PARIS -- I don’t know when I last had such authentic, well-prepare and well-presented French fare as this: Succulent, moist, glistening cubes of lamb shoulder, paired with meltingly tender potatoes enhanced with the essence of violet-toned garlic. Braised veal cheeks so gorgeous any French housewife would fall on her knees with joy if she had prepared them, teamed with a truly original (and successful) gratin of macaroni and artichokes. What could be bad about that? Add a glass or two of the rich, velvety red Vin de Pays d’Oc L’Hermitage, Les Domaine Camplazens (a bargain at 30 euros) and you are certainly on the road to heaven.
All this at the very understated, carefully conceived l'Angle du Faubourg, owner Jean-Claude Vrinat’s “wine bistro,” or little brother of his august restaurant, Taillevent. L’Angle has been open since last March, showing us all that Monsieur Vrinat, once again, knows how to create a winner. The restaurant is just what one wants of this talented man: Excellent classic fare with a modern flair, a drop-dead wine list at worthy prices, and a pleasant setting that does not look and feel like every other new restaurant in town.
The bare, colored-cement floors, brick-toned walls, simple white linen tablecloths and soothing celadon china sets a discreet, undistracting background for what is to come. The menu, brief and in the know, remains true to French culture, while not getting lost in a swirl of nostalgia. The beef cheeks and lamb shoulder assuage our classic cravings, but much of the menu is devoted to more adventuresome, modern fare. The ‘’risotto” special changes daily, and on our last dinner the chef created a lovely creamy dish fashioned of the Provencal poor man’s wheat, known as epeautre. Baby artichokes are prepared in the classic barigoule style (braised in white wine, herbs and vegetables) but are paired with shavings of rich Parmesan and a shower of arugula. A pot of foie gras prepared ‘’a l’ancienne,’ is all that foie gras could hope to be; rich, well seasoned, better than butter.
There is always a trio of cheeses with accompaniments, such as goat’s milk Cabécou drizzled with chestnut honey; the rich blue cow’s milk Fourme d’Ambert marinated in the sweet Loire Valley white wine, Coteaux du Layon; and sheep’s milk tomme de Brebis from the Pays Basque is rubbed with piment d’Espelette.
Even the lady who can do without desserts plunges in here: A perfect layered chocolate cake, served with a fine bitter almond ice cream.
Even if the food were just ok, L’Angle would be worth visiting just for the wine list. It is not a heavy, biblical tome, but rather eight pages of wines that would be worth drinking any day of the week. There is a full page of wines by the glass, including Domaine d’Aupilhac’s white vin de pays from the Languedoc, and Domaine du Deffends’ Clos de la Truffière from the Var. On my last visit, I enjoyed the pleasant white Picpoul de Pinet, from Domaine Saint-Martin la Garrigue in the Languedoc (16 euro), along with the Domaine Camplazens. Other wines worth trying here include Domaine Gauby’s Cotes du Roussillon Village Vieilles Vignes (62 euro); Chateau La Voulte Gasparets, Corbières Cuvée Romain Pauc, as well as Domaine Huet’s always dependable Vouvray Sec , Le Mont (44 euro).
All the while, Vrinat manages to keep his grand restaurant, Taillevent, at the same, fine level. The food at Taillevent, under the direction of chef Michel Del Burgo, remains classic to the core, with foie gras, lobster, filet of beef, saddle of lamb and pigeon leading the way. A recent visit offered a fine, substantial meal, starting with a truly satisfying serving of thick, homemade raviolis stuffed with domestic mushrooms and a dash of truffle, all bathed in a frothy creamy, soup-like sauce laced with foie gras. Equally good was the main course veal chop, thick and served just this side of rare, paired with fat, first-of-season asparagus wrapped in lace-thin pieces of pancetta and seared to a golden brown. Only the individual tarte Tatin, or upside down apple tart, left me feeling a bit deprived and disappointed.
The wine list, as well, is as much a part of the Taillevent experience as is the exquisite service and food: Here, Monsieur Vrinat is happy to help you choose. Don’t miss the selection of white Burgundies, starting at 30 euro, or the white and red Rhônes, including a favorite, Domaine de la Mordorée’s 1999 Lirac well priced at 56 euro, or the their stunning white Lirac La Reine des Bois, at 56 euro.
And once you have been to both restaurants, stop off to fill your wine cellar at the companion wine shop, Les Caves Taillevent.
L‘Angle du Faubourg
195 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
Telephone 01 40 74 20 20
Fax : 01 40 74 20 21.
Credit card: Visa. Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday. Daily menu at 35 euro. A la carte, 40 to 55 euro, including service but not wine.
15 rue Lamennais
Telephone : 01 44 95 15 01.
Fax : 01 01 42 25 95 18.
Credit cards: American Express, Diners Club, Visa. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Tasting menu at 130-euro. A la carte, 105 to 225 euro, including service but not wine.
Closed Sunday, and Monday morning.