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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Bistro Urbain - No Tricks, Just Treats

There's something about eating by the window in Paris 10 on Halloween night, watching the ghouls, goblins,and witches strolling up and down rue du Faubourg Saint Denis - it all seems so, how do I say, sort of normal?  A short four-minute walk from the Gare de l'Est, you know you're already in dicey territory, but during an extended first-course chat with co-owner/brother Alexandre Urbain- actually, it was more Co. doing the chatting while I was nibbling on my warm slices of baguette and sipping a decent St. Nicolas Bourgueil - we learned that however seedy or perversely diverse or eclectic in a wino urinating against the wall kind of way (choose your PC term of preference) the neighborhood may appear, it's actually quite safe, safer than the more touristical 6th, so
Brothers Samuel and Alexandre Urbain
long as you avoid that little courtyard between the restaurant and the station where the unwashed locals are guzzling their cans of Bavaria 8.6 to work up the energy to harass tourists that are unfortunate enough to pass their way.  According to Alexandre, the police are too busy fining him for the occasional patron standing on the narrow terrace with a glass in hand than to actually do something about the obnoxious drunks.  After guiding a young delivery guy back from whence he came after bounding into the restaurant asking if he had come to the right cafe for a quick cup of java, Alexandre, with a forelorn look on his face, informed us, 'that's the 10th!"

The infamous lineup of tables against the wall, but note the 2 singles in the back, hint, hint.

Chef David Kokai mans the open kitchen in the back

Taking advantage of our strategic early arrival before the restaurant filled up so that we could snag that single table in the front between the vitrine and the bar, as opposed to the spatially challenged row of tables against the wall, our conversation extended into the first course, so I don't have any photos to show you.  Co's slab of grilled foie gras on brioche was excellent and creative, my mini-tower of  diced salmon and artichoke less so on both counts.  My palette and interest both woke up with the main course, risotto aux coquillages (palourdes, coques et moules) - the seafood fresh and succulent and the risotto providing a creamy, well-chosen base.  This time it was Co. who was less wowed by her lamb dish, souris d'agneau de 7 heures et coco de Pampol - the shoulder of meat was plentiful and tasty, but Co. isn't a big fan of the white beans that accompanied the meat.  I kept swapping moule-shell-fills of risotto for some spoonfuls of beans to spice up the evening's festivities and neither of us did much complaining, by that point well into the Bourgueil.

My satisfying main dish, shellfish and risotto

Co.'s copious lamb and beans

How many Paris chefs do everything well and then slough off on the dessert, or vice versa?  I'm pleased to say that is not the case at Urbain, where Co. and I partook of two great codas to the otherwise satisfying meal.  For me, the tartelette au pralin et chocolat noir was a no-brainer and it more than lived up to high expectations, despite its rather humble appearance.  Co.'s brioche 'perdue' et creme caramel/beurre sale met the challenge, and with a description like that, how could it go wrong?

Doesn't look like much, but the pralin/chocolat noir tartelette was epic

Ditto for the brioche 'perdue'

So the verdict is definitely favorable for Bistro Urbain.  Don't pay heed to those ridiculous comments on TripAdvisor about how the portions are so tiny and over-priced.  To those misguided remarks, my retort is a short and sweet 'bullshit'.  With the reasonably priced 3-course menu (35€), a minor supplement for one of the dishes (2,20€), a cafe (2€), and the Bourgueil (27€), the 101,20 total was more than correct.  Pretty cool, I thought, was a wine list categorized by price (less than 35€, less than 45€, less than 60€).  Never saw that before in Paris.  Your evening may not be as colorful on a non-Halloween evening, but you should come away from Bistro Urbain happy enough not to mind the underside of Paris on the walk back to the station.

103 rue du Faubourg Saint Denis
75010 Paris
tel. 01 42 46 32 49

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