Basque Brunch, Anyone?

cafetoloparisblogThe sunny and colorful space, with mismatched chairs, gym mats serving as back rests along the banquette and a sparkling white-tiled counter, is an automatic mood lifter. The updated Basque comfort food will make you feel good, too. There’s a satisfying brandade with a crisp top and fresh salad, piquillo peppers stuffed with bonito (a tuna lookalike) and calamari sautéed with a generous dose of piment d’Espelette. cafetolo2parisblogOn my most recent visit I had the chipirons (yet another name for squid), tender and surprisingly meaty, cooked in their own ink and served in a little pot with a mound of rice. During the week almost everyone orders the prix-fixe lunch: 12 euros for two courses or 15 for three. I’ve had a refreshing gazpacho, a paella-like casserole of rice and shellfish and a decidedly non-Basque gratin of endive and ham. This is home cooking, not haute gastronomy, and the result is mostly good (the brandade; a lentil salad with rustic chunks of ham and soft-boiled egg) but occasionally wanting (a breaded fillet of fish that resembled something out of a grocery store freezer). On the weekends they offer a Basque brunch for 18 euros. Mine included bread with an assortment of spreads, a thick wedge of Spanish-style tortilla (like a frittata), a ruffled salad and a cold and hot drink.

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