The husband and I are on operation “Befriend Thy Neighbors” and first on our list is the Le Troquet, the restaurant on our street. To get the restaurant folks to recognize and warm up to us, it is simply not enough to just nod to the servers and cooks smoking on the sidewalk during the off-hours or even greet them chummily. So we have begun to bring our guests there (and there are a great many) for dinner, remembering the old adage that regulars get treated better.
It is a good thing Le Troquet is a likeable restaurant. Everytime we eat there, the vibe is casual and lively, with strains of “joyeux anniversaire” often heard. And while almost always full and crowded, the friendly servers make their way through the jammed room to you promptly. The menu is also gently priced at 32 Euros for 3 courses (though the specials come with significant supplements), making it easy for us to go back again and again.
We surveyed the winter menu over the course of 2 dinners and had the chance to try out the spring menu during our last visit. Each time, meat was the main feature. The vegetable soups (cauliflower, asparagus, mushroom), with the lighter than usual consistency, were always accompanied by chunks of meat, be it the humble bacon or the decadent foie gras, adding additional savoriness to the already flavorful soups. The other flavor enhance often used is the pimient d’espelette, a sweet and smoky pepper from the Basque region, where Le Troquet’s cusine originates.
An attraction on the appetizer list is the charcuterie platter that comes with assorted sausages and 2 terrines, and we never fail to order it on our table. The basket comes filled with a variety of sausages from the Basque country (specifically the charcutier Louis Ospital) of varying girth and color, all waiting to be cut up personally by the diner with a sharp knife in hand. It is a dilemma not to over-sample, but we always leave room for seconds when it comes to the fat, white one stuffed with pig’s intestines and stomach. Not for the faint of heart, it is replete with the chewiness and slight funk one comes to expect from organ meat. We absolutely adore it.
Likewise, the main courses are largely meat-based and dense with flavors. Preparations range from the unceremoniously pan fried (steak, duckling and a whole sweet bread) to hearty stews (good pork, though the axoa de veau was disappointingly stringy). There was even a filet of dory wrapped with slices of cured ham in the winter menu, the firm fish flesh suffused with the umami of the ham. The preparations have however gotten somewhat lighter with the spring menu, where I enjoyed a papillote of shellfish and some perfectly grilled shrimps.
Given the 3 course meal set up, dessert is an imperative. The more moderate diners go for the thin wedge of Ossau Iraty cheese accompanied by black cherry jam, or the in-season strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar. I prefer the more sinful desserts, either with a made to order millefeuille, the vanilla cream tucked between flaky slices for golden brown pastry, or a bowl of riz au lait, the rice cooked into a creamy mess sweetened by dried fruits and caramel.
After all these meals, we have come to look forward to our meals at Le Troquet, where we can expect friendly service and hearty, delicious food. We also have reasonable confidence to say that we are becoming regulars, with the goodbye handshake and tolerated last-minute changes of the mind, and will continue to entrench ourselves there!
21 Rue Francois Bonvin, Paris 75015