Has a restaurant ever haunted you? Well Avant Le Comptoir has haunted me for a couple of years over several trips to Paris.
Much is written about chef Yves Camdeborde. His bistro Le Comptoir de Relais is in all of the hip guides to Paris. He even made it onto that famous not so renegade anymore Bourdaine’s TV show for his Paris visit. But I don’t have the patience to line up for an hour to wait to get in. Instead, I have had my eye on his little wine shop/cafe located next door, Avant Le Comptoir at 9 Carrefour De L’Odeon.
But my eye was all that had made it in despite numerous tries. There was always a crowd. A wait. Or it was closed. Yet I couldn’t get it out of my mind as I exited a wonderful black and white photography exhibit near Opera at 2pm on a winter day. I was glad that I had on a warm coat, gloves and a scarf. I was heading out on a long walk across the Seine and surely at this hour I would be able to get in.
I was right. No line and half full. Finally.
Avant Le Comptoir is a tiny temple of gastronomic delight that serves wonderful small plates of modern French food accompanied by a well put together wine list. In a work surface the size of a Parisian kitchen they turn out food that is likely the match of the big brother next door without pretension and with great panache. It has a sort of drunk slightly bourgeois working professionals vibe and once you get in just let the river of baguette, butter and glasses of wine wash over you. And don’t fight the current.
First look up. Those aren’t decorative signs, that is the menu.
Now get the bartender’s attention and that is going to be tough because it is loud, there is lots of competition and he is doing most of the cooking too. Then tuck yourself into a crevice, eat drink and be merry like I did.
I started with a glass of Beaujolais. Not the nouveau stuff, but a good solid bone dry gamay. Watching the cook pulling small containers and ingredients from countless containers the show began. I started with a cream of sunchoke soup with toasted slivered almonds, the crunchiness was a great counterpoint.
Next the chicken. Sort of a japanese approach like a Katsu, a boned thigh breaded and fried deep brown accompanied by a remoulade like dip and way too few frites piled into a mini Stonhenge sculpture. The chicken was sumptuous. Another glass of red please, yes the Morgon the bartender suggested was equally good.
Sensing that all was well in this world dessert had to follow. The riz au lait did not disappoint. Think of a sweetened risotto in a caramel bath. All washed down with a sharp espresso.
You can also order sandwiches or crepes to go. Next time.
The bill? 19 euro, about 25 dollars.
Don’t hesitate to come here at off hours. And you will be comfortable going there alone, in fact, it is made for that quick hit meal as many many people did during the hour or two I spent there. I never did open that book I brought along either.
Walking out into the cold afternoon after saying goodbye to the two ad guys who shared plates and conversation throughout the meal (they were still there at 430 now that is life) the cold wasn’t quite so cold. St Germain looked beautiful. Life was full and at this moment Paris was doing very very well.Avant Le Comptoir 9 Carrefour de l’Odeon
Metro: Odeon 08 26 10 10 87
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