Café Des Deux Moulins, 18th Arrondissement
In Amélie, a fairy tale of a film set in modern-day Paris, love sneaks up on a pixieish, charmingly naïve café waitress, matchmaker, and self-assigned guardian angel with a fecund imagination. Les Deux Moulins plays itself in the movie, which, based on the zinc’s popularity with Japanese tourists, every person in Japan seems to have seen. Taking home-movies of the place has become a ritual, along with re-enacting Amélie’s famous habit of breaking the crust of her crème brûlée with her spoon. The dessert appears on the menu as "crème brûlée d’Amélie Poulain" and is served warm, torched to order. It’s probably wise not to start with anything more elaborate than a croque-monsieur, which has Poilâne bread going for it but, alas, no béchamel sauce. Despite the sometimes annoying attentions brought on by the film, Les Deux Moulins still aligns itself firmly with the shopkeepers, retirees, vegetable-stand owners, jeunesse dorée, fishwives, concierges, and do-nothings of this lovely pocket of Montmartre. The zinc’s real value lies in its languor and effortless proto-zinc look. Outlining a stepped ceiling, a snaking tube of yellow neon endows patrons with a jaundiced glow. Amélie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who happens to live across the street, understood that no amount of money and set dressing could re-create Les Deux Moulins on a soundstage. 15 Rue Lepic; 33-1/42-54-90-50; lunch for two $50.
Christopher Petkanas is a T+L special correspondent.