When food lovers head to Paris these days, the savvier bypass the Michelin-starred restaurants entirely and seek out the small, sometimes funky bistros where passionate young cooks are turning out wonderful food at affordable prices. Spaces — and kitchens — are often tiny, menus small and changeable. And the wine list may simply be a collection of bottles lined up on shelves. Many come from small or obscure producers who believe in natural (biodynamic, organic) winemaking. A copy of Alice Feiring’s “Naked Wine” translated into French might be propped against a bottle of Chinon or Burgundy.
The duo behind the new Papilles in the Hollywood Hills has taken the bistronomy movement, as it’s called, as inspiration. Owner Santos Uy (Bacaro and the even more minuscule Mignon) was in search of a more ambitious restaurant project when he found this space on Franklin Avenue. Papilles is a little bigger than his previous venues, but only just. He also found a chef in Tim Carey, who, like so many homegrown chefs, cooked around California and ended up at Patina, where he worked under chef Tony Esnault.
You have to be something of an optimist — or have rocks in your head — to name your place Papilles, a word that is sure to be a challenge for folks to pronounce and/or spell (it’s French for tastebuds and is pronounced pah-PEE). Tucked into the corner of a strip mall across from a Mobil station on Franklin Avenue near Argyle, Papilles feels like one of those irreverent Paris bistros you find in the 11th or the 13th arrondissements. A three-course prix fixe menu with a couple of options for each course costs just $34. The cooking is polished and sophisticated, unexpected at this price range. The handpicked wines are interesting and unusual, even if they’re on the expensive side.