Le Petit Champerret, with its zinc bar and banquettes, has the homey feel of a bistro that has been around for a while and satisfied many a big appetite. Its chef, Marc Fontaine, may be new, but Corsican owner Gérard Castellani is still at the helm and in the dining room, not exactly brimming over with warmth but ensuring that his customers are taken care of.
When I arrived, my friend was waiting for me with a plate of delicious artisanal Corsican dried boar sausage, which paired beautifully with an onion confiture.
The meaty theme of the meal was set. The amuse bouche, a lovely dab of celeriac-parsnip purée, came with two mini-slices of what seemed to be roast beef, which cropped up again in my first course of encornets(squid). The latter were nicely cooked but overpowered by a rather arbitrary pile of other ingredients: in addition to the meat, there were grapefruit slices, fresh herbs and (very tasty) slightly cooked red cabbage.
Then it was time for some real meat! I had the Iberian lomo, two great big hunks of tasty but not especially tender pork, served with an odd assortment of wintery and seasonal vegetables (rutabaga, artichoke heart, an asparagus spear) and mashed sweet potatoes. The latter were deliciously buttery and unnecessarily laced with lardons, but I guess no opportunity to add meat could be passed up by the kitchen.
My friend had an equally large helping of ris de veau (veal sweetbreads), nice and crispy on the outside and tender inside, which came with similar vegetables. In case we were craving more meaty flavor, extra bits of bacon adorned both main courses.
I couldn’t finish the pork and asked for a doggy bag, something of a necessity with these American-sized portions. Sliced up the next day, it made a great sandwich.
For dessert, we shared a lovely deconstructed lemon tart, with the liquidy lemon custard sitting atop a crumbled cookie instead of an ordinary crust and dotted with little meringues.
Even the wine was “meaty” here, a hearty Bordeaux that went perfectly with the food.
I wouldn’t call what we had a gourmet meal, but a good, filling meal, perfect for those with big appetites and – need I say it – meat lovers.