And so, verdict is in, L'Ebauchoir it was. According to minimal research, everybody loves L'Ebauchoir for its conviviality, traditional and tasty cooking, at - drum roll, please - low prices and space for twenty diners out on the 'terrace,' facing the rather non-descript and shady rue de Citeaux in the heart of the Faidherbe - Chaligny area, where one week earlier, Co. and I had a terrific meal a couple blocks away at 6 Paul Bert.
One of the main reasons I chose L'Ebauchoir was to dine outside, but by the time we arrived in the early evening, the sun had deserted rue de Citeaux and Co., feeling a chill, pushed me through the door and the host did the rest, leading us to a small table by the window. Even inside though, L'Ebauchoir was airy and open enough to suggest outdoor dining, so what the hey. Well, no question, this is a convivial and popular joint - the host and his minions made for a laid-back, friendly, and competent staff and the atmosphere, filled with apparent locals, wall mural, and antique mirrors certainly made us feel at home, home being Paris, France. The food and prices, however, served to undermine the overall experience, with disappointments on both fronts.
Heavy on meat, with a couple entree and dessert specials on the posted blackboard, it was quickly evident that long-term owners Thomas Dufour and Thierry Bruneau had a run on peaches this week, because a majority of dishes included peaches in one facon or another. I was tempted by the entree special - a crab salad on avocado (14€) but instead opted for mozzarella buffalo with peaches in a green pea sauce (13€). This dish looked better than it tasted, the taste being rather bland, although the pea sauce definitely served well for sopping via the tastier than usual slices of baguette.
Co's entree, the tuna tartare (14€), was probably the hit of the evening, with its large chunks of marinated tuna bearing an unidentified spice that left a curiously interesting aftertaste - in a good way.
On to the plates, with your's truly opting for the one main course fish dish on the evening's carte, a slab of tuna on a hefty and heavily marinated slice of eggplant, with pea pods, small roasted potatoes, and aforementioned peaches (22€). Again, this looked better than it tasted. I really had a hard time finishing this for lack of interest halfway through. The potatoes were tasty, but the fish, which I had asked to be cooked 'a rose,' was in fact overcooked for my taste, and dry as a result, and the eggplant did not compute at all.
Not to brag or anything, but the fish tacos I concocted the night before were far superior to L'Ebauchoir's tuna dish, so why not take a gander at my own personal baby. Light, spicy, and tasty - everything my main course at L'Ebauchoir was not. Attention - you cannot order this fish taco dish at L'Ebauchoir, but if you would like the recipe, let me know.
Co. complained less, but was nonetheless uninspired by her lamb, potato puree (with three pieces of garlic embedded), and courgettes melange (20€). Maybe it needed some peaches...
My dessert was a no-brainer, L'Ebauchoir's trademark dish, the traditional gateau riz (rice pudding cake), just like your mammy used to make if your mammy made rice pudding cake. This arrived in a metal cooking container that contained enough gateau riz to feed four diners - you take as much as you want, which mirrors the restaurant's 'au comptoir' option for wine if you choose not to select an entire bottle. For the wine, you pay as you go; for the dessert, you pay 7€, regardless of how much you consume. Well, I don't deny, this was really good. I disagree with one disenchanted diner's online assessment arguing that this dish was overrated because the caramel syrup overwhelmed the cake. I think that syrup really made the dish special.
Co. went with the dessert special, an almond mouse with raspberries, and seemed perfectly happy with her choice (8€). Oddly, the chef apparently deemed the peaches to be appropriate for all menu items save the desserts.
As for wine, we opted for the special of the evening, a bottle of Poivre et Sel (Gamay, Pineau d'aunis), which was as light and fruity as the waiter promised (no peaches included, thankfully) (26€). Otherwise, the wine menu is copious and fairly priced.As you can surmise, the meal was hearty - a carte, save the peaches, that would have been at home in the middle of winter, with its heavy emphasis on meat among its main dishes (with a vegetarian dish included, it is fair to say), more traditional than innovative, and no great shakes. That's well and good when all you are expecting is an unpretentious, low-priced meal in a popular, pleasant Parisian bistrot. But whereas I had been led to expect, from my humble pre-dinner research, something around a 60€ bill, we ended up paying nearly twice as much (110€), something you already know if you were keeping a running score as you read the above. That's not outrageous by Paris standards and is, in fact, around what we usually pay (or at least not significantly lower) for the innovative neo-bistrots I usually write about. In fact, it's a couple euros more expensive than the far more interesting and satisfying meal we had last week at 6 Paul Bert - in fact, no comparison. L'Ebauchoir would have received less of my chagrin had their carte included a reasonably priced three-course menu, but alas, that was not to be had, and what you end up with is a price/quality ratio overwhelmingly favoring price. My recommendation, if you must, is to go there for lunch. Especially if you have a peaches fetish.
43/45 rue de Citeaux
tel. 01 43 42 49 31