A block or so away from the Gare de Lyon you will find A la Biche au Bois, blending in with the surrounding cafés and brasseries. If I had been left to my own devices I certainly would not have picked this restaurant out of all the ones that line the block; the brown vinyl benches, wood paneling, and mounted antlers were not exactly beckoning to me. But I am faithful to my red guide and the "bib gourmand" signification was reason enough to come here, and once again, I was not disappointed.
They offer a 4-course menu for only 23.20€! (Click to enlarge and check out the choices for yourself):
In stark contrast to a restaurant that I just posted about, Les Allobroges, which was vegetarian-friendly with an all vegetable menu, A la Biche au Bois is not even pescetarian friendly! Here you will only find meat, meat, and more meat, hence the name, which indicates its emphasis on game (though they do have a token salmon dish). We both went for the set menu, R. starting with the Salade Périgourdine, and me with the Salade Biche. My salad was a house salad, which included Champignons à la Grecque (basically pizza-flavored mushrooms - don't ask), Céleri Rémoulade (mayonnaise coated grated celery root - kind of like a French version of cole slaw, without the color or the sugar), green salad, and a slice of homemade terrine (yum). R.'s salad was green salad and green beans with a slice of foie gras.
For his main dish, R. ordered the daily special, a steak (entrecôte) that came with a huge platter of fresh, crunchy homemade french fries that I kept stealing every time he wasn't looking. I had the coq au vin, which was served in an enormous steaming casserole, the chicken swimming in that delicious brown wine sauce, surrounded by potatoes, mushrooms, and gigantic chunks of bacon. So good, this is the kind of dish you imagine French grandmothers making in their country kitchens with copper pots.
Next came the cheese course - your pick of the platter. R. chose the cantal and I tried two of their chèvres, one that was coated in pepper, which was surprisingly powerful, and another classic creamy chèvre. And finally, the dessert course! Even though I just had île flottantes a few weeks ago at Chez Léon, I couldn't resist since they're not *that* commonplace, and this might've been my last chance to have them - a good memory indeed. R. went the alcoholic route, first asking if he could have raspberry sorbet doused in armagnac (on the menu it says you can have them with the liqueur of your choice), but then conceded to the waiter's reasonable suggestion to replace the armagnac with strawberry liqueur.
When the desserts were finished we were both offered a small bit of cognac, and then came the bill...let's see, two apéritifs, two 4-course menus, one supplement to the menu, one 3/4 pitcher and one half-bottle of wine (a St-Joseph and a St-Emilion, for those of you keeping track), a bottle of sparkling water...how much should that set you back...80€ for two. Not too shabby at all. We also had personable service the entire evening: the young hostess was charming, the older woman friendly and vigilant, and our waiter was a trip, if he was American he would be a chilled out reefer-lovin' surfer. The couple next to us kept asking him all sorts of questions, some of which you would expect him to be able to answer.
The last name of the chef? Umm, I don't know...chef? I just call him chef.
Where does the cheese come from (what maison)? Hmmm, that's a good question...no clue...I bet they get it from that big market...what's it called? Rungis? Yeah, that's it.
And so on.
Perhaps not the best informed, but friendly enough, he took care of us while keeping the mood light.
Copious quantities, a warm and friendly atmosphere, and the inherent bargain in a 4-course menu for 23€ make A la Biche au Bois a great find. I'll definitely be going back.
A la Biche au Bois
45, Avenue Ledru-Rollin
01 43 43 34 38
M: Gare de Lyon
Closed Saturday & Sunday