On a recent 4 day trip to Paris, my wife and I had the pleasure and privilege of to meet and dine with another Chowhound, Maurice Naughton. After a nice Riesling in Maurices apartment where we got to know each other a little better, we took a short work to Lavant Goût. You see hundreds of restaurants like this in Paris. Small, neighborhood bistros. I guess one way to tell which are good and which arent (unless you have Maurice with you) is the number of local French eating in the restaurant at lunch time.
Since there are probably no tourists where Maurice lives near the Place d'Italie, the fact that the restaurant was totally full was a good indication. Maurice, who after a short time is already recognized as a knowledgeable regular, spoke with the hostess and was promised a table if we came back in 15 minutes. 15 minutes gave us some pleasant time to see the neighborhood which has some very nice art in strange places and the only shop for beekeeping equipment in Paris.
After 15 minutes we returned and were promptly seated. The blackboard menu appeared at the table. It was full with hearty, traditional French dishes at a very reasonable 28 for a 3 course lunch. We started with an aperitif, the name of which I do not recollect. But it was a sparkling wine, similar in style to an Italian spumante. Maurice, who knows a lot about wine as well as food even if he would never admit it, explained that the fermentation takes place in the bottle without adding any extra yeast. It was yummy.
We discussed the menu, Maurice found out that there was pigeon available and chose for his main. I believe my wife started with mackerel than she had a wonderful pork pot au feu that could have fed all 3 of us. I got brave and started with lamb brains then pig cheeks. I had never had brains before but Maurice convinced me they were similar to sweetbreads which I love. Their was lightly floured before being sautéed and were delicious. But I must admit the first few chews were made with apprehension even though my taste buds were saying this is fine. Cheeks I have had before, these were wonderful and unctuous and simply fell apart with a fork. I had just finished two different meat courses and never got below the chin. I was proud. All washed down with a nice Corbreire.
I had a lovely molten chocolate cake and remember that Maurice tried a parmesan served with honey/mustard ice cream, the only think avant garde I had seen during the meal.
We had 3 other restaurant meals in Paris, all at expensive places that we felt we had to go to; Lucas Carton my favorite place in the world, Le Bristol where a friend who used to be at Lucas Carton is now the head sommelier, and LAtelier de Joël Robuchon since my wife had not been there before and she had a memorable 3 star meal at Robuchons Paris restaurant one week before it closed. While we enjoyed all those visits, we both felt we need to spend more time in the future at places like Lavant Gout as they will teach us more about the true soul of French cooking, especially if someone like Maurice can lead us to more of the true gems.