Though the name, Frenchie, is cloying without being cute and also perpetuates some much loved but completely daft idea the French have that English speakers refer to them as Frenchies, this vest-pocket bistro in the Sentier, or old Paris garment district, is a delightful spot with really excellent food. Gregory Marchand, the Nantes born chef-owner, works in a tiny kitchen in the back of a exposed stone and red-brick dining room that could easily be found in Nolita (NYC) or Shoreditch (London), and the vibe is similarly Anglo-American, which makes sense, because Greg mostly recently did a stint at Danny Meyer's sublime Gramercy Tavern and worked at Jamie Oliver's 15 before that.
The short market menu offers two starters, two mains, a cheese plate and two desserts, and it changes often, which is a good thing, since this place has already acquired a dedicated crowd of young regulars. Waiting for Nadine to arrive, I drank a glass of very good Bossard Muscadet and studied the wine list, which is impressive, including Pic Saint Loup de Mas Foulaquier, a lovely Spanish Rueda, several outstanding cotes du Rhone.
Though the smoked trout with green, purple and wild asparagus sounded good, it was a cool, wet May night, so we both began with an excellent cream of celery soup that was laddled over croutons, a slice of foie gras and a coddled egg to create comfort food at its very best. Next, some of the best brandade de morue (flaked salt cod with potatoes and garlic), I've ever had. Marchard's version was wonderfully creamy, and came with vivid swirls of red pepper puree and parsley jus, both of which flattered the cod. The other main course was a paleron de boeuf, or braised beef, with carrots, and it looked quite tasty on our neighbor's table, too.
I ordered the cheese plate--a nice chevre and a slice of Tomme with a small salad and a dab of honey, to finish off our Rueda, one of my favorite everyday white wines, and Nadine succumbed to the chocolate tart, which was also excellent and came with raspberry puree.
Because the atmosphere's so cosy and the food's so good, Frenchie is exactly the type of happy, homey restaurant you'd love to claim as your neighborhood hang-out. It also offers an interesting snap shot of Paris dining in 2009 because it's main references are two countries that were once derided for their mediocre, even ghastly food--the United States and the United Kingdom--but which have now developed distinctive cuisine du marche styles of their own.
It's telling, too, that this Spring's two best new Paris restaurants--Frenchie and Yam'Tcha (see my previous posting)--have young chefs who returned home after cooking abroad (Adeline Grattard of Yam'Tcha worked in Hong Kong for several years), and that Battersea, Boston, and Bangkok are as likely to be a source of inspiration for ambitious young French chefs today as Bordeaux or Blois.
Frenchie, 5 rue du Nil, 2nd, Tel. 01-40-39-96-19. Metro: Sentier
Yam'Tcha, 4 rue Sauval, 1st, Tel. 01-40-26-08-07. Metro: Louvre-Rivoli