Alexander Lobrano’s Letter from Paris: Philou, a Very Good New Bistro
The only things that would unfailingly draw me out of my warm lair on a wet night in Paris are the possibility of eating really good food and spending time with a favorite friend, so on Wednesday I bundled up and headed off to the 10th arrondissement for dinner with the delightful Dorie and, as it turned out, an excellent meal at Philou, a superb new bistro on a side street just off the pretty Canal Saint Martin. Arriving, I knew I’d like this place right away, since it was friendly and cozy, and the white Saumur Champigny that Dorie and I sipped as an aperitif was a very pleasant pour.
This is the new address of amiable restauranteur Philippe Damas, who formerly ran Le Square Trousseau, so I arrived with solid expectations, too. We studied the chalkboard menu for a while, and finally decided on two starters, a scallop and oyster tartare for me and winter vegetables sauteed in salt butter with sea snails and a light herb pesto for Dorie, and both of them delighted when they arrived. The iodine brightness of the chopped oysters was perfect punctuation for the creamy scallops, which were mixed with finely diced baby endives and a few scattered lingonberries that added some color and bright sweet-and-sour notes to this light and quietly elegant winter preparation. The lightly dressed herb salad atop the tartare was a nice touch, too.
Dorie’s vegetables–salsify, daikon, parsnip, potatoes and snow peas were perfectly cooked and the plump chewy sea snails gently poached in a court bouillion brought a touch of oceanic succulence and texture to this beautifully conceived dish.
Our main courses were outstanding, too. My cod on a bed of Le Puy lentils with chopped carrots, celery and lardon was at once light and stick-to-the-ribs consoling on a cold night, while Dorie’s wild duck came with a wonderful half of honey-braised eggplant, a brilliant foil for the rich wild meat.
Desserts were less successful. My caramelized banana mille feuille with coconut ice cream was a good idea, but the pastry was tasted commercial and card-boardy, while Dorie’s lychee gelee garnished with raspberries, a lady finger and some tea ice cream was conceptually wonderful, but not perfectly executed, since the tea in the ice cream was astringent and the glazed lady finger was dull. The wine list is brief and runs to fashionable lesser known regional pours like the red Arbois with a pleasant red cherry nose that we chose as being sturdy enough for the duck, light enough for the cod. Service is efficient and amiable, and this places attracts an exceptionally good-looking crowd of arty young Parisians, many of whom were repairing to canvas enclosed terrace out front for a brief assignation with Philip Morris. If this bistro was in my neighborhood in the 9th, I’d eat here all the time. One way or another, it finds a solid place on my to-go list, especially since it’s also a very good buy.
Philou, 12 Avenue Richerand, 10th, Tel. 01-42-39-04-73. Metro: Republique. Closed on Sunday and Monday.
Formule 15 and 25 € (lunch), menu-carte 25-30 € (dinner).