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When the temperature drops and the snowflakes begin to swirl, look no farther for hearty, flavorful winter fare than Paradou. The stick-to-your-ribs French cuisine this Park Slope bistro is currently turning out is rich and saucy, and the generous portions are meant for diners with healthy appetites who smartly hide their extra bulk under trendy, chunky sweaters.

The only missing accouterment at Paradou, named for a village in Provence, is a fireplace.

Regardless, the restaurant, which opened in June in the old Max & Moritz location, does have warm, welcoming decor: glowing golden fabric loosely billows down from the ceiling and varnished wood wine crates have been transformed into bistro tables and a bar. The walls are adorned with large posters of your favorite French films (or those films that you always meant to watch, but never got around to). On this night a duo played live jazz, while a young Catherine Deneuve watched us from a "Belle De Jour" poster.

But it’s the oversized portions of delicious French fare that make you feel as if you’re a welcome guest in the home of a good friend.

We enjoyed the light, refreshing ParadouX signature cocktail - creme de cassis, Lillet and a splash of champagne - which arrived in a tall, slender beaker. The excellent wine list is smartly offered in quarter-liters, half-liters and full bottles for a variety of budgets.

Hopefully, on your visit you’ll find the soup du jour to be the creamy, sweet and buttery parsnip soup drizzled with truffle oil - a rich, decadent opener for a winter meal.

The tartiflette appetizer - potato gratin with lardons (bacon chunks), caramelized onions and Reblochon cheese - was served in a casserole dish large enough for two! But somehow my dinner companion would only allow me one creamy, nutty, smoky bite before he devoured the rest. Had I not been burrowed into my own salad of tangy mixed greens full of thick chunks of juicy beets and slices of warmed toast slathered with herbed goat cheese, I probably could have stolen another bite of that tartiflette.

We quickly grew excited about our south Slope discovery, owned by Vadim Ponorovsky who also has the Paradou in Manhattan. Somehow, tireless chef Robert Ubhaus runs back and forth between the two, overseeing such robust entrees as the entrecote au Roquefort, a substantial serving of flavorful steak that forms a trio with mixed greens and potato au gratin. While I wished that those layered potatoes had less biting black pepper, the steak - cut from between the ninth and eleventh ribs of beef - was cooked to medium rare perfection. And that creamy sauce on the side was pure decadence!

The seared sea scallops with fennel, a sweet sliver of red pepper, roasted fingerling potatoes and baby arugula had us wishing for bread so we could sop up every last bit of that delicious scallop jus.

The cassoulet with duck confit was flawless. The crisp-skinned, moist duck leg sat atop a heaping portion of bean stew that was richly flavored with generous chunks of sausage, duck meat and ham.

Dessert is clearly a serious matter at Paradou, making it easier to prolong the moment before diners have to brave the cold. We sipped on small glasses of sweet Muscat while we nibbled Chef Ubhaus’ thoughtfully edited cheese platter and cluster of impossibly juicy Concord grapes. After easily sucking the ripe, explosively flavored fruits from their purple skins, I understood why those grapes had been immortalized in so many still-life paintings.

At the risk of exploding ourselves, we also sampled one of the many varieties of Ubhaus’ dessert crepes: the warm caramelized apples nestled in thin, sweet crepes dusted with powdered sugar tasted of fall days in New England. (Although the chocolate and candied orange crepe sounded like a trip worth taking, too.)

On our next visit, we’re also sampling the menu of Joel Durand chocolate truffles offered as a plate of four or a gift box of 16.

Paradou’s menu changes with the seasons, so there will be another menu full of reasons to return when spring blooms and the restaurant’s garden is open again. As soon as we returned home, we curled up on the couch and took a long nap - dreaming of our next visit to this sliver of Provence in Park Slope.

 

Paradou is located at 426A Seventh Ave. at 14th Street in Park Slope. MasterCard and Visa accepted. Entrees: $11-$17. There is also a three-course, prix fixe dinner menu for $25 and two-course, prix fixe brunch for $15 on Saturdays and Sundays, from noon to 4 pm. For reservations, call (718) 499-5557. For more information, go to www.paradounyc.com.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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