Le Baratin

When I first moved to Paris, I was new to the culinary scene. It almost seemed intimidating. I would ask myself: where should I go to eat, what should I order, should I return back? etc…I had made up a list of restaurants after reading more than a dozen different food blogs focused on Paris (David Leibovitz, John Talbott, Paris by Mouth, just to name a few) and I would try to make it my goal to visit at least 1 or 2 (if I was lucky enough) restaurants, dine there and review them afterwards. The list I compiled throughout the year I lived in Paris, never seemed to shorten itself; actually it just grew longer and longer and I sometimes felt I was behind on my ‘work’. Paris, as a city, always remains the same, beautiful with both historical monuments and nouveau restaurants sitting side by side. But one thing that Paris does best, is safeguard the secret, hidden restaurants in far-out neighborhoods where one must, I call it “travel” there.

2 years later, I looked back on my list, and still daunting as it was, there were dozens of restaurants I never got the chance to try out; so I made it a mission to go to the 1 restaurant I have always wanted to visit; Le Baratin. Voted by famous food blogger and critic, Alexander Lobrano as one of the top 10 bistros in Paris, Le Baratin is nestled in far out scruffy Belleville. Argentine-born Raquel Carena has had this place for 25 years, she tells me, and to be honest, she hasn’t lost her edge. Self-taught, she moved to Paris, showcasing her work from various kitchens in France, Spain, and South America.

The restaurant has been an institution for many years now. Raquel’s salt-and-pepper hair is neatly pulled back in a low ponytail. I’m sure she’s had it like this for years. She manages the tiny kitchen with her assistant, but produces what I think, is one of the best meals in town. Carena learned the art of making bouillons from none other than star Breton chef Olivier Roellinger, and uses them to bring out the best in any ingredient from fish to foie gras.

Her presence is felt within the room, as she herself sends out the plates to the dining room. Sometimes, her husband Philippe Pinoteau helps her out but he’s busy choosing perfect natural wines to accompany your meal. He’s famously grumpy but once you show interest, he opens up like a vintage wine. The dining room is no-frills, looking like your average bistro with wooden chairs and neutral decorated walls with several pictures.

The menu changes daily and is brought to your table via chalkboard. There was a variety of fish and meat to choose from, but Raquel insisted on a sampling of a little bit of each that she would pick. Hey, why not, I won’t say no to Raquel.

Bouillon de poisson, légumes de saison (Fish soup, seasonal vegetables)

Simple, clean, fresh and very important, HOT. 

Carpaccio de bar de ligne, vinaigre fumé et radis noir (Carpaccio of seabream, smoked vinegar and black radish)

The best slice of raw fish I have had in Paris so far. The smoked vinegar which Raquel makes herself (and takes about a month to set) gave the right amount of acidity to not overpower the very sweet bar. 

Seiche poêlé, lardons a l’encre (Squid, bacon with squid ink)

One famous dish from the restaurant. Thick cut of squid but don’t let that fool you, it was tender and went well with the salty bacon in ink)

Aiguillette de boeuf crue au parmesan et raisin (Raw filet of beef with parmesan and raisin)

I always say yes to raw meat and this was hands down very good. The parmesan cheese was even sweet and the artichokes crunchy. 

Turbot sauvage de St. Jean de Luz poêlé au beurre d’épices (Wild Turbot from St. Jean de Luz with Spiced Butter)

Straight-up home cooking, done in a nice, light butter sauce.

Lapin en cocotte aux cêpes séchées et salsifis frais (Rabbit with dried ceps and fresh salsify)

Extremely tender rabbit meat with crunchy salsify. Beautiful. 

Agneau de Lozère rôtie, grenailles et verts de blettes sautés (Roasted Lamb from Lozere, baby potatoes and sauteed chard greens)

Next up was a bone-in lamb that cut without much effort. It melted in your mouth. I was actually jealous of neighboring clients who ordered a la carte and got to have the entire piece, but I was so stuffed at that point, I was equally glad I was given a sampler.

With your staple side dishes of potatoes. Simple, no fuss.

Crème au chocolat amer (Cream of bitter chocolate)

I love chunky thick chocolate. Great. 

Poire au vin rouge et citron (Red wine pear with lemon)

Giving a little acidity to the end of the meal, it was unfortunately overpowered by the previous chocolate dish. 

Ouf, what a meal. No words. Hidden gem, do come but do book in advance!

This is where great chefs of Paris head on their nights off: think Yves Camdeborde, Joel Robuchon, Yannick Alléno, Alain Ducasse and Jean-François Piège. Why did I wait so long? I don’t know, I regret, but I’m glad I finally went and will come again soon; very soon.

If you’re in the mood for a delicate meal which is heartfelt and from the soul of an experienced chef, don’t look more further.

Le Baratin

Address: 3 rue Jouye-Rouve, 75020
Metro: Pyrenées or Belleville (11)
Closed: Sunday and Monday
Telephone: 01 43 49 39 70


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