One of the things I love most about life in Paris is the leisurely bistro dejeuner – that delicious two-hour affair complete with three courses and wine, bien sur.
When I moved back to Paris this spring, I couldn’t wait to try some of the new bistros that had opened in the years I’d been away. I’d heard plenty about the haute cuisine-meets-neighborhood resto concept and was anxious to indulge.
My search led me to l’Ourcine – an out of the way spot near les Gobelins – for the decadent lunch I’d been dreaming about.
With its unpretentious vibe, market-inspired menu and excellent rapport qualité-prix, l’Ourcine has earned a devoted foodie following. For 34 euro (26 for mid-week lunch formule) the three-course menu offers creative riffs on classics like onglet de veau, pigeon roti au foie gras, “open” ravioli in a creamy morel mushroom sauce and famously, les quenelles au chocolat.
But no matter what you order from chef Sylvain Daniere’s ever-changing chalkboard menu, the locals swear: it’s all good.
Dejeuner for two started admirably with frothy shot glasses filled with mousse de fenouil topped with crusty mini-croutons, a signature of the Yves Camdeborde school of which Daniere is a star disciple. If this amuse bouche was any indication, this meal was going to be something special.
A chic couple seated at the adjacent table watched approvingly as my husband and I savored the deeply flavored, lively dishes that followed: bisque crèmeuse de langoustine, Veloute d’asperges vertes, Filet de canette roti sur l’os, Noix de St. Jacques roti en coquilles…
Seeming gratified by our pleasure, the gentleman leaned toward us and whispered conspiratorially, “Tout est parfait ici. Original et très bon!” He and his wife spoke generously of many visits to l’Ourcine and its delicious offerings year round.
With its rustic-chic décor of bare wood tables (a scant 20 or so), gleaming wood bar and red clay tile floors, l’Ourcine attracts an eclectic crowd of serious food lovers. From a father and grown son to a family with a toddler, the scene was a happy mix of ages and backgrounds. In fact, two grandmothers in their 80’s appeared to be having as much fun as we were over a bottle (or two?) of Cotes du Luberon and steaming bowls of seafood bisque.
It’s the kind of place that feels like a great secret, one you’re not quite sure you want to share. After all, l’Ourcine’s unfashionable (and therefore affordable) location, small scale and limited menu mean it will retain that rare combination of superior cuisine at a bon prix. Of course, this secret is out so be sure to book a table in advance.
It’s also a deeply Parisian place where unexpected conversations spring up between fellow diners who end up sharing an after-dinner digestif – always a delightful accompaniment to a memorable Paris meal.
If we had one complaint, it was the wait staff’s slow service that improved somewhat as they observed our pleasure with the meal. Anyway, the chance to watch Daniere’s energetic performance through the kitchen’s open window more than compensated for that.
As we sauntered full-belied out into the spring sunshine – the last diners of the satisfied lunch crowd – we spotted Daniere huddled in the front steps, cigarette in one hand, a nub of chalk in the other. With a furrowed brow and look of utter concentration, his thoughts were clearly on that night’s new menu. Whatever he chose, one thing was certain: it was bound to be très bon.
92, rue Broca, 75013
Métro: Les Gobelins
Open: Tue – Sat for lunch and dinner