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, and the menu is bigger, offering more typical bistro fare.
But there is no mistaking Le Comptoir for a typical bistro.
Waiting for a table at lunch 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. But then I saw them on another table, and asked the waiter. “Les Coquilles-St. Jacques,” he said. “C’est le plat du jour.” Oh goody.
The scallops arrived, cooked in their shells, garnished with tiny diced potatoes, olive oil, lemon zest, and herbs.
It was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. At least until dessert arrived:
On the bottom, 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.
Along with the others: I still remember a lunch I had on a brisk but sunny day here almost two years ago, a warming casserole of joue de boeuf eaten outside under the heaters with a blanket on my lap and a glass of red wine. Or the salt cod gratinée one warm May day last spring washed down with, what else, a little rosé.
One of these days I will plan ahead far enough that I can actually secure a table for 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