In the mood for meat

Faux Fillet Jeu de Quilles

If you want to sample the meat sold to the star chefs of France, but do not want to cook it yourself or pay sky-high prices at a restaurant, the best bet is to take a look at the remarkable display at Hugo Desnoyer’s incredible butcher shop in Paris’s 14th arrondissement, then move one step further into the appealing wine bar next door, Le Jeu de Quilles. The tiny, friendly, open spot offers Desnoyer’s lamb from Aubrac, beef from the Auvergne and Normandy (photo), succulent pork, as well as fresh langoustines and razor clams, heirloom tomato salad, and a carefully selected list of wines, including well-priced Chateauneuf-du-Pape offerings from some of the top growers, including Marcoux and Giraud; Côtes-du-Rhône from Gramenon; Morgon from Foillard and Chiroubles from Descombes. The sturdy, moist country bread comes from baker Dominique Saibron. Owners Benoit Reix and Romulaud Le Comte act as though they are welcoming you into their homes, with a friendly table d’hôte as well as tables for twos, threes, and fours. The wine bar is spotless, the meat all gorgeous, but I am certain that flavors would be improved with more careful seasoning, a bit more searing, and a little rest time, to allow each ingredient to reach its full potential. I loved the idea of an apricot Tatin, but, alas, the fruit was cooked too long and began to approach a bitter edge. But I’ll go back: The place is too easy, friendly, and generous not to. (And do take note of the beautiful knives used in the wine bar, all made in the Perceval Atelier in Thiers in the Auvergne. They can be purchased next door at the butcher shop as well as on line at

JEU DE QUILLES, 45, rue Boulard, Paris 14. Tel: +33 1 53 90 76 22. Métro: Mouton-Duvernet. Closed Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Open for lunch Wednesday through Saturday.  25 euro menu.

Toyo, a calming zen moment

Toyo Shrimp and Radish Rectangle

Some eight years ago the designer Kenzo discovered Toyomitsu Nakayama cooking in one of the many Japanese eateries along Rue Sainte Anne in Paris’s first arrondissement. He quickly hired Toyo away as his private chef. Toyo had a fine time with that, but a year ago decided to go it on his own.  I figured that what’s good enough for Kenzo’s palate might be good enough for mine, and I was not disappointed.

Toyo’s clean, sleek, quiet little restaurant on a hard-to-find street in the Montparnasse neighborhood in the 6th arrondissement is a gem. I arrived for lunch famished, and in a bit of a tizzy from a stressful morning. Within a few moments I felt calm, relaxed, unhurried. Everyone in this spotless restaurant works with a sense of elegance and precision. Toyo is there in the open kitchen, cooking on his griddle and induction plaques, creating a cuisine that’s not Japanese and not French, but completely his own.

The streamlined 35 and 45 euro lunch menus offer just enough choices, and the series of small plates make for a fun way to witness Toyo’s talents. He offers tiny rectangles of perfectly cooked merlan (whiting) showered with flakes of salty bottarga (dried, salted mullet or cod)   set upon a bed of giant cepe mushrooms. The dish was not only beautiful, but rich, complex, and comforting. A star of the meal was the single seared shrimp leaning against a delicious rectangle of white radish,   the texture of polenta and made up of a delicate blend of grated radish, mushroom broth and soy. (Photo). For dessert, a stunning green tea ice cream topped with a warm red bean broth set me on my way out the door, floating in a sea of calm.

Toyo, 17, rue Jules Chaplain, Paris 6. Tel : +33 1 43 54 28 03. Closed Sunday and Monday.  Métro : Vavin.