What a treat it was the other evening to return to one of Paris’s old 1920s bistro/brasseries to find a new menu, new staff, and a renewed sense of energy in a place that clearly needed a bit of a culinary facelift. To my surprise, Le Petit Lutetia (down from the Bon Marché department store and right across from the new Hopital Linneac apartment complex) has been part of the Costes brothers group for the last several months. For the moment (and hopefully forever) Le Petit Lutetia does not fall into the Costes cookie-cutter mold, where one goes more for style and glamor than the food. Even though our group of six had been relegated to purgatory (way in the back, at the restroom entrance, not far from the kitchen door) we had a celebratory Sunday night dinner, including a raft of old-fashioned fare that showed a fine sense of authenticity, history, and well, just good flavor. What I most loved is how the current, new menu bridges classic bistro dishes – such as delicious seared calf’s liver and moist duck confit – with less predictable fare, like a giant platter of perfectly fresh, perfectly cooked girolles (chanterelles) mushrooms, topped with nothing more than a cracked egg, there to serve as a colorful, flavorful sauce for the mushrooms. It’s brave to present something as simple as this, do it well, and make it work. But more than that, I loved the golden, fried calamari (baby squid) rings, a dish that is so rarely done well, all too often arriving soggy, flavorless, fatty. These were crisp, with the fragrance and flavor of the sea, served with a delicately spicy mayonnaise. A vegetarian could make a meal out of the vegetable salad accompanying the liver, a vibrant green, crisp mix of green beans and fava beans, a dish to admire. Add to this Jean-Luc Poujaraun’s crusty bread and a few sips of Marcel and Mathieu Lapierre’s exuberant, fruit-forward Morgon, and you’re ready to applaud the evening. Let’s hope they clear out the back room, and keep up the good cooking!
Le Petit Lutetia | 107 rue de Sèvres | Paris 6 | Tel: +33 1 45 48 33 53 | Metro: Vaneau | Open daily | À la carte 35-60€.
Note: There is continuous service in the afternoons but you are advised to reserve if you are planning to dine outside regular service hours i.e 4-7pm so that the kitchen is sure to be prepared for you.
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