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Le Repaire de Cartouche (99 rue Amelot and 8 blvd des Filles du Calvaire) – This is a two-floor (and two-entrance) restaurant, which seems more like some sort of portal into a semi-mythical Parisian past than a modern establishment. The atmosphere is utterly compelling; neither lavish nor elegant – in fact, service is quick and more than a little brusque – it’s an absolutely authentic experience, not to be missed.

There’s nothing wrong with the food, either. After snacking on the house-made rillettes, I move on to a brilliant pistachio and pigeon pâté, then nearly orgasmic oeufs en cocotte with shaved black truffles, followed by a fine pork loin on a flawless bed of lentils. It’s all the simple, direct kind of cooking that made France’s non-haute culinary reputation, and it’s a dying practice. Thankfully, not here.

In addition to the atmosphere and the food, there’s a brilliant, novel-length wine list with a special emphasis on the Rhône and Provence. (4/06)


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