5th Arrondissement

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Agrume (L’)

15, rue des Fossés Saint-Marcel (5)
Tel: 01-43-31-86-48

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Until included in a New York Times survey of this week’s hottest places, it may have languished in anonymity. No more. Smallish. Modern. Completely open kitchen its best feature. Four seats at the pass. In few other restaurants I know can one be “in the kitchen” like in this one.


Our fall, 2016 dinner, the first since…

Rereading comments from 4 visits 2011-2013, some has changed, some not. Price for 5 courses now 45€, up from 40€. An amazing value. No more wife. Instead, a competent server. Still 28 seats, including bar seats at the pass virtually in the small kitchen watching the chef perform a tightly wound, completely focused ballet. A very nice meal without the kitchen theater, but an extraordinary experience with it. Each of our 5 dinners included both menu and theater.

What is missing from my previous comments is just how good the food is and how well thought out the menu and individual dishes.

FOOD

Chef, stager, dishwasher. That’s it. Five fixed courses. No choice. Food with style and finesse, interestingly chosen and carefully plated. Plus more expensive a la carte.


For our 2016 dinner, cold foie gras in celery root soup with foam, scallop cru with avocado mousse and apples, filet of sole with carrot puree and asparagus, chicken breast with potatoes, and mango with whipped cream for dessert. Each course carefully imagined, prepared in front of us from scratch, meticulously plated, appropriately, but highly sauced and delicious to eat.

SERVICE

At the bar, the chef serves. At the tables, his wife does (or did, see above). A small operation with service suitable to its ambition.

PRICE

40€ chefs menu. Four courses, plus a la carte. Set meals exceptional for the price, on the theme of Epi Dupin and L’Affriole.

(5x) (2010-2016)

Atelier Maitre Albert

1, rue Maître Albert (5)
Tel: 01-56-81-30-01

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Near Notre Dame. Owned by 3-star chef Guy Savoy. A fairly large, good-looking, well-designed modern décor. Specializes in rotisserie roast chicken, particularly. Also veal shank. One grilled fish du jour.

FOOD

Terrific roast chicken. Other items carefully plated, served and conceived with intelligence. A modern take on traditional dishes. Great choice for formula lunch. A good possibility for a casual dinner. Open seven days.

SERVICE

Practiced, but casual. Friendly, if rushed.

PRICE

30€ formula for three courses at lunch. More expensive, but reasonable a la carte for dinner. Wide- ranging wine list. Also 36€ prix fixe dinner.

(3x) (2010-2011)

Brasserie Balzar

49, rue des Escoles (5)
Tel: 01-43-54-13-67

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Classic. By Sorbonne. Clientele like a faculty club. Nothing daring, but never changing. Dependable. Heavy on atmosphere, but not on charm. Except such tradition can be charming. In its own way, that applies here. No motorcycle helmets. At lunch and dinner an older, sedate crowd. Old school waiters serving an old school menu intentionally plain, but quite satisfying. Open Sundays.


Everything positive I experienced at Brasserie Balzar in 3 visits in 2010-2011 has changed as of our 2017 lunch, and none for the better.

Adam Gopnik, first in The New Yorker and then in a chapter of his book on living in Paris famously described the Brasserie Balzar “crisis”, a traditional old school restaurant acquired by a large chain. The staff warned what would follow. They were right.

Service, food, even the clientele is different. And sad. Careless food, promotional leaflets on the table. Inexperienced (and inadequate) staff, absent-minded management.

The worst imagined in Gopnik’s entertaining, but culturally informative piece has come to pass

FOOD

Good, not special. Reliable. Traditional. Sole, steaks, roast lamb, grilled sausage. Not a food destination as much as a cultural one.

SERVICE

Professional, detached. Not chatty, but neither unfriendly.

PRICE

Medium

(4x) (2010 – 2017)

Buisson Ardent (Le)

25, rue Jussieu (5)
Tel: 01-43-54-93-02

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Out of the way location in the 5th. Interior, plus warm weather terrace. Friendly welcome. Bilingual menu (bad). Not worth a journey.

FOOD

Unusual dishes with Mid East/Asian touches. Well prepared. Good, not great. Forgettable.

SERVICE

Attentive, but appropriate for causal, young clientele.

PRICE

Formula. Very reasonable.

(1x) (2011)

Café Trama

83 Rue du Cherche Midi (5)
Tel:  01-45-48-33-71

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A great choice for lunch or a casual, lighter dinner.

On a sunny Saturday in June, full of French couples and families enjoying sophisticated, unusual dishes generally above the level expected. Deserving of its popularity and reputation.  Physically attractive with some sidewalk seating, large windows, a bar and, behind, a dining area. Slightly cramped, but fine for lunch.

FOOD

Fresh.  Creative.  Unusual.  Untraditional.  International.

Cold sliced octopus over fregola, whelks remoulade, sautéed salmon, slow-roasted shredded pork “barbeque” on a sesame roll.  Cherry clafoutis.  Wines by the bottle, carafe or glass.

SERVICE

Friendly.  Helpful.  Bilingual.

PRICES

Very reasonable, especially in relation to freshness and quality of food.  Lunch for two with carafe of wine, 117€.

(1x) (2018)

Chez Rene

14, bd St-Germain (5)
Tel: 01-43-54-30-23

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

We so wanted it to be better. A great 1950’s look. Authentic, traditional atmosphere. Fine, appropriate service. Great menu. Fair a la carte prices. So what was wrong? The food a disappointment. A sad example of a widespread trend: long established restaurants change hands because of retirement, etc., decline follows.

FOOD

An entrée plat du jour of wonderful (and pricey) cepes followed by a lukewarm and under-seasoned osso buco (another plat du jour), carelessly plated. Great bistro desserts (tarts, chocolate mousse).

SERVICE

Good, friendly service.

PRICE

A la carte prices fair to slightly high.

(1x) (2010)

Closerie Des Lilas (La)

171, boulevard Du Montparnasse (5)
Tel:  01-40-51-34-50

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Every Paris restaurant guide mentions La Closerie Des Lilas in terms of its literary and social history in the heart of Latin Quarter on the Blvd. Montparnasse.  Few mention the food, except to note the large outdoor space, and that it is both a white table cloth restaurant and a no-reservations brasserie, with separate menus.  At the brasserie, outside in the larger smoking section, the food is fine, but not the draw.

On a beautiful, warm April night, every table full with a steady stream of new guests long past our 10:30 departure.  It is the crowd which is unique and a key feature:  older, entirely French, chic and good-looking in an artsy and prosperous way.  Many regulars.  The best spot we have discovered so far to see the paradox of Left Bank Parisian life:  a government and economy in painful shape, with great looking, expensively dressed middle-aged couples of intriguing combinations living a full, rich and seemingly untroubled life.

FOOD

Perfectly good – if you know what you are going for.

Céleri rémoulade and surprisingly delicate quenelles with Nantua sauce; smoked salmon and grilled filet of bass.  For dessert:  raspberry clafoutis.

SERVICE

Café-like.  Friendly, but brusque.  Without finesse, in keeping with the crowded, convivial feel of the outdoor terrace.

PRICE

A la carte.  With wine, water and coffee, 133€ for 2.

(1x) (2015)

Coupe-Chou (Le)

9-11, rue de Lanneau (5)
Tel: 01-46-33-68-69

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Some months ago I was touched by journalist Kati Marton’s reminiscence, “Paris, A Love Story”. The divorced widow of Peter Jennings and widow of Diplomat Richard Holbrooke described the many episodes of her life in Paris. When Holbrooke met her in Paris during breaks in the Bosnia peace talks he was negotiating, they would rush to Le Coupe- Chou for a romantic dinner. It was their place. It sounded irresistible; ancient, romantic, fine food. The guide books more or less concur.

All of them are wrong. Ancient, rustic, physically appealing it is, with terrible food carelessly served. Find your romance somewhere else. I’ve learned from this, so should you

FOOD

Aperitifs served with a saucer of packaged bar mix, the first ominous sign of many more to come. Uninspiring menu with no additions. Smoked salmon ok, but served with toasted American- style sliced bread. Portions of lotte and beef bourguignon small and unappealing. Is there a chef in the kitchen?

SERVICE

The soft spoken young waitress had so many runs in her black leggings that it looked as if she had dressed to work on her car. Then she broke the cork. Amateur hour

PRICE

A la carte and it added up, which also added insult. Four people. No desserts. 58€ wine plus aperitifs, 244€.

(1x) (2012)

Itineraires

5, rue de Pontoise (5)
Tel: 01-46-33-60-11

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Surprisingly elegant, modern décor. Near river. Medium sized. Busy, closely spaced. Ambitious blackboard menu. Always booked.


Same chef, same address, but a “new” restaurant. Décor upgraded, fewer tables. Now a tasting menu, four courses, 59€; five courses, 79€. More refined dishes, more carefully plated, with a now older, more established clientele.

What was an attractive, but typical formula destination is now a more relaxed and elegant choice.

FOOD

Excellent, with careful plating and attention to detail.


Refined. Inventive. Choice of two (of five) entrees – shrimp with avocado, foie gras over caramelized onions – plus one plat – foie gras stuffed boneless quail formed into a cylinder, cod, pork – plus dessert. A broader (and more expensive) wine list.

SERVICE

Friendly, professional service, although on our first visit we were not told of non-posted specials. A serious misstep.


The chef’s wife oversees the room with competence, pride and a smile, assisted by equally friendly if less polished staff.

PRICE

32€ formula, with many supplements. Medium, but low for the result.

(2x)(2010-2011)


Now 59€, 79€

(1x)(2013)

L’AOC

14, rue des Fosses (5)
Tel: 01-43-54-22-52

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Out of the way location. Small, authentic space. The hook is in the selection of ingredients, each artisan-produced (hence, AOC). Mostly meat. Terrines, sausages, rotisserie. Friendly, not warm.

On a Saturday lunch, no warmer, but a delicious 3 course formula lunch for 29€.

FOOD

Food quite good. Portions large. Terrines set on the table. Take what you want. Simple preparations. Exceptional ingredients.

SERVICE

Attentive. Professional. Experienced.

PRICE

A la carte, but reasonable.

At lunch, two courses from small menu, 21€. Three courses 29€. Wine by the glass, 5€.

(2x) (2013)

Moissonnier

28, rue des Fosses St.-Bernard (5)
Tel: 01-43-29-87-65

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

The feeling in this restaurant on a Friday night was of older French people eating out, versus “dining out”, a neighborhood place where people went to have dinner, versus “going out” to dinner. A local crowd. Small, but full. Good food. Good value. The downside is the restaurant lacks energy – big time. Good food, promptly served, quickly consumed, home to bed.

FOOD

Two specialties maison, chicken with girolles and – at each of the two tables next to ours – a spectacular looking “soufflé quenelles de brochet”. A long list of bistro desserts. Wines by the carafe.

SERVICE

One competent waitress, not unfriendly, not much more.

PRICE

The chicken was fabulous, but pricey, 33€ per person a la carte. With starters, desserts, 127€ for two.

(1x) (2011)


(Now Closed)

Papilles (Les)

30, rue Gay Lussac (5)
Tel: 01-43-25-20-79

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

If I could own a restaurant in Paris, this may be it.

But if I was to recommend a restaurant in Paris, I have reservations.

Great looking small room. Zinc-topped bar on the right, library shelves of wines on the left. Small tables – very small tables – in between. Small kitchen in the back. Basement table for large groups or to share. Two seatings – 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Because of the early start, most of the 7:30 p.m. covers are foreign, largely American. One menu. No choice. First course served immediately. And no waiting for the 9:30 p.m. service. For the owner, a gold mine. Always busy because the food is very good.

For the diner, too cramped, too warm, too bright, too early (or too late). Worth trying or returning to, but I recommend lunch.

FOOD

Exceptional, assuming you like what they serve.

On a late November night, cream of carrot soup with croutons, bacon, shaved carrots. Tureen brought to and left on table. Take as much as you want.

A large piece of cod on smashed potatoes with capers, butter, parsley, roasted red peppers. Followed by brie de meaux with apple, followed by citrus panna cotta.

SERVICE

Why the “gold mine”? One waitress assisted by the chef/manager who works behind the bar. The small kitchen sets the pace and she stays in time.

PRICE

No mention of wines from the vast “library”? Get up. Choose a bottle. Pay the price marked, plus 7€ for corkage. The more expensive the wine, the better the deal. Food: four courses 35€.

(1x) (2014)

Petit Pontoise (Le)

9, rue de Pontoise (5)
Tel: 01-43-29-25-20

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

On a crowded Sunday night, friendly welcome. Many foreigners. The tourist guides exaggerate. Good, not exceptional food.

(A new annex next door.)

FOOD

Fair, but ordinary in choice and execution.

SERVICE

Good. Friendly.

PRICE

Low/formula

(2x) (2010-2014)

Reminet (Le)

3 Rue des Grands-Degrés (5)
Tel:  01-44-07-04-24

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A nice Left Bank location in the 5th.  Quasi-adjacent to Notre Dame (but no view).  On a tiny street, with a small room and tables onto the sidewalk in warm weather.  Popular with tourists and locals.  Lovely greeting and service, but undistinguished in the kitchen despite a more ambitious appearing menu and 56€ formula.  Nice with friends, but otherwise not memorable.

FOOD

Gazpacho, marinated salmon, lobster ravioli in curry bouillon.  Tuna, pollack, pork chop, pork shoulder special, cheese, overwrought desserts.  Nice menu choices.  No better than ok.

SERVICE

Prompt.  Solicitous.  Friendly.  Bilingual.

PRICE

With two bottles of wine, 292€ for 4.

(1x) (2018)

Resto (Le)

8 Rue Tournefort (5)
Tel: 01-43-37-10-66

AMBIANCE/DECOR

Steps from the Pantheon in the 5th, the only light along a long, narrow, 19th Century cobblestone street which could be in a country village, sits Le Resto. Small, narrow, 24 seats. Young chef and his cousin, his mother the waitress/hostess/sommelier. On a drizzly Sunday night, every seat taken with a predominantly young clientele.

There must be hundreds of similar restaurants in Paris in every neighborhood. Short blackboard a la carte menu, 3 choices in each category, a concise wine list. A new menu every day. Ambition restrained with execution in line with ambition. The result, a lovely, if modest meal, a fair check and a general feeling of great satisfaction among the guests.

FOOD

Watercress soup as a pre-appetizer gift. Smoked salmon with horseradish cream and beets followed by veal steak with sautéed potatoes and root vegetables. Chocolate tarte and lemon cream for dessert. Nicely cooked, nicely served, nicely priced.

SERVICE

Friendly, energetic, proud 50ish mother of chef does it all with charm and humor. Including turning off the lights and leading the restaurant in “Happy Birthday” as she served desserts with candles to a neighboring table.

PRICE

232€ for 4, with 3 glasses & a bottle of 48€ wine.

(1X)(2018)

 

Photo from “The Fork”

Rotisserie d’Argent (La)

19, quai de la Tournelle (5)
Tel: 01-43-54-17-47
Renamed La Rotisserie

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

On the quai beyond Notre Dame. Casual, something less than crisp décor, but good menu and very fine food. Warm welcome. Professionally run. Open Sunday.


My 2010 write-up omitted what wasn’t clear to me at the time:  La Rotisserie (they dropped “du Beaujolais” several years ago) was started and is owned by the venerable and still legendary La Tour d’Argent (See 5th) across the street.  Except for website bragging rights and house-branded wines prominently featured on its list, you wouldn’t know it otherwise, and I didn’t five years ago.

Interesting as history, but every restaurant must stand on its own.  We returned because we had heard good comments following our pleasant, but otherwise unmemorable meal, also on a Sunday night.

A successful and entirely satisfactory dinner, roasted shoulder of lamb for two.  Exactly the type of food we hoped for – a lesson in itself.  Few Paris restaurants aspire to be everything to everyone at every service.  It is hard when you book far ahead for a full week or more, but keep in mind when planning that variety/diversity is no less desirable in Paris than at home.  Sometimes you feel like one thing, sometimes something else.

Two rooms, an enclosed sidewalk terrace and a cozy dining room, of which one side is an open kitchen focused on a gas-fired rotisserie.  A chef and two helpers, 3 waiters and a manager.


A name change, this time more than name only.

Long-owned by La Tour d’Argent, it is now edging closer in several highly positive ways. Completely redone; brighter, fresher, but clearly casual. The Tour d’Argent wine and memorabilia shop on the corner has become a bakery serving both restaurants with wonderful bread. Dessert pastries from the staff across the street (supposedly – but very nice). Best of all, menu additions including a superb quenelle de brochet “Andre Terrail” (founder of La Tour). Not clear whether sourced from that kitchen or a third party, but an entrée worth going for if nothing more. But there is more and always was, including 5 hour lamb shoulder for two which was our main course. Otherwise menu of mostly meats, many prepared on rotisserie, continues.

On a Monday night nearly full, more full than on any of our previous visits, suggesting the May, 2016 re-do is working.

Service was entirely friendly, but rushed and without polish as the staff struggled to keep up with what must have been an unexpected crowd.

Fair prices still, including several wine selections from the La Tour d’Argent once vast cellar.

FOOD

Quite good, focusing on roasted meats and poultry. Roast chicken at 15€ ranging to duck, lamb, beef for two at 50€. Simple desserts.


Grilled/roasted food, mostly meat, foul and game.  Lamb beautifully sliced over a heaping mound of roasted potatoes, preceded by a mélange of mushrooms provencale and ceps with boiled egg to break into a sauce.  Chocolate mousse to share.  A perfect fall dinner.

 

SERVICE

Like the décor, quite relaxed, but warm and professional.


Friendly, helpful, bilingual, informal, but largely efficient.

 

PRICE

Wide-range, low to moderate.


A la carte.  Reasonable wines within a broad range from a short list.  Starters 9€ – 19€.  Plats 22€ (roast chicken) – 87€ (sliced steak for 2 with béarnaise).  Our dinner:  148€.


A note following our most recent 2019 Sunday night dinner:  the website boasts caneton for 2 in 2 services (roasted whole duck).  The menu lists it.  The blackboard menu of daily specials above the kitchen pass includes it.

Of our 3 most recent meals here, including  this one, “Out of duck”.  To be fair, all were Sundays.  Of course, they are open on Sunday (one reason, in addition to the promise of duck, we go there).  Two times of 3 is not just bad luck.  Could anyone imagine eating at the parent restaurant across the street, La Tour D’Argent, and not ordering – and being served – pressed duck?

(4x) (2010-2019)

 

Photo from “Trip Advisor”

Terroir Parisien

20, rue Saint Victor (5)
Tel: 01-44-31-54-54

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Terroir Parisien is not the only 3-star chef’s “second restaurant” with an impeccable pedigree, but results which disappoint. Yannick Alleno is chef at Le Meurice. This is not his first spinoff. It is a large, well-designed space in a former period office building in the 5th dominated by a large central eating bar and open kitchen, with tables at either side. The name and theme refer to modern interpretations of traditional Parisien dishes sourced from near Paris. (See also Terroir Parisien, 2nd Arr.)

FOOD

The menu and execution disappoint. Open seven days and serving lunch through dinner, it is for a light snack or full meal. Leeks, onion soup, terrines followed by cod, chicken and vinegar, pot au feu. Surprisingly, no blackboard specials. A rotisserie in the kitchen was being used for storage. Dishes such as the chicken and pot au feu made ahead and heated for service. We so wanted it to be better than it was.

SERVICE

Young people. Not very well trained or tightly supervised, but they may reflect the causal style management hopes to promote. Surely, they were friendly and willing.

PRICE

Quite reasonable across the a la carte menu. Wines divided into price categories. Top out at 52€. Some by the glass or pichet.

(1x) (2012)

Tour D’Argent (La)

15-17, quai de la Tournelle (5)
Tel: 01-43-54-23-31

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

What is Tour d’Argent doing on this list? Long ago demoted from decades of 3-star stature to 1-star, isn’t it tired, touristy and a relic from another age? Maybe so, but nothing like a 65€ lunch menu to motivate me to find out. The room may be a little tired. Better dressed and more worldly guests could revive the original glamour in a flash. Perhaps they do at night. There is no better Paris view than a window-side table four floors up at Tour d’Argent.

What brought us back, beyond affordability? Nostalgia. My first 3-star restaurant – in 1963. Some things have changed, mostly not for the better. Some things haven’t. Reports of a new chef. The food was still special; lunch a real value.

FOOD

Very good, with numerous 3-star embellishments. Three courses with three choices, plus extras. Ethereal quenelle, one entrée choice. Followed by a choice of cod, duck or veal hangar steak, followed by pastry or sherbet. Preceded by a pre- dessert. Plus chocolates.

A separate wine list of suitable half bottles and more modestly priced lunch wines


A second visit included scallops, lamb shoulder and chocolate soufflé.

SERVICE

The service was elegant, but distracted. Finally, we got them to crack a smile. It must be hard to work in an institution increasingly populated by young French from the provinces celebrating birthdays and tables of Japanese. But there is no more authentic reminder of what the classic 3-star experience used to be.

PRICE

65€. No tricks. A wonderful lunch. One we would return for. (And did – to a second exceptional meal.)


(2x) (2010 -2011)

Now 85€. (2014)