Paris is never easy for me. A stolen wallet, a falling out, a change of heart. Something always happens, goes a little awry, makes life difficult. Maybe that’s why I keep going back.
My most recent trip was no different. Because of some developments at home (that is to say Cleveland, the motherland), what was supposed to be a 3 week stay turned into 4 days. I probably shouldn’t have even gone, and I was uneasy as I flew further and further away from my family. But it’s also true that being in Paris, beautiful in the September sun, provided a certain relief.
And so did a plate of roasted marrow bones at Ribouldingue. Cut lengthwise and placed before me, I felt a little like a caveman sitting there. I spread the marrow on the toast, sprinkled it with a bit of salt, took a bite, and promised myself that I would continue to visit Paris as much as possible. A feeling of well-being spread over me, the kind that makes you realize just how lousy you were feeling before. Momentary happiness (is there any other kind?) was mine, and I’m not ashamed to say that I relished it.
Ribouldingue specializes in offal and odd parts. Tongue, kidney, liver, brain, you name it. Squeamish types can order the beef cheeks and be perfectly happy. One of my friends had a starter of mushroom ravioli with piquillo peppers and duck hearts, the other had sabodet, a pork sausage from Lyon served over lentils. Two of us had crispy seared sweetbreads for our main course and the other had the joue de boeuf. We drank a red from Bandol.
What I love about Ribouldingue is that it is so clearly all about the food. That sounds like an obvious statement, but coming from New York, where restaurant designers receive almost as much attention as chefs, it is refreshing. It’s true that this is a lovely, warm Parisian dining room, with butter colored walls and mirrors good for spying. But this is no scene. People (mostly men on my last visit) are there to eat, and the confident, unpretentious serveuses will make sure you do. This is a serious restaurant without a serious price tag: The three course dinner menu is only 27 euros.
At Café Marly, 27 euros will not get you very much. But I guess that depends how much you value sipping Champagne on a beautiful September day looking out onto the courtyard of the Louvre. Everything is relative.
The menu at Marly is what I would unsuccinctly call crowd-pleasing- international-generic, with a caesar’s salad, club sandwich, croques madame and monsieur, a couple of pastas, and a reputedly good burger. I had beef carpaccio with arugula and parmesan and my friend Cynthia had some spring rolls with a minty salad.
It was all perfectly passable, and although the regulars with weekly reservations might beg to differ, you don’t go to Café Marly for the food. You go to watch people from around the world disappear into the belly of the the most famous museum in the world while clouds blow across the Paris sky.
Ribouldingue, 10 Rue St. Julien le Pauvre, Paris 75005, +33 (0)1 43 54 09 34, reservations essential
Café Marly, 93 Rue Rivoli, Paris 75001, +33 (0)1 49 26 06 6, reservations recommended