Favorites

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Grand Pan (Le)

20, rue Rosenwald (15)
Tel: 01-42-50-02-50

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Le Grand Pan was well discovered before our visit. Five years old and well- reviewed, it seemed as if everyone was a regular or at least a repeat. A good sign.

Small. Out of the way on a back street in the 15th. Two rooms. Tiny kitchen. Blackboard menu featuring meat and emphasizing the quality of the ingredients. For the most part the dishes and preparations are simple, but the food was superb. A very happy restaurant.

We will be back.


We were back two months later. Even better. Such high energy. Such a diverse crowd. All ages. Almost all French. Almost all ordering steak, veal chop or pork chop for two. An addition to our Favorites list.

An insight: The picture of the chef sticking his head out of the kitchen window reminded me of the now chic and over-hyped L’Ami Louis 25 years ago, under the original chef and ownership. Same regular devotees, obscure neighborhood. Meat-focused.

Grand Pan is not for everyone. For some, 55 seats in this tiny space would contradict their image of fine French dining. But if you like Le Regalade (See 14th), etc., you’ll love Le Grand Pan.


Le Grand Pan does not require a fresh review following another outstanding October 2016 dinner. It is not a Diary “Favorite” for nothing. But rereading my comments from earlier meals fails to fully convey how good and how unusual this small, out of the way, casual, crowded, informal, meat-centric bistro really is.

Rare in recent years – anywhere – we were the only Americans and the only tourists at dinner. As at every other meal there, the dominant clientele is older, middle-class French couples for whom this is less date night than “Let’s eat out”. They are regulars; not wealthy, chic or particularly sophisticated, and they are warmly welcomed, notwithstanding that in food terms Le Grand Pan has become widely known, by fellow chefs particularly, many of whom, I think, envy its full tables every night and its simple approach to casual dining.

Other than the middle class couples, young (and not so young) groups of French businessmen occupy most of the other tables, parties of 4 or 6. All (and most others) order either the grilled sliced pork chop, veal chop or steak, with sides of salad and thick cut frites, the restaurant’s specialty, preceded by heaping boards of carefully sourced charcuterie.

It is authentic, thriving and if not for everyone, great fun for staff and patrons alike. And at 121€ for 2, with wine, water, coffee and cocktail, a bargain.


At a 2017 dinner unchanged, in all of the best ways. High energy staff. All French. Many regulars. Everyone having fun. With chicken galantine over red cabbage and celery remoulade with crabmeat, our favorite grilled veal chop for two, one dessert and a (more) expensive wine plus one aperitif, 163€.

FOOD

Sliced veal chop in light cream sauce for two. Exceptional. Other options: beef or pork chop prepared similarly, also one fish, lobster, duck breast, etc. Most simply cooked on plancha.

First courses cepes and string bean salad with smoked duck breast and foie gras. Desserts: Pear tart, plums with mascarpone.

SERVICE

Two waiters handle the rooms professionally, quickly and casually.

PRICE

153€ for two, with mid-priced (44€) wine. Also wine specials (on blackboard we didn’t see until we left).

(6x) (2014-2017)

Au Bascou

38, rue Reaumur (3)
Tel: 01-42-72-69-25

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A find, made more surprising by the nondescript location in the 3rd and the equally nondescript exterior appearance of the restaurant. Interior slightly more encouraging, but hardly imposing. Chef, however, comes with serious credentials. Was #2 to Alain Senderens, chef at then 3-star Lucas Carton.


Not sure why it took us 3 years to return to what our first 2 visits invited designation as a “Favorite”.

Food very good, and unusual. 18€ for 2 course formula lunch, outstanding – at any price.


Still scruffy in a scruffy neighborhood in the 3rd Arr. Not uncomfortable (maybe the bathroom), but decidedly rundown. But not in the kitchen, where the Basque chef/owner continues to turn out a menu plus a long list of daily specials, all of which look, taste and are homemade. No pretenses. A loyal regular crowd always greeted as friends by the chef. In five meals, never another foreigner in the house. Still a favorite.

FOOD

Unusual Southwestern food and wines. Not Michelin-starred flawless, but exceptional flavors, all well executed. A la carte menu plus long list of daily blackboard additions. Stuffed peppers, grilled griolles, confit of lamb “brick” wrapped in filo, fig tarte, traditional tourtiere of apples and prunes. Menu faithful to regional traditions.

Ravioli Royan (tiny ravioli filled with cheese and herbs), followed by roast cod or sliced fresh sausage with potatoes aligot (mashed with cheese). Desserts: fresh pear crumble and prune and apple tortiere (a style of tart). All first rate.

SERVICE

Informal, but professional. One waiter, one hostess/waitress.

PRICE

Reasonable a la carte prices. 10€ starters. 17€ plates. Numerous blackboard specials, some higher. Low priced wines. Great meal for the price. Formula lunch.

126€ for two, with 35€ wine. 25€ three course formula lunch.

(5x) (2010-2017)

Fontaine de Mars (Le)

129, rue Saint Dominique (7)
Tel: 01-47-05-46-44

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Great look. Warm welcome. Good food, but on one Sunday night, few French in sight. Still, a good Sunday choice. Very popular. Always busy. Obama’s new favorite. Do not sit upstairs.


A recent Saturday night showed a full house, mostly French. Good food, careful service and new blackboard specials.

FOOD

Quite good. Limited menu plus specials and plats du jour.

SERVICE

Professional, but can be overburdened. Noticeably well- managed.

PRICE

Medium


Re-reading my early review of Fontaine de Mars, subsequently tweaked once or twice, it does not do the restaurant justice.

This is not exciting food, but it is very good food, at a restaurant we have returned to again and again since the beginning of the Diary. It is very well managed, consistent, dependable and increasingly French, notwithstanding the Obama’s date night and the Americans who followed. A recent dinner on a Sunday night was largely French, the restaurant relatively full, the food good and the portions large, with several less predictable dishes. It is the perfect restaurant to take visiting American friends. It looks (and is) very French, and though it rarely surprises, so does it rarely disappoint.

(8x) (2012-2016)

Hexagone

85, avenue Kleber (16)
Tel:  01-42-25-98-85

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

I acknowledge some “luxury creep” in the composition of this Diary.  No one should need my help with the international, starred names.  This was to be about lesser known (and less ambitious), smaller places where French people actually eat.  And so it remains, mostly.

But more refined (and more expensive) names have crept in, mostly at lunch where prices can be a fraction of an a la carte dinner, and always because of my awe at the preparation and cooking, reflective of labor and training virtually unknown in the U.S.  Le Grande Cascade (See 16th), Frederic Simonin (See 17th) and Astrance (See 16th) are lunch-only (for us) examples of special treat restaurants which have become regular favorites.

Now, a new addition:  Hexagone, a large, modern, ambitious new space open since January, 2015.  Owned by Mathieu Pacaud, son of 3-star chef Bernard of L’Ambroisie in the Marais.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Elegant, refined and friendly.  Exquisite a la carte menu, with a 49€ 3 course lunch, 2 choices per course.

On the basis of our first meal, it sets a new standard.

FOOD

Vol-au-vent with sweetbreads or what is listed as ratatouille, but which like every plate put on the table is a multi-element work of visual art and complex cooking.  (Fast forward to dessert:  the poached pear on brownie includes 8 separate elements, each cooked, baked, frozen, etc.).

Main courses either duck breast of filet of merlan in light cream sauce.  This is meant to be food, but meant to impress versus to startle.

SERVICE

Polished.  Attentive.  Very professional.  Bilingual.  Friendly.

PRICE

Wines by the glass 11€ – 25€.  At 49€, plus water, coffee, etc. and 3 glasses of wine, the bill became 151€, but still a bargain.

(2x) (2015 – 2016)

 

Photo from “Trip Advisor”

yam’Tcha

121, rue Saint Honoré (1)
Tel: 01-40-26-08-07

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Hard to describe, and why bother? Twenty- four seats, sold out lunch and dinner a month ahead with a one month limit on future bookings. But so good, worth trying. Occasional openings for lunch.

Open kitchen. One (French) woman chef/owner, one Asian helper, dishwasher, three front of the house, including the Asian husband of the chef, in charge of tea pairings. Mostly French clientele. A great meal.


The buzz last year was that Yam’Tcha was temporarily closing for an expansion. Wrong. The only expansion was the chef’s family. A second baby born in April. While the restaurant was closed, it was tastefully renovated, including the menu which basically lists prices and beverage options. There are no menu choices. Every dish is over the top. The staff could not be nicer or more professional, in a professional, but friendly way. For us, a top choice in Paris.


A recent dinner at the two seat kitchen counter reconfirms our past enthusiasm. Very expensive, but in every way memorable, unusual, exceptional and fine. Beautiful to look at, better to eat. Eight unique courses, each exquisite. And a third chef in the kitchen, so now a staff of three, plus dishwasher. Worth repeat calls for a hard-to-book table.


Bittersweet. An early October (2014) dinner was our last meal at Yam’Tcha on rue Sauval. After three more services, it closes to become a tea and Chinese steamed bun take-out shop (see Brioches Vapeur a Emporter, 1st Arr.) while a new, larger (35 vs. 24 seats) restaurant is built around the corner at 123 rue St. Honore. Fingers crossed, the expansion works for the restaurant, and in terms of charm, intimacy and what remains our every-time- best-meal/experience in Paris is able to survive. They deserve to succeed and to prosper.


Yam’Tcha was our favorite restaurant in Paris when it was on Rue Sauval. Now literally around the corner on Rue St. Honore it remains our favorite restaurant, in slightly larger, but more comfortable, more refined space. The kitchen has expanded by 3x or more, allowing for the addition of a pastry chef, a third cook and prep space in the basement. Otherwise, no change, which is very good news. Never a repeat dish. Every meal better than the last. Restaurant and staff keep getting better.


Yam’Tcha now open four days, Wednesday through Saturday. Six course meal which was 120€, now 150€, and still a steal.

 

FOOD

Technically, a fusion menu. Elegant, inventive Chinese-style French food. Tasting menu only. No choice.

100€, multiple courses at dinner and most lunches. Several days a week, a 60€ lunch. One course better than another. A Michelin 1- star. In every way deserved.


Our most recent dinner: Fried shrimp wonton, salad with Spanish ham and quail egg, scallops, foie gras and oyster with potato, steamed sea bass with chili pepper and black bean, chicken breast over shitake mushrooms, cheese- filled steamed Chinese bread, Pavlova with grapes and sherbet, chocolate filled rice balls

There is a great deal of food, served in 10 or so small courses.  It is a long evening.  For us, this is the perfect restaurant.  And it has gotten better, if such a thing is possible.

Still a hard table, but 68 lucky folks succeed every day. The French version of Nexflix “Chef’s Table” has done an episode (with subtitles) on the chef and her family. Next best thing to being there.

 

SERVICE

Attentive, proper, friendly. English- speaking.

PRICE

Tea pairings offered at 25€. Wine and tea combination pairings at 35€. Wines only, 45€.

Lunch 60€ on some days. And lunch on other days and dinner, 120€. No choice. (They know better anyway!)

The food could not be better, the fixed meal more interesting or diverse, the paired wines more tasty or generously poured, or the service more intelligent, solicitous and genuinely warm.


The legendary American food authority James Beard was once asked, “Mr. Beard, what is your favorite restaurant?” He famously responded, “Why madam, it is the same as yours, a restaurant where I am loved.”

We feel loved at Yam’Tcha, but that took time. We became familiar clients because we returned trip after trip to experience warm hospitality, beautiful French/Asian food consistently executed and served at the highest standards by lovely people who hardly change year to year.

Our 2019 lunch confirmed – once again – that this is our favorite Paris restaurant still. Book early. (And if you fail to book, or fail to land a precious table, consider an impromptu lunch at the Boutique around the corner on Rue Sauval, the original Yam’Tcha location, where they serve tea and steamed buns (bao), including the “cheese course” at the restaurant.)

Or try the newest offshoot, a more overtly Asian casual restaurant and take-out, Café Lai‘Tcha, across the new Les Halles Park accessible from Rue Sauval at 7 Rue du Jour  (around the corner from the 24 hour Au Pied du Cochon.)

(12x+) (2012 – 2019)

1st Arrondissement, Favorites|

Bon Saint Pourcain (Le)

10 bis, rue Servandoni (6)
Tel: 01-43-54-93-63

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

From 2010: Informal Left Bank neighborhood spot. Small. Tired. Eccentric. Out of the 1920’s, and not much redecorating since. Owner plus daughter. Tiny kitchen in the hallway. Use the bathroom before you leave your hotel. Like a comfortable old shoe, with a rarely changing menu of comfort dishes.

FOOD

Good. Never more. Large portions. Roast chicken, lamb shank, cassoulet, sole, beef with olives.

SERVICE

Efficient, but neither unfriendly nor warm.

PRICES

A la carte. No credit cards. 8x (2010-2013)


Sign in the window, “Under Construction” Rarely does that tell the real story. (2014)


Closed (2015)

A new/old restaurant, and a good one.

28 seats. Warm. All middle-aged French couples and a foursome of businessmen. 2 chefs working in coordination with hallway prep kitchen. Small blackboard menu. (Beet salad with goat cheese, leeks in vinegar, crab salad with sliced asparagus; cod, pork shoulder, chicken breast). Little ambition, other than to serve competently executed, simple weekday food to a small crowd of local neighborhood folk (except for us) looking exactly for that.

Not polished, not a gourmet destination, but exactly what proved perfect for a chilly first night in Paris and a major improvement over the somewhat sleepy version which preceded it.


Two meals in 2019.  Still the quintessential neighborhood place.  Still all French. Still highly competent, if not ambitious. Still full. Prices higher.

(6x) (2015-2019)

 

Photo by “Trip Advisor”

Chez Dumonet – Josephine

117, rue du Cherche Midi (6)
Tel: 01-45-48-52-40

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Classic bistro décor. Deliberately tired, but not in the kitchen. Everything L’Ami Louis has except the attitude and prices. Menu innovation: some half portions available. Luxury meats and order ahead desserts (soufflé; extraordinary apple tart). High energy. Great fun. Always full. Terrific food.


No reason to change a word above, except for a fall 2015 dinner which underscores every superlative.  This is the real thing, a luxury bistro, with the luxury part found in the menu, ingredients, portion sizes and prices.  One negative note:  more foreign voices than ever before, all having fun.  New (seasonal) menu item:  duck for two with figs served very rare.  Girolles with poached egg as an entrée.  The two noted desserts remain spectacular, as does the mille-feuille – each ordered ahead, and each large enough for the table.  Order all 3!

FOOD

Excellent bistro food. Beef with béarnaise, veal chop, stuffed girolles, wild duck confit, foie gras. Some fish. Large portions. Rich.

SERVICE

Friendly, casual, attentive service. Hurried; occasionally gruff, but with a smile.

PRICE

High – as expected. All a la carte. Very high wine prices. Not a good range at the lower end.


Four people.  One bottle, plus 2 glasses of wine.  Plenty of food, 372€.  Wine list unchanged; very expensive wines, plus (only) 1 or 2 affordable choices in each category for the rest of us.

(11x) (2010-2019)

Astrance (L’)

4, rue Beethoven (16)
Tel: 01-40-50-84-40

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

If it is true that some Michelin 3-stars are running on fumes, it surely isn’t true of Astrance. Dinner can be up to 350€ fixed price, plus wine. Lunch: 70€. Wines selected for each course – and refilled – 50€/p. Every dish unusual, beautiful, perfectly executed. A reminder that Michelin stars do carry meaning. This is as good as restaurants get. The Gold Standard.


An update. Could it be even better? Possibly.
It is not the grand 3-star experience (see Pre Catalan, also 16th Arr.) Instead, it is a superior restaurant which achieves a perfect balance of food, price, service and ambiance, with an emphasis on exquisite, boutique food. 24 seats, lunch and dinner. That’s it. Every seat taken at every service.


Less theater, more subtlety of flavor, more measured. This is as perfect a restaurant as a restaurant can be.

FOOD

In its own way, lunch no less a bargain than the tasting menu at Temps au Temps or L’Agrume. Very hard to book. Few seats, and fewer than other 3- stars. For us, Astrance is the best food in Paris.

SERVICE

Highly professional. Polished without ballet. Cool, but friendly. Waiters test you: “Taste, tell us what you think it is.” Five intelligent waiters/dining room managers. They achieve the precisely proper balance between servers and advisors. Utterly without intimidation. One owner/partner in the kitchen, one in front. Very hands on.

PRICE

No surprises. 70€. With wonderful wines, generously refilled, 120€…

(9x) (2010 – 2017)

 

Photo from “Yelp”

Villaret (Le)

13, rue Ternaux (11)
Tel: 01-43-57-89-76

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

If not a discovery, a find. A bistro as defined by menu and ambition. Attractive space, but not a period one. Nondescript neighborhood. Major wine list. Concise, but broad a la carte menu. Serious execution. An exceptionally good package. The number of apparent regulars attests to both loyalty, consistency and quality.


Over seven years and six satisfying dinners, nothing has changed. All to the good. The neighborhood remains scruffy. The clientele, almost always all French and trending older, the menu extensive, varied and traditional. The preparations, like the restaurant wisely, its staff and its look eschewing flash and empty innovation.

Sautéed wild mushrooms and a platter of sliced Spanish ham; lamb shoulder for two with roasted garlic and wonderful beans arriving in a gleaming copper casserole; sautéed apple and pear in a caramel sauce with vanilla ice cream. These chosen from a long menu.

Kind man and woman serving, both with some English, she in charge on the extraordinary Burgundy wine list, an unlikely highlight.

Villaret is something of a hold-out in a street full of small bars and restaurants catering to the young crowd now gentrifying the neighborhood. A real French restaurant in the traditional sense.

FOOD

Meat and fish. Presentation not painstaking, but execution exceptional. Choices diverse and appealing. A wide range within a concise menu, with some seasonal emphasis.

SERVICE

Friendly and professional, if not classic bistro. Helpful. Knowledgeable.

PRICE

A la carte menu. Ex wine, food reasonably priced. Some affordable wines, but not many. For the serious wine person, a joy.

(6x) (2010-2017)

L’ As du Fallafel

34, rue des Rosiers (4)
Tel: 01-48-87-63-60

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

As the name and address suggest, a kosher falafel joint in the Marais with a bare bones dining room in case you don’t want to eat on the street. No décor and barely anything resembling ambiance. So what explains long lines every day, all day? A great sandwich and an unforgettable experience. (And the long lines move quickly.)

FOOD

Hardly more than falafel. Chose the accompaniments; all of them fresh, delicious, put together in front of you, assembly-line fashion. Also lamb, chicken. Save coffee and dessert for a nearby café.

SERVICE

Basically, no service. Someone works the outside line, takes your order and collects the money. Pick up your falafel at the window. Or, for an extra 1€ per person, sit inside and have it brought to you.

PRICE

Two world class falafels, two Diet Cokes: 14€, plus 2€ to sit inside. Try to beat it in New York – or Jerusalem.

(8x) (2010-2017)

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)

Grande Cascade (La)

Bois de Boulogne Allee de Longchamp (16)
Tel: 01-45-27-33-51

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

We have been going to Le Grand Cascade since the market menu (offered lunch and dinner) was 68€ with two glasses of wine. Given the elegance of the food, service and location (and in warm weather the opportunity to eat outside), it was a standout bargain. Nothing has changed since 2011, but the price. Le Grand Cascade is on a par all-in with special occasion lunch-only choices such as Hexagone, Le Grand Restaurant and Sylvestre, with more spacious historical surroundings and more formal traditional service. If no longer a standout bargain at 89€, plus 10€ for two glasses of wine and 10€ for water and coffee (109€ total), it remains a great splurge choice.

Zagat says “A step back in time”. Indeed it is, in the best sense of the phrase.

Glittering turn of the century building set in the Bois Boulogne within earshot of Longchamp. Large, grand style room. Jacket and tie not required, but certainly in the majority. Formal, but friendly welcome.

A family celebration venue, the perfect spot for Sunday lunch in celebration of a great family event.

FOOD

Elegant. Refined. 2 – 3-star quality. A la carte plus 135€ and 185€ set menus. But wait, a small carte as well. “Market” menu. Four choices for each of three courses. 89€ served at lunch and dinner, 99€ with two wines. No embarrassment in ordering from it. A la carte wonderful, but shockingly expensive.

SERVICE

Formal. Choreographed, but friendly. No intimidation.

PRICE

Even at 89€ for a meal of such caliber and finesse, it makes high-style, traditional French cuisine affordable, and in an unequalled setting.


What used to be 70€ with two glasses of paired wines is now 89€, without the wines. Two paired wines, 10€ each. 70€ has become 109€.

It is hard to call that a bargain, and maybe in bad taste.

Yet on an 80° spring Saturday afternoon with all of the tables set under umbrellas on the terrace in and facing the Bois de Boulogne, with kind service and art on every plate, it doesn’t get much better.

(8x) (2011-2018)