About 2 blocks off the Place dItalie, along an unassuming but fairly quiet street, is the modest façade of lAvant Gout. We arrived for our 8:00 pm Thursday reservation and were warmly welcomed by the Elizabeth the hostess (owner?) who offered to seat us in a non-smoking area which happened to be the table closest to the door. We immediately figured out the nature of the non-smoking area as it was simply based on the close proximity of our table to the entrance door and which vainly eliminated the tobacco smoke thats ever-present in almost all French restaurants. This didnt really bother us as we were already, frankly, surprised by being offered a non-smoking table, in a place where every table seemed to have at least one occupant with a lit cigarette.
The food that were about to be served is really what we came in there for. We started with the fresh scallops on half-shell with cheese, thinly-sliced ham on a terrific butter-based sauce and a dish of generous terrine of foie gras with vanilla flavor and fresh finely-chopped mangoes. Then the plats of a memorable crispy-fried joues de porc and small pumpkin with thin wine and vinegar-based sauce and another of a tasty shredded lamb in pastry (Chinese egg-roll style) followed.
I was expecting, and hoping for, a formal wine-pairing with our prix-fixe orders which I previously thought was a regularly offered on Thursdays. However, it wasnt available for that night. Instead, we went with a couple of glasses each of wonderfully-crisp, clean-tasting and hedonistic 2003 Leclous Vin de Pays Des Fiefs Vendeens, in addition to a very food-complementary glass of a wait staff- recommended Chinon.
The 2-man wait staff appears to handle the capacity-filled bistro in a very attentive and efficient manner. Ours was casual, not overbearing and was patiently-helpful in translating the menu.
The small bistro is not large and the hostess and wait staff seem to be happily acquainted with almost all the diners who, with us as the excepion, seem to be all locals.
It was the first night of our long week-end trip in Paris and we were very glad that we started our trip in a very positive manner, in spite of the jet lag and the travel weariness.
LAvant Gout is a definite must for our next visit in Paris.