A Noste

A Noste restaurant

Although I’m trying to make it less-so, it’s rare that I go out to lunch with friends. People tend to think that everybody in Paris sits around all day, eating dainty macarons and sipping a coffee at the corner café watching the world go by, while you’re all working away. But most of us are swamped like everybody else (including you), hurdling toward deadlines, waiting on hold to resolve problems, filing paperwork, or, as in my case, washing sinkloads of dishes. (Honestly, I don’t know where they all come from…)

So it’s nice every once in a while to just say, f**k it, ping a friend, and head out to lunch.

A Noste restaurant

On my list of places to go was A Noste, the Basque restaurant and tapas bar of Julien Duboué. Upstairs is a full-on restaurant, and downstairs is a lively tapas bar which has, parked against one wall, a food truck. While my first inclination was to think the concept of an indoor food truck silly, the truck is actually a charming “grilling” station that turns out taloa (sometimes called talo, which at A Noste, is a pocket bread-style sandwich made with bread crunchy with cornmeal. I’ve seen taloa described as “skillet cakes,” which resemble Mexican-style tortillas, but at A Noste, they’re split and filled with everything from chorizo sausage to Nutella. (Which is for dessert.)

A Noste restaurant

Ever since I heard about it, I’ve wanted taloa. So it was nice to have a rendez-vous with one. But like the frequent fermertures exceptionelles (closed for whatever reason), I was disappointed when the chalkboard outside said “Seulement à emporter” (to-go only). However when the server greeted us as we walking in the door, I asked if we could have one at a table if we ordered tapas, and he happily said “Sure!” One of the challenges in France can be getting people to go from “Non” to “Oui.” And either I’m getting better at it, or they are. Either way, it’s nice to find common ground.

A Noste restaurant

Trying to be prudent as it was, after all, a work day (and those dishes in my sink, waiting at home, weren’t going to wash themselves), we settled on a 25cl carafe of Irouléguy, a bracing white wine from the Pyrenées. Then started off the Ahate, a taloa filled with duck confit, lettuce, and quince. I wouldn’t have minded more chunks of duck confit since the chewy texture of the long-cooked, preserved duck is part of its appeal.

But the sandwich was warm, freshly made, and gone before we knew it. I could see why, as lunch hour progressed, why so many local workers were lined up at the food truck inside waiting for sandwiches. (And although I may have once mocked the concept of an indoor food truck, I have to say, it does beat having the stand out in the cold waiting for your food.)

A Noste restaurant

It was good to have regional French food prepared with fresh, well-sourced ingredients, made with care – not by a feisty young chef trying to make their mark with smears of sauce, or placing herbs on a single coin of a sliced scallop with a pair of tweezers, adding some powder in the opposite corner of the plate. (ZZZZZzzzzzzzzz…)

And we were pleasantly surprised when the waiter brought over our Tortilla de pommes de terre confites à l’ail doux, the classic potato tortilla reinvented a bit, but without a hint of silliness. Instead of the classic, thick, dense potato and egg cake that’d been baked a few hours ago, and served in wedges (which isn’t bad at all…), at A Noste, it’s served hot from the skillet and loaded with plenty of sautéed garlic. Garlic is often presented in Paris restaurants in doses that are barely perceptible. So – wow – it was quite a hit to get something with a lot of sweet, stewed garlic in it.

A Noste restaurant

Next up was a little metal basket of truly crispy, fried polenta sticks made with organic corn, that had a pleasant – and very present – smoky flavor, another one that you don’t find in Paris restaurant cooking, where flavors are often on the neutral side to appeal to those seeking moderation of flavors, over zip and zing. But from the looks of the full dining room, people are eager and ready for things that are crispy and crunchy, (and garlicky), with pronounced smoky flavors. Maybe I am becoming Basque? (If I could only learn Euskara, the Basque language, which I don’t think is all that easy. btw: The name of the restaurant, A Noste, means “Our Place,” in Euskara. (Which is the term that I’m going to start using, since there is no time like the present to start on my quest to speak Euskara.)

Our polenta sticks, or escaoutoun, based on a version of polenta from the Landes (which is in the southwest, and as translated for us locals as Croustillants de polenta de maïs), and looked so enticing that when the waiter brought them over to us, the couple at the next table craned their necks around to see them, then asked the waiter to put in an order for them as well. (My astute dining companion was the one who recognized the “polenta” as escaoutoun, a French version of polenta.)

A Noste restaurant

The final “tapas” were a trio of stuffed cabbage rolls served with crisp bacon. The portion was huge that I’m not so sure they could officially be called tapas, but we were happy – and stuffed, too. We passed on dessert, in favor of two cups of excellent coffee, another trend in Paris that’s worth applauding, in addition to the youthful, friendly service. The dessert menu didn’t excite us as the rest of the menu, but on our way out, I saw a few tables enjoying baskets of homemade madeleines and it makes me pause, and wish that we had ordered dessert. (One of the problems of my “job” is that I often have a stockpile of desserts and treats at home so I feel guilty for eating them elsewhere, when I have so many things ready to eat at home.) But next time.

A Noste restaurant

The casual dining room has high tables (and a few low ones) that are shared and convivial. Our copious lunch for two was €51, which included wine. They don’t take reservations for the ground floor tapas bar and my friend and I are still trying to find a day (or evening), to go back and have dinner upstairs. Ilusioa egiten dit*.

A Noste
6, bis rue du 4 Septembre
Tél: 01 47 03 91 91
Métro: Bourse or Quarte-Septembre

Open daily, seven days of the week for tapas from Noon to 11pm (no reservations). The restaurant is open from Noon to 2pm, and 7 to 10:30pm by reservation. The taloa truck serves from Noon to 3pm, Monday to Friday.

*“I’m looking forward to it,” in Basque.

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  • December 22, 2014 11:18am

    Looks wonderful!! Will definitely note this place down!
    Have a wonderful holiday David!

  • December 22, 2014 11:33am

    I’ve never heard of taloa, but this sounds like something to investigate ASAP…thanks for the recommendation!

  • December 22, 2014 2:08pm

    This is totally the kind of places where you have so many reasons to go visit it !
    A drink, a typical sandwich, just a snack before going to a movie or the need to share some wine with friends and have the best kind of tapas !
    I never tried the formal restaurant upstair yet, with the “rotisserie”, but it look attractive too !
    Most incredible for France (even Paris) : it is open 7 days a week and the kitchen is working all day long. Unbelievable !

  • L.
    December 22, 2014 3:55pm

    Being a dessert guy I am wondering what kind of Basgue dessert you would have found exciting on their menu?

  • December 22, 2014 5:55pm

    Congrats, you just made me hungry (and jealous). The description/pictures are so good, I could almost taste the food. The taloa looks much more like the South American Arepas (now I’m really hungry).

    Merry Christmas David!

  • December 22, 2014 6:05pm

    Your posts wants me to get in the car and drive to San Francisco and have some Basque food. Being in Paris would be fine too but I’m going to the mountains instead. Happy Holidays!

  • Pattyj
    December 22, 2014 6:38pm

    Happy Holidays, David. My mouth is drooling but I’m disappointed because I was
    hoping that the recipes, or at least the one for the fried polenta sticks, would be at
    the end of your column…maybe later.

    May 2015 be one of healthy, happy and prosper 362 days.

  • December 22, 2014 6:50pm

    Life is SO unfair… Here I am – down with a generous dose of cold/fever/’grippe”, really just checking in because I have a document to check very urgently and the first post coming up (which of course is the last, latest)…. I’m deadly jealous and totally in love with every single item of your eating list! We actually had to cancel our tapas lunch for yesterday due to my being unwell, but this ‘Chez moi’ A Noste beats everything…. Well David thanks for nothing…. no, thanks for EVERYTHING – you made the culinary, Parisian, life richer for thousands of us, we cook by your books, we devour your posts, we wish you well.
    Thank you – Joyeux Noël and a very Happy, Healthy, Cheerful New Year

  • December 22, 2014 7:01pm

    I would like to order one of everything to go please; shipped overnight to Colorado if you don’t mind. Every single thing sounds wonderful!

  • Katy
    December 22, 2014 7:09pm

    Thank you, David. This post was a wonderful Christmas present to your world of fans. We are so lucky to know you.

  • Toni Navarro Bondurant
    December 22, 2014 7:14pm

    I visited the Euskadi two autumns ago (San Sebastian) specifically to eat and it was one delicious bite after another. So many happy memories from reading your blog, and has made me want to visit again, sooner than later. Thank you, David, and best wishes to you.


  • Judy Parkins
    December 22, 2014 7:40pm

    I love your posts! Not sure how I found your blog but so glad I did. Our first visit to Paris will happen in 2015 and I have so many good ideas from you. Thanks.

  • cybele
    December 22, 2014 10:44pm

    David, would you venture to guess the ratio of ingredients in the tortilla? The usual recipe calls for 6 eggs cooked in a 10″ pan. Yours looks a lot smaller so I’m guessing fewer eggs, fewer potatoes (were they sliced or diced) and how much garlic do you think? Did they use garlic confit? Sorry to be a pain.

  • December 22, 2014 10:59pm

    Moderation was the sine qua non of French food since it emigrated from Italy. Here (the US) it was the unspoken standard until we got a taste of what immoderation could do in the hands of the inventive David Chang.

  • December 23, 2014 12:13am

    “One of the challenges in France can be getting people to go from “Non” to “Oui.” And either I’m getting better at it, or they are.”

    If Paris is anything like my slice of Spain I’m sure that it’s you.

    And a tortilla…never baked! I have a selection of enameled frying pans that I use exclusively for tortillas (of course, not to be confused with the Mexican variety—my latest obsession.

  • ron shapley(NYC)
    December 23, 2014 3:09am

    Happy Hanukkah Dave… When do we get the bean recipe ??

  • cybele
    December 23, 2014 4:15am

    I found a recipe for taloa in Gerald Hirigoyen’s “The Basque Kitchen”, Harper Collins, 1999.

    • December 23, 2014 10:55am
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks! I have his book and will take a look ~!

  • Michael C. Ford
    December 23, 2014 6:04am

    I’m a vegetarian, very strict, over 30 years, but I’m writing as a someone who also washes dishes! I loved the comment.

    But I hope if you do that, like me, you’re gaining from the Cook at Home. I get lots of wonderful food: South Indian, Indonesian, New York/Eastern European/good Yiddish!!!, etc. And much more. And I hope you also consider yourself lucky!

  • Geraldine in Spain
    December 23, 2014 10:54am

    Merry Christmas David!
    Loved this article and
    have posted it on Facebook.

  • December 23, 2014 3:40pm

    Noted! And thanks, Cybele, I’m going to look up the cookbook.

  • December 23, 2014 7:27pm

    Looking great! I’m gonna try these for Christmas.

    Merry Christmas!

  • cybele
    December 23, 2014 9:22pm

    Merci a vous! Your carrot cake blog inspired me to dig up my LuLu’s cookbook. The pages of my favorite recipes are crusted with 20 year old flecks of diced garlic. It’s like Braille and lets me know how much I relied on them back in the day the way I rely on “My Paris Kitchen” and Ottolenghi today.

  • Danièle Rohrbach, Montréal
    December 24, 2014 3:18am

    Thanks for all your wonderful posts during the year.
    I will definitely make it to this restaurant during my next trip to Paris.
    Have a Joyeux Noël and a wonderful year 2015.

  • December 24, 2014 11:42pm

    Thank you, David, scrumptious Every single thing sounds wonderful!

  • Shelley
    December 25, 2014 9:24pm

    I just read a review of The Progress, a spin off of the much vaunted State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, and didn’t know whether to laugh or shriek over their weird combinations and “unusual pairings” so it is fabulous to read about a restaurant that knows how to update classics with a smart (and, as David says, not silly) twist. Taloa sounds wonderful and I can’t wait to go to all three, food truck, tapas bar and restaurant. And, by the way, I second one reader’s reference to Gerald Hirogoyen of Piperade, also in San Francisco, as one of the best, most consistent chefs in the city. He knows how to cook, not create chemical experiments. David, you’ve got the life!!

  • Evde Cilt Maskesi
    December 26, 2014 11:31pm

    Thank you, David. This post was a wonderful Christmas present to your world of fans. We are so lucky to know you.

  • December 26, 2014 11:49pm

    That place, unusual in that it is in a very central Parisian neighbourhood, sounds splendid. I’m fascinated by the Basque language and its survival. Also by their many Basque gastronomic fraternities (and more recently, sororities).

    There are not many maize-based foods in Europe that are as similar to maize bready things like tortillas (the Meso-American type), pupusas and arepas. I’d love to learn the history of the taloa. And yes, anywhere that is not Parisianally subdued in its use of garlic, but that uses it well, is a definite plus.

  • Vickie
    December 27, 2014 5:09am

    I got your book as a Christmas gift. Yay!

  • December 27, 2014 1:07pm

    Hi David I received My Paris Kitchen from myself for Xmas. I absolutely love it. I am hoping to make the bay leaf pound cake today. Can you tell me when I add the butter to the dry mix it does not say ? Is it before egg mixture ? Or do I add butter to egg ? Thanks so much

    Hi Helen: It gets added with the other wet ingredients in step 6 (more here) – thanks and glad you like the book! : ) – dl

  • Cilt Bakımı
    December 28, 2014 11:15pm

    Looks wonderful!! Will definitely note this place down!

  • December 31, 2014 2:36am

    This place sounds incredible, my mouth is watering! Will have to try it next time in Paris

  • January 3, 2015 4:54pm

    Thanks for this good review of a place that deserves it so well. Needs rectification on a few details, though:

    1. Name of chef-owner is not Julien Doboué but Duboué.
    2. Talo in Euskara is the singular form of taloa. Taloa is the plural form. You know, crêpe, crêpes — talo, taloa (sometimes taloak).
    3. A.Noste does not mean “At our place” in Euskara but in Gascon, which is a branch of the Occitan language, so unrelated to Euskara which seems unrelated to everything.
    4. Advice: next time, order dessert, and as dessert, order millassous.

    • January 3, 2015 5:31pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks Sophie, am glad you like the restaurant as well. (And yes, next time, for sure we will have dessert.) I didn’t realize that there was a Gascon language so thanks for letting me know. When writing this up, I did check around about talo/taloa and noticed some French sites referred to them as le taloa (and Marmiton says la taloa, feminine) so am not sure why it isn’t les if they are plural. Ah, les langues

  • Helen
    January 10, 2015 10:17pm

    If the Basques, or others, are capable of producing their own great dishes why do they so often have to dumb down their menus by offering foie gras? Sorry, but I’m not interested then. Some of the best restaurants and cooks in the world can do without, I wish they could too.