38 rue Debelleyme, 3rd
Mº Filles du Calvaire, St-Sébastien Froissart
Tél 01 42 72 39 24
Review by Camille Malmquist
Dining at Chef Alain Carrère’s upscale bistro Le Pamphlet is a study in contrasts. The rustic-modern dining room is comfortable (handy coathooks in the rough stone wall next to every table) yet refined (off-white tablecloths, the exposed beams in the ceiling painted a sleek gray). The service is formal (crumber between courses) yet relaxed (blue jean-clad hostess). The food is divine and beautifully presented, though the American tourists at the next table may embarrass the hell out of you.
Clearly, this place sees more than its share of English-speaking clientele, as evidenced by the staff’s insistence on speaking English to me and my husband, despite the fact that we clearly understood the menu and only spoke French to them. And then there was the neighboring table. Fortunately, the tables at Le Pamphlet are good-sized and spaced reasonably far apart, especially by Paris standards.
Unfortunately, we were still close enough to witness a huffy teenage girl flip the luscious-looking piece of foie gras from atop her steak Rossini to the side before disgustedly dropping it onto her mother’s plate, then pulling out her iPod and headphones while waiting for her meat to be re-cooked. I hope guests like this are the exception rather than the rule, because the food here deserves much closer attention.
Beginning with the amuse, a full-flavored wild mushroom soup, the market-driven cooking is a feast of seasonal flavors. Our starters, marinated shrimp with avocado cream for my husband, eggs four ways with ham-wrapped asparagus for me, were presented on elegant rectangular plates and tasted even better than they looked. Both of our main courses (one rack of lamb, one veal flank) were cooked to perfection and dressed with umami-ful sauces that could only have been made with real, long-simmered veal demiglace. For dessert, my husband opted for the pistachio mille-feuille with cherries, while I chose the poached pear in warm chocolate sauce with vanilla ice cream – a deconstructed Poire Belle Hélène of sorts – and the temperature and texture contrasts made an ideal finish to this almost-spring meal.
All of these were options on the €35, 3-course menu, which is a fantastic deal, especially considering the quality of the food and the casual elegance of the dining room. An à la carte dinner here would probably run around €60. We toyed with the idea of going all out and getting the €65, 6-course tasting menu, but decided that might best be saved for a weekend night. I’m sure that it is nothing short of a culinary masterpiece, if the artfully balanced, fresh, seasonal cuisine I enjoyed on Wednesday night is any indication.