Most food enthusiasts who visit Paris know about the famous Poilâne bakery (pictured above, right) — their sourdough miche or pain Poilâne is justly world-famous and delicious with just the right amount of heft and chew. But if I was a tourist in Paris, I’d find a visit to Poilâne a little bit unsatisfying. Sure, you’re surrounded by all that great bread (not to mention the apple tarts, croissants, pains au chocolats, walnut or raisin rolls, brioche, etc.) but how are you going to eat it? Okay, you can tuck into a chausson aux pommes on the street, but an oversized slice of pain Poilâne is best (in my opinion) toasted and spread with something delicious, like goat cheese or oozy St-Marcellin. Alas, most tourists don’t have access to a toaster.
But here’s an ill-kept secret: Next door to the Poilâne bakery, there is a tiny restaurant that toasts Poilâne bread all day long. Called La Cuisine de Bar (pictured above, left), its menu features tartines (non-Francophones: “tartine” is just a fancy way of saying “toast”): toasted slices of Poilâne bread spread with delicious toppings. (In fact, they only serve only Poilâne bread, which suggests there is some connection between the restaurant and bakery. Yet, when I pressed our waitress for details, she said the relationship was “complicated” — so who knows?) Best of all, considering these bleak economic times, Cuisine de Bar has a lunch formule: 1 green salad (with nose-tingling mustard vinaigrette) + 1 tartine of your choice + 1 glass of red or white wine + 1 coffee is only 14€.
So, what’s on my tartine? I like the Spartan-named tartine regime, or “diet tartine” (pictured above), which is spread with fromage frais (sort of like thick yogurt) and topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, chives, and olive oil. Unlike many Paris lunches, it’s light and refreshing and I don’t feel guilty after eating it (though I do always think that it’s the sort of thing I could recreate at home for mere pennies).
Other tartines on offer:
-guacamole + shrimp
-goat cheese + sundried tomatoes + coppa salami
-“le club,” which is chicken breast + mayo + anchovies + capers
-the decadent foie gras + fig
-tomato + mozzarella
But perhaps the ne plus ultra of tartines is the for’bon, a tartine topped with a whole, ripe St-Marcellin cheese and slices of raw ham, and then grilled under the broiler. The result is melty, oozy, salty, gooey with the chew and crunch of excellent toast. (Note: if ordering the for’bon as part of the formule, expect a 3€ surcharge.)
Cuisine de Bar is narrow and small, with an open “kitchen” (really a rack of toaster ovens) that radiates heat, rather uncomfortable stool-like seats, and quarters so close you can’t help but eavesdrop on your neighbors (who are often American or Japanese tourists). As there’s often a queue, it’s best to arrive in off-peak hours — before 12.15pm or after 1.30pm — so you don’t have to wait for a table.
La Cuisine de Bar
8 rue du Cherche Midi, 6ème
tel: 01 45 48 45 69
Closed Sunday, Monday
UPDATED to add some more pretty photos…
Grey sea salt, herbes de provence and cumin (or is it caraway?) to sprinkle on your tartine.
An accompanying salad. Yes, iceberg lettuce, but also mustardy vinaigrette.
Tomato mozzarella tartine, melty and gooey.
The for’bon, so, so, so, so for’bon!