In Paris, 2 Unique Restaurants

PARIS - Ever since I first sampled Marcel Baudis's authentic, honest and full-flavored food in 1987, I knew he was a chef I would want to know for a long, long time. Starting at his handkerchief-sized dining room in the Marais and moving to the ''new world'' of Bercy in 1991, he never faltered or left us with anything but food filled with character and modern sensibility.

His road has not been easy, for the Bercy neighborhood has taken a long time to develop. But today his patience and talents at L'Oulette are being rewarded by a mostly full dining room for lunch and dinner. Baudis, a native of Montauban in the southwest, draws deeply on his culinary roots with a menu that boasts tiny calamari, generous mounds of haricots blancs frais, foie gras, goat cheese and all the wonderful, little-known wines of that region.

Go, and order his now-classic escabèche de calamars, the tiniest, tenderest squid cut into fine threads, sizzled in olive oil, deglazed with white wine, then infused with a whole pantry of spices that include anise and curry. Equally memorable is his millefeuille de sardines, a warm and welcoming layered affair made up of raw, marinated sardine filets, Moroccan brick pastry, tomatoes and Parmesan.

Main courses include a variation on a Morrocan tajine of lamb with olives and lemon confit, and a lovely aioli, with poached cod and an array of steamed vegetables ready for seasoning with a golden, garlic-rich mayonnaise.

On my last visit, I added three new wines to my love-list: a dry and refreshing vin de pays de Saint-Sardos; a floral and dry Jurançon sec Domaine Bellegarde, and a sweet Sainte-Croix du Mont Chateau du Pavillion, a neighbor of Sauternes, and bargain-priced.

Dessert lovers should not miss the chef's spicy fingers of French toast, served with a cooling cinnamon ice cream. In good weather, eat on the terrace and listen to the chimes of the Notre Dame de la Nativité de Bercy. And if you can't figure out what to order, the dining room's able director, Alain Fontaine, will steer you in the right direction.


Those looking for a unique neighborhood restaurant should try Le Petit Plat, a small spot on the lovely, tree-lined Avenue Emile Zola. The food here is creatively composed and carefully prepared, service is casual but efficient and the wine list offers pleasant surprises.

Jean and Victor Lampreia have been here since 1994, when they moved from their tiny restaurant in the 5th arrondissement. Highlights of my last visit included a refreshing summer salad of thinly sliced artichoke hearts layered with thin green beans; perfectly cooked pigeon on a bed of couscous; a whole porgy (dorade) beautifully prepared with generous portions of fresh, sweet fava beans, and warm pound cake, or quatre-quarts, sliced and layered with fresh strawberries.

Wines to sample here include the lush red Cotes-du-Rhone Domaine Saint Claude from Vaison-la-Romaine, and the superlative Gran Corona from the Torres family in Spain. This wine from the Penedes is made of 85 percent Cabernet and 15 percent Tempranillo, a grape that adds extraordinary fragrance and depth to a wine well worth seeking out.


L'Oulette, 15 Place Lachambeaudie, Paris 12. Tel: 01-40-02-02-12. Fax: 01-40-02-04-77. Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday. Credit cards: American Express, Diners Club, Visa. Menus at 165 (not including wine) and 250 francs (including wine). A la carte, 225 to 350 francs (not including wine).

Le Petit Plat, 49 Avenue Emile Zola, Paris 15. Tel: 01-45-78-24-20. Closed Sunday and Monday. Credit card: Visa. 135-franc menu (not including wine). A la carte, 180 to 240 francs (including wine).