Coming here with Bruno and our friends Laurent and Carole for a late and impromptu dinner the other night, all of us liked this place the moment we came through the door. Why? There was a nice friendly welcome from the proprietor, the room was well-lit and visually interesting, with an open kitchen that might have inspired Edward Hopper and an interesting wall installation of overlapping white rectangle, and the tables were correctly spaced.
Then the good-value chalkboard menu proposed a lot of dishes that were a perfect bull's eye in terms of the type of meal we were gunning for--exalted French comfort food. So three of us had the marinated salmon with an excellent remoulade sauce and a trio of freshly baked miniature rolls, and the third tucked into an excellent warm salad of deboned rabbit with rosemary on salad leaves. Though I had not gone to dinner with my professional food writer's cap on, I couldn't help but noticing that the food was really well sourced, and eventually asked one of the owners if he worked with Terroirs d'Avenir, the ur trendy and excellent super well-sourced provisioner to many of Paris's best young chefs.
Like the magician who's afraid that the audience might be on to how he pulled the rabbit out of his hat, he was initially startled by the question, but then answered with a nod and a grin while he scrutinized our table for a clue as to why we might know of this wonderful little company, a cook's secret. Our main courses, by chef William Ransonne, ex-Les Parisiennes, were very good, too.
Bruno and Laurent went wild--with partridge and wild dove respectively, for a reasonable supplement to the prix-fixe menu, Carole was happy with her maigre, and I scarfed down a juicy onglet (hanger steak) served with baby potatoes and a creamy sauce of mustard, cream and deglazed meat juices.
Desserts were excellent, too--petit pot de crème à la chicorée (chicory flavored custard) and ravioles aux coings sauvages (dessert ravioli stuffed with wild quince), and by the end of our meal, we were in really good spirits. "This was a really good meal," exulted Laurent, adding, "The food was great, but it's also really wonderful see the renewal of the neighborhood bistro by a new generation of talented chefs and restaurateurs."
It is indeed.
103 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis, 10th, Tel. 01-42-46-32-49, Metro: Gare de l'Est, Poissonnière & Château d'Eau, www.bistro-urbain.fr Open Monday-Saturday for lunch and dinner, closed Sunday. Lunch menus 14.50-19 €, dinner menu 25-30 €.