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Le Comptoir Du Relais

9 Carrefour De L'Odeon,

Some restaurants have that certain magic you can’t quite put into words.   You know, one of those spots that everyone wants to not only see and be seen, but also wants to eat at.  That’s not an easy or common combination.  Just think about the restaurant at the Hotel Costes.  Locals and tourists alike aspire to sit on the terrace at this sceney spot, sipping rose and people watching.   But what do they eat?  The same thing they eat at every single Hotel Costes restaurant (and there are nearly 100 Costes-owned and run eateries in Paris), and it’s all mediocre at best.

saladcomptoirLe Comptoir, on the other hand, is one of those few, magical restaurants that manages to be everything to everyone.  It’s fashionable without trying to be and the food is terrific.   Though it’s been around for over a decade now, it never seems to go out of style.  In fact, Le Comptoir is still one of the most sought-after tables in Paris, mostly because you can only make reservations for the prix-fixe weeknight dinners, which book up months in advance. Other than that, you’ll have to line up outside with the rest of the hopefuls, praying that a table will turn over quickly (unless you’re staying in the adjacent hotel, in which case, you have first dibs!).

squidcomptoirHow can you blame anyone for wanting to hold court on the fashionable sidewalk terrace in Saint Germain.  Especially when pioneering chef Yves Camdeborde is in the kitchen.  (Camdeborde sold La Regalade in 2004 to buy Le Comptoir in 2005 and the rest is history.)  Order a bottle of French wine and settle into one of Camdeborde’s homemade Pates or Terrines, like a gorgeous Terrine of Foie Gras layered with Chicken, Carrots and Potato in a Pastry Crust.  If you like Foie Gras, Le Comptoir’s is an exemplary rendition, finished with sea salt, and accompanied by a Prune Compote and Lettuce and a Toasted Baguette.

cremeauxcomptoirOddly, one of my favorite dishes wasn’t very French at all, but it was outstanding; a Warm Octopus mingled with Mache, Roasted Garlic, Tomato and Piquillo Peppers.  And another flavor bomb of Squid, stuffed with Paella Rice in a briny Squid Ink Sauce. If you want something more traditionally French, try the Rack of Lamb in a White Bean Stew or a juicy Pave of Beef with incredibly fresh Spring Vegetables.  The reason the produce is so damn good is that most of it comes from a farm that Yves Camdeborde owns in the Southwest of France, so you may want to consider ordering the Salade Gourmande, and another Salad with baby carrots, broccoli, onion, snap peas, garlic and lettuce.

I say skip the Cheese Plate here (I’ve had better) and get the Chocolate Hazelnut Cremeaux paved in crunchy bits of chocolate wafter, or their Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Glace, which was ‘le bomb’ so to speak.   Don’t get me wrong: This isn’t a mind-blowing meal, but it’s pretty damn good and you can’t beat the scene.

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