It’s been more than a year since my last visit to the Cantine du Troquet. Since that time, I’ve told countless friends that this informal Basque resto is among my favorite spots. Still, it’s been hard to find my way back to this southern corner of Paris, which lies three subway lines away from my nest in the 19th. I suppose I was also afraid that it wouldn’t be as good as I remembered.
That meal last winter was a revelation. I arrived at opening time (8:00) with two boys and ordered more food than is really polite. We shared and devoured nine plates – starting with some fat white beans and sliced gizzards and a pucker-making goat cheese with piquillos. We also nibbled bravely on the pig ear salad.
We smiled through a rascasse and some pleasing seared scallops, then came close to stabbing eachother with forks to get the last bite of the poitrine de porc. Served with a side of well-salted and crispy frites (magically refilled throughout the night), this belly was by far the winning dish of the night/week/season.
We finished with a slice of tarte, some sautéed peaches, and a bit of Basque brebis with black cherry preserves. We also consumed two liters of wine and a round of coffees. At the end of the night, we walked (ok, staggered) away having spent less than €40 each.
I returned last night with a girlfriend and the intention of restraint. I had the idea that one could eat well here for a mere €20. I still believe that this can be done. Just not by me.
To fight off a bitterly cold December night, we both started with soup (€6.50). As seems to be the trend these days, two bowls of garnish (toasted pine nuts and buttery crumbs) were served with a pitcher on the side. And by pitcher, I mean an enamel goddess that poured six bowls full of warm delicious.
Grilled razor clams (€8) arrived next and were a nice change after our creamy cauliflower bath. The bowl was overflowing, but we made quick work of the couteaux and cleared a path for the coming lomo (€14). This dry-cured pork loin was lovingly lathered by a sauce spiked with piment d’Espelette. To avoid the oncoming coma, we opted for salad instead of dessert. Of course it was topped with half a pound of creamy Roquefort (€7.50).
The meal was a delight – every bit as good as I remembered – and our €30 per person tally included an absurd amount of food and a liter of wine. The more reasonable man sitting next to us dined solo on oeufs mayonnaise (€4.50) and that delicious lomo, bringing his own bill under €20. I may not be able to hit that magic number myself, but I can attest that other, more moderate souls, have done it.
In a nutshell: La Cantine du Troquet is a generous table where you can eat and drink big for €30-35 and with restraint for around €20. Safe choices like roasted chicken and steak frites coexist with more adventurous nose-to-tail preparations. Informal and buzzing, with friendly service and a very local clientele.
La Cantine du Troquet
101 rue de l’Ouest in the 14th arrondissement
No phone and no reservations. Open from 8:00 p.m. on weeknights (closed Saturday and Sunday).
Arrive at opening time for your best chance of being seated.
If you like the sound of la Cantine but want to spend more and have a proper reservation:
Le Troquet (the mothership)
15 Rue François Bonvin in the 15th arrondissement
01 45 66 89 00