Because Jon and I were in Paris during a French holiday weekend, a lot of the places I wanted to try (Jadis and L’Epigramme, among others) were closed for the holiday. Luckily, the hard-working husband-wife duo of Le Baratin in Belleville kept things open that weekend.
What I read online indicated that this out-of-the-way bistro is where Yves Camdeborde, Pierre Hermé, Joël Robuchon and Alain Ducasse like to eat when they’re off duty. And well, if it’s good enough for them, it’s definitely good enough for me.
The bistro had the buzzy feel of a neighborhood favorite, and compared to the boho chic of the French-speaking diners around us, Jon and I were painfully over-dressed. But we quickly got over our self-consciousness when it became our turn to read the menu on the chalkboard, which was brought over to our table as soon as the last table was done ordering. True bistro style.
Still feeling a bit full from our lunch, I started with a tartare de lieu jaune (pollack) served in a sweet-and-tart raspberry dressing. The dish was light and fresh, though some of the pollack was a tad stringy (odd). After seeing a mouthwatering, generous portion of seared foie gras go by, I regretted not getting that starter instead.
Jon’s Iberico steak (I’ve never seen Iberico as an adjective to anything other than pig) with black beans was stellar. The dish wasn’t much to look at, but the steak was juicy and raw-in-the-middle, and our marriage might have ended had Jon not granted me more of the accompanying thick, creamy, almost-fluffy black beans (apparently smoked in a Japanese style).
Main courses were simple and delicious. Nothing fancy about them, which is perhaps the draw for all those Michelin-starred chefs who are looking to escape everything that reminds them of their jobs. I ordered joue de cochon (pork cheeks), which were braised perfectly (until unctuous and fork-tender) and served with classic limp French vegetables.
Jon’s order of (yet more) skate was golden-and-crisp-skinned, and not only was it prettier than the version we’d had at Le Gaigne (where we’d expected seafood to be a strength), but also it was tastier. Butter is the key.
Because the portions were so generous, we didn’t have room for dessert. Starters were 11-12 euros; mains hovered around 25 euros. The place isn’t cheap, but it’s packed with French speakers, very lively and is homely-looking enough to feel “authentic.” What we ordered amounted to high-quality ingredients prepared in a satisfying, home-style way. I would’ve been thrilled to have stumbled upon the place by accident while exploring the neighborhood, but as a much-hyped destination restaurant, I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed.
With a coffee and a 36-euro bottle of wine, our total for two starters and two mains came to 100 euros.
Le Baratin, 3, rue Jouye-Rouve, 20th, +33 1 43 49 39 70; closest metro: Pyrenees or Belleville (11); closed Sunday and Monday.