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Trip Report a Tourist’s Perspective (Part 3: Le Comptoir)

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All the same caveats and personal insights from “Part 1 & 2” hold true for “Part 3” . . .

Le Comptoir

For the tourists:

3 Carrefour de l’Odeon
it isn’t hard to find once you know where it is, but it is a little tricky to find the first time since the streets that cross Blvd Saint Germain (main street) are named one thing on one side of the Blvd and named something else on the other side. And Comptoir’s street is angled just perfectly that you can’t really see the restaurant from Blvd Saint Germain. (it’s not hard just something to know)

Cost 129 euro for 2 people – bottle of the “wine of the month” (was written on the mirror wall inside), 3 appetizers (funny story), 2 main courses, 2 desserts

Reservations: I would say Yes with a caveat. If you can get them by all means get them. This will also give you some flexibility with table choices. We sat outside and it was a little bit of a cool night but the hostess wouldn’t allow you to take an inside table if you didn’t have a reservation or weren’t staying at the hotel. There were heaters over the outside tables, so we were fine, but a few people did ask and were turned down.

This is a very small restaurant. It has maybe 14 small 2 top tables inside in a triangular space and then as many small two tops as they can line up outside the front of restaurant. If you are in the line of table in front of the restaurant, the only way to get the person into the chair in back is to literally move the table out – you sit down – and they put the table back. I love that about eating in Europe but if you don’t – know that ahead of time.

We did not have reservations and were actually going to eat at Le Relais de L’Entrecote (20 rue St Benoit) a few blocks away (they only do steak and frites). So our plan was to stop by Comptoir (it was 9pm when we arrived but we had wine and charcuterie before heading over), see if we could get a table, and if not walk over to L’Entrecote and have steak frites (though who knows how busy they were).

The hostess speaks no English (or pretends not to) and has that charming – no-nonsense attitude that is required to manage a restaurant that is as small as Comptoir and as busy. I loved her but you might think she is a little gruff. She said we could wait for a table, it would be an hour and a half and we had to stand in line out front – we couldn’t go anywhere and come back. My husband was up for it – it was 9pm so I was reluctant – but when in Paris . . . . it took maybe 30 minutes and we were seated.

Would I recommend it: YES
It had the charm of a little old restaurant and was very busy and packed. I kind of like that about European restaurants – America is full of space and booths and what-not so it had some charm for me. The menu is completely in French and even though there is a large American presence in the restaurant (I would say the night we were there is was 50/50 American/European) the waiters are very busy and can only translate (or are only willing to translate) some of the menu. They can’t read the whole thing to you and I wouldn’t expect them to. You can get the main protein out of them – “This is lamb” “This is chicken” etc . . . which honestly is all you can ask. I did not hear one person (American or otherwise) complain about anything they were eating! So just live a little, point and see what you get. I didn’t see one plate that I would have been upset with (other than what my husband ordered)

For the Foodies:

Starters: Eggs/Mayonnaise
My husband remembers this as a kid – for me it is essentially a “deconstructed” deviled egg (essentially and sounds very avante garde that way doesn’t it). It really is just boiled eggs covered in Mayo but from what I know it is an old school French thing . . .

Starters: Snails
I love them. I never get them in the States. They were well cooked and if you’ve never had them you should try them sometimes – in France in my opinion. We actually had the newlywed couple at the table next to us order them as well. Gotta live a little sometimes. :D

Starters: Foie Gras Pate (I think)
My husband wanted this, I didn’t eat any of it (I don’t like Foie) – especially since I had had such a great experience with Foie at L’Atelier the night before. So that is really all I can tell you – he was very happy with it. (And we did get 3 starters, this shocked the waiter and confused him and there was absolutely no room on the table for the 3 plates – it was funny – people in France must never do that)

Mains: Tuna Sashimi (my husband)
Honestly I have no idea why he ordered this. He is a grown man, speaks French, and has a mind of his own – so I let him order it – but seriously what can you do with raw tuna – it is raw tuna. He said it was very good but clearly had “plate envy” with everything that was coming out around us. I’m assuming he just couldn’t take all that we were eating . . . . who knows for sure. He couldn’t explain it afterwards either.

Mains: Poulard farcie facon poule au pot (for those of you who speak French)
I had no idea what it was when I ordered it. Sounded like chicken – so I figured why not. It was essentially chicken stuffed with chicken and vegetables, rolled, tied into a log, I’m guessing poached somehow since the meat was very moist, and then cut into slices. (you get one, 1-inch thick slice). It was exactly what I wanted. Not too heavy, just right.

(Everything that was coming out around us looked and smelled lovely – it has a much more “rustic/country” type menu and presentation than either Spring or L’Atelier)

Desserts: Chocolate Pot d’ crème
Served in the cutest little ceramic pot – excellent

Desserts: Apple tart
Very good – thin crust with single layer of apples on top and a vanilla ice cream on top. I love apple tarts and it worked for me. I have to say (in my own defense – I make a mean apple tart and I love mine the best – but I would definitely eat this one again).

I know this restaurant is also heavy in the American tourist rotation but again it had a nice mix of Americans and Europeans. I loved the food. It had that small-packed- busy French restaurant feel that I find charming.

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  1. Hint for a table in the future, on the Blvd St Germain side inside there is a perfect three top, they always try to save for a three. Best table in the house, take a friend next time.

    1. Which day of the week did you go? Reason for the question is the reservation/no-reservation system changes at weekends. Sounds like you ate there on a Saturday or Sunday night unless they have changed the format for mid-week dinners (it used to be a set five course meal with linen etc) and now do the brasserie format every evening.

      Not certain the "not sitting inside without a reservation" is accurate maybe you misunderstood what she said.

      4 Replies
      1. re: PhilD

        You are correct, it was a saturday night. No set course and no linens.

        You could be right that "no sitting inside without a reservation" may not be accurate but it was for sure what she said. It could certainly be that she was "reserving" those tables for people with the reservations or from the hotel so that they wouldn't be stuck outside since it was a cool evening - which I would understand and would make sense as well. And she was definitely not putting anyone waiting in line at those tables - they were definitely "held" either for locals/hotel guests/or some other designation. It certainly wasn't a complaint, just an observation.

        1. re: thimes

          It is true they do keep tables for the hotel guests, it could also be they held tables back for people who had "put there names down" earlier in the evening.

          Is the hostess a slight, older, feisty lady with reddish hair? If so she is initially scary but get to know her and she really looks after you.

          1. re: thimes

            fyi: for those reading this and going in july/august...they go to a full bistro menu for lunch and dinner and do not take any reservations during these two months.

            1. re: redgirl

              Or to be accurate they go to a full brasserie menu serving it all day from when they open. The true bistro menu is the one you book for a midweek dinner as they close and then reopen in the evening.

        2. I have also heard it's a great place for lunch.

          1. We were here late July 2011 -- for a Friday night, no reservations, we were still jet lagged so a 7 pm meal was a no brainer and of course they were half empty...til 7:30 pm when they were full! Perfect weather for outdoor table. The hostess must have been different from the one OP encountered - warm and friendly, in either French (which I do speak) or English, not gruff at all.
            The food was delightful - husband and I both had a soupe de beteraves a la gazpacho...which I am still trying to duplicate, with little success. I had what OP called "tuna sashimi" LOL - try tuna "bleu"! Slightly (only slightly) seared, real sushi quality fish and it was marvelously spiced and sauced. My husband had the souris d'agneau (no they aren't MICE of lamb, but lamb shanks) and raved. The cheese plate for dessert. I had the three course menu, husband had the two course menu, and we had plenty of food. If you can stand eating early, I recommend it as a way to avoid standing in line on the street. Even though there was always a line of 12-16 people waiting, we were never rushed, but I am glad our table was not one of the four or five that were right next to the line of hopefuls. With water, aperatifs, wine and digestifs (a slow meal!!) about $210 for two. Overall, highly recommended, at least in warm weather!

            1 Reply
            1. re: lskohn

              quick note - I realized going through my trip notes that the soupe aux betteraves was from a different restaurant, so don't go looking for it on Le Comptoir's menu! sorry...