37 bis, rue de Montreuil, in the 11th Arrondissement.
Lunch and dinner, Mon–Fri; Dinner only, Sat.
01 43 72 42 32.
It would seem that chef Jean-François Renard has a thing for out-of-the-way neighborhoods. He first gained a following at Carte Blanche, a contemporary Paris bistro in a quiet part of the 9th (which is getting trendier by the day), and now he has set up deep in the 11th, taking over the former L’Aiguière and rechristening it Le Tintilou.
When I arrived, there was only one other table occupied, which surprised me given the abundance of good press this place is getting. The greeting was warm, and while waiting I was served bread with a spread of curried fennel, a potential appetite spoiler.
That snack is a good clue that this is not a typical Paris bistro, if the decor hasn’t already tipped you off. Purple and red are the dominant colors, though there are half a dozen others. The chair backs are lined with a patch of crushed velvet. Sculptures of various non-Western deities sit on the shelves next to cookbooks from Ducasse and other gods of French gastronomy, and an assemblage of art from indeterminable locales hangs on the walls. My friend aptly said it looked like a caravan. The space was not my cup of tea, to be honest, but the more I thought about it the more it made a certain kind of sense, since the cooking here, while showing plenty of French technique, is otherwise rootless, incorporating flavors and ideas from the Indian subcontinent to the Malay peninsula to North Africa and Japan.
I started with boudin noir served with roasted mango ravioli. The boudin was ferrous and rich, and the ravioli wrappers were wonderfully delicate, but the mango was lost. More successful was a dish of white asparagus with thin shavings of Ossau-Iraty, a splendid sheep’s milk cheese, and a drizzle of citrus caramel.
My main course was a fillet of bar (sea bass) perfumed with lemongrass and sesame and served with black rice and grilled eggplant. The fish was perfectly cooked, delicate and moist, but the underpinnings were underseasoned. For such a bold list of ingredients, this dish was timid. The daurade (sea bream) was also well-prepared, served with a delicate coconut milk broth, studded with fava beans and fragrant with Thai basil.
For dessert we had a strawberry tart served with a mojito sorbet, which was tart, minty and boozy—refreshing if not the best accompaniment to the berries. The mysterious chocolate bonbons were wrappers of phyllo filled with chocolate and praline and fried. It was served with a surprise “insolite” ice cream that we accurately guessed to be flavored with curry, and it deliciously upstaged the chocolate, believe it or not.
We drank an inexpensive chenin blanc–based wine from the Loire Valley, pleasant but innocuous. I wish the wine list were as creative as the food.
In a nutshell: Le Tintilou is a neighborhood Paris bistro serving globally flavored French cooking.
Price check: Three courses, 35 euros; lunchtime “bento box,” 25 euros.
If Le Tintilou sounds good but you want a little more style, you might enjoy William Ledeuil’s colorful fusion cooking at Ze Kitchen Galerie. Read the review.
Ze Kitchen Galerie
4, rue des Grands Augustins, in the 6th.
01 44 32 00 32. Sat, dinner only. Closed Sun.