Already I have despaired of finding good food that doesn’t make my wallet scream like the animatronic mouth on the Sorting Hat in a Harry Potter movie. There is no getting around how weak the dollar is and it is equally difficult to find an interesting meal. On my first night, my sister and I ate at Camille, a small bistro on rue Francs-Bourgeois near Place des Vosges in the Marais. Last time I was here, the tables were packed and the noise deafening. Now, in the days leading up to Christmas, the bistro was still filled with diners, but we had no problem getting a table. Unintentionally starting an offal trend on this trip, I had the veal kidneys with potatoes. My sister had sliced duck breast with a honey reduction. Our starters were Salade à St. Marcellin (frisée surmounted with a baked St. Marcellin cheese on a slice of toast) and Saussison de Lyon pistaché (sliced cold sausage with pistachios accompanied by boiled potatoes). No dessert, a carafe of house wine, and a bill that came to 60 euros. Mind you, Camille is a very affordable eatery by comparison with others we looked at.
Today, I went on my own in search of a good lunch. Ann and Jonathan had alerted me to a bistro, Le Rubis, that Fergus Henderson recommended in a recent newspaper article. On their last trip to Paris, a few weeks ago, they tried to get into this tiny establishment but failed. Now it was my turn to try. Finding Le Rubis proved easy enough. It’s a block or two north of rue St. Honoré on rue du Marché St. Honoré. Walking quickly up the street with my hand jammed in my pockets and my head tucked down against the cold wind, I made for the bistro sign and turned in. Freezing weather makes walking invigorating for the first hour and a misery in the third. Inside the little corner establishment, I found a cheerful interior with bright yellows, dark blond wood, tiled floor, a bar with about 5 place-settings along it, and an equal number of tables. The kitchen, fully visible, looked to be the size of a phone booth with one man operating it. Everyone there was French but me. Seated at the bar, I looked at the specials and opted for calf’s liver in the English style with a glass of Bordeaux. While I waited for my food, I noticed a man further down the bar was scraping marrow out of a bone onto toast (Os à Moelle). I instantly regretted my choice. When my food arrived, however, I ate happily and contentedly. A good meal that set me back 20 euros.
When I stepped outside into the cold, bracing myself for another long walk, I was astonished to see that I had missed Le Rubis by one store front! I peered in that window. It looked much like the bistro I just ate in. I’ll have to come back to make the comparison.