Yves Camdeborde’s Le Comptoir gets a 27 rating for food and 17 rating for decor on Zagat. Reservations are hard to get and one must plan ahead. I read reviews and heard people whom I respect talk glowingly about the food.
Monday night at 8:30 was to be our chance to drop into this matchbox sized restaurant and see if the hype met reality. There is seating per night and then only Monday through Friday. Wynne and I arrived a few minutes late – Paris traffic will do that – more on that on our culinary adventure at L’Arpege.
We were the last table to be seated and given one that, by many standards, might not be considered the best. However, Wynne and I loved it. Once again, very crowded seating – Ridgway could get twenty tables on the front porch with this style of seating.
A small menu awaits on the table. The first course is set, the next two offer choices, and the cheese and dessert are set. Beautiful crystal and silver and enough fun decor pieces to make my decor rating go up. Nothing bland in any way about this exciting dining venue.
Once again Champagne as an aperitif and a bottle of Sancerre Les Romains Vacheron for the meal. A beautiful loaf of bread was placed on the table that had an intriguing aroma. I picked, pulled, sniffed and tasted it before asking… “A touch of curry and Esplette peppers,” I was told. It was so good with the champagne. We ate more bread here than at any other place so far.
Because we were the last to be seated, we saw tons of food coming out of the kitchen. My menu “French” was good enough to guide Wynne away from the Pouple. Ordering and discussion to this point had all been in French.
I watched the room as the first courses were delivered to others and from the menu. The visuals were amazing. Saw a martini glass with three layers: foam on top, darker mixture in the middle, and rich green on the bottom. Pretty sure there were mushroom in it and guided Wynne appropriately.
First course delivered – A crisp piece of bacon rising as the garnish. Foam with some flavor, both sure what and then the surprises began. Tiny mushrooms sautéed with crisp bits of lard. Dug to the bottom to find fabulous spring pea purée and while digging found a beautifully poached egg.
Wynne finished hers first – so much for the mushroom issue. Fabulous way to begin. Flavors and texture and surprises to please all the senses.
I ordered the grilled Octopus. Wynne ordered the grilled Langoustine. Both were perfectly and simply cooked. Grilled with fresh herbs on top and very little sauce needed to make the dishes wonderful. The Octopus was so much more tender than many I have had.
The next course brought a perfectly rare roasted filet for Wynne and sweetbreads for me. Poached whole and then sliced across to yield a very thick portion for sautéing. Salt, pepper and a beautiful brown butter was all that was needed. The texture of the sweetbreads was perfect. Each plate garnished with fresh pea purée and fresh peas and limas from the garden.
Cheese tray is placed on your table and your neighbors as well so that you can eat all you want. All were ripe to perfection, generous of flavor short on that acidic sharp taste that turns me away from many cheeses. Tried several that I suspected might be beyond my taste palate and found them my favorites. Quince paste, honey and cherries to garnish.
Dessert, like the first course, looked as if it might be fun. Only thing we saw was a simple chocolate dome being presented and then chocolate poured over. The idea is frightfully simple yet wonderful. The chocolate dome covers some caramelized bananas and some crisp bits. The very warm chocolate sauce is poured over the dome and then it melts. Visually fun and tasted great.
About a third of the way through dinner we discovered that the entire staff was totally bi-lingual.
Le Comptoir is great fun and the food -mostly bistro style- is as good as it gets. The restaurant is located on a very busy corner and is constantly turning away guests; including an American princess who tried to buy her way in several times. I saw what looked to be good customers given the no and simply shrugged and walked out.
We had so much fun and the food was even more than what I expected.
Tuesday lunch at L’Arpege, Giverny road trip during the day and then Verjus for dinner in a short while.