La Maison de l'Aubrac

Paris -- I don't know when I have laughed or smiled more in a Parisian restaurant. It was a Sunday night, right after a major French rugby game. France lost, but you would never have known it by all the revelry in the Auvergnat La Maison de l' Aubrac. There was a table of 30 or 40 locals, singing their hearts out, Auvergnat songs, funny songs, sexy songs, country songs that made you feel as though you were in heart of France and not just steps from the Champs Elysées.

I don' t know how they managed to keep singing AND eating as platter after platter of hearty Auvergnat fare was paraded to their tables, giant trays of whole sausages and sliced sausages, head cheese and rillettes, terrines and pâtés, all washed down with carafes of rustic red.

All around us, diners were eagerly tucking into huge platters of saucisse aligot, Auvergnat pork sausages paired with mashed potatoes laced with garlic and curds of fresh Cantal cheese; huge and gorgeous 2 pound ribs of beef (côte de boeuf), accompanied by either sauteed potatoes or aligot, potato gratin or green salad.

Sitting within earshot (one couldn' t get away from the singing if one had wanted to) we feasted on simple fare, most of it sublime. My favorite of the evening was their croustillant de Roquefort aux poires, salade d' endives aux noix: Brique pastry was filled with a mix of Roquefort cheese and cubed fresh pears, folded in four like a crepe, then pan fried. The crispy, warm croustillant accompanied a beautiful, fresh, and nicely dressed endive salad tossed with a touch of cubed tomato, tons of finely chopped fresh parsley and plenty of walnuts.

Equally fine was the cool lentil salad, served with lots of dressed greens and truly moist and delicious smoked fatted duck breast, or magret. Less interesting was the fresh but rather bland slice of leg of lamb from the Lozère, grilled and served with a duet of white beans, large and small, a dish that lacked a defined personality. My entrecôte, grilled to a perfect rareness, was good: chewy, fresh, meaty and fragrant. The accompanying green salad was ultrafresh.

This rustic style restaurant (with wooden booths, paper place mats, and stainless tableware) could easily be taken for a nondescript café, but it' s more than that. A true home away from home for the hordes of Auvergnats who visit or reside in Paris . But even for first-timers, service is friendly and efficient. The wine list is excellent, offering good choices from the Languedoc, Rhône, and the Southwest. We loved the ripe and virile Pic Saint Loup Château de Lascaux, Les Nobles Pierres, from the Hérault village of Vacquieres. The 1997 was honestly priced at 188 francs. , , Paris 8. Tel: .

37, rue Marbeuf
Paris 75008
Credit cards: Visa.