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Fine French Fare

One of the great pleasures of Paris is people watching, which is why a meal taken in a strategically located restaurant often includes a show as well as dinner. This is what I was thinking during a very good supper at Le Congres Maillot, a popular brasserie serving good quality traditional French cooking that makes it as popular with Parisiens as it is with foreigners. Comfortably seated at a corner table surrounded by big picture windows, we were treated to a fascinating pageant of mostly happy human dramas, intriguing faces and occasionally striking dothing. The show in the dining room itself was equally good, too, since an African diplomat and his wife were eagerly enjoying dinner to our left, "I dream of these big plump scallops from one visit to France to the next", said the elegantly dressed woman to her husband in a natty suit, while to our left a Spanish family were eagerly supping on oysters, Chateaubriand with Béarnaise sauce and tiny butter-braised potatoes, steak tartare and smoked salmon. And us? Big plump, incredibly fresh prawns, two différent types of Breton oysters, grilled sole with olive oil-enriched potato purée, and the same juicy Chateaubriand with velvety Béarnaise sauce that was making the African gent so happy. Finish up with the Baba au rhum, which is doused with Saint James rum from Martinique, or the floating island, and note that the wine list offers an excellent selection of bottles from all over France for very fair prices - AL

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