Fabrique 4 – No Reservation

Fabrique 4, or Bistrot F 4 for the more conceptual reader, is a tiny, funky little bistrot in a thriving corner of the 17th. It is in good company, with one of Paris Restaurants and Beyond’s favorites, La Bigarrade, just around the corner, and the overflowing Bloc bar/café a few doors away. It didn’t hurt that Friday evening happened to be one of those rarities in Paris – the weather was nice!: still sunny and mild at 8:30 pm, the hint of a full moon on the horizon, and weekend revelers packing the streets in search of a boisson and a bite. Co. and I were greeted outside F 4 by a youthful couple lazing around at one of the marble tables lined up in front of the façade. The casual duo turned out not to be a couple of layabout Parisian university students as first glance suggested, but F 4 co-owners Jade et Thibault, another pair of conjoint restaurateurs who seem to be spreading throughout the capital. Trust me, I have nothing against youth – I used to be one myself, and anyway, give them another 20 or 30 years and they will be as decrepit as me. It just so happens that these talented neophytes are infusing some imaginative culinary flair into the Paris restaurant scene. It’s understandable that the F 4 duo were relaxing in the waning moments of sunshine, because once they ushered us inside to a corner table for 5, the serious work of the evening kicked into full force.

The F 4 carte is a bit conceptual, with the ‘Food F’ starting off the list of choices: sashimi de boeuf (with roquette salad and parmesan) and a salade Ceasar au gambas, either of which could serve as an entrée or main dish. Next category, clear-cut entrees, comprised the ‘be 4’ category, with options consisting of the likes of foie gras mi-cuit and asperges a la flamande. Then it’s on to the main plates, surf (‘Waters’) or turf (‘Pattes,’ as in paws), with four options available in each category. ‘Happy ends’ rounds out the menu with a choice of--you guessed it--four desserts. Co. and I opted for the two Food Fs, respectively. Great start – Co. waxed effusively over the tenderness of the sashimi beef (10€) – a copious lineup of thinly sliced meat squares with a cornichon, orange, and mayonaise sauce running alongside - a sashimi dish that is rare in French restaurants. Meanwhile, my dish consisted of 3 sizable grilled gambas, on a bed of bulgar grain and young green asparagus, a dollop of anchovy butter, and a few slices of toasted baguette (16€). This was definitely a tasty dish, but I didn’t understand the point of the toast – the slices were hard and uninteresting, as if Thibault had forgotten to add the garlic and butter, which would have served as a more logical accompaniment to the gambas.

On to our main plate dishes. Red mullet is one of my favorites and so it was no surprise I picked the rouget with risotto, a quite satisfying option (15€). Co. continued her carnivorish ways, literally having a cow with her selection of ribs de boeuf (17€), two large slabs of meaty bones—the meat she once again praised for its tendresse—along with vegetables and some lightly fried potato squares. To finish up, my happy ending was happier than Co's happy ending, with a far superior fondant of chocolate with an accompanying nuts/syrup guilty pleasure concoction (6€) vis-à-vis Co’s somewhat perplexing tiramisu (6€). The wine list is short but sweet, with several reasonably priced, interesting bottles. We opted for the unfamiliar St. Pourçain 2008, a red strongly reminiscent of Chinon (24€), bringing the total to a reasonable 94€.

The F 4 interior consists of chandeliered modernity – two chandeliers hanging overhead the stylish tables and bar, with a nicely chosen Impressionistic painting running along the far wall. I counted five tables inside, and five out, which makes reserving essential - don't be misled by this entry's title, I refer to those who didn't get to eat. Jade must have turned away a steady stream of somewhere between 20 and 30 youthful patrons throughout the evening who were hoping to be seated despite the full house inside and out. No second serving, no taking advantage of the empty space inside to set up some more tables. It was pretty clear that the dynamic Jade/Thibault duet was one that played to its own demanding limits. (Jade later explained that in lieu of the five outside tables during the cold weather months, they cram in enough extra seats to accommodate 27 – how they do that I cannot fathom, although I have vague images of an endless stream of clowns pouring out of a VW). In short, F 4 merits a return visit. We’re not in Michelin country, but you could do worse. It will be interesting to follow Thibault’s future creations.

17 rue Brochant
75017 Paris
tel. +33 1 58 59 06 47
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