La Gitane. (RIP Now Closed)
After a long car ride coming back from a wedding in a freezing castle (another story indeed), we just wanted to have a good lunch in the neighborhood. I remembered La Gitane from a very good meal several years ago and wanted to see if it had retained the warmth and ambiance that I recalled. Not to mention the food.
We were seated graciously by the host and owner, Olivier who placed us at a table meant for 4 looking out at Ave. de la Motte-Piquet and the falling snow. This just added to the comfort we felt on this cold day as soon as we walked in. A feeling that warmed us on a day when it was so needed.
When I look at La Gitane it is as you would imagine a cozy French restaurant to be. White table cloths, thick curtains at the doorway, impeccable decor.
We started with two soups, a veloute’ of vegetables ‘anciennes’ (turnips, jerusalem artichokes which appear to be quite in this year and yellow carrots) that was just outstanding for Flo. The touch of roasted hazelnuts and hazelnut oil set it off perfectly. There is a fine hand in the kitchen, one that sweats the details.
I went for the classic French onion soup a meal in and of itself. Thick with lots of bread, cheese and of course onions. Yes, it was slightly burnt, but it was so good I forgave them.
We split the entrecôte; which was big enough for two light eaters, accompanied by perfect fries and a small green salad. To me this table just says FRANCE.
The restaurant is relaxed and hospitable. It is not cheap, it is a good value for what it is and the cooking is very very good as is the ambiance. Did I say that the fries were perfect?
When you visit La Gitane, please ask for Olivier or Corrine, his wife, they go out of their way to make you feel at home. We spent some time talking to her after our meal and she reinforced that feeling, talking about how they try to hold their prices down to keep the restaurant full and their regulars happy. Total cost for two without wine was 60 euro.
Later that week we broke a cardinal rule and on the last night of the trip wandering the neighborhood looking for food at 930 in the freezing cold just threw in the towel and went back to finish the trip on a good note . We did. Olivia had the Onion Soup, it was better that night somehow. I had a delicate plate of Raie (skatewing) in an airy delicate bullion accompanied by rough cut steamed spinach. An actual light dish!
Mark and Guillaume polished off two good-looking plates of duck, magret in a balsamic reduction which they did say was slightly overcooked, unheard of in France.
What we all appreciated was a wine suggestion for the evening, a very reasonable southern red for 19 euro, a quick quaffer that hit the meal right. Olivia settled in to dry glass of Sancerre.
Total cost for 4 including wine and one dessert, the Ile Flotant that Olivia had been dreaming off all trip (they were light as pillows in a well executed creme anglaise and napped with a bittersweet caramel) was 120 euro. You can spend so much more in this city and get so much less.
La Gitane could make it on the food alone, with the atmosphere and care it hits on every level, a restaurant that warms your heart in the dead cold of winter when it is 8 below (c) outside.
La Gitane, 53 bis Av. de la Motte-Piquet. 01 47 34 62 92. Less than 5 minutes walk from the Yellow Flat.
A sad postscript. La Gitane closed at the end of 2012, a victim of changing times and food trends that overwhelmed it. We were so sad to see it go.