Dinner last Saturday in Paris was at Restaurant Itineraires, in the 5th. Although Bistrot Paul Bert is classic old-school, and Itineraires is neo-bistro, if you play the restaurant pedigree game, you’ll find they connect. Bistrot Paul Bert sits on rue Paul Bert, a road that’s been a darling of food press in recent years. Sylvain Sendra was the chef at Le Temps en Temps, also on rue Paul Bert, until earlier this year, when he and his wife set up Itineraires.
So of all the thousands of bistros in Paris, Itineraires caught my eye because (1) generally, I love the fresh take you get on classic dishes at neo bistros; (2) John Talbott, the eGullet Paris moderator, called Itineraires “this spring’s l’Epigramme, Afaria, Spring,” and (3) Alexander Lobrano, Gourmet’s Paris correspondent, also sang its praises. My expectations were high, just as they were for Bistrot Paul Bert (which disappointed me).
Well, I’m 50/50 for dinners in Paris this last time around, because Itineraires was outstanding. The interior, service and food were elegant, yet warm and inviting. Nobody except the hostess spoke English, so as a perk, I got to bust out my rusty French with everyone else at the restaurant, and our server thanked me for making her life easier.
Just as you’d fine at classic bistros (like Bistrot Paul Bert), the menu was on a chalkboard, and a few specials were recited by our server. On the chalkboard, it was clear that a starter and main were 29 euros, and if you made it to dessert, it’s three courses for 34. Very few items charged a supplement. Pet peeve avoided.
Whereas at Paul Bert, seasonal cepes were featured in an omelet filled with a rustic, generous portion of said mushrooms, at Itineraires, cepes came thinly sliced in a small bowl of creamy, meaty soup. At the bottom of the bowl was a poached egg that burst with hot yolk when I poked it open. Together, all these woodsy, meaty, creamy flavors and textures mixed in a way that made me happy and warm – a perfect example of neo bistro cooking at its best: elegant and refined, but still comforting.
My wild boar stew was hearty, rich and fork tender. Your perfect cold winter’s night dish. The light, crispy vegetable tempura on top of the stew was greaseless and intensified the veg flavors – the courgette tempura was superstar. Overall, the pairing didn’t exactly blend together, but I liked the contrast in textures, and I always love fried goodies.
Jon’s beef cheeks (joue de boef) were rich and decadent. I don’t know how he managed to polish them off along with a whopping portion of the creamiest, most buttery pommes purees, ever. There was a spice in the beef cheeks that overwhelmed me (clove?) so I was much happier with my wild boar.
Too full after our two courses, we passed on desserts, and with a perfect-with-food gigondas for 37 euros, our total tab came to 95 euros. Although tip is always compris by law, Jon and I had such a good experience we left extra on top.
When we left at almost midnight, people were still waiting at the bar to get a table. Itineraires deserves its popularity.
For the tourists, comme nous, you have the added perk of going around the block to Quai de la Tournelle and walking off your dinner while admiring the nighttime lights of Notre Dame.
Restaurant Itineraires, 5 rue de Pontoise, 5th, 01-46-33-60-11; closed Sundays and Mondays. Closest metro: Maubert-Mutualite (10).