Les Cocottes is a restaurant in the Christian Constant empire and for this reason alone we have not visited earlier. After a disastrous dinner at Les Fables de Fontaine and an overpriced yet lacklustre lunch at Café Christian Constant, husband refused to give them another chance. Even though I keep hearing many good things about Les Cocottes. No, no, no.
Until I put my foot down last Saturday. It was nearly 1 p.m. and we had dropped the dogs off at the groomers. The alternative was to eat at yet another questionable touristy or indifferent cafe along rue Cler, so husband reluctantly agreed to drop me off so I could line up for a table. A 30 minute wait turned into a 15 minute wait, so he had one less thing to grumble about.
It was all counter seating. Granted, the three of us were at a table, but it was a high table. Green walls and yellow lighting made it impossible to take decent pictures. Plastic place mats and lightweight water glasses on pale wood surfaces send out a no-nonsense message. There is zero atmosphere, the food is the main focus.
From the starters options, I ordered a ravioli of langoustines. It came covered in an intense seafood broth. The raviolis were highly delicious, boasting silky slippery skins and generous fillings of sweet langoustine flesh. Husband was silent, he was concentrating on the pate campagne made according to a recipe the great man learnt when he was a young apprentice. The child had a ham omelet, she ate half of it, which meant it was ok.
The mains are served in Staub cocottes, hence the name of the restaurant. I initially wanted the special of the day. Stuffed cabbages. However, they had run out. As a back up plan, I settled for their caramelised potato stuffed with pig trotters. What came was three boatlets made of slow cooked potatoes stuffed with an insanely rich meatball that was less meat than melting fats and sticky gelatine. The only accompaniment that made sense was a good bunch of undressed rocket leaves.
Awesome is an overused word but this was a knockout dish. Many mid-priced restaurants in the city put things on the menu that demonstrates their cleverness in turning very cheap ingredients like pork belly and tough cuts of meat into grandma's special braise or hachi parmentiers (and make their best profits, no doubt) but this takes the top prize. Three pieces were overkill though, I would be satisfied with a one-piece appetiser serving.
Another pet gripe of mine is to see scallops presented in menus as carpaccio, which conjures in my mind too much unnecessary handling of the delicate flesh, not to mention fobbing off customer with one or two scallops at unreasonable price. French scallops, the ones that come in pink shells, are not expensive in winter and should be enjoyed in bounty. At Les Cocottes, they do it right, a good demi-dozen panfried quickly and served with a lemony gratin of endives. This dish effectively put to rest any of husband's lingering doubts.
I ordered dessert. Gaufres are like waffles, and mine came with chantilly cream and salted butter caramel sauce. It was without fault, the gaufres golden and crisp, the cream at least 2 inches high and the caramel totally gorgeous and plentiful in its own little jug.
The food is very good. Unpretentious good food that charms first-time visitors and draw back regulars. Here's looking forward to Mimi and Rufus's next grooming session!
Les Cocottes de Christian Constant
135 rue St Dominique
No reservations. Closed Sundays.