Claude and Chantal Colliot make a perfect pair of restaurateurs. As Claude animates the kitchen with a deftness and sense of authority, Chantal makes their tiny eight-table restaurant come alive. Le Bamboche, a compact bistro begun by David Van Laer and later taken over by the Colliots – is a model of its genre. It is personal, friendly, accessible and a place to have a very good time.
With walls the color of burnt pumpkin and tables gathered side by side, you almost feel you are in someone’s personal dining room. Just steps from the Bon Marche department store, Le Bamboche is a good Left Bank standby.
Chef Colliot has designed an original, succinct seasonal menu, dividing it by ingredients and featuring two versions of each. Tuna, for example, might be served roasted with coriander and a well-seasoned vinaigrette, or pan-seared with a variety of spicy dried peppercorns, all sauced with a poultry reduction and tiny black olives from Nice.
Likewise, you can have your pigeon roasted or poached, your veal chop pan-seared or roasted, your foie gras poached or served warm and creamy with a truffle and licorice sauce. He continues the same theme with shellfish and the alabaster white Saint-Pierre, seasonal fruits, and even chocolate.
I recently feasted on meaty saddle of lamb, bathed in a complex sauce of spices and rosemary, all cooked to such a tenderness you could eat it with a spoon. But it was the vegetable starter from the Loire Valley that pleased me most. From asparagus to artichokes. green beans to babv carrots. it
I recently feasted on meaty saddle of lamb, bathed in a complex sauce of spices and rosemary, all cooked to such a tenderness you could eat it with a spoon. But it was the vegetable starter from the Loire Valley that pleased me most. From asparagus to artichokes, green beans to baby carrots, it created a tempting mélange paired with a surprising dollop of ice cream made with fresh sheep’s milk cheese. My only disappointment was lobster raviolis made with pasta that was much too thick.
But Colliot regains his rhythm with roasted veal chops teamed with fresh marjoram and lemon, as well as a terrific pigeon from the Vendee region on the Atlantic coast, roasted to a turn and seasoned with a finely acidic sauce lightly heightened with Szechuan peppercorns.
At Le Bamboche, what you see is what you get. Colliot delivers his own flair, but ingredients retain their personality and purity, without overbearing impositions from the chef. As complex as the menu appears, it is a lesson on how creativity can boil down to sheer simplicity in the proper hands.
Beyond the food, diners interested in discovering some new wine experiences should put themselves in Chantal’s hands and let her show off their new finds from the Loire and the center of France. Le Bamboche’s wine cellar offers treasures from Sancerre, Reuilly and even the Sologne, which is not reputed for its wines. What these winemakers manage to get out of their sauvignon blanc and their pinot noir is remarkable. Be sure to try Claude Courtois’s1999 Quartz Les Cailloux du Paradis and his 1998 Evidence, both unfiltered wines from the Sologne.
You can also delve into some fine unfiltered Chinon. The 1998 Domaine de Pascal Brunet, vieilles vignes, is 150 francs ($20). Travel to the southwest with a heady Madiran (the 1997 Domaine Labranche-Lafont, vieilles vignes, is 160 francs) or to Provence with Michel Faraud’s dependable Gigondas, Domaine du Cayron (the 1998 is 260 francs).
Come dessert time, Colliot does not let you down. The tangy Garriguette variety of strawberries are roasted and bathed in a tea-flavored syrup, or can be marinated in a balsamic vinegar reduction. And cheeses come from the reputable neighborhood cheese shop, Quatrehomme.
Le Bamboche, 15, Rue de Babylone, Paris 7; tel: 01-45-49-14-40; fax: 01-45-49-14-44. Credit cards: American Express, Visa. Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday. 320-franc menu.
A la carte, 340 to 420 francs, including service but not wine.
First publication: The International Herald Tribune – The New York Times by Patricia Wells