Ever wonder about that hideaway restaurant known only by locals in the neighborhood, so good everyone wants to keep it a secret to themselves with the hope of assuring a precious table on a wintry night? La Chaumette is that best kept secret known by a lucky few in the bourgeois 16th arrondissement.
A true bistro for ‘’locals,’’ when I quiz other Parisians who live outside this quartier they just don’t know about it, and that is fine by me. You won’t find tourists here, just happy neighbors from next door, enjoying traditional cuisine that grandma would make on a Sunday afternoon, in this charming little bistro that feels like home.This pocket bistro reminds me of a grand aunt’s living room, with cookbooks and French classic literature on the shelves, black and white photos of family posted on the walls, rich wood paneling and shaded light fixtures to boot, giving a feel of warmth and comfort just like when you visit family. The tables are smartly dressed with linens and adorned with Chaumette branded china. Of course, the wait staff bring fine French silver for each course, depending upon what is ordered (e.g,. the fork and knife will be different for fish versus an entrecôte).
Small and cozy, tables are lined close to one another, which isn’t that bad and doesn’t feel crammed since everyone in this venue is happy to smile and talk to each other. The last time I went, with friends and our new lab pup, Cosmo, we were practically stampeded with requests to ‘‘caresser’’ (i.e., pet) him before we sat down. On another occasion, the table next to us insisted we try their wine and, upon striking up a conversation about ‘’passions’’ and life, within 15 minutes we were invited to go to a party on the Seine that only started at 11 :00 p.m. (such is the night life in Paris).
And, just like your favorite aunt or uncle, the wait staff could not be more charming and pleasant. They were helpful, smiling, and recognizing my poor broken French, would graciously speak English with me without so much as a frown. I do always try and persuade them to give my ‘’French’’ a try but it’s pig French, which is probably why they speak English – to spare them from hearing me butcher their beautiful language. When we ordered champagne rosé, the waitress mistakenly brought champagne blanc, but when I reminded her of our order she did not argue, as would happen at many other places but, instead, swiftly brought newly poured champagne rosé and apologized – which just does not happen in Paris! When Cosmo, who was sitting underneath the table, started to fidget, she said ‘’just a minute’’ and left the table, which we thought was a bad sign indicating we might need to leave. But no, she went back to the kitchen and brought a roasted bone for Cosmo, served, of course, on Chaumette’s fine china.
The best thing about Chaumette, however, is the food. Focused on traditional French cuisine, La Chaumette brings mama’s and grandma’s dishes, French comfort food that is always satisfying and full of flavor, to the table. Traditional starter dishes like foie gras are always excellent, but seasonal dishes on the daily menu are a sure thing to try as well. Last time my wife Joy tried cauliflower soup, which was creamy but not too rich – just a perfect way to begin a meal on a rainy dark night. My friend Mathew had a shellfish variation on escargots – mussels served in the traditional escargot gratin dish, oven cooked hot with rich pesto broth, the traditional way to prepare escargots. The plats vary with game (pintade, which is guinea fowl), suprême de volaille and mushrooms (a classic dish of chicken and mushrooms with cream sauce), côte de bœuf (roasted cut of beef) with classic bearnaise, roasted cabillaud (cod), daurade (sea bass) and other seasonal dishes, depending upon availability. The pot au feu (beef stew) is the house specialty and a favorite among guests – flavorful, tender, with a lovely mélange of carrots, potatoes and other vegetables cooked in the Staub pot with the beef. The menu changes daily, which is a sign that only the freshest ingredients are served.
The desserts are equally good, but the millefeuille à la vanille bourbon (a thin crusted, “thousand layers” of philo dough with fluffy rich whipped cream balls) – what Americans call a ‘’Napoleon’’ – is one of the best millefeuille I have had anywhere in Paris.
The wine menu offers an excellent selection of medium to top Bordeaux and Burgundy red and whites, plus some other appellations as well, at prices that can be very good (in the 30 Euro range) to higher, depending upon what you want.
A perfect venue to go with friends or that someone special, you always feel right at home at La Chaumette. Open Monday-Friday, lunch and dinner, and Saturday evening. Closed on Sunday.
Reservations are essential. Click here to see more: http://www.restovisio.com/restaurant/101-chaumette.htm.
Téléphone : 01 79 97 32 66
7 Rue Gros, Paris 75016 (near Pont Mirabeau, Radio France, and Jasmin and Ranelagh metros).