The first bite is exquisite. On a narrow side street, the plat du jour (23 euros) at Belle Maison, seems like a good price for a two-course lunch. This is my lunch-time version of dinner. The yellow French café table in the 9th arrondissement right across the street from my apartment is wedged into a corner of the terrace. What’s on offer? My waiter suggests the cabillaud (cod).
My lucky day. It’s in both the starter and the main course. The starter, gaspacho, cod fish, fasielle cheese, is a round version of a Rubric’s cube of opaque codfish chunks in a creamy tomato soup with mint and olive oil. Can it be too good?
Then comes the star, billed as lieu noir. It’s scribbled on the blackboard as, lieu noir, purée de carottes au cumin, racines de lotus et sauce ail. The buttery roux surrounds the fish, which lies on a bed of roasted and puréed cumin-flavored carrots, lotus roots, and crispy sweet potato slices. I consider the cod—it seems heavier, denser than cod, and has a more halibut-like texture. Where’s the flake? My husband reassures me that it’s cod, but I’m not convinced. Ten minutes later, I’ve found ‘lieu noir’ on Google translate—ah ha! It’s saithe, in the larger cod family, but not a Gadus morhua. Even my husband can’t tell.