A Pair of Winter Bistros Le Cosi and Les Bouquinistes

PARIS - Le Cosi: What’s there not to love about Corsican food? It’s a perfect blend of country French and Italian, no frills fare that is easy to get your arms around. Until now, Paris has pretty much been a Corsican wasteland, but the new Left Bank Le Cosi seems to take care of that.

With bright orange walls, charmingly mismatched 1930’s chandeliers, highly varnished oak tables and Art Deco chairs, perky service, and a small but appealing menu, Le Cosi fits the definition of a cheap and cheerful modern Parisian bistro. I loved the first course “carpaccio” of coppa – Corsican smoke-cured fillet of pork loin that’s rolled into a sausage – served like a classic beef carpaccio, with parchment-thin slices of coppa topped with thin slivers of sheep’s milk cheese and drizzled with a touch of pesto. It’s a satisfying dish in any season, but particularly welcome on a cold winter’s night, downed with sips of Antoine Arena’s Patrimonio rouge, Corsica’s best wine, from one of its top growers (and well-priced at 30 euros a bottle.)

The first-course tarte aux tomatoes is highly recommended, luscious, deep and densely flavored and served with a well-dressed green salad on huge white plate. The main course cocotte de veau aux olives was a little stingy on the olives but served with fanfare and a flourish tableside, with the waitress spooning portions from a black cast iron casserole as if she were a Corsican mama. The roasted goat was a bit on the fatty side, but nonetheless delicious.

The classic Corsican fiadone – a rich and golden sort of cheesecake made with the ricotta-like fresh sheep’s milk cheese known as broccio -- was smooth, not too sweet or rich, just a perfect ending. Service here has an unusual touch of elegance and care: Thank you!

Les Bouquinistes: The ever-popular Guy Savoy bistro Les Bookinistes has changed its name to Les Bouquinistes, with a new chef in the name of William Caussimon. Former chef William Ledeuil is still a partner at this always packed Left Bank spot along the river, but is concentrating full time on his own bistro right next door, Ze Kitchen Gallerie.

The bright, peppy spot has not seemed to miss a beat, and I love nothing better than sitting in the front room at the window, watching the city’s life stroll by. The restaurant has always been a model of what a contemporary bistro can and should be, meaning you can have your cake and eat it too: You get satisfaction from the familiar dishes we know so well, and yet get to be surprised by the chef’s creativity.

On a recent visit, I got a little of both. Nothing could be more modern than this appealing tempura of giant and meaty gambas, flavored with ginger, anointed by a surprising scoop of lemon confit sorbet. For the traditionalist in us, there was a super-tender, falling off the bone serving of tendrons de veau, meaty veal ribs you could eat with a spoon, teamed up with an unexpected accompaniment of stewed red cabbage seasoned with blackcurrant cream. The dish worked on all accounts and paired well with the meaty Roca Blanca Syrah from winemaker Michel Laroche in the Languedoc. The 2000 vintage was well-priced at 32 euros a bottle.

The menu here jumps all over the place, with roasted milk fed lamb from the Pyrenees roasted on a bed of potatoes and served with a confit of shallots; pan-fried foie gras served with chestnuts and glazed celery; and giant macaroni stuffed with mushrooms and pumpkin, topped with grilled coppa and white truffle oil. The dish was marred by the truffle oil – which is always offensive, and impossible to digest. (If I were queen of the world, truffle oil would be banned forever.) The food, alas, consistently lacked seasoning, something that can’t always be adjusted at the table.

Le Cosi
9, rue Cujas, Paris 5
Tel: 01 43 29 20 20

Closed Sunday. Credit card : Visa. From 30 to 40 € per person, including service but not wine.

Les Bouquinistes
52 quai des Grands Augustins, Paris 6
Tel : 01 43 25 45 94. Fax: 01 43 25 23 07

Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday. All major credit cards. From 40 to 65 € per person, including service but not wine.