Le Bon Marche

French restaurants are a dime a dozen in this city, but finding one that offers tasty fare at affordable prices is no easy task. Le Bon Marché, with its slightly offbeat location and the fact that it houses a bakery, restaurant and delicatessen under one roof, all sounds good—in theory at least. In reality, the bare floor evoked flashbacks to school canteens: red and yellow walls, numerous framed photos and posters (we also counted at least 10 flags suspended from the ceiling) proved to be distracting and much too busy for the eyes. With no real separation between the different areas, we found the layout to be less cozy than we had hoped and altogether a little disconcerting. On the upside, the food fared much better. Our amuse-bouche of foie gras mousse, crowned with sweet and tangy apple foam, was a delightful start to our meal, followed by luscious oven-baked escargots in parsley-shallots butter ($16 for half a dozen). As a surprise, there were even quartered button mushrooms hiding under each scrumptious snail. We also gave in to our curiosity and ordered the smoked duck flammenkuche (an Alsatian tart). Similar to an Italian style thin-crust pizza, this crispy rectangular tart was topped with tender slices of smoked duck breast, onions, walnuts and zigzags of crème fraiche. Despite the appearance of traditional items on the menu, such as pan-seared foie gras and duck confit, we went with braised Kurobuta pork neck. The amazingly tender parcels of bacon-wrapped pork sprawled over a wild mushroom ragout were made complete with the addition of potato puree so smooth and addictive, we could have easily had another serving. The bland mustard sauce that adorned the dish was unspectacular though; we would have much preferred something with more of a flavor punch. Dessert didn’t disappoint however. We appreciated the balance of flavors, textures and temperatures of the apple tart tatin, served with a side of crème fraiche: The tartness of the cold crème fraiche played off the sticky sweetness of the hot fruit, while the crisp flaky pastry crumbled easily against the firm apple slices and light sour cream. Problems of atmosphere notwithstanding, we give this place credit for its good fare and impressive range of European food products from their retail store.