I dined one day this week at the Ravigotte on the rue de Montrueil in the 11th arrondissement. I've mentioned this little Paris bistro before. This isn't a restaurant review; just some thoughts over a meal.
Late lunch in a 12-table neighborhood spot with blow-ups of old scenes of nearby streets from vintage postcards and other art scattered on the walls. Red-and-white checkered curtains on the windows on the street-end of a long rectangular space. Lovely, patterned mat-glaze tile floor. White paper table covers. Shades of red and wood tones. Very warm.
A table to my left of woodworkers, a tad boisterous, one in coveralls, the other three in casual clothes. Two businessmen across the way and a bit to the right, leaning over their "tete de veau, the specialty (which I dare not order, but may some day before I die), inhaling at some length before they dig in, each with their own bottle of wine.
My first course: charcuterie, five kinds of pork pate and cold cuts. Where are the cornichons, little pickles in the footed dish in sight on some other tables, and the butter? Ah, there they come!
Pierre, the chef, in whites, all smiles, working the room. Off and on sitting to chat. A quarter of everyone knows a quarter of everyone else.
Main course, "fricasee of duck." Brought to the table boiling hot in a thick china bowl, with a joint standing up in the middle. White beans, but not a cassoulet. Wonderfully simple.
A pitcher of wine and all the time in the world to enjoy the light and a large new painting on the wall. Something (a pot-au-feu, I think) cooking in a copper pot. The technique a little rough, yet it's just right in this place.
Desert, a rustic chocolate cake with a low-key chocolate icing. A coffee.
Paying the bill at the "symbolic" bar, where no one ever drinks. Pierre's wife asks: Don't I think he paid too much for the painting, 700 euros? Yes, I do believe that's a bit high, but it's wonderful just the same.
This was a perfect meal in a humble place. No stars needed. A meal never to be repeated -- part of the grace and the joy.