Finally, a truly decent place to eat at the main Paris flea market in Clignacourt!

PARIS – Finally, a truly decent place to eat at the main Paris flea market in Clignacourt! Those of us who have had enough of the mussels and soggy fries as

Chez Louisette (yes, Emmanuelle still sings her heart out there) are in for a real treat. In fact, Le Soleil is so good that it is worth a detour, even if you are not in the mood for poking through the market.

Outgoing owner Louis-Jacques Vannucci looks the part. He has just ruddiness and physique to guarantee he is a true gourmand and bon vivant. And he LOVES food and wine. After spending years tracking down great ingredients for French chefs, he finally decided to have a go at his own place. And now, this former café turned into a real familiar family restaurant is the place to show off his talents as a hunter of all things good and gastronomic.

AS one would expect of a place devoted to chineurs (bargain hunters) gourmand, the restaurant has that chic flea market look: Cozy oriental rugs on the floors, sunny golden linens, and clever wine bottle and wine glass logo that is carried out in fanciful wire sculptures framed in flea market finds.

The current menu includes some fine fare, such as a deliciously fresh mesclun salad of mixed greens paired with a generous portion of pan fried langoustines, so sweet they tasted like candy. I loved, too, the generous portions of sautéed chicken, served with a light cream sauce, tomatoes and a touch of brilliant green broccoli. Bean lovers will adore the green bean salad, tossed with cubes of tomato and tons of flat leaf parsley. Vannucci is a fish lover, and the special orders of turbot (served with a fresh ratatouille) and sardines are guaranteed to be sparkling fresh.

On my most recent visit, the owner had just returned from the fish auctions in Normandy, returning with cod so fresh it still had the aroma of the sea, as well as delicate, tiny mussels, almost like jewels. The mussels were cooked in a rich sauce poulette, a mix of reduced fish stock, butter, lemon juice and parsley. The alabaster cod flaked into meaty portions and sent everyone at the table swooning for more.

The wine list here is a but quirky, but there is always something to discover. Or in one case, rediscover. I don’t think I have sampled the white Bordeaux from the chateaux Doisy-Daene is 15 years. The crisp, oaky dry white from the Sauvignon Blanc grape was a pleasure paired with Vannucci’s carefully conceived menus.

A quirky white aperitif wine, a crisp Saint Pourcain, 1998 Domaine Bellevue, is sure to whet your appetite and make you crave a bit more of everything.

But it does not stop there. On weekends you might find live jazz music, and on certain days, as the mood strikes, Vannucci might just go off on a tangent and offer something as wacky and wonderful as an all tomato menu. I think I might just change my ways. And instead of saving those centimes for the flea market, put the change into more visits to Le Soleil.

Le Soleil
109 Avenue Michelet
93400 Saint Ouen
tel: 01 40 10 08 08.
Credit card : Visa. Open daily at lunch, and Thursday through Saturday for dinner. About 250 francs per person, including service but not wine.