It's a rainy spring night, and I'm running late to meet my partner, Bruno, for dinner. My umbrella is broken, but I know it'll all be just fine once I get to the Café des Musées.
I've been dining at chef Pierre Lecoutre's place in the rue de Turenne ever since it opened in 2005, and it's become my textbook bistro. It's where I go when I don't want to think about where to go to dinner—or where I send friends who say they “don't get French food,” which usually means they need to unlearn the notion that it's fancy. The lessons to be digested at Café des Musées are that great Gallic grub is incredibly fresh, it tastes of what it is, and there is no life without alliums. All of them.
I get a glare from Bruno when I spot him in the dining room, but a minute later we're drinking crisp white saumur and sharing mauve slabs of cognac-infused foie gras and unguent chicken liver terrine with toasted country bread and mesclun. It's impossible to sustain a bad mood in this room, which is warm and busy and full of the sound of people laughing. Since Bruno is a frites-loving guy from northern France, his bliss deepens when his hand-chopped steak tartare arrives alongside a mound of some of the best fries in Paris. Few things make me happier than slipping a clove of roasted smoked garlic out of its skin to spread over my juicy échine de porc, a flavorful fat-veined cut of pork shoulder that's gorgeously caramelized from being cooked on the grill. This is the way the food tasted—earthy and vivid—when I first visited Paris as a teenager; it reminds me why I moved here almost 30 years ago.
Café des Musées
49, rue de Turenne
Alexander Lobrano is the author of_Hungry for France (Rizzoli, 2014)._