Of fish and Basque fare

Fables de la Fontaines Tuna Tartare with Wasabi, Avocado and Mousse of Lemon and Kaffir Lime 7 11

Sébastien Gravé and David Bottreau are quite a duo. With Les Fables de la Fontaine, they’ve created a one-of-a-kind fish restaurant with a true personality. And you’ll feel as though you’ve hit the jackpot if you arrive on a warm, sunny day and dine on the compact terrace facing the fountain on Rue Saint-Dominique. (Though it would be nice if they could hide the garbage cans.) Thanks to Gravé’s Basque heritage, the menu is slanted towards specialities of France’s southwest, including a ttoro, or Basque fish soup. Here it arrives in its classic form  -- several varieities of fish and shellfish in a wine-based sauce, garnished with a spicy mayonnaise -- as well as a modern gelée version.

All manner of fish and shellfish are featured, from oysters and langoustines, to smoked eel, cod, turbot, sole, and maigre, a seasbass-like fish from the Atlantic. A starter of red tuna tartare was my kind of fare, with the wasabi-seasoned fish set on a soothing bed of avocado puree and topped with a delicate, bright-flavored mousse of kaffir lime (photo). Modern, refreshing, satisfying. The maigre was perfectly seared à la plancha and teamed up with seasonal white beans from Paimpol to the north, tossed with a touch of pesto from the south, and a Basque touch in the name of tender baby squid, or chipirons.My neighbor’s turbot – simply seared – looked fabulous, and I’ll be sure to seek that out on my next visit. Weekday lunches are well-priced, with a 30-euro special, that includes a glass of wine. With our terrace lunch we enjoyed Leon Beyer’s always dependable, bone-dry Riesling Les Ecaillers. The 2004 vintage could age for many more years, but we were happy to capture it now, with overtones of peach and lime, a perfect match for offerings on the Les Fables de la Fontaine menu. Note that the restaurant is open daily, and in August. I am eager to try their newest restaurant, Pottoka, a tiny, Basque-inspired quick-bite place around the corner at 4, rue de l'Exposition (Tel +33 1 45 51 88 38). Here, meat is the featured theme.

LES FABLES DE LA FONTAINE, 131, rue Saint Dominique, Paris 7.

Tel: +33 1 44 18 37 55. Métro: Ecole Militaire, La Tour Maubourg. Open daily 12:30 to 2:30 pm and 7:30 to 10:30 pm. Open in August. Weekday lunch menus at 30 and 35 euros with a glass of wine. Tasting menu at 90 euros. A la carte, 65 to 80 euros, not including wine. http://lesfablesdelafontaine.net

Auguste, no thanks!

Auguste Cannelloni

Gaël Orieux is certainly one of the darling Parisian chefs of the moment, with press and accolades all over. He’s been on my “to try” list for a few years and I finally found a moment to take a seat at his table. I am excited that he introduced me to MrGoodfish, an incredible European program working to promote sustainable fish and shellfish. Take a look at their website www.MrGoodfish.com. I only wish that a recent lunch had lived up to the chef’s fanfare and reputation.

Though the welcome at Auguste is warm and service impeccable, what happened in the kitchen and on the plate was simply not convincing. A first course celery root “cannelloni”  stuffed generously with crab meat, set  in a brilliant  green  coriander puree, adorned with a line of pungent tomato sauce and flanked with smooth, moist slices of Italian charcuterie was delicious (photo) and I plan to recreate it at home. But there seemed to be something amiss in the strange main course of sea bass that was limp, almost shredded and resmbling no sea bass I know. The sad and tasteless fish was set in a mushy bed of pumpkin puree and simply left me without an appetite. Another first course combination of oysters,  horseradish, and andouille also seemed terribly misguided and without a clear direction. For a man who makes claims to pristine, fresh fish and shellifsh, he simply did not deliver.  The brief wine list is excellent and I have no complaints about the golden, close to perfect Vougeot 1er cru 2007 we sampled, decently priced at 75 euros. But all in all, too expensive and not enough “wow” to make me want to return.

Auguste, 54, rue de Bourgogne, Paris 7. Tel : +33 1 45 51 81 09. www.restaurantauguste.fr Closed Saturday and Sunday. 35-euro lunch menu. A la carte, about 100 euros per person, not including wine.