In Paris, it's hard to be on top of the food scene. But when a new bistro opens that wins the FOODING 2010 du Meilleur Bistrot d'auteur, it's difficult to not notice it.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Rino has two tables teetering in the middle of the sidewalk, which chef Giovanni Passerini, (whose nickname I'm assuming is Rino?) cites as a reason for why he would never be awarded a Michelin star. But not that he wants one; he doesn't like the clientele that comes with the stars, or the changes that it would require him to make to his intimate yet relaxed bistrot.
The kitchen is open to the dining room, allowing curious clients such as myself to annoyingly stare over the counter, trying to decipher what exactly is going on....but it's hard to tell. I see some bottles of milk from Normandy being used, but I can't tell on what. The menu is incredibly limited -in a good way- and milk doesn't seem to be a blatantly obvious ingredient in any of the dishes. Intriguing.
But once the food arrives you stop wondering about what's inside of it and just hold on for the ride as an explosion of bizarrely matched flavors come together beautifully, both on your plate and in your mouth. You don't have much choice at lunch; you have one starter, two main dishes and one dessert. The menu changes daily, which is always a good sign. But the combinations are odd, to say the least. My starter consisted of carrot soup, lamb meatballs, salted fish and endives--originally I thought that I had a choice of one of these many ingredients, but only after asking the charming waitress/sommelier Francesca did I realize that in fact no, it's one dish, a jumbled mix and match of ingredients and flavors. I was struggling to understand how all this could come together, but I was astounded that in fact it did work so amazingly well.
Hidden underneath the leaves are lamb meatballs spiced with a middle eastern flavor
The choice of main dish was either mullet or roast chicken, both served with asparagus, cabbage and a strange green pesto-looking sauce, which of course was delicious. The veggies were al dente, the chicken was marvellously cooked (both crispy and tender) and the fish was soft and delicate.
The dessert was another mix and match of yogurt ice cream, caramelized pecans and hazelnuts and raspberry. And as usual, the wonderful wine had rendered me too lazy to take a picture.
This was very creative cuisine. Simple, relaxed, delicious, seasonal and surprisingly affordable. But nevertheless it was food that challenges you, that forces you to re-think certain combinations that you would have never thought possible. After lunch, you can have a little chat with the chef. He is very approachable and happy to talk to you while he smokes his cigarette outside after the lunch service has died down.
46, rue Trousseau
tel. 01 48 06 95 85