Le Soleil: A Fine Flea Market Find

PARIS -- What is it about the thrill of a potential flea market find that puts us in such a good mood? Add to that the thought of a fine Sunday lunch, a few sips of good wine, and the companionship of friends and the stage is set for a very fine day indeed.

Take a look around you at the excellent flea market restaurant Le Soleil and everyone is smiling, laughing, looking like the well-fed lot that they are. Owner Louis-Jacques Vannucci is the ultimate host or bistrotier, back-slapping and hovering in the best of ways, making sure that each and every client is happy to be there.

Vannucci is a true gourmand himself, and loves nothing better than describing the pedigree of his fresh-caught fish, of his entrecote from Salers, or the giant block of sweet, golden butter that’s passed from table to table.

There is no printed menu, just a blackboard that travels from table to table. Choices here vary according to Vannucci’s whims, so you may not see the same dishes here time and again. But follow his lead and you’re sure to leave the bright, multi-colored 50’s-style restaurant with a feeling of satisfaction.

The food has a nice flair, with a perky celery remoulade, enhanced by a touch of acidity supplied by fresh green apple; and a nicely done foie gras mi-cuit set on a round of brioche and flanked by a touch of sweet aspic. At a recent lunch the owner offered a surprising and successful starter, a rectangle of puff pastry topped with slices of Jerusalem artichoke and thin slivers of foie gras.

Fat portions of confit of duck arrive set on a bed of sautéed potatoes, and thick, perfectly cooked lamb chops arrive with a welcoming vegetable accompaniment, a mix of fresh green beans, browned onions, and sautéed mushrooms offset by a bit of tomato and garlic.

For dessert there is always their famous, giant, baba au rhum.

The wine list offers some good choices, including the powerful 1999 Château Puech-Haut, a spicy red Coteaux du Languedoc that’s got the right balance of tannin and fruit, and is filled with intense flavors of blackberries and cassis. It is reasonably priced at 33 €. The wait staff wisely carafes the good wines, a practice normally reserved for grander restaurants.

Le Soleil
109 Avenue Michelet
93400 Saint Ouen
Telephone: 01 40 10 08 08
Fax: 01 40 10 16 85
E-mail: lesoleil@wanadoo.fr

Open daily for lunch, and Thursday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. 35 to 65 €, including service but not wine.