Today's Italo-French Genius Bistrot - Rino

Out with the old, in with the new. As a follow-up to a string of return visits, Co. and I put on our trendiest clothes and headed out to the new big deal neobistrot in Paris, Rino. Like La Gazzetta, where chef/owner Giovanni Passerini previously shared cooking duties before opening his own venue, Rino boasts an inventive array of dishes a la Italian/French mode.

Outside and in, Rino is minimalistic to the core. Easy to miss from the outside, once past the bar/kitchen area, where a few stand-up tables line the opposite wall, you are ushered into a 20-seater room that looks like someone’s quickly converted garage, retro hanging lamps notwithstanding.

Be forewarned, at Rino there is no choice apart from your selection of the 4- or 6-course tasting menu, the carte held up on a slate tablet by the laid-back waiter. When I asked for the wine carte, I was informed, ‘J’ai un bon rouge vous pouvez essayer’ [I have a nice red you can try.] Apparently there is also a nice white, if that’s your preference. At 28€, the Chateau de Lacroux Gaillac held its own, and who was I to complain? It was nice not to have to fathom a largely incomprehensible wine list for a change.

Despite being recently awarded a Le Fooding palmarè as ‘meiller bistrot d’auteur,’ Co. and I cautiously selected the four-course option, skeptical as we are about anything dubbed ‘best’ by any critic, journalist, politician, or any other so-called expert that might be hanging out a sign. Not that I don’t trust the Fooding guide, but somehow their ‘what would have happened if Petter Nilsson had had a kid with Monica Belluci’ endorsement left me a bit hesitant. Our repas unfolded as such, following a welcoming amuse bouche of pumpkin petit marron: ravioles avec coques, rouget et legumes sec, an agneau dish for Co. replaced at my asking for a substitution with cabillaud et legumes, and a dessert mixture of crème, agrume, nuts, and another ingredient that I can’t read off my notes. The ravioles were very nice, like the room, minimalistically presented without much sauce; the rouget, probably the best preparation I ever have had, and I have tried rouget high and low, left and right; the cabillaud, not as epic but thoroughly satisfying. I enjoyed the dessert as the diet/cholesterol lethal mixture it was, but Co. was decidedly underwhelmed, suggesting it was pretty mundane. With two espressos to round out the evening, the bill came to a remarkably reasonable 109€.

What to conclude about Rino? The reviews are effusive, and the bistrot did win that palmarè, whatever the hell ‘meiller bistrot d’auteur’ is supposed to represent. As one reviewer put it, Passerini’s cuisine is ‘inventive and passionate’ and I would not disagree. Still, I’m not convinced Rino is yet deserving of any ‘best’ nomenclature - it is very good, but not especially spectacular (call me 'jaded'?). I’ll definitely go back, but I’m not ready to run out into the street waving my arms and screaming ‘they’re number one, they’re number one’ quite yet. Still, I have to admit, Rino offers a very appealing price/quality rapport.

Accompanying photos not mine, but glommed off other websites. Pretty representative of our dishes, however.

46, rue Trousseau
75011 Paris
01 48 06 95 85

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