Its name is Le Jeu de Quilles (45 r. Boulard F – 75014 Paris) and you will find it slightly off the beaten track, not too distant from Montparnasse.
Not that this makes it easier to find a table. The place was completely packed, replete not only with enthusiastic locals, but also with foreign speaking adventurers.
What’s the secret of a good and successful bistro in Paris?
Well, certainly not comfort. The tables are crammed in the tiny room, practically adjacent to each other, with not even the space to walk to your seat without having to move them initiating a complex domino effect.
Let’s call it charming atmosphere.
And the overworked single manager/waiter/sommelier may well ignore you for long periods of time, when you are craving for the wine to be brought while the food on your table is cooling while in dire need of the noble liquid accompaniment (only to be totally charming when attending to you)
Let’s call it great character.
So, what is the secret?
As always: great raw materials aptly and unpretentiously cooked. On this Le Jeu does deliver.
No elegance, but overall strong, rustic, pleasant flavours.
As in this squash soup, where you can even see the concentration:
And even more in this Boudin noir:
Whatever it is they put in this black pudding (and not everybody might want to know), it created a fantastic, meltingly textured explosion on your palate,. Probably not suitable for a low-cholesterol diet.
There are occasional cooking letdowns. The skin of this bream
was demoralising, and the fish was slightly overcooked. But ever so fresh (wild not farmed), and the condiment and root and green vegs delicious.
And a lamb was cooked just as Grand Maman would have
The meat so tender, moist, delectable, and no less so were the accompanying root vegetables, so intense and bodily they could have stood as a vegetarian dish on their own. The tapenade which constituted the base for this dish was so pungent that, when back to the hotel, we found our clothes impregnated with its humour down to our underwear!
The concluding plum clafoutis which we shared was the least memorable part of the meal, so much so that we did not even bother to take a picture
With a bottle of noble red liquid at €28 (one of the cheapest on the fine list) and free and freely offered water, the cost was €100 for the two of us. We left no tip as there was no service to speak of, but we felt the price was not too unreasonable (if not cheap) for the quality we had in a great city (this said, we will soon report on a similarly priced stunning meal in Scotland with materials as good and superior cooking).
We came out happy, satisfied. If there was a next time, we’d want to try their Corse charcuterie and their cheeses, which looked and smelled terrific, sitting in a corner by the entrance.
PS: The following night, however, we had the better meal. It was work, or post-work talking shop with colleagues, so no photos. At the Musee’ du Vin (the Wine Museum) in the memorably named Charles Dickens square, Metro Passy) we had a superior foie gras terrine, a great roasted lamb (again), the most classic of pineapples flambee’, and delicious cheeses (quite obviously, once again, cuisine not suited to low-cholesterol diet…). And, of course, very interesting wines. Man dreadfully came very, very, very far from winning a wine tasting competition, identifying a Pinot Noir (the easy task) but failing to identify a Bordeaux, his head now hanging in shame and his reputation with colleagues in tatters.