Gourmet Lunch Under €20

I was experiencing a bit of restaurant fatigue last week after one dinner that left my belly bellicose (and bank account bruised) and another that took pizza to new lows. These meals, plus a lingering holiday heaviness, gave me a strong desire to withdraw to the security of my own kitchen, where I know I can eat well. But Le Pantruche seemed promising.

Franck Baranger, the young chef, has worked for Christian Constant, among others. He and two friends (all thirtyish) decided to do their own thing, and I would like to thank them: their little bistro ably snapped my losing streak.

The cooking embodies neo-bistro principles (technical rigor, quality ingredients), and the service is warm but professional. The prices are more than fair, with a two-course lunch menu for 19 euros and three courses at dinner for 32 euros.

My starter, a cool and briny oyster tartare surrounded by a delicate sauce of lettuce and herbs, would be worthy of a far more elegant setting than this minimally decorated room near Pigalle. Mushroom risotto was creamy and intense. A celery root velouté was richly flavored but not at all heavy, traditional but not weighed down by the past, a description that might fit most of Baranger’s food.

One friend ordered braised beef cheeks, almost falling apart, glazed with their own reduction and studded with carrots. “Like my mom’s pot roast,” she said, satisfied. Lamb shoulder got a bit of heat from piment d’Espelette, and my pork chop was wonderfully juicy, in a pan sauce flecked with whole grain mustard and accompanied by little golden grenaille potatoes that my friends kept trying to poach from my plate. I couldn’t blame them.

3, rue Victor Massé, 75009, 01 48 78 55 60. Mon–Fri, lunch and dinner


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