79, rue St.-Dominique, in the 7th Arrondissement. 01 47 05 49 75.
Open every day, 12–3 p.m. and 7–11 p.m.
Today’s restaurant isn’t exactly a “current fave,” but it’s most certainly au courant. The foodie blogosphere is now buzzing with talk of Thoumieux, a left bank bistro with a locally famous chef.
After a stint at the Crillon’s three-star restaurant, chef Jean-François Piège has brought his star power to this classic spot near Invalides. His culinary credentials, combined with the cachet of a Costes family partnership, have made Thoumieux an overnight success.
A recent Sunday lunch there began beautifully: my approach from the subway included views of both Invalides and the Eiffel Tower. The abundant staff (I encountered a valet, a doorman and three hosts within the first 30 seconds) were surprisingly friendly. At the table, we were immediately greeted with good bread, Bordier butter and salmon rillettes. We settled in to sip our moderately priced wine and take in the decor of velvet booths, art deco mirrors and gilt everything. The Costes have never been accused of subtlety.
My starter arrived—a dish of calamari prepared à la carbonara. The long ribbons of squid were joyfully tender, and the overall flavor was spot-on delicious. This beautiful dish—rich with smoky pancetta, plenty of cream, and yellow yolk—was both the best thing I’d eaten all week and the last good thing I would eat that day.
The plates that followed, on both sides of the table, were sad affairs: dried-out hunks of flesh that no cook of any talent should ever send from his stove. The veal that I ordered is easy (for a lesser kitchen) to overdo, but how exactly does one manage to dry out a pork belly?
Dessert was better, but still fell into the dreaded category of “overpriced and half-assed.” If this were a moderate bistro, I’d cut my losses and be grateful for the carbonara. But with prices at 75 euros per person (with wine and coffee), I think we can expect a little more from chef Piège. One dish does not a restaurant make.
In a nutshell: Hit Thoumieux on a Sunday when somebody else is paying for you to eat two servings of squid carbonara.
If you don’t like the sound of Thoumieux but still want art deco on a Sunday: Try Le Vaudeville. This little treasure box near the Bourse is thought to have some of the best brasserie food around. It’s shiny and polished like Thoumieux, but with a little more substance.
29, rue Vivienne, in the 2nd. 01 40 20 04 62.
Open every day until 1 a.m.