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Lunch report: Bistrot Belhara (or, a love affair continues)

Kelly | May 6, 201602:30 PM

The last time I’d eaten here was about nine months ago, with my stepdaughter and her boyfriend on a sweltering summer day. It was his first time out of the U.S., and I couldn’t have asked for a better “intro to Paris” meal for him: fabulous food, elevated by the charming setting and the even more charming waiters.

So this week, I heartlessly abandoned my colleagues to their own devices and had a lovely last lunch before returning to Brussels. I was overjoyed to see the same two waiters, and settled in for a meal punctuated by comic asides (Example: when I was debating what to drink with the soup starter, waiter #1 looked startled and said, “Wine with soup? That’s a lot of liquid. Does one not risk a flood?” I agreed but said that it was a risk I was willing to take, and he said, “Very well. I shall bring you a glass of Côtes de Provence and I shall put a plumber on standby.”)

Said soup was a gorgeous velouté d’asperges—a triumph of brilliant green herbaceousness punctuated by drops of shellfish essence, tiny sautéed écrévisses, crisp jambon de Bayonne and a dollop of crème fraiche. The restaurant serves Poujauran bread, which made me very, very happy indeed.

I followed with volaille jaune fermière cuisinée en cocotte à l’estragon, morilles, pommes de terre et petits lardons. Tender on-the-bone chicken, earthy mushrooms, crispy potatoes, fragrant herbs and a perfectly seasoned sauce…when waiter #2 delivered it, I said it was something to render my husband jealous. He said, “But he doesn’t need to know!” You’re right, I said, except for the fact that I’m taking a picture of it and sending it to him. “Ah. Then you should probably tell him it’s all my fault. The woman should always remain blameless.”

24 euros for two courses of this calibre? God, I love this city.

I passed on dessert, but lingered with a glass of Jurançon moelleux before asking for a petit café. (“Petit mais gentil,” commented waiter #1.) And then I left, reluctantly, for the métro back to the Gare du Nord.

The only disturbing note: the restaurant was empty. The waiters were phlegmatic about it, saying crowds have always varied considerably. I feel odd telling people to GO to the restaurant—as opposed to STAY AWAY because I want to keep it all to myself—but I couldn’t bear it if they closed!

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