Food for the Moment, And a Belgian Breakfast

PARIS - Sometimes it is good to be proved wrong. When Gilles Ajuelos opened La Bastide Odéon across from the Odéon Theater in 1995, I liked the bistro well enough, but wasn't sure it would have staying power. How wrong I was.

Today the bistro bustles day and night, with hordes of customers being turned away at the door. That's because Ajuelos and his staff know what we want: Food that's modern, light, of the moment and well thought out.

On my last visit I loved the bowl of tiny ravioles de Royans floating in a light broth seasoned with tomatoes, lots of parsley and Parmesan. Equally excellent was the grilled baby chicken - coquelet - served with lemon confit, fennel with saffron and a marvelous sauté of wild mushrooms.

At other times of year you will find such seasonal specialties as warm asparagus with poached egg, grilled bacon and Parmesan cookies; stuffed suckling pig with Parmesan-gratinéed polenta, or porgy in a red-wine sauce with green asparagus, baby onions and baby fava beans.

Desserts included an inventive tarte fine à la rhubarbe as well as a warm financier topped with apricots and a yogurt sorbet, and warm Valrhona chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Good wine choices here include the firm and fruity red Corbières Bastide de la Baronne, and the same wine in white.

How many ways are there to eat breakfast? Le Pain Quotidien - Daily Bread - shows you how.

This Belgian import, with its clean wooden tables, ivory bowls for coffee and chocolate, and fabulous fresh assortment of breads and rolls, offers a stunning view of the new Marché Saint Honoré, with its all-glass building reflecting the charming old structures that surround the square.

Try the substantive, wheaty baguettes à l'ancienne, great rounds of country bread, tiny rye and raisin rolls served with a huge tray filled with honeys, jams and jellies to sweeten the day.

Newspapers are there for the asking. Service is friendly if a bit distracted.

As the day wears on, the menu moves on to a selection of open-face sandwiches, such as mountain ham; beef, basil and Parmesan; country terrine; a mix of goat cheese and honey, or delicate fromage blanc, radishes and onions.

Of course Le Pain Quotidien is also a full-fledged bakery, so stop in for a loaf any time of the day.


La Bastide Odéon, 7 Rue Corneille, Paris 6. Tel: 01 43 26 03 65. Fax: 01 44 07 28 93. Closed Sunday, Monday, the first three weeks in August and Christmas week. Credit cards: American Express, Diners Club, Visa. Menus at 150 and 190 francs. A la carte, 250 francs.

Le Pain Quotidien, 18 Place du Marché Saint Honore, Paris 1. Tel: 01 42 96 31 70. Open Daily, 7 A.M. to 7 P.M.