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A New Yorker in Paris

Stephanie Curtis - March 2014

Paris—One of the hottest new addresses among the hipster set is a French-style wine bar imported from New York City’s West Village. It seemed a little like bringing coals to Newcastle when American chef/entrepreneur Jody Williams opened the Parisian copy of her New York City Buvette, itself a spiffed-up replica of a French corner buvette (literally translated, a drinkery!).

The Paris Buvette, located in a counter-chic, rapidly gentrifying neighborhood south of Paris’ infamous red-light district, looks a lot like the New York City version, with exposed brick walls, a pressed tin ceiling imported from Brooklyn (yes, Brooklyn), white porcelain knickknacks, silver sweets stands and 35 tightly placed, unmatched wooden seats, some backless, that haven’t had much time to cool down since the opening last fall. Crates of oranges and other produce are placed strategically here and there, and fresh herbs posed in a wine cooler complete the carefully organized “bio” decor.

A no-reservation policy and 10 a.m. to midnight nonstop service are decidedly non-French and evidently appealing to the clientele, who are seduced by this self-proclaimed “gastrothèque,” even if no one is sure of the definition of the term.

The diminutive antique-style menu proposes mini portions of an eclectic array of dishes served on tiny plates at, if not tiny, relatively reasonable prices: ¤5 for a toast of boudin noir with apples, €10 for a roasted chicken salad, plus an appealing selection of cocktails and wines by the glass or bottle. There are also sized-down versions of brandade de morue and hachis parmentier, with a finale of mousse au chocolat, presented in a bowl on a silver pedestal right out of a doll house. As one French diner commented, “It’s a little like a cute Disney version of a real French wine bar!”

“Here, as in New York, I wanted to create the kind of place where I’d like to eat, with a room full of people who love food and wine—simple, spontaneous, unfettered, a gastrothèque with thoughtful food and thoughtful wines,” says Williams, on one of her regular visits to Paris. “Yes, of course, I was a bit daunted by the idea of opening in Paris,” she admits, “but locals seem to like it.” And, yes, there are other projects in the works, adds Williams, who was in town not only to check up on Buvette bis, but also to parlez with some Tokyo contacts.