Two New Left Bank Casuals

PARIS -- Is there a better symbol of French gastronomy than a simple, sublime, classic roast chicken? Golden, fragrant, its skin crisp and crackling, the humble poulet rotie is one of the world’s greatest dishes, one that can stand on its own or serve as a soothing escort to all manner of potatoes, crying out to be paired with a red wine of some stature.

In comes Guy Savoy, once again, to show us the way. His newest endeavor in the Parisian restaurant world is a remake of one of the city’s older restaurants – the Left Bank Atelier Maitre Albert – a warming spot with a giant fireplace at one end, a modern rotisserie at the other. Along with chef Emmanuel Monsallier and director Laurent Jacquet, Savoy has managed once again to figure out what we want today, and deliver.

Walking in after the opera late one Saturday night, the place felt as though it had been open for decades, as tables for two, for four, for ten diners filled the room with sounds of fun and good times. The brief menu includes some Savoy classics – such as my ever favorite huitre en nage, or chilled oysters in a bed of soothing oyster jelly -– and of course that golden rotisserie chicken, teamed up with a warming potato purée. Daily specials might include a perfect roasted duck and a potato gratin (with potatoes too thinly sliced for my taste).

The wine list offers some old favorites such as the fruity, lively Savigny les Beaune from Simon Bize (the 2000 priced at 47 €) or Jean Noel Gagnard’s sterling red Chassagne Montrachet (the 1999 priced at 49 €) both perfect for pairing with poultry.

Another plus is that the restaurant’s hours fit all lifestyles, open evenings only, Monday through Wednesday from 6:30 to 11:30, Thursday through Saturday, 6:30 to 1 am.

Another Left Bank newcomer worth visiting is Au Gourmand, a tiny restaurant the size of a railroad car just across from the Luxembourg Gardens. Chef Christian Courgeau and partner Hervé de Libouton offer an unpretentious, carefully conceived little spot that’s run with care and attention. There is a single, 33 € dinner menu with changing daily specials that might include a brilliant starter of two fresh Brittany langoustines dusted with coarsely chopped pistachios and served with a tiny tangle of greens (a bit too salty for my palate) or a superb main course of a thick, giant pork chop – cote de cochon – cooked rare, a delight. I also loved the pairing of filet of dorade set upon a bed of crushed potatoes. The fish and potatoes had the very same texture, yet stood out on their own in the most soothing way.

If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss the pain perdue aux cerises, classic French toast paired with super sweet cherries and a dollop of pistachio ice cream.

Atelier Maître Albert
1, rue Maître Albert
Paris 5
Telephone 01 56 81 30 01 Fax 01 53 10 83 23

All major credit cards. Open dinner only, Monday through Saturday. A la carte, about 40 euros per person, including service but not wine.

Au Gourmand
22 rue du Vaugirard
Paris 6
Tel/Fax 0l 43 26 26 45

All major credit cards. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Lunch menus at 22 and 29 euros, dinner at 33 euros, including service but not wine.