12th Arrondissement

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Amarante

4, rue Biscornet(12)
Tel:  09-50-80-93-80

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Our last dinner on a Spring, 2016 three week visit. A new name, highly recommended by sources with mixed records.

A non-descript one block street close to the Bastille Opera, a convenient location. One look inside through the window, and our expectations sank. Bright. Charmless. Ten tables and a service bar in an L-shaped room. Plain tables. No linens. A single Asian waiter. In our section of the room, table of four Asians and an older Asian couple next to us. Are we in a Chinese restaurant? The unsmiling waiter drops the menus. Then it all changed. The waiter began to respond. Formerly at 3-Star Guy Savoy. The long a la carte menu (with a low priced formula section too) reflects simple, but classic French preparations. The Asian couple next to us, Parisians for 65 years, are foodies seeking out new restaurants.

The food is terrific; the ingredients impeccable and the preparations like the décor: simple, direct, unadorned, unfussy. The prices are low, especially for the quality. Ditto the wines.

For Michelle, the décor trumps the outstanding food. For me, a great find.

FOOD

Sliced veal tongue; tender, simple broiled pork chop with puree of Jerusalem Artichokes; perfect, unsweetened chocolate mousse.

Perfect smoked salmon; slow cooked lamb with fresh peas (and better than recent lamb preparations at Michelin-starred dinners); lemon crème brulee.

SERVICE

Once he opened up, the waiter was professional, helpful, bilingual and proud. The waiter, chef and helper make up the staff.

PRICES

125€ for 2, with water, coffee and a 28€ Burgundy. A bargain.

(1X) (2016)

 

Photo from “Trip Advisor”

Biche au Bois (A la)

45, avenue Ledru Rollin (12)
Tel: 01-43-43-34-38

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A busy, rollicking, out of the way bistro in the safe, but blue collar Gare de Lyon neighborhood. Crowded. Bustling. High energy. All French. No motorcycle helmets.

FOOD

Three courses with cheese, 26.90€ at dinner. Fresh terrines, inexpensive wines, classic bistro dishes including a wonderful, rich coq au vin. Generous cheese tray. For dessert, the definitive mousse au chocolat. Fun. Great value.

SERVICE

Not much finesse. Friendly staff.

PRICE

This is not a suitable restaurant for either romance or a business meal, but if you want to relive “Europe on $5 a Day”, this may be your place. Obviously, they make it on turnover.

(1x) (2011)

Fregate (A La)

30, av Ledru-Rollin (12)
Tel: 01-43-43-90-32

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

We had been past several times (it is almost next door to Le Quincy). A venerable seafood restaurant in a marginal Bastille location.

On a Monday night, a paradox. Dated décor, a throwback to the provinces. Enticing, ambitious all fish menu, with prices to match. Chef takes orders. One actually feels he returns to the kitchen to cook. Two other tables occupied, plus a business group of 14 men ordering a la carte. Good food. Nothing sleek or commercial, but devoid of energy.

FOOD

Warm scallop salad, crab with spinach in three profiteroles, swordfish a la plancha, bar in tomato/oil and vinegar sauce; Grand Marnier soufflé a house specialty. Limited but carefully chosen wines.

SERVICE

Attentive, practiced service

PRICE

Fresh, wild seafood is expensive in Paris. No exception here.

(1x) (2011)

Provinces (Les)

20, rue d’Aligre (12)
Tel: 01-43-43-91-64

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

The Marche d’Aligre is one of the most interesting of the many outdoor markets in Paris. It combines a small flea market with a bustling outdoor fruit market with a traditional covered indoor market with a dozen or so specialty vendors; of fruit, poultry, meat, fish, charcuterie, Italian and Mid-Eastern specialties, flowers, etc. It is open daily in the mornings (except Monday), is scenic, authentic and crowded. Like most marketplaces, the immediately surrounding streets house small food shops, bakeries, cafes, etc.

Along rue d’Aligre, behind 20 fruit sellers lining both sides of the street, is Les Provinces, a more upscale butcher with 8 or so tables, a waitress and a chef offering a simple meat-entrée menu drawn directly from the butcher counter, where 3 butchers go about their cutting, trimming and wrapping.

Not fancy, and not a gourmet destination, but a great stop for lunch.

FOOD

A menu listed by beef, lamb, pork and veal, with various cuts offered under each. Based on café menus, Paris has gone hamburger crazy (including McDonalds). Until Les Provinces, we resisted. Thus, worth waiting for. On a brioche bun and served with two artisan bacon slices. The meat is coarsely ground and barely compacted. Like every plate, including the grilled lamb (gigot), served with fabulous roasted potatoes and salad.

SERVICE

One friendly and efficient waitress, probably a butcher’s wife.

PRICE

Not cheap. Burger (and lamb) each 18€ with shared first course, wine, water and coffee, 68€.

No reservations. Walk in.

(1x) (2014)

Quincy (Le)

28, av Ledru-Rollin (12)
Tel: 01-46-28-46-76

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A movie set bistro. In Gare de Lyon neighborhood. Elderly, energetic owner dominates the room; takes orders, checks on tables, advises on menu, creates a completely memorable experience – with one caveat: An offered digestif gift is 15€ on the check. A recommended wine substitution priced 75% higher. Great food, great fun.


Another spectacular dinner demands amplification.

Le Quincy illustrates the range of Paris dining and the peril inherent in lists of “favorite restaurants”.

On two back to back nights Versance (see 2nd) and Le Quincy.

One in spacious, formal surroundings, with an ambitious chef serving complex works of art on the plate, assisted by a serious and somber staff. Midweek, a dining room half full, mostly couples.  Very high prices, very precious food.

Le Quincy, a Paris “farmhouse” in décor. Small. Every table boisterous and full, almost all men. Two waiters and a larger than life owner, everywhere at once. A talented, but anonymous chef (plus one helper and a dishwasher) in the tiny kitchen (which guests pass through on the way to the courtyard toilet).

A menu replete with every bistro classic: terrines, hams, sausages and salamis, followed by coq au vin, chicken with morels in cream sauce, stuffed cabbage, grilled beef, veal chop, inexpensive wines. Family style bowls for dessert: chocolate mousse, prunes, sliced oranges, etc.

Which do you like better? Impossible to answer, two completely different ambitions. Both serve good food, one self-importantly, the other joyously. Different strokes.


Le Quincy has become among my favorite Paris restaurants. It is more “real bistro” in style and quality of cooking than any other. On every visit, almost all French (and mostly men!). The “elderly, energetic owner” still brings personality and oversight to the floor, with humor and charm.

Rotating daily specials: chicken with mushrooms, blanquette of veal. Otherwise small, but diverse menu of bistro classics.

Large portions. Small, now more diverse wine list.

The surroundings are tired, but the restaurant is always full of happy, well-fed guests. We love being among them.  (Including Henry Kissinger hosted by a former French Foreign Minister on our last visit).

FOOD

Terrific bistro food with daily specials, several unusual. Simple, good. Very well executed. Stuffed cabbage, baby lamb. Don’t miss the “Grand Assortment” dessert for the table.  Bowls put on table. Serve yourself. As much as you can bear.

SERVICE

Competent waiters supported by owner – there since 1972.

PRICE

Medium-high, but worth it at twice the price. Cash only.

(10x) (2010-2017)

Table

3, rue de Prague (12)
Tel:  01-43-43-12-26

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

As the substance of this Diary should confirm, it is likely I am more familiar with Paris restaurants than many American visitors and probably many French.  So when a recommendation like Table comes along, a five year old Michelin one-star, that I have never even heard the name of, it surprises me.  It shouldn’t, there could be tens, maybe hundreds like it, although not likely as good.  More work to do!

Table is small, contemporary in feel in an unusual physical space.  A long, undulating counter running the full length of the space, with high top tables and a handful of conventional chairs and tables on the floor.  Everything is focused on the kitchen and chef and his three younger assistants who prepare and assemble all of the dishes from the short, but changing a la carte menu behind the counter (see L’Agrume, 5th).  Basically, sitting at the counter where most parties of two are seated, is eating in the kitchen.  The menu details the obsessive focus on artisanal sourcing.  We can attest to the bread; beautiful and delicious in a city replete with noteworthy bread.

All of this takes place in a perfectly safe-appearing, non-descript street in the slightly scruffy 12th, one block from the very busy (daytime only) Rue d’Aligre Market, the only open and covered market in Paris which on a daily basis combines food and flea market stalls.

FOOD

The concise a la carte menu is expensive.  A 39€ 3 course formula this is not.

Entrees of raw fish, girolles lightly cooked and served with an egg yolk to break into the sauce, raw sardines and tomatoes with burrata were each in the range of 25€.  We had the girolles, generous and delicious.

The plats included sautéed monkfish or tuna, each carefully cut to order, pintade portioned from a very large semi-cooked bird and finished on the plancha, then sauced and plated with a boiled crayfish and served with a root vegetable “salad”, a small version of the vegetarian offering.  Also available was ¼ of a 3 pound Mediterranean lobster, split and grilled on the plancha (actually offered as an entrée) or sweetbreads sautéed in a half pound or so of butter.  (At 69€, they were going fast!)  Also on the entrée menu was sautéed frogs legs.

Being in the kitchen was an essential part of the experience, and an enjoyable one.

Desserts matched the food.  A version of ethereal chocolate mousse with ice cream, praline tart with sorrel ice cream, fresh strawberries with nuts, hot fresh cherries.  We never saw a wine list.  The glasses offered (16€) were varied and delicious, but judging from the wine on display, there is plenty to choose from.

SERVICE

A patient maître d’ explained each dish.  Kind servers delivered the food and wine.  Both exemplary, but the prime interaction was with the chefs, mostly watching.

PRICE

High, but worth the splurge.  All in with a total of 5 glasses of wine, 260€.


A second visit confirms everything experienced from my original writeup.

This time the remarkably solicitous waiter suggested the multiple course tasting menu. At 189€ a major investment, but with very high a la carte prices (maybe higher than the year before), a sensible suggestion.

Extraordinary variety. Modern, but not fussy dishes each totally original and cooked and plated directly in front of us, served by the chef or one of the three sous chefs. Pea soup, barely cooked lobster, oyster with pork head cheese, griolles, turbot, goat, cheese, dessert. Every dish carefully plated, deliciously sauced. A memorable meal.

(2x) (2018-2019)

Train Bleu (Le)

Place Louis Armand (12)
Tel: 01-43-43-09-06

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Travel isn’t like it used to be.  When was the last time you had a good meal at an airport restaurant?  Name brands, but the airport satellites are never even close to the original.  Train stations?  Don’t ask.

Not so in Paris, in the 19th Century at least.  That is the original period décor of Le Train Bleu in the Gare Lyon.  230 seats, every one full at a recent midweek lunch.  By appearances, few of them were travelers, versus local bureaucrats and business people eating a surprisingly nice and not inexpensive lunch amidst décor appropriate to a rococo chateau.  Go for the sights (as we did), stay for the food.

FOOD

Large, somewhat ambitious a la carte menu with a few prix fixe combinations.  White asparagus with herb sauce or mousseline, roast leg of lamb sliced from a wheeled trolley with potatoes gratin, roast cod with vegetables for us.

SERVICE

Formal.  Slow, but friendly.

PRICE

Fairly high a la carte.  155€ for two with one glass of wine and no dessert.

Without the setting, no reason to go.  The setting makes it worth it, and helps explain the price.

(1x) (2016)

Photo from “letrainbleu.com”