It was my favorite meal because of the whole story. The ups and downs, and the (spoiler alert!) happy ending. We were weary from walking for so many hours and when we made it to the door, so ready to sink into chairs hungry for dinner, we were wildly surprised to see the menu on the ceiling and not a chair to spare. Cramped and filled with people, L’Avant Comptoir [3 carrefour de l’Odéon 75006 Paris France] has standing room only, and my companion looked to me with eyes of despair.
We walked right out. We looked next door, another restaurant was right there with a few people, and glowing holy looking seats of normality. I couldn’t. Tired as I was, somehow I knew I was destined for the experience next door. So we agreed to try. We entered again, through the plastic door,
and were greeted by a ‘You’re back!’ We were there to stay. Now to decipher the code on the ceiling, with craned necks we tried to translate foreign words paired with pictures. Here is where the magic happened. Other customers started to aid us, a group from South Africa fed us from their own plates – fresh artichokes and unimaginably delicious stew. A couple from LA gave their suggestions, which we wouldn’t forget. The bartenders were more than enthusiastic to explain it all, and gave us the best wine suggestions. I felt like I was instantly a part of this strange little community. We ordered some plates and were asked our names. Now the bartenders kept calling, Julie! every time something was ready. Even though there were so many people, they remembered. There is communal bread on the bar, huge hunks of soft nourishing bread and mound of the best butter I have ever had in my life.
I slathered it on thick without remorse. The small plates started coming out. The chicken and fries, the ham on a waffle, both as tasty as they look.
The most ridiculous thing in saw on the ceiling which I decided to go for, with a push from my new found friends, a triple decker foie gras macaroon.
So strange, so truly divine. It was all so crazy, but before we knew it, I was ordering two coffee creme brulees (as suggested by our now gone LA pals) and of course, more wine.
We huddled quietly at our standing table and delved deeply into the sweet crackling dessert. This was Paris, and in this moment I was in love. We squared up, finished our wine, and I even got a Goodbye Julie! as we were walking out the plastic door. My favorite meal in France was more than just mouth-watering food, it was an experience of openness that I will never forget.