La Fourchette

Cuisine: FrenchCategory: Neighborhood Favorite; Night OutLocation: 432 King St.Phone: 722-6261Hours: 6-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 6-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; closed SundayFood: 3 1/2Service: 3Atmosphere: 3 1/2Price: $-$$$Costs: Appetizers $10.50-$12, soups $6.25, salads $6.50-$12, entrees $15-$28, and plats du jour, market price. Desserts $7.50, cheese plates $12. Wines by the glass $8-$11, bottles $29-$75.Vegetarian Options: YesBar: Full-service bar; well-balanced French wine list.Decibel Level: ModerateWheelchair Access: Yes, but room between tables is tight; ask for the niche under the Eiffel Tower print.Parking: Street and public garagesOther: No separate checks, reservations suggested. Daily specials: the plat du jour. Featured on “Unique Eats,” July2011. www.lafourchettecharleston.com.

Our love affair with the foods of France continues. In its simple dishes, we find no clash of nostalgia or innovation.

We love to traffic in quiches, pates, terrines, mousses (both sweet and savory) and rise to the occasion.

The traditional dishes of bistro and brasserie fare are classics with perfect culinary pitch.

The French, more than any other practitioners of the culinary arts, are preservationists. They do not reinvent the food wheel.

They stick to classic mousses, and bacon has always been their larding ingredient of choice.

And their love affair with local is so faithful that chickens come tagged Bresse, the best oysters from Brittany, the best mustard from Dijon and apples, ciders and butter from Normandy.

A series of queries from our readers in search of a classic French restaurant initiated this visit to La Fourchette that opened in 2006.

The space

La Fourchette, the bistro Francais of Perig Goulet, transports us to France.

This Brittany native, who worked at Il Cortile del Re before branching out to create a place of his own, has succeeded in bringing an authentic bistro to Charleston.

From the soft glow of Grand Marnier “candles” to the patina of beveled glass mirrors and the tightly ordered tables, the “Fork” (Fourchette) feeds our insatiable appetite for practical, dependable French food.

La Fourchette plays it straight with solicitous service and authentic foods.

Place yourself in the capable hands of sommelier Kevin Kelley and allow him to pair or pour your wines.

La Fourchette, with its exposed brick wall, black-and-white patterned floor, and simple Parisian photographs, has all the trap-pings of Belle Epoque Paris.

The soulful sounds of Paris’ memorable Little Sparrow, Edith Piaf, surround the dining room.

Crusty Normandy Farm baguettes are served with unsalted butter and willingly replenished by friendly servers.

The food

We began with earth and surf: rustic lentil soup ($6.25) that could have been hotter but buttressed the rustic lentil flavor with sweet carrot nibs.

Coquille St. Jacques ($13) was a classic: Three large ocean scallops caramelized on one side sat in a pool of reduced cream and wine with smoky bacon lardons refreshed with shallots.

Vegetarians and others will enjoy a gateaux (cake) of grilled eggplant and zucchini ($10.50) layered with tomatoes and served with a goat cheese and leek sauce.

Steak frites ($19.50) were de riguer.

This classic french fries and steak dish derived from economy featured a hanger steak, cooked as ordered, topped with a compound butter of herbs, salt and freshly cracked pepper.

The simple side of a green salad dressed with a pungent mustard vinaigrette was the perfect partner.

A neighboring table enjoyed the classic North African couscous with lamb sausage.

Salmon en papillotte ($22) was not available, so grilled swordfish was our default. The swordfish ($23) was served over ratatouille, a revered vegetable dish from Nice.

The blending of eggplant, zucchini, onions and red and green peppers has as many versions as France has to dress an egg.

Chef Kyle Yarbrough’s version is big chunks of vegetables bathed in a tomato and herb sauce.

The fish was remarkably fresh and cooked pink. I like that in salmon, but for swordfish, I would go more for medium, so have that conversation with your server.

Goulet features his mother’s go-to Sunday supper dish: hache parmentier ($19) — think shepherd’s pie topped with a puree of potatoes and Gruyere cheese.

A daily special of rabbit was very tempting (MP) as was the pork in mustard sauce ($19), so a return visit is in order.

We passed on tarte Tatin, classic crepes with lemon and ordered the profiteroles ($7.50, four to a serving).

Brittle profiteroles are filled with vanilla ice cream and anointed tableside with warm chocolate sauce.

Do indulge.

The service

The team of Goulet, Yarbrough and Kelley has pitched the flavors well of classic French bistro cooking.

This is the cooking of and for family and friends.

And with airfare to De Gaulle airport in Paris running more than $1,000, well, when the urge for the flavors of the City of Light strikes you, know that the Holy City can fill the bill.