The one-seating, fixed-menu dinner at Le Comptoir du Relais is very, very difficult to book. Lunch is much easier: No reservations are taken.
Waiting for a table yesterday, I saw three men already seated, each with a beautiful plate of coquilles St. Jacques in front of them.
I scoured the menu for anything with scallops, but found nothing. I thought maybe the chef, Yves Camdeborde, who had since joined the three men for a glass of wine, had cooked them specially for his friends. I asked the waiter.
“C’est le plat du jour,” he said. Oh goody.
The scallops arrived, cooked in their shells, garnished with tiny diced potatoes, olive oil, lemon zest, and herbs. They were delicious, prepared simply but carefully, the herbs adding their perfume, the lemon giving a gentle jolt of brightness. I thought was one of the best things I’d eaten for a while, until dessert arrived.
On the bottom was a layer of boozy sweet prunes. Above that, prune ice cream. And above that, a thin layer of custard finished with caramelized sugar.
This lunch will stay with me for a long time, filed away with some others I remember fondly. On a brisk sunny day here almost two years ago, I had a warming casserole of joue de boeuf at a terrace table under the heaters, with a blanket on my lap and a glass of red wine. On a warm May day the next year, the salt cod gratinée and glass of rosé made summer feel a little closer.
Someday I may have dinner at Le Comptoir. But until then, lunch will do just fine.
Le Comptoir du Relais, 9 Carrefour de l’Odeon, Paris 75006, +33 (0)8 26 10 10 87