When the Eclair Sparks

Superb éclair caramel beurre salé

by Sophie Gayot

A recent lunch in Paris brought me to Cyril Lignac’s bistrot Le Chardenoux located in a quiet street of the eleventh arrondissement. Lignac was not there, but Marie-Laure, “la maîtresse de maison”, was. As I ordered the baba au rhum for dessert, a Chardenoux classic, and my guests ordered the pain perdu à la cerise and the profiteroles à la vanille, she insisted that we try the éclair caramel beurre salé (salted butter caramel éclair). She knew exactly was she was doing, and that we would all love it. She was right. I don’t think an éclair can get any better than that, between its wrapping and its content: a perfectly baked puff pastry filled and covered with a delicious caramel cream.

And, if I may work the meal backwards, I strongly recommend the ris de veau (sweetbreads), served in a jus de veau and a carrot purée seasoned with curcuma pepper for an entrée. The dish is executed in line with Lignac’s motto: “a sincere and authentic cuisine, of the product for the product.” After being blanched two minutes in boiling water, the high-quality sweetbreads, from Corrèze, are sliced and simply cooked in a pan for five minutes with very little butter. The ingredient is there in the dish with its real taste; there is no distortion of taste with some over- or deep-frying that you very often find.

For appetizer, I ordered the special, the brouillade d’oeufs et girolles (scrambled eggs and chanterelles). I was disappointed by the preparation, as the eggs were too liquid. I asked what had been added to the eggs: cream and butter. There must have been too much butter. But the elegant émiettée de tourteau (crab meat) served on warm potato salad is a very good choice.

After working with Alain Passard, Pierre Hermé, Alain Ducasse (who just prepared Prince Albert of Monaco’s wedding dinner) and Les Frères Pourcel, Lignac opened his first restaurant Le Quinzième in 2005, a fine dining establishment. In 2008, he wanted to venture out and revamp bistro cuisine, so he purchased Le Chardenoux. Opened in 1908 by the Chardenoux family, the restaurant is a historical landmark in the pure art deco style, where the bar is decorated with fourteen different marbles. Armed with his bistro success, he recently opened Le Chardenoux des Prés in Saint-Germain.

For more on Paris bistros, check out our list of Top 10 Bistros in Paris. See what else is happening on the Paris dining scene with Paris Restaurant News, Restaurant Reviews, Culinary Events and Paris Wine Dinners.

You can click on each photo to enlarge to see dishes from Le Chardenoux’s restaurant menu.
All photos by Sophie Gayot.