If you had one meal left in Paris after 15 dreamlike months in the city of light, where would you go? If I had been better at planning, I might have booked that blowout gastronomic event at a Michelin starred temple, or packed a basket full with bloomy cheeses, crusty baguettes and a bottle of champagne for a lover’s picnic by the Seine. But the fact was, I had not planned for a final culinary hurrah but instead anticipated a worst case scenario that involved eating takeout pizza while fretting about what to do with all those odds and ends that do not fit into the suitcases. Thankfully, with the help of a dear friend who volunteered to take and distribute all our stuff, we finished packing way ahead of schedule and found ourselves with a free Friday evening to do some last minute wandering and enjoy dinner.
Enter Comptoir de L’Arc, a casual bistro on Avenue Marceau, one of the grand avenues that radiate out of the crazy Arc de Triomphe roundabout. For a location so near Champs Elysées, the clientele is decidedly local, most of them trendy young Parisians that populate the offices nearby. The vibe is buzzy and typically French, smokers and blasé service included. On that warm, light-filled summer night, we eschewed the darkly lit room and seated ourselves in the crowded terrace, in an attempt to absorb as much of that of-so-French café culture as we could.
One reason this bistro is popular amongst young professionals is its economical menu. The salads, sandwiches and classic bistro dishes were freshly made, copious in portions and moderate in costs. At 10e-15e per main dish, the prices were more akin to those at my neighborhood 15eme cafés than places in the 8eme.
Actually the food also reminded me of those at Le Roi du Cafe, our go-to joint in the 15eme. The steak tartare, while not made with the freshest hand-chopped beef was admirably seasoned, loaded with capers, parsley and onion to give it the tangy, spicy, refreshing kick that I love about steak tartare. P was glad to have one last chance at his favorite French dish, duck confit, and the version here was decent, the meat not too dry under a golden, though slightly greasy skin. The food was nothing distinguished, but at 12e per dish, we had no complaints.
Comptoir de L’Arc is a bistro that I have never heard of before our meal, and on more typical days, where each meal is obsessed over and each dinner reservation meticulously considered, we might have never eaten there. But as our last day in Paris – a day that started out in a frenzy but slowed down to a lovely evening of long strolls and our favorite dishes – showed me, sometimes we just got to leave things to chance.
Le Comptoir de L’Arc
Address: 73 Avenue Marceau, 75008, Paris France