Le Coq Rico: Poultry has it's day

Le Coq Rico Broth Ravioles 2 7 12

I don’t like restaurants that make me feel guilty. But that’s not the fault of Antoine Westermann, owner of the new and fantastic Le Coq Rico in Montmartre. I’ll first of all say, reserve right away, the place is fantastic and open 7 days a week, so there’s no excuse. How much of a genius do you have to be to come up with a single-ingredient concept restaurant? Poultry, meaning chicken and guinea fowl, duck, and pigeon. And everything it brings to the table. The reason that Le Coq Rico makes me feel guilty is how they use every bit of those tender birds and turn kidneys and hearts and livers and wings into miraculous morsels. And I don’t. I stuff my freezer full of chicken livers for the terrine I never make. I stuff the birds with hearts and gizzards as I roast them, when I should be treating the ingredients with greater honor. But to the reason of Le Coq Rico: the whole bird. Chef  Thierry Lébé and his ultra-professional staff cook with precision and quiet perfection, roasting farm-raised poultry from all parts of France (each comes with a pedigree and the name of the farmer) whole on a rotisserie set in their small but efficient kitchen. Diners can choose to sit at the bar and watch the action, or dine in one of the two small dining rooms. The place is bright, modern, understated. The menu offers something for everyone: from a golden-brown, intense poultry and celery root broth ladled over tender ravioli filled with foie gras (photo), and on to their signature planchette de béatilles: poultry hearts seared, gizzards cooked tenderly in fat, wings lacquered, and little curried balls of herbs deep-fried. I love pigeon but am never 100% satisfied with my efficient use of the bird, yet here it’s roasted perfectly rare and rosy, teamed up with mushrooms and bacon with the tender liver crushed atop a rectangle of toast. A single serving of Challans farm-raised chicken is a wonder of nature, moist, tender, as it should be but not always is. And, well, the fries are about the best ever, deep golden brown, crispy, can’t stop eating them delicious. Even the little green salad here is fresh and attentively dressed. I can’t imagine having room for dessert here, though somehow I did: the l’ile flottante is gorgeous, rich, and flawless, the seasonal salad of pineapple, pineapple sorbet, with a touch of ginger and lime zest add a tonic that takes you bravely into the cold winter air.

LE COQ RICO, 98 rue Lepic, Paris 18. Tel: +33 1 42 59 82 89.Métro: Lamarck-Caulincourt. Open: Daily.www.lecoqrico.com

Lunch & Dinner: A la carte, 35-70€

The Guilo Guilo show

Smoked Mackerel Sashimi Guilo Guilo 7 11

One can wait weeks to be one of the chosen few that gather around the 20-seat rectangular bar that makes up the small Montmartre Japanese restaurant known as Guilo Guilo (pronounced Gee-low Gee-low). We joined the believers the other night for the 7 pm (first) seating and like everyone had a ring-side seat for the show. Slight and elegant chef Eiichi Edakuni holds court (he even calls himself Le President), directing the multi-course meal like an orchestra leader. The rest of the cheery, agile staff scurries about in very tight quarters, clearly organized and motivated. There is no  written men and no choice, just a set 45-euro menu each evening. Ours included some real highs, lows, and a few ho-hums. Tops on my list was the elegant, memorable cold-smoked mackerel (photo), strips of that fabulous fatty fish garnished with a nori sprinkle and piled on a bed of a fine julienne of shiso and black radish.  (It was so satisfying that our neighbor asked for a second serving at the close of the meal.) I also loved the orginality of the crunchy corn and shrimp tempura, refried counterside, arriving hot and crisp. Another dish with happy, bright, intense flavors came in the form of what they called « Japanese bœuf Bourgignon » a tiny bowl of rice topped with a rich beef stew showered with spring onions and nori. There is something wonderful about a roomful of strangers all eating the same food, like a picnic, a festival, a communion of souls. Several of the offerings lacked punch and character, including a rather bland tofu and crab soup, essentially a deep- fried bundle floating in a delicate broth ; and an underwhelming turbot rolled in a sesame coating. If you go, don’t bother with famed foie gras sushi, which most diners order for an 11-euro supplement. The restaurant goes into Benihana mode as the chef tosses cubes of foie gras in flour, sautes and sauces with fanfare, transforming them into bite-sized morsels to set upon a mound of sushi rice. The result is rather mushy, tasteless, and fatty, flavors I could have done without. Guilo Guilo offers an extensive sake menu, including  an intriguing bubbly sake.

GUILO GUILO, 8, rue Garreau, Paris 18. Tel: +33 1 42 54 23 92. Métro: Abessess. Open : dinner only. Closed Sunday and Monday. 45-euro menu. http://www.guiloguilo.com

Brad Pitt bakes bread

Gontran Cherrier

Gontran Cherrier (can that be his real name?) is a wild man. His breads are like halloween costumes: arugula green, paprika orange, squid ink black. And he doesn't stop there, infusing breads with flavors of cumin and carraway; golden curry powder; even black miso. I love him, his shop,  his ambition, his sense of humor.  His bad boy good looks make him a stand-in for Brad Pitt. But the proof is in the tasting, and I am happy that his tidy little shop on the charming Rue Caulaincourt can be reached nonstop on my Métro line, for it's easy enough to keep my kitchen stocked with a fresh loaf of his irresistible rye bread tinged with a salty touch of red miso. Go for breakfast, sit at the windowside counters, and enjoy!

Gontran Cherrier, 22, rue Caulaincourt, Paris 18. Tel: +33 1 46 06 82 66. Metro: Lamark-Caulaincourt.  Open 7:30 am to 8:30 pm Monday through Saturday, 7:30 am to 7 pm Sunday. Closed Wednesday. http://www.gontrancherrierboulanger.com/

Eugene, Eugene

Daurade Tartare Eugene

There seems to be no end to “outer borough” bargain-priced dining spots and La Table d’Eugène in the 18th arrondissement is surely one to add to the list. Chef-owner Geoffroy Maillard has his finger on it all: a lovely varied menu that makes you want to try everything; service that is as efficient as it can be even when the tiny dining room is packed -- as it always is; and a knack for beautiful food prepared with top-rate ingredients. Lunch choices might include a stunning millefeuille-like dorade tartare stacked between thin slices of daikon and  topped with an herb garden salad (photo); an ultra-fresh portion of cod topped with thin slices of Pata Negra ham and a vinaigrette of pequillo peppers and chives, teamed up with a brilliantly devised (though sadly overcooked) watercress risotto; and a soothing seven-hour gigot paired with the freshest of brilliant carrots. There’s a nice selection of wines by the glass, including the always reliable Jurançon sec Cuvèe Marie from the southwest.  Desserts are spectacular, including a chocolate “pearl” melted at the table with a drizzle of  hot chocolate seasoned judiciously with Tasmanian peppercorns; and a pineapple “carpaccio” set  on a crunchy chocolate and citron biscuit accompanied by a super-rich yogurt ice cream. Prices can vary from 18 euros for lunch to custom-designed “skies the limit” menus for two to twenty.

LA TABLE D’EUGENE, 18, rue Eugène Sue, Paris 18. Tel: +33 1  42 55 61 64. Metro: Marcadet-Poissoneries and Jules Joffrin. Closed Sunday and Monday. Lunch menus at 18,  25 and 35 €.  30 € and up at dinner.

Everything is good at Que du Bon

Quedubon 1 4 11

Another short, grey, chilly day in Paris so the only solace was  to tuck into some warming bistro fare. When I heard that bistrotier Gilles Bénard had left one of our favorite bistros, Chez Ramulaud in the 11th, for a small and no frills spot in the 20th near the Parc de Buttes Chaumont,  I headed over there. And was I rewarded! Another simple but great bistro to add to the list.

How to decide between the braised oxtail with orange and an avalanche of fragrant and delicious carrots and baby turnips; moist roast pork with mounds of soft and succulent cabbage; farm chicken with braised endive? As the oxtail and pork arrived, warming aromas wafted from the table, it was time to salivate, and tuck in. A few glasses of Jean Foillard’s raspberry-rich Morgon Côtes de Py helped take off the January chill, and we smiled in self-satisfied contentment at our choices. The food was not just bon, but the carrots tasted like the best carrots I’ve ever had (and I am not a carrot fan), the oxtail was properly falling off the bone, and braised to perfection, the ideal example of the famed Maillard effect on meat. Likewise, the pork had backbone and personality, perfect texture.

At Ramulaud, I always looked forward to the generous cheese course, and remember envying their little wooden cheese house on wheels. At Quedubon, Bénard offers a small choice of three cheeses, but what quality! It has been years since I tasted Morbier, the cow’s milk cheese from the Jura with its thin strip of ash in the center. All too often it resembles Velveeta and has about as much taste. This one was aromatic, lactic, beautifully made and perfectly aged. Likewise for the aged Comté, fruity and memorable.

The giant blackboard lists up to 150 different wines, including Richard and Couturier from the Southern Rhone, Chave from Hermitage, Leccia from Corsica, and more.

When I took a look at the price on the blackboard set before us, I thought that my eyes needed a quick checkup. Could that be correct? 14 euros for a hearty main course and dessert or cheese? A huge 16 euros if you are REALLY hungry and prefer a first course, main, and dessert or cheese. I’ll be back, for sure.

Quedubon, 22, rue du Plateau, Paris 20. Tel 33 1 42 38 18 65. Métro : Buttes-Chaumont.  Closed Saturday lunch, all day Sunday, and  1 week in winter.