27 May 2017

pork universe: l'avant comptoir du marché, 75006

I stand in awe of the sheer cheek of Yves Camdeborde's L'Avant Comptoir wine bars. Camdeborde had the insight to reproduce San Sebastian pintxos bars in Paris, a city where dining standing up is considered an abnormal act, like sleeping suspended from a ceiling.

The success of L'Avant Comptoir and later L'Avant Comptoir de la Mer has validated Camdeborde's approach. No one has replicated it; very few have tried. The L'Avant Comptoir concept has become like the ancient megafauna of island nations, which, lacking any serious competition or natural predators, grew to outlandish proportions.

L'Avant Comptoir du Marché, a relative juggernaut compared to the other two, opened in early fall of 2016 in the marché du Saint-Germain. The bar's entrance consists of car-wash-like mud-flaps bearing images of grinning pigs. A lurid red pig sculpture hangs like a martyr above the dining floor. It looks like something purchased from a Russian home décor emporium. One glance at such garish design indulgence normally sends me scampering like a refugee back to the skeletal bistros of the 11ème. If I nevertheless enjoy the occasional visit to L'Avant Comptoir du Marché, it's because there's a heroic irony how Camdeborde employs all the shlock arsenal of industrialised mass restaurateurism in the service of selling artisanal products: excellent pork and natural wine.

02 May 2017

c'est extra: le bel ordinaire, 75010

The latter-day service-industry explosion of Paris' 10ème arrondissement is remarkable for its enthusiastically globalized aesthetics. You have Asian fusion bistrots, craft beer pizza joints, fish-n-chips, Parisian burgers, bentos galore, and Syrian take-out: a full-on Soho occurring between rue du Faubourg Montmartre and the boulevard de Strasbourg.

What the 10ème lacks, since Pierre Jancou flipped Vivant and Kevin Blackwell closed his beloved bistrot Autour d'Un Verre, is that most Parisian of commodities : a convincing wine destination.

On bustling rue Paradis, culinary journalist Sebastien Demorand's gleaming new épicerie-bar-à-vin Le Bel Ordinaire, with its airy dimensions, its tall shelves modeled on scaffolding, its pristine rear kitchen, rather resembles another new-fangled London-scaled endeavor. Indeed, it is one. But its charm, for now, lays in how well it fills the neighborhood wine bar void, providing a calm and tasteful apéro spot for the quartier's hurried young professionals.