I have been in Paris for a week. If you read my last story, you can guess what I have been up to. If you follow French Girl in Seattle on Facebook, merci for tagging along on some of my Parisian adventures.
I need to tell you about a great restaurant I visited today with ma famille. It is hidden in a not-so-touristy area of Paris, near la place de la Nation, in the bustling, and populaire (i.e. “of the people,”) 12th arrondissement. You may have heard of that giant square. It was once used (under a different name) as an execution place during the French Revolution. The guillotine is long gone, and the square has become a major transportation hub. This is an area most tourists visit only when they are looking for more affordable accommodation, or on their way to another corner of Paris. But locals live here, along one of the wide, airy avenues leading to Place de la République, la Bastille, or neighboring Vincennes; or in smaller streets tucked away behind stately buildings. I was once one of them.
Today, I returned to the neighborhood to have lunch at le Picotin, a bistro specializing in fresh, home-made food, and traditional French cooking with a twist. Great name, le Picotin (a horse food ration.) Picotin was also a little donkey featured in a popular comic book series (old copies are featured in the restaurant.)
A quick peek at online reviews reveals most visitors rave about the excellent bistro fare; friendly, bilingual service; and reasonable prices. An irresistible combination in Paris. I would add that le cadre (the environment,) is welcoming, and authentic. This is a genuine French bistro. The restaurant is managed by chef Romain Pauchet.
Space is tight; with limited seating. Reservations are highly recommended, especially at dinner time. We arrived for lunch at 1:00pm on a Saturday, and the room filled quickly, mostly with [young] locals. This is a good place to practice your French dining etiquette; speaking in hushed tones while ignoring other patrons seating a few inches away from your table.
The menu is easy to choose from: The big blackboard on the wall lists 4 entrées (starters,) at 8€ each, 4 plats (main courses,) at 16€ each, and 4 desserts at 7€. I enjoyed a copious beef carpaccio, served with a green salad, parmesan, [exceptional] French fries and a tangy lemon-basil marinade. My guests chose le carré de porcelet à l’aïl (garlic rack of piglet,) served with rosemary mashed potatoes. We gave both dishes enthusiastic thumbs-up.
For desserts, we shared Baba au rhum filled with applesauce, and a sablé breton cookie served with apples and chocolate ganache.
It would not have been a French meal without wine. We ordered one of the house wines, a pleasant Mourvèdre from le Pays d’Oc.
Le Picotin is getting excellent press across-the-board, and it is not difficult to see why. The French bistro food alone does not explain it. It is a welcoming place, tucked away at the end of a small street – allow plenty of time to find it – where guests, old and new, French or not, are greeted with a friendly smile. As a French native, I can only approve of a business that brings l’addition (the check,) with a mini Carambar stick instead of the traditional dark chocolate square!
Give le Picotin a try next time you are in Paris. This restaurant won’t break the bank, and will give you plenty to brag about when you return home.
35 Rue Sibuet, 75012 Paris
Tel.: 01 46 28 99 00