It was on the menu, to my relief. Great relief. I first sat down to dine at Le Comptoir du Relais two years ago. It was a warm summer day, and the tables on the sidewalk were full of families and solo diners and couples. I was solo, and so had to share with no one one of the best plates I have ever had, anywhere: Carpaccio de Tête de veau. The chef, Yves Camdeborde, has long been a favorite of Parisian diners, and his kitchen is still producing great food.
Simply put, the meat that comes on this plate is sublimely flavorful, and when it first touches your tongue the sensuality of it melting in your mouth will make you want to close your eyes and forever stay in that moment. That feeling, and taste, will be the reason you, like I, will visit that sidewalk as long as the restaurant’s ovens are hot.
I decided to return to Paris this year, to spend days and nights with Angela, who is here for most of August. I have on more than one occasion told Angela about the dish at Le Comptoir, the Carpaccio de Tête de veau, that dish I love and adore and can by merely thinking about eating it grow desirous. I told Angela we had to go to Le Comptoir du Relais.
(A few nights before I made my way back to that sidewalk near Metro Odeon, Angela and I ate at a place in the 7th, and I had potatoes stuffed with the meat from pig’s feet. It was good, but it was nothing compared to my Carpaccio de Tête de veau. So, when you are in Paris, and wanting a great dish, take my advice and do nothing until you visit Le Comptoir.)
On the joyous night, Angela and I met a former colleague, Nick Stout, who has lived in Paris for 30-plus years, and he had never been to my sidewalk table.
He loved the food, and the place. We sat at a table outside, and I became lost in the wine list. Interrupting my jaunt through the Loire Valley, Angela showed me that the calf’s head carpaccio was indeed available. I was happy. I ordered that plate as my first course, and it was a good as ever. The sauce is warm and slightly tangy, and the lettuce hearts on top are perfect companions for the meat slices. (See first photo above.)
My main course, Pied de Cochon, is composed of a rectangle of porcine greatness, served with creamed potatoes on the side. Imagine a crisp outside and an interior full of unctuous, moist, slow-cooked pork. I grew happier.
Angela started with a salad of Burrata and heirloom tomatoes, with a nice basil pesto. It was acidic and excellent. She then enjoyed a great sashimi of tuna belly, topped with wasabi foam.
Nick chose gazpacho, followed by squid stuffed with risotto; its squid-ink sauce was pungent and perfect.
When I was in Paris in 2010 Le Comptoir was the only restaurant I dined at more than once. For good reason. And before I leave Paris this time I will once again find myself at that sidewalk table, a bottle of white chilling in the Ice Bag.
I do not have to tell you what I will order.