I’ve been hearing about Benoit for years but somehow I’ve never visited this classic, and very expensive, Paris bistro. Recently I had the chance to go and I was enchanted.
The restaurant dates back to 1912 and is located near the Hotel De Ville. Recently it has been taken over by the Alain Ducasse group and Thierry de la Brosse. According to my knowledgeable friend Cedric Reversade, they have not changed much in the classic bistro fare though they have added some flourishes of their own. When I say French I mean really, really French: pate en croute, langue de veau Lucullus, filet de sole Nantua, and tete de veau traditionnelle with sauce ravigote. In short, the works. I’m an adventurous eater except when it comes to organ meat so I gave the tongue and the tete a wide berth.
A superb plate of warm, melting gougeres arrived after we sat down. I started with the salade langouste puce which was wonderful. The langoustine was perfectly cooked and served room temperature over bibb lettuce, girolles, (tiny chanterelles) and haricot verte. Cedric and Monique ordered the langue de veau Lucullus--thin layers of tongue and foie gras. It was served with leaves of romaine lettuce that were brushed with a creamy mustard vinaigrette which I did taste and loved.
For my entrée I ordered the pave de saumon sauvage roti with chanterelles, jus acidulé aux herbs. The grilled wild salmon was incredible--perfectly cooked, medium in the center, and served on the most earthy girolles I’ve ever tasted. The slightly acidic sauce brought out everything brilliantly and provided a nice balance to the fattiness of the fish.
So far so good. I was going to pass on dessert but Cedric insisted that I order the Savarin au Rhum (rum baba baked in a mold) and I submitted enthusiastically. They served the savarin along with crème fouetté, (slightly whipped cream with vanilla sugar) with two bottles of rum to choose from which are then poured over the savarin. Baba rhum is one of the trademarks of Alain Ducasse. After one bite I knew I was in love with the restaurant
As soon as I get home I’m pulling out my French cookbooks to make the Savarin among other dishes inspired by this evening. It’s so wonderful that the classic cuisine of France has been reinvigorated by Benoit.
20, rue Saint-Martin