Not far from my apartment in the 9th arrondissement there are several theaters that specialize in a type of witless slamming-doors and slipping-on-a-banana-peel type of boulevard comedy that leaves me cold, which is perhaps why I’ve never taken the restaurants that cater to the crowds flocking to these theaters very seriously. After reading somewhere that it was once a nightclub-bar haunted by Josephine Baker, I’d long been vaguely curious about L’Aromatik, a nice-looking bistrot with an original Art Deco decor, especially since it was invariably packed every time I walked by and the menu read well. So when a longtime friend from out of town called unexpectedly to suggest lunch, I booked there and hoped for the best. Since I usually research unknown restaurants as thoroughly as possible, part of the pleasant surprise here was certainly this spontaneity, but even more so was the contemporary French cooking of young Norman chef Bertrand Martin, who’d previously cooked at various Costes brothers establishments and who took this post, he says, because he says he was yearning to “really cook”. And that’s certainly what he’s doing. Everything was delicious, especially as part of a very good-value €15.90 lunch menu. Martin’s miniature casserole of scrambled eggs with country ham and a judicious dose of truffle oil was an excellent starter, as was the lentil soup with smoked haddock. Our main courses were just as delicious—perfectly cooked cod steak with a garnish of sautéed red onions and chorizo chunks, and a Mediterranean-style veal ragout with tomato, garlic and herbs. I’ve since been back for dinner—with a completely different menu than that served at noon—and was just as pleased with a starter of sea bream and langoustines with lemongrass oil and Thai basil, and a wonderful lobster risotto with grilled ham. The accurately named L’Aromatik also does a variety of excellent Sunday brunches—English style, Nordique (smoked seafood), and Organic.

7 rue Jean-Baptiste Pigalle, 9th,, Métro: Trinité. Lunch menu €15.90, prix fixe dinner €35. Prices are per person without wine.

Originally published in the May 2010 issue of France Today

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