Le Rouge Vif A Classic Bistro in a Tiny Parisian Village

PARIS -- There are single blocks in Paris that are a village unto themselves. You could live there, be nourished, repaired, clothed, dry cleaned, enlightened, and even uplifted without ever walking more than a few steps. The single block of the Rue de Verneuil – between Rue du Bac and Rue de Poitiers – is a bit like that.

Within a few short steps you’ll find a butcher, a cheese shop, a convenience store, a tile shop, an electric store, several antique shops, a fireplace store, a boutique that specializes in trompe l’oeil porcelain, a Russian restaurant, a café, a Vietnamese restaurant, and a little 42-seat bistro called Le Rouge Vif.

Wander into this cozy, embraceable bistro any time of day or night and you’ll find owner Patrick Rousseau racing about like a speed demon, sporting a bright red tie, spectacles, and a level of energy that knows no bounds. A bit like a modern-day Fernandel, he is there to animate a dining room that needs little help of its own. With a model modern bistro décor – sporty wicker café chairs, tables of bright tiles and wood, exposed stone walls, wooden floors that seem to make just the right sound as Rousseau runs about, and a tiny oak bar at the entrance – Le Rouge Vif is clearly a home away from home for many on the street and surrounding blocks.

He’s been there since 1995, transforming an old stable into a viable restaurant. With his charming wife Nida aiding in service, and sometimes assisted by their 14-month-old daughter, Chara, Rousseau aims to create a simple, traditional French bistro, and does it with flair. The food is classic, with daily specials such as pork and lentils or boeuf bourguignon, with some modern fare as the famed tiny ravioli de Royans bathed in cream and herbs. On a recent evening, we feasted on perfectly marinated fresh anchovies and meaty whole roasted bar (sea bass), as well as a fine salad of thickly sliced, marinated salmon on a bed of potatoes.

Specials appear on the blackboard that’s carried from the street into this tiny establishment, and change about every two weeks. At lunch, the single 18-€ menu – everyone eats the same thing – allows for swift, efficient service. Wines change almost every day, and usually include about 7 or 8 specials -- priced from about 26 to 38 euros – from all over France, including Bordeaux, Côtes-du-Rhone, the southeast, as well as Burgundy. We enjoyed a Jean Luc Colombo pure syrah vin de pays Rhodaniens, an easy-drinking wine from clearly young vines, but satisfying and wholesome nonetheless.

Le Rouge Vif
48, rue de Verneuil
Paris 7
Telephone 01 42 86 81 87
Fax: 01 42 86 81 87

Closed Saturday and Sunday .Credit card: Visa. 18-€ lunch menu; Dinner a la carte, about 35 euros, including service but not wine.