-proprietor) told us that the beverages are produced in Provence.
As she was not very hungry that evening, my partner did not order a starter. We decided that I would order the entrée du jour, consisting of fresh chanterelle mushrooms that had been sautéed in olive oil and butter, and that we would split it between us. A sizeable portion of beautifully browned mushrooms that had been cooked with garlic and parsley arrived at our table. Though small morsels of garlic punctuated the dish, their flavor was not too strong. The mushrooms were plump, chewy, and delicious.
For the main course, my partner ordered the Belle côte de cochon fermier, moutarde violette. She was quite surprised to receive such a large portion of pork chop! Over an inch thick, it was bathed in slightly sweet, dark brown gravy, and seasoned with violet mustard. The chop was tender and flavorful, and was served with fluffy whipped potatoes that had been drizzled with the gravy.
I seem to have acquired a taste for rabbit, which I am finding on more and more menus, and so I ordered the Râble de lapin aux pruneaux. This was a generous portion of the back of the rabbit that had been stewed with prunes. It was served piping hot in a small stewpot with carrots, string beans, and new potatoes, all in a dark sauce. The slightly sweet prune sauce provided a delicate, contrasting complement to the succulent, tender rabbit.
To choose the wine to accompany our meal, we engaged the waiter (who is also co-proprietor) in rather lengthy conversation. He made a couple of claims about his wines that I thought were extravagant. He said that he was selling his wines at a loss to keep stock turnover high. He also said that the wine that he advised us to select would sell for 300€ at the nearby Tour d’Argent. He advised us to choose a Savigny – Les Beaunes 1er Cru « Les Serpentières » Michel Mallard et Fils – 2000, which was listed for 52€ on the wine list, and whose retail price I later found on the Internet was 20€ (marked down from 30€). This gives some indication of the mark-up that restaurants enjoy on their wines!
As 52€ was a bit steep for us, the waiter said that we could pay for only what we drank. True to his word, we were charged 26€ at the end of the meal for a half-bottle consumed. Ordering wine like this (called au compteur or à la ficelle in French) requires a certain measure of self-discipline to keep from drinking the whole bottle! Incidentally, 26€ is roughly the price that we would normally be willing to pay in a restaurant for a half-bottle of wine.
Thick-cut, crusty, country baguette was served alongside in a basket.
When it came time for dessert, my partner again declared that she was not very hungry, and so we decided to split the Tarte Tatin de ma grand-mère. I asked the waitress if it were homemade, and she replied that all of the food they serve is homemade. With this encouragement, we tucked into a large, thick slice of open-faced apple pie topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. What a delight! The pie was composed of thin- and thick-sliced apples that had been seasoned with caramel sauce. It was quite moist, slightly sweet, and had been baked almost to the consistency of apple compote. Caramel sauce and a sprinkle of chocolate powder garnished the plate.
During the dinner, we noticed that about half of the customers were Anglophones.
The bill for two persons, including two apéritifs, one starter, two main courses, one dessert, and a half-bottle of wine, came to 111€.
The service was friendly and helpful. Both servers heard us speaking English amongst ourselves and began speaking English to us without prompting. They also immediately offered us English-language menus as well. At one point we asked one of the waitresses about the ingredients of a dish and she went to the kitchen to inquire on our behalf.
While we find that the prices of this restaurant are somewhat high—and that no fixed-price menu is offered—we must nonetheless acknowledge that the portions of food were generous, and that we were quite satisfied with the meal. This is a restaurant to return to!
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.