14, boulevard de la Liberté, Châtillon (92320). 01 49 85 83 50.
Open Tues–Thurs, noon–2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.–10:30 p.m.; Fri–Sat, noon–2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.–11 p.m.; Sun, noon–3 p.m.; closed Sunday evening and Monday all day.
Many foodies shudder when they hear the word “buffet,” and with good reason. It’s rare to find a self-serve eatery where the food is actually good. But on a reader tip, I recently discovered le Barbezingue, a gem among Paris restaurants that boasts an award-winning chef, friendly and warm ambience and unlimited portions of food that, yes, you serve yourself.
Created by renowned chef Thierry Faucher (formerly of Schmidt—L’Os à Moelle), le Barbezingue opened in the (very nearby) Paris suburb of Châtillon in 2011 on Faucher’s enthusiasm for fine meals shared among good friends. While the space is not fancy, it is very cozy, and Faucher’s sense of conviviality is evident, as diners feel welcomed into the home of a good friend. The ground-floor guinguette (a French term signifying an eatery that often doubles as a dance hall) offers a traditional lunch and dinner, and there’s even a barber’s chair where visitors can actually get a trim with their Friday breakfast (by appointment only).
But the real attraction is the table d’hôtes upstairs, where sturdy country-wood chairs and wine barrels surround long, family-style tables. On each table are pots full of fresh starter dishes, from a zingy cabbage slaw to homemade, well-textured pâté. Have a seat as the room’s attendant takes your wine order and explains where each course can be found, and where to place dishes once you’re finished with them.
Fear not: this isn’t the kind of place where food sits under heat lamps for hours. Everything before you is freshly made, and gobbled up before it even has a chance to lose any charm. Along the back wall are vats of hearty soups and meat and veggie dishes, changing daily based on Faucher’s whims. On the evening I visited le Barbezingue, my companion and I were treated to a flavorful duck soup, gentle polenta, rosemary roasted potatoes that proved addictive, and a soft, well-seasoned braised pork. Whatever you do, don’t skip the traditional cheese course, stored on planches in the cabinet along the wall opposite the soups (near the exit to a divine terrace).
Say what you will about buffet-style dining, but if it’s done right, as it is at le Barbezingue, you can get incredible bang for your buck while controlling your own portions, avoiding dishes that don’t tickle your fancy and indulging in extra helpings of those that do. For example, my companion, a six-foot-four athlete, was free to have several servings of the fortifying protein and starch dishes he prefers, while I had tastes of each savory dish but focused mostly on my favorite course of any meal, dessert. From the superfresh oeufs au lait to prunes in red wine sauce to perfectly moist chocolate cake to a rice pudding that rivaled that of any grandmother’s, I was able to delve into some very important dessert research without having to unnecessarily choose one over another. After all, life’s too short to settle on just one sweet thing.
In a nutshell: Though a bit out of the way, le Barbezingue welcomes diners with the comfort of home and nourishing, plentiful food to match.
Price check: Three-course lunch, 32 euros; dinner tasting menu, 42 euros; unlimited buffet (table d’hôtes), 22.50 euros.
If you like the sound of le Barbezingue, you might also like Schmidt—L’Os à Moelle. Read the review.
Schmidt—L’Os à Moelle
3, rue Vasco de Gama, in the 15th Arrondissement.
01 45 57 27 27. Open Tues–Sat, lunch and dinner.