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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)

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)

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)

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|

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”

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)

Deux Magots (Les)

6, pl St. Germain-des- Pres (6)
Tel: 01-45-48-55-25

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

This café occupies what may be the most prime real estate on the Left Bank, including most of the sidewalk of the two streets which make up its corner location. In warm weather, it spills across the sidewalks into the Place St. Germain, across from the ancient church. It teems with clients at all hours, as it has for generations.

FOOD

No one comes for the food. There are countless better choices within blocks, although for breakfast or simple lunch, it is perfectly adequate. It is the scene, the legend, the history, location and legacy which is the attraction.

PRICES

High as expected.

SERVICE

Professional, but not warm.

(10x+) (2010-2015)

35° Ouest

35, rue de Verneuil (7)
Tel: 01-42-86-98-88

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

This critically well regarded small seafood restaurant is literally down the block from our apartment, yet until lunch in December we had never been in, despite the enticement of a 36€ formula lunch, unusual for a seafood specialist.

For lunch, a pleasant, cozy 10 table space. All French business people, most ordering the formula. No buzz, but warm and relaxing, with nice food. Perfect for lunch.

FOOD

For formula lunch, 3 entrée choices including fried squid or tempura langoustines. Main course cod or recasse, wine or water, and coffee.

SERVICE

Runner plus waiter. Do the job with good humor.

PRICE

A la carte menu typical for seafood: very high, making 36€ a bargain.

(1x) (2014)


RECENT UPDATE:

As of Fall, 2017, Closed. Now Les Climats Wine Bar.

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)

Antoine

10, avenue de New York (16)
Tel: 01-40-70-19-28

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Not a brand new restaurant, but a new name to us. Across from and with a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower, almost next to the Museum of Modern Art and around the corner from the upscale Wednesday/Saturday Marche President Wilson. An elegant Michelin 1-Star. Seafood specialist. Large. Spacious. Open Kitchen. Older crowd, with a more modern take on fish preparations.

FOOD

The prix fixe lunch was generous, advertised as 3 courses which became six with delicate hors d’ourves served with an aperitif, pepper soup with mustard cream as a pre-course, crab with olives in a cream sauce made with coral, lotte with potatoes in an olive foam, 2 desserts and exquisite chocolates with coffee.

SERVICE

If not quite a ballet, the servers worked as a well- coordinated team. All dishes cooked, filleted, decorated to order.

PRICE

The only set-back. Against the 76€ lunch menu or a la carte, the advertised 42€ preset lunch was a bargain. And it was. What wasn’t was 2 glasses of a recommend red wine at 22€ (!) per, plus coffee at 7€ and water at 9€. Somehow, the 42€ lunch became 163€ for two. Still, it was fine food, a tranquil adult atmosphere and a good discovery.

(1x) (2014)

Mama Shelter

109, rue de Bagnolet (20)
Tel: 01-43-48-48-48

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Don’t bother. Too cool for its own good, and surely for ours. Way out in the 20th, plus a long walk from the metro. Reportedly an Alain Sederens collaboration, but Lucas Carton it’s not. Formula lunch uninspired. Limited choice menu. No better than competent execution.

FOOD

Maybe they do more at dinner, but nothing at lunch remotely memorable except the time it took to get there.

SERVICE

Warm and friendly – as in “Mama Shelter”.

PRICE

Reasonable prices. 19€ entrée and plat, plus 8€ for dessert.

(1x) (2010)

Baratin (Le)

3, rue Jouye-Rouve (20)
Tel: 01-43-49-39-70

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A find. Out of the way in safe, but dingy Chinatown. Warm greeting, high-energy ambiance. “Wine bistro”. Unusual, inexpensive wines. Miniscule kitchen.

FOOD

Very good.

SERVICE

Friendly, professional.

PRICE

Low/formula

(1x) (2009)

Ma Cocotte

106, rue des Rosiers (18)
Tel:  01-49-51-70-00

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

The deafening hype on Ma Cocotte has been a feature of virtually every major design magazine world-wide – and for good reason. It is a Phillippe Starck design masterpiece (don’t miss the bathrooms, down the Richard Serra-like stairs). But it is a restaurant, and to write that it falls short of the innovativeness of the modern design and mix of interesting materials of the purpose-built large space right in the center of the otherwise marginal neighborhood of the Clignancourt Flea Market is an understatement. Yet it doesn’t try to be much more than it is – simple food, no reservations, hip servers and a chic crowd. In fact, in all of its less appealing features, it is more American than any Paris listing in this diary.

FOOD

Very simple: Roast chicken, cheeseburger, mac and cheese, plus starters and terrific bistro style desserts. But don’t think about going for the food. It may be the best choice in the Flea Market, but having tried them all over 20 years, that says nothing.

SERVICE

Not out of work actors, but good looking young servers in jeans taking and placing their orders by hand held devices.

PRICE

A la carte. Two for lunch. 90€.

(1x) (2013)

Coq Rico (Le)

98, rue Lepic (18)
Tel:  01-42-59-82-89

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Michelle’s summary: “When a management knows how to run a restaurant, they get a lot of things right which others miss or get wrong.” Fair and on point. It doesn’t automatically follow that a rock star Michelin Chef succeeds in extending his or her brand (see Terroir Parisien 5th and 2nd, Allard 6th). Antoine Westermann is a Michelin starred chef from Strasbourg with an established restaurant in Paris (Drouant, which he bought and reorganized). He seems to know what he is doing behind the range, in wine and service, and in the office.

Le Coq Rico is all chicken and chicken derivatives (as in eggs), focused on a range of legendary chicken breeds poached whole, then finished to a stunning deep brown on an open kitchen rotisserie, presented whole, then returned neatly carved. Variations, but only roast chicken (or duck, guinea hen, goose, etc.). It couldn’t have been better.

Small modern/rustic space in residential section of Monmartre. High concept for cozy home style food. (And now open in New York. Also quite good with similar concept.)


A Fall, 2017 Sunday night dinner for four confirms all of the positive things experienced at earlier meals. Relaxed; low-key; small, but roomy; simple set of choices. One innovation a new breed of chicken, less fatty than the world famous Bresse. Same 98€ (for the table) still served with wonderful salad, frites, vegetables – more than we could finish, and delicious.

New York may come close to matching the food quality (with better desserts), but New York rents do not allow the luxurious pace of this simple, but wonderful meal.

FOOD

Salads, soups, terrines, egg dishes to start. Choose your bird or prepared chicken dish, 1⁄4 or whole served for 2 – 4 offered with frites, vegetables or macaroni, plus salad. Small dessert card. Appropriate but non-encyclopedic wine list.

If you have a craving for roast chicken, you couldn’t do better.

SERVICE

Friendly. Attractive. Bilingual. Informal, but professional and knowledgeable. They know the menu. Approachable and helpful. They make it fun. For Paris a rare feature: Doggie Bags.

PRICE

Not cheap. Quarter chicken 21€, and up from there. Whole premium chicken 85€ for two; with wine, entrees, desserts, 196€. Larger bird 3-4, 95€, so bring friends.

(6x) (2013-2017)

Rech

62, avenue des Ternes (17)
Tel: 01-45-72-29-47

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

According to all of the guide books, Rech was a venerable oyster bar/brasserie, originally founded in 1925, recently “restored” by Alain Ducasse of 3-star fame and seemingly unlimited ambition. The ‘50’s deco décor has been preserved on the main floor, with a second dining room up a flight of stairs. Also preserved is the devotion to fine ingredients and the focus on shellfish. Brimming shellfish platters on traditional stands appear at virtually every table, despite high prices.

Ducasse has also lured from retirement a famous fellow Michelin starred chef, Jacques Maximin, to “inspire” the cooked menu, whatever that means.

Like other Ducasse Group-owned places, however, where the food is beyond reproach, the absence of local ownership is obvious. Management is slapdash, and obvious in the first minute.

FOOD

No complaints about the food, the shellfish particularly. If that is what you are in the mood for, you cannot go wrong. Ditto their famous camembert cheese for dessert, complete with (for us, a first ever) an elegant doggie bag to take home what remains from the oversized portion. The cooked dishes are less distinguished, inspiration notwithstanding.

SERVICE

The absentee management is most evident in the front of the house, graceless and disorganized waitresses. Inattentive management. Noticeably annoying.

PRICE

For high quality seafood, very expensive, as expected.

(1x) (2011)

Guy Savoy

18, rue Troyon (17)
Tel: 01-43-80-40-61

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

My introduction says no 3-stars, except L’Astrance, with a special lunch. (Astrance is also unlike other 3-stars; smaller, lower key.)

Guy Savoy was a charity auction purchase. Easy to delude oneself that it was “free”. Low key Guy Savoy is not. It is a lovely, modern, multi-room, plush environment.

FOOD

Exquisitely designed and inventive dishes which keep coming and coming, each more sculptural and complex than what preceded it. A different bread for each course. And thanks to our particular arrangement, a different wine.

SERVICE

Helpful, skilled, ubiquitous staff. A staff of 50, 18 chefs, 25 front of the house, for 65 covers

PRICE

I hardly can guess the arm’s length price, but 350€ per person with wine would be in the ballpark. If you are keen to experience a mainstream 3-star restaurant (and if you arrive very hungry), you will not be disappointed.

(And if you have not won the lottery, at least view the website. The best food photography I have ever seen.)

(1x) (2011)


Moved to the Left Bank 2015. Prices intact.

Fougeres (Les)

10, rue Villebois-Mareuil (17)
Tel: 01-40-68-78-66

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

This is a small upscale restaurant established six years ago, just taken over by what they describe as “a new team” led by a young chef from the 3-star restaurant in the Hotel Bristol. Quiet block in the 17th, near the Etoile. Thirty- five seats, nicely decorated with an intimate feel. One hostess, one waiter, two chefs and a dishwasher. At a Monday lunch, about an equal number of guests, but it is early days.

FOOD

Short a la carte menu plus fixed price lunch and dinner, both bargains. At lunch crab soup, beet “ravioli” (stuffed sliced beets, served cold, a stunning presentation), fish or a mix of sweetbreads and kidneys. Refined dishes, but not Michelin quality.

SERVICE

Gracious, attentive, kind and helpful.

PRICE

Lunch 26€ for two courses, either entrée and plat or plat and dessert. All three, 12€ extra including soufflé. “Young” wines by the glass: 4€. Definitely worth a return trip to try other dishes.

(1x) (2012)

Clocher Pereire (Le)

42, boulevard Pereire (17)
Tel: 01-44-40-04-15

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Out of the way (for us) 16th residential location. Storefront with glassed-in terrace. All white. Comfortable, but not fancy. Small, open kitchen. Two chefs, one server.

FOOD

Outstanding, well- conceived, well- executed and beautifully plated food. Mystery: restaurant nearly empty.

SERVICE

Competent, but not warm.

PRICE

An outstanding low-priced formula meal, 30€. The cab ride offsets the bargain, but a memorable meal for the price.

(1x) (2009)

Caius

6, rue d’Armaille (17)
Tel: 01-42-27-19-20

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Within eyeshot of the Arc de Triumph, but in a strictly residential neighborhood. A surprisingly luxurious décor for an ambitious, unusual 35€ menu. Novelty is in the dishes and the spices. Recommended by Epi Dupin chef as a favorite.

FOOD

Ethereal gnocchi with parmesan foam, the only Italian influence. Other interesting blackboard choices.

SERVICE

Attentive and professional.

PRICE

39€ formula Reasonable. Unusual wines.

(1X) (2010)

Bigarrade

106, rue nollet (17)
Tel:  01-42-26-01-02

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

An extraordinary restaurant experience, but not for everyone. Format, menu and preparation in an unusual, far from city center working class/ethnic neighborhood in the 17th.

Twenty seat storefront dining room (15 covers at our lunch). Behind on an elevated “stage”, a fully open kitchen with three chefs. No choice except 8 courses or 12, with the dessert “course” consisting of five dishes, plus three uncounted pre-courses. Each course barely more than one bite. For some, you are encouraged to use your fingers. The food is heavily Asian inspired, mostly fish-based. Beautifully plated and imaginative, each totally unique.


Now closed.

FOOD

Each course a subtle combination of nuanced flavors, mostly unfamiliar, some exotic (squid tempura, quail egg with urchin, scallops, St. Pierre with barely cooked clams, coffee ice cream with mushrooms).

SERVICE

Friendly. Intelligent. Appropriate to the menu and format.

PRICE

It adds up. 45€ or 65€ at lunch, plus wine pairings (40€) or wines by the glass or bottle. Not for everyday, but could not be duplicated in New York.

(1x) (2011)

Tablettes (Les)

16, avenue Bugeaud (16)
Tel: 01-56-28-16-16

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Jean-Louis Nomicos is a name chef who ran the kitchen at the 2-star Lasserre for 25 years. Now on his own in the 16th, a beautiful, serene, well-decorated, high-end restaurant. Formerly, Les Tables de Robuchon. Opened December, 2010. Extensive a la carte menu plus, at lunch, a “Club Menu”.

Entrée, plat, fromage, dessert, wine, coffee, water: 58€. No extras. At dinner, the equivalent is 80€, with an extra course.


I do not care for the modern French décor. The restaurant may be slightly too large. The food may come too quickly. But the execution, finesse, taste and beauty of each of the four dishes on the 80€ dinner menu (also a la carte, plus menus at 120€ and higher) (and the two glasses of wine included with the 80€ menu) is at the very highest end of French food. A fabulous menu.

FOOD

Refined, elegant, delicious modern French food (white asparagus with sauce Maltaise, pork loin, pastry). Inventive, appealing choices.


Fall vegetables with truffle shavings, scallops, quail with foie gras, meringue with chocolate. Plus extras

SERVICE

The chef works the dining room. His wife at the front. Professional. Sophisticated.

PRICE

Fair for this style. (Tablettes refers to an iPad wine list available for a la carte choices.)

(3x) (2011 – 2014)

Pre Catelan (Le)

Bois de Boulogne (16)
Tel:  01-44-14-41-14

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

This Diary at first is eschewed famous restaurant names in favor of unknown or lesser known alternatives, in part in reflection of taste, budget and a desire to dine amidst French versus Americans or Japanese, and in part because my friends didn’t need my help with Taillevent or Alain Ducasse. But over time we drifted from that ideal in favor of relative lunchtime “bargains” at Astrance (see 16th), La Tour d’Argent (see 5th), Lasserre (see 8th), etc. That drift continues, albeit at ever-higher cost with lunch at Le Pre Catalan situated in a mansion in the Bois de Boulogne at 110€ (150€ with wine pairings). Only a bargain compared to the a la carte menu or the fixed price options offered alongside the lunch-only carte, or at dinner.

And what a meal. A beautiful building hidden inside the park. A warm reception, a lively window table for two in a sparkling, elegant large room (adjoining a newer expansion). Attentive service. Two choices for each of three courses, plus cheese. Most tables seemed to order it, notwithstanding my moment of panic when the 110€ lunch was not presented with the menu as we were seated. Two minutes later it arrived on a separate card.

This is a splurge, but more characteristic of the 3-star experience than the less formal and more intimate Astrance.

FOOD

The dishes were complex and modern without being weird. Generously portioned and exquisitely presented. A choice of langoustines in two services, lightly fried and in a curry sauce, or duck liver foie gras, each preceded by a cream of mushroom soup. Cod with a side plate of brandade of cod or sweetbreads with girolles. Paris Brest puff pastry with rhubarb cream or chocolate tarte made with 70% chocolate, almost bitter. Each course accompanied by a selected wine, glasses refilled. Dessert preceded by classic cheese cart with beautiful choices, all ripe and generously offered.

SERVICE

Friendly. Bilingual. Never intimidating. Not faultless (it took more time that it should have to receive our first courses), but professional and informed.

PRICE

110€, plus 40€/person for wines. Coffee included. In that world, a bargain. In the real world, a lot to spend for lunch, but only in Paris!

(2x) (2014)

Monsieur Bleu

20, avenue de New York (16)
Tel:  01-47-20-90-47

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Paris has always had “hot tables”, restaurants where reservations seem impossible. In this Diary, Astrance and yam’Tcha are examples. Most are small, very good and in demand because of food, size or value. What is new to us is the New York phenomenon of the “restaurant of the moment”, impossible to book because it is chic and fashionable. Those restaurants run the risk of turning away prospective clients, then having too few once they cool. In New York, it happens regularly.

French friends scored such a table through an inside connection at the recently opened and white hot Monsieur Bleu in the Palais de Tokyo, a formerly abandoned wing of the Paris Museum of Modern Art. It is a large, soaring space with 30’ ceilings, skillfully redesigned into an ultra-modern dining room and large warm weather outdoor terrace overlooking the Seine and the Eiffel Tower. Well-dressed French, mostly young. The surprise: quite good food. High, but not crazy prices

FOOD

Small menu card offers relatively wide range of mostly straight-forward dishes. Girolles with Spanish ham, cream of vegetable soup, smoked salmon, raw scallops as entrees. Roast chicken for two carved in the kitchen, scallops, several simply prepared grilled items; fish, steak, pork chop or beef cheeks. Simple desserts, including a wonderful, light mille- feuille.

SERVICE

Waitresses in long, black strapless gowns. Waiters in white shirts with black suspenders. For our table, the look was better than the skill, but he tried. It was not a case of attitude, but aptitude.

PRICE

High, but not impossible. All a la carte.

(2x) (2013)

Chez Geraud

31, rue Vital (16)
Tel: 01-45-20-33-00

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Highly rated, but highly disappointing.


Above the line are the reactions from a lunch two years ago. At dinner with two regulars from the upscale 16th, there was a noticeable difference. A warm greeting. A well-dressed, familiar, local crowd. Attention from the owner and a better experience, but still not worth the detour.

FOOD

Fair


Fair to better than fair from off the menu recommendations from the host.

SERVICE

Adequate.


Accommodating, if not polished.

PRICE

Medium


Medium – high.

(2x) (2011)

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”

Pere Claude (Le)

51, avenue de la Motte-Picquet (15)
Tel: 01-47-34-03-05

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Modern, but modestly luxurious. Glassed in terrace. Walk into an open rotisserie and plancha attended by the chef. That defines the menu. Reasonably priced. Reasonably good, but not memorable. Open Sunday. Friendly, but not warm.

FOOD

A good assortment of mostly cold first courses. Wine in carafes. Predictable grilled items, including an assortment of rotisserie meats and a comparable offering of fish. Good for Sunday night, but maybe not much more.

SERVICE

Friendly, but not particularly professional.

PRICE

A la carte and set price menu. Reasonable, but appropriate to the food.

(1x) (2011)

Severo (Le)

8, rue des Plantes (14)
Tel: 01-45-40-40-91

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Well hyped in the blogs and guide books, but deservedly so. A tiny restaurant owned by a former butcher. Meat only, mostly beef. Twenty eight seats, tightly arranged. Reservations essential. People turned away. Steaks in various cuts with more varied starters, plus a handful of simple desserts. A very large, very extensive wine list, with only a few lower priced choices. Three in staff: Chef/dishwasher, waiter, owner/manager/waiter. A combination of tourists and regulars.

FOOD

For the American palate, The Palm would beat it every time, but for steak in Paris, a good choice.

SERVICE

Good energy. Friendly service.

PRICE

A la carte with a medium priced wine, 164€ for two.

(1x) (2011)

Dome (Le)

108, boulevard du Montparnasse (14)
Tel: 01-43-35-25-81

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Large art deco/‘50’s café with interior restaurant. Cries out: “We’ve been here a long time”. Good food, but no soul. Stunning décor.

FOOD

Went for Dover sole. Couldn’t be better.

SERVICE

Professional, detached.

PRICE

Very high

(2x) (2010-2011)

Cobea

11, rue Raymond Losserand (14)
Tel: 01-43-20-21-39

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A new name for us, strongly recommended by American friends.

Ambitious, pricey, aspirational restaurant in undistinguished Montparnasse neighborhood. Elegant surroundings realized on a budget. Compact galley kitchen run by alum of 3-star Ledoyen. Newish, but not new. Modern cuisine served by young staff. 35 seats. Limited menu. Refined execution and presentation. A serious restaurant.

FOOD

For lunch, special menu. Three courses with two choices for entrée and plat, plus wonderful amuse- bouche; plus dessert and pre-dessert.

Our lunch: white asparagus barely cooked cut into thirds served standing up on plate secured by sauce flavored with Moroccan spices. Plat: skate wing in rich sauce or roast and grilled veal belly with roasted potatoes. Unusual. Delicious. Perfectly executed and plated.

Desserts an assortment of pastries; very good, but not equal to what preceded it.

Wines by the glass, plus multi-glass “surprise” choices matched to food.

SERVICE

Friendly, professional, practiced, but a young staff still in training. A work in process, lacking complete polish. Better that than attitude. Entirely approachable, bilingual.

PRICE

No bargains. Lunch 49€. Cheap by New York standards, but aggressive for Paris (see Frederic Simonin, 17th). Other menus at lunch and dinner. Four, six or eight courses, 65€, 75€, 95€. Serious wines across a range.

(1x) (2014)

Cerisaie (La)

70, bd Edgar Quinet (14)
Tel: 01-43-20-98-98

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Closely spaced tables for 25 in a space suitable for 10 makes this a fun evening. You talk to your neighbors (unless you are four). Toilets out the back door and down the hall. Very casual. In teeming commercial Montparnasse neighborhood.

FOOD

Well-prepared Southwestern cuisine at reasonable prices. Wines to go along.

SERVICE

Chef and helper. Two busy, extroverted waitresses.

PRICE

A good meal and a fun experience. Reasonable.

(1x) (2011)

Cagouille (La)

10, place Constantin Brancusi (14)
Tel: 01-43-22-09-01

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A paradox. Great simple fish served unembellished and unaccompanied, an imposing wine list (plus an apparently famous cognac list), friendly and helpful waiters (if occasionally distracted) and high prices, set in a modern and character-less apartment block in the redeveloped/over-developed Montparnasse neighborhood. (Montparnasse Tower is the infamous building which blights the center Paris skyline.) The restaurant is modern and physically charmless, except for the mix of virtually all French middle aged clientele with the money and desire for impeccably fresh fish, happy to leave charm to the competition.

FOOD

Poached langoustines, fried calamari with onions (and without equal), sautéed Dover sole, red mullet, scallops, etc. Profiterole with chocolate for dessert. Every dish superb – but served under glaring bright lights. Literally, the restaurant could be in a suburban mall. Large portions.

SERVICE

Friendly, professional. Occasionally distracted, bordering on inept, but not enough to bother them or us.

PRICE

A few dishes offered as part of 42€ formula, but not the ones you would want to order. Sole 48€. Langoustines 30€. Two people with lower priced wine, one dessert to share, 190€.

(1x) (2011)

Bistrot du Dome

1, rue Delambre (14)
Tel: 01-43-35-32-00

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

The adjacent bistro sibling of the very expensive, very established, very establishment Le Dome. Open Sunday. Metro stop virtually outside. Good fish choices. A la carte, but reasonable. Good execution. Another good fish restaurant choice.

FOOD

All fish, both entrées and main courses. Varied blackboard menu. Short, deliberately low priced wine list (most 23.50€)

SERVICE

Friendly, helpful service.

PRICE

Moderate a la carte prices, low priced wines. Average 40€ – 50€ for food, per person.

(1x) (2012)

Assiette (L’)

181, rue du Château (14)
Tel: 01-43-22-64-86

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Far out on the Left Bank, but worth the trip. A medium sized, comfortable room with a semi-open kitchen. A serious staff, serious about cooking. Very good restaurant worth the trek.

FOOD

A la carte menu with five or six choices in each category. One specialty: cassoulet. The best ever. Ditto the desserts, both crème caramel and tarte tatin; unusual, distinguished. Serious wines.

SERVICE

Intelligent, helpful. One of two waiters reviews the menu without being asked, in French or English.

PRICE

A la carte, but .reasonable. A wide range in wine pricing, including some at the lower end. An emphasis on dessert wines to complete the meal. Also formula lunch, 23€

(3x) (2011 – 2016)

Petit Marguery (Le)

9, bd de Port-Royal (13)
Tel: 01-43-31-58-59

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

On the border between the 5th and the 13th, a nice walk. Good looking bistro, but since my last visit ten years ago, it has changed ownership and lost its soul. Everything looks right, but there is a veneer of the slick, the fast and the commercial which has overtaken what was a traditional a la carte experience.

FOOD

The food good if not memorable. The menu relatively predictable, having shifted to a modified formula. That is, formula with every other item an extra, some quite expensive.

SERVICE

Three servers handle a large room, but do it professionally. The food comes too quickly.

PRICE

Next door (and maybe serving from the same kitchen) is an annex, making the prices at the original seem high, although they are not.

(1x) (2010)

Ourcine (L’)

92, rue Broca (13)
Tel: 01-47-07-13-65

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

The books describe L’Ourcine as rustic. Maybe. Or just low budget decor. Perfectly safe, but entirely nondescript location in the 13th. Casual. Young. Interesting blackboard menu with high style, sophisticated, diverse food.

FOOD

In the L’Epi Dupin/Regalade genre. Ambitious, sophisticated chef who turns out an interesting, well executed, stylishly presented menu – at a low price.

SERVICE

Casual and competent, without finesse.

PRICE

The menu (and wine list) are reasonable, 34€ for three courses.

(1x) (2013)

Auberge du 15 (L’)

15, rue de la Sante (13)
Tel: 01-47-07-07-45

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Call it a “find” for the 1%. For the rest of us, a below-the-radar small luxury restaurant with a traditional, largely a la carte menu of finely executed, richly prepared dishes and desserts from a limited menu. Twenty-five guests seated at 6 widely spaced, large tables in a clean, nicely decorated modern room with open kitchen.

Enter and be greeted by a young chef in whites. He takes your coats, offers menus, takes orders, consults on wine, cooks and serves. Other sources report two brothers. We saw only one owner/chef, with a female chef-helper and dishwasher in a quiet, orderly kitchen.

On second visit, with a total of eight guests at three tables, a dedicated young server.

FOOD

Either very pricey a la carte with a handful of choices, or a 68€ five course “surprise”, meaning no choice, supposedly inspired by the wine choice. Our courses: Cream of cauliflower soup with chestnuts (DuBarry), a single scallop over mushrooms and shredded cabbage, roast rack of veal with mashed potatoes and two desserts, both exceptional: a take on fromage blanc and warm chocolate cake with sorbet.

SERVICE

The chef by day is the server by night. No other front of the house help.

PRICE

With wine, etc., and 68€ menu, 100€ pp. Don’t even think about a la carte. It appeared as if most tables followed this plan. (As is normal, the entire table must order the chef’s menu. All or none). The window displays notes about a formula lunch at 30€.

(2x) (2013)

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)

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)

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)

Temps au Temps (Le)

13, rue Paul Bert (11)
Tel: 01-43-79-63-40

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Very small. Quite out of the way. Terrific food. Very low prices. A real find – if you can get in. Formerly owned by current Itineraires chef, now on to bigger, better location. Tight surroundings.

FOOD

Fine food. More interesting, better executed dishes than most formula alternates.

SERVICE

One helpful, skilled waiter/host/ reservationist.

PRICE

26€ for a top meal in a less than top space.

(2x) (2011-2012)

Septime

80, rue de Charonne (11)
Tel: 01-43-67-38-29

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Septime shares gushing P.R. glamour with Spring (see 1st), Frenchie’s (see 2nd), Chateaubrand (see 11th), but it is much better – to a point. These (and other) so-called “neo bistros” are new restaurants started by young people who feed off of, but do not share the classical, large kitchen backgrounds of the previous generation, such as Regalade (see 14th), Epi Dupin (see 9th) or LeComptor (see 6th). Fairly large (by Paris bistro standards) open room with a format the envy of restaurant owners across the globe: no menu. No choice. Five (actually six) courses served to all 40 or so guests. A young bearded chef, plus five kitchen staff and dishwasher – three of whom are women. (We asked if deliberate or accidental. In this and several other ways, they are breaking the mould).

Hard to snare table (for now). Good food. Interesting menu. Major drawback: very loud. Might be better to go as a table of four.

FOOD

Dorade cru with feta; best ever grilled octopus with onion puree; scallops in broth; lamb leg, shoulder and belly; two desserts.

SERVICE

Warm, friendly and bi-lingual, if casual

PRICE

Easy to remember: 55€ (reportedly up from 40€ when they opened several years ago). Wines in broad range.

(1x) (2013)

Ecailler du Bistrot (L’)

20-22, rue Paul Bert (11)
Tel: 01-43-72-76-77

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Owned by and next to Bistro Paul Bert. All fish. Relaxed, bistro-like ambiance. Casual. A find. One of only a handful of reasonably priced serious fish restaurants.


On a recent Friday night, every seat full, largely French despite bilingual service and an English language version of the chalkboard menu. Terrific fish. Unusual preparations. Whole Dover sole meuniere at 42€. Many tables with cold seafood platters (oysters, crab, etc.) the size of small tables. Weaker desserts. Cozy atmosphere. Good prices. An excellent fish restaurant.

FOOD

Large selection of shellfish. Blackboard entrees and plates. Beautiful Dover sole, 38€. Massive range of oysters, shellfish and lobsters.

SERVICE

Professional, but casual.

PRICE

Moderate a la carte. High value for what served, but not inexpensive. Plus 19€ lunch. 12 oysters 30€.

(4x) (2010-2017)

Chez Paul

13, rue de Charonne (11)
Tel: 01-47-00-34-57

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Ask the hotel concierge for an authentic old Paris bistro. There are some, including a few on this list (see Chez Denise 1st, Allard 6th, Auberge Pyrenees Cevennes 11th). Little chance he sends you to Chez Paul, “Le Bistrot Traditions”. First of all, it is in the 11th, likely far from the hotel in the safe, but non-descript 11th, a reasonable walk from the Place Bastille except at night, when reasonable means a gauntlet of narrow streets lined with bars and nightclubs on both sides. At the end is the more tranquil Rue de Charonne and a genuinely ancient building supported inside by large wooden beams holding up large wooden beams. Nothing retro here. The Alain Ducasse organization passed this one by in its campaign to breathe new life and finesse into once distinguished bistros (see Aux Lyonnais 2nd, Benoit 4th, Allard 6th). The result is a combination of charm, shabby chic and physical ruin, given life by a large, traditional bistro menu. Two rooms of tables dominated by French couples and families, dependable cooking and low prices. This, presumably, is what a bistro was, versus L’Ami Louis (see 3rd) or Benoit, at 100€+ per person.

FOOD

Watercress salad with fish-stuffed vegetables and vegetable soup heavy with lentils, followed by grilled filet mignon with béarnaise and roasted potatoes, and grilled entrecote with roquefort sauce, sautéed potatoes with shallots, marrow bone and sel gris. A pitcher of wine and tarte tatin with crème fraiche. Delicious. Generous. Decidedly “non- gourmet” and seemingly proud of it.

SERVICE

Practical. Deliberate. Some would say slow, but that is what they do. No effort to turn the tables.

PRICE

Quite low prices. With wine, water and coffee, 91€ for two. Also a 20€ formula with five or six choices of three courses.

(1x) (2013)

Restaurant Cartet

62, rue de Malte (11)
Tel: 01-48-05-17-65

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Where to begin? This was a memorable meal; good, enjoyable, wildly overpriced and completely unforgettable in its eccentricity.

Cartet carries a legendary name, a once celebrated female-run bistro which changed hands 12 years ago. The current owner/chef/waiter/reservationist/doorman/sommelier/dishwasher took it over then, maintaining many of the classic dishes. But the similarities stop there.

There is a name on the awning. In the windows flanking the door meant to hold menus, or anywhere else is there any evidence it is a restaurant. Including the locked door. As we began to turn away despite a reserved table, it was unlocked for us, then relocked, lest some unreserved guest have the temerity to try for a table. One older couple and a table set for two reserved for us. The other 18 places empty. When asked, the chef replied that he serves “as few as he can”.

He was charming, friendly and everywhere at once, doing everything. The menu is broader than one would expect for four covers, and not everything was available. This isn’t exactly a private chef, but neither did it evoke the awkwardness of an empty restaurant waiting for guests. It was unusual, as in never before, but fun. Again? Probably to show off, but we’ve seen the film.

FOOD

Terrine for every table. Fresh and good. Magret, thinly sliced with orange sauce, veal chop with morels in cream sauce. Both served with a double portion of irresistible potato cake. Entrees, salade with lardons, morels (again) on toasted brioche with a different cream sauce.

Desserts: All of them put on the table: chocolate mousse, lemon tart, rice pudding, floating island, flan.

SERVICE

Gracious and personal

PRICE

Very high. With two glasses of wine, one water (10€!) and two coffees, 232€.

(1x) (2014)

Bistrot Paul Bert (Le)

18, rue Paul Bert (11)
Tel: 01-43-72-24-01

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Busy, bustling, attractive if (deliberately) threadbare bistro and setting. A la carte blackboard and formula menu. Mostly meat. Deservedly popular, with Americans especially.


Bistrot Paul Bert was among my original group of Paris write-ups. It took 5 years to return, with plenty of comparison meals in between. It is better than the original review suggests, although nothing said then is different, only that it demands elaboration.
Larger than I remembered – a spacious, busy side room I must have missed. Very high energy. Diverse crowd. Still plenty of Americans, but except for an occasional loud American voice, mostly French. A mix of motorcycle helmets and older men eating alone, and everything in between. Busy and frenetic, but serious about food and menu. Like (and similar to) Le Grand Pan (see 15th) and Restaurant du Marche (see 15th), it is fun and good.

FOOD

Quite good; made better by the robust environment.


More interesting and diverse formula menu than often found, with a la carte additions. Scallops broiled in shells, hard boiled eggs with mayonnaise and black truffles. A la carte steak for two with shallots and marrow. Grand Marnier soufflé and crème caramel from menu. All impeccable. Featured bio wines plus reserve list.

SERVICE

Good, conscientious. (Waitress noticed and comped an undercooked dessert soufflé).


Hard-working and enjoying it.

PRICE

Moderate.


Three formula courses 38€. A la carte steak 58€ for two. With 32€ wine, coffee and water, 137€.

(3x) (2009-2015)

Auberge Pyrenees Cevennes

106, rue de la Folie- Mericourt (11)
Tel: 01-43-57-33-78

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

On a quiet, dark street in the 11th, a robust beacon of energy. A+ for ambiance. Large. Full. Busy. Boisterous. B+ for execution. Good food, not great food. A classic Lyonnais bistro/bouchon.

FOOD

Longish bistro menu, every classic. Each well-executed, but none memorably. Onglet with shallots, a portion large enough for three. Ditto the quenelle, swimming in lobster sauce (additional sauce offered). (Try to find one restaurant in New York which offers quenelle de brochet. In this Diary, there are now four, for what I thought was a dish which had disappeared. Tour D’Argent, the hands down winner.
La Maree a close second.)

SERVICE

Friendly, but casual. A full house, but no wait for food.

PRICE

Prices a la carte, 122€ for two.

(1x) (2011)

Astier

44, rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud (11)
Tel: 01-43-57-16-35

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Old bistro under new owners. Young, international crowd; many foreigners. Highlight of formula meal: large cheese tray brought to the table. Keep it as long as you want! Very welcoming. Open Sundays. Great bistro look but with so many alternatives (except on Sundays), no longer the favorite it once was.

FOOD

Fair/good, but no better; limited menu, plus daily specials. Desserts a low point. Broad wine list across all price ranges.

SERVICE

Friendly, quick. Professional

PRICE

Low/formula 39€ plus a la carte. (Make sure you are not charged a la carte for formula meal.)

(5x) (2011-2013)

Grille (La)

80, rue du Faubourg-Poissonniere (10)
Tel: 01-47-70-89-73

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

We ate at La Grille several years ago – pre-Diary. It was good, but eccentric, run by an elderly couple and decorated with her wedding attire. They have retired, the restaurant purchased by four younger friends. Mostly unchanged, but the few changes are for the better. Grilled meats and fish, some daily specials. A neighborhood place. If not memorable, surely enjoyable – enough to go back.

FOOD

Grilled Cote de Boeuf for two with béarnaise. Scallops with mache as plat du jour entree. Profiterole for dessert. Eight or so choices in each category.

SERVICE

The only holdover is the single waiter, older than the owners. Good at what he does and having a good time at it.

PRICE

A la carte. 120€ for two with wine and not the least expensive food choices.

(1x) (2010)

Chez Michel

10, rue de Belzunu (10)
Tel: 01-44-53-06-20

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Messy. Overall disappointing, in spite of/because of extensive hype. Many foreigners. Did not feel like a Paris restaurant. A profound let down in look, greeting, clientele, food. Highly rated, but highly disappointing.

FOOD

Good, but only just. Mostly fish.

SERVICE

Friendly. English speaking.

PRICE

Medium/formula with many supplements.

(1x) (2010)

Abri

92, rue du Faubourg-Poissonniere (10)
Tel: 01-83-97-00-00

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

On Mondays and Saturdays at lunch, Abri serves only its already legendary Japanese- style sandwich.

A tiny space with open galley kitchen and 14 seats at small tables. The room is otherwise undecorated, including no sign outside. The sign remains from the coffee bar which preceded it.

The sandwich was quite good, but Abri is one of the new English language blogger/magazine story hype restaurants in the tradition of Le Comptoir du Relais (see 6th), Frenchie (see 2nd) and Spring (see 1st).

Ironically, our lunch took place on the day following a major story in the New York Times which asked in the headline, can such restaurants “save” French food? I doubt Abri can, as if French food broadly requires saving.

It is not fair to doubt what dinner could be like without trying, but with the prep space so small it is hard to imagine cooking of complexity or finesse. But we might try next time.

FOOD

The sandwich was very good: thick sliced crustless brioche toast with an omelet, a fresh fried breaded pork cutlet, shredded cabbage, a slice of cheese and two condiments. Freshly made to order.

Abri attracts primarily French and Japanese on sandwich days, at least, for eat-in and take-out.

Sandwich, beverages, and a large madeleine for dessert complete the menu.

SERVICE

Not really service. And only in Japanese, but willing and with a smile.

PRICE

I cannot speak to dinner. Sandwich 13€. With two waters, two coffees and one glass of wine, 31€.

(1x) (2014)

Table des Anges (La)

66, rue des Martyrs (9)
Tel: 01-55-32-24-89

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

If you walked by, on a non-descript street off the decidedly fringe Place Pigalle, you wouldn’t look twice. Too bad. The surroundings may look like a bar/café, but not the food, which is first rate, surprisingly sophisticated, rich and varied.

The current owner and chef took over two years ago, the chef with high-end experience at Michelin-starred restaurants. His menu shows it. Nothing fancy, except on the plate.

FOOD

Cepes in cream sauce, mousseline of cauliflower, risotto with girolles, whole roasted filet of bass over vegetables, a single large quenelle de brochet with cream sauce over potatoes and vegetables. Molten chocolate cake. A gift of digestif. A terrific meal in unlikely surroundings in an unlikely neighborhood. Modest wine list

SERVICE

Two friendly, busy, English-speaking waiters serving a mostly young, mostly French crowd.

PRICE

A la carte, 180€ for three people, with 60€ of wine and water. Also 32€ formula. 20€ at lunch – a real value too.

(2x) (2013)

Casa Olympe (La)

48, rue Saint Georges (9)
Tel: 01-42-85-26-01

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Chef shows her age. No longer cutting edge. Small, tight location. Good, not great food.

FOOD

Good, not special.

SERVICE

Perfunctory.

PRICE

Medium

(1X) (2009)

Bouillon Chartier

7, rue Faubourg Montmartre (9)
Tel: 01-47-70-86-29

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Probably, you’ll want to see this restaurant, but maybe not eat there. Three hundred seats in an historic setting. Lines out to the street. No reservations. All day service. Miniscule prices. The kind of restaurant you looked for as a student. Historic interior with balcony. Steam table food from a large menu. A Paris experience, but not a gourmet experience. Closer to a college cafeteria or a training table for the rugby team. Cavernous, loud. Full plates crashing to the floor (and left there). Chairs banging and falling. Cheapest prices in Paris. Entrees beginning at 2 or 3€. Plats 8 or 10€. Wines 15€, plus half bottles. See it once, go with the right attitude (and the right companions).

FOOD

Steam Table.

SERVICE

Very rough.

PRICE

Two people with wine and water, 53€. No coffee. We couldn’t get out fast enough.

(1X) (2011)

Au Petit Riche

25, rue Le Peletier (9)
Tel: 01-47-70-68-68

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A large restaurant in the 9th. Authentic 1880’s décor. At lunch, full of businessmen. Hearty food.

FOOD

Fairly standard, traditional menu. Well executed. Another addition to the quenelle list. (See Auberge Pyrenees Cevennes, 11th Arr.). And a great version.

SERVICE

Needs work, but the attitude is helpful. Clearly, a large daily lunchtime crowd stresses things slightly.

PRICE

Fair a la carte prices. A good meal in a nice environment.

(1x) (2011)

Maree (La)

1, rue Daru (8)
Tel: 01-43-80-20-00

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A longtime 2-star restaurant now under new ownership with a less ambitious and (considerably) less costly menu. Neighborhood and décor “establishment”; now slightly tired. Open kitchen. Many jackets and ties. But don’t write this off. The seafood menu and results are quite good.

FOOD

Exceptional. It may have lost its stars, but on some nights on a path to regain them.

SERVICE

Decidedly not 2 – star– or any star. Erratic, but friendly, ranges from gracious to slapdash. Needs a stronger management hand.

PRICE

A la carte prices high, but not for food of this quality, fish particularly. Best news is a formula menu: 34€ for several choices in each category from the a la carte menu. A true bargain.

(3x) (2011-2012)

Lazare

rue Interieure (8)
Inside Gare St. Lazare
Tel:  01-44-90-80-80

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

There exists a vast body of empirical evidence that in high-end restaurants, execution is usually not scalable. It is difficult for an accomplished chef to be in two kitchens at once. And patrons want to know he/she is there. So chefs develop alternative concepts and attempt to train and hire teams which embody their approach. Sometimes it works (Alain Ducasse – see Benoit 4th, Aux Lyonnais 2nd, Allard 6th), sometimes it doesn’t (see Terrior Parisien 5th and now a second location in the 2nd).

Eric Frechon, 3-star chef at the Hotel Bristol, has successfully reimagined the railroad station all-day service brasserie inside the Gare St. Lazare. And he has hit a home run.

Large, beautifully designed contemporary space with three seating areas; tables for four, a round copper bar for walk-ins, and two high tables each seating eight facing the busy, well staffed open kitchen. Good theater.

Diverse, unusually presented menu and wine list. Careful management and attentive service, and fair a la carte prices combine to make a winning combination.

FOOD

Deviled eggs with crab and tuna, mussels (offered as a lower priced entrée), and seven hour lamb over bulgar made a large, delicious meal. Good, but not great dessert of large crepe beggar’s purse enclosing sautéed apples in a caramel sauce. Wine by the glass (for us) at very reasonable prices.

SERVICE

Friendly, surprisingly professional and attentive, overseen by real management. In all, a smooth functioning team, all the more surprising because Lazare opened only three months ago, in October, 2013.

PRICE

This is neither haute cuisine nor high-end dining, notwithstanding its 3-star pedigree. Yet at a very slow Christmas week Saturday night, the few St. Lazare commuters were squeezed out by Parisiens with reservations, all attracted by fair a la carte prices (140€ for two) in a well- designed, expensively done physical space and good, carefully prepared food.

(1x) (2013)

Lasserre

17, avenue Franklin Roosevelt (8)
Tel: 01-43-59-53-43

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

I ate at Lasserre once before, with my family in 1966. My father reveled in the name association.

Fast forward 45 years. It remains an elegant, memorable experience; fine food, luxurious and beautiful soundings, a corps of serving staff from uniformed doorman to liveried elevator attendant who delivers you one floor up to a tuxedoed maitre d’. Sommeliers and waiters with tails and runners in starched white jackets carrying large silver trays navigate generously spaced tables and rolling carts. An experience from another era – and it may have been in 1966. But unlike La Tour D’Argent (see 5th), while historic and with some appeal, Lasserre is something of a relic. Lasserre is full at a Thursday Christmas season lunch, 90% French and unfazed by astonishing prices, softened deceptively by a special lunch menu of three courses for 80€.

FOOD

At lunch, three choices in each category, no supplements: Sautéed fish with fall vegetables, a “ragout” of fish and shellfish with beurre blanc, daurade, sliced (tableside) veal shank, pear tartlet, chocolate pastry. All excellent, if not 3-star.

SERVICE

A ballet of swooshing tails, rolling carts, silver domes, golden utensils (for dessert). And except for a chilly receptionist downstairs, all friendly and welcoming, without a hint of condescension.

PRICE

Lunch with special menu served only Thursday and Friday. There are some less expensive wines. Do not be shy to ask for them. We didn’t. A 30€ glass of red wine, 12€ coffee and 12€ tea moved the check into a different category, but still way below a la carte dinner, offering a 195€ “chef surprise” six course tasting menu.

(1x) (2012)

Chiberta (Le)

3, rue Arsène Houssaye (8)
Tel: 01-53-53-42-00

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A rare excursion to the more commercial, more touristy Etoile neighborhood to 3- star chef Guy Savoy’s second restaurant for a 49€ formula lunch. Worth the trip. Plush, modern, serene, widely spaced tables. Largely businessmen. Perfect, proper service preceded by a telephone call asking to reconfirm our reservation. Plates right out of a coffee table cookbook, but with taste to match. As noted elsewhere in this diary, Michelin stars are not random. Why this is one versus two isn’t obvious, but the experience is professional and finessed in every way.

FOOD

Inventive, modern food. Large shrimp in tempura-like batter over vegetables, cream of artichoke soup with melting parmesan slivers, veal tenderloin and breast in a rich a jus, chocolate grenache with chocolate sherbet. Lunch required an immediate nap.

SERVICE

Service was professional, practiced and fully bilingual, but restrained. No intimidation.

PRICE

A la Carte. Medium Another case of expensive celebration restaurant with a “bargain” lunch. Not an everyday experience, but a memorable one.

(1x) (2011)

Chez Andre

12, rue Marbeuf (8)
Tél: 01-47-20-59-57

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Located close to the grand hotels, so a popular recommendation of concierges. Looks right. Friendly service. Bustling. All good – until presented with an English menu – missing the insert with the daily specials.

FOOD

Good if not memorable. Plat du jour merits attention. Convenient for the neighborhood, but not worth a special journey.

SERVICE

Friendly. Fast (too fast?). Efficient.

PRICE

A la Carte. Medium

(2X) (2010-2015)

Voltaire (Le)

27, quai Voltaire (7)
Tel: 01-42-61-17-49

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Classic quai location and décor. Very good food. Diverse, extensive menu. Well executed, attentively served. Expensive seasonal ingredients. Popular with Americans and with fashionistas. Restaurants of this type used to be common. Traditional, extensive menu. Formal service. So many of the others are gone. Voltaire remains, supported by painfully high prices.


Less a reevaluation than an amplification following a 2013 dinner:
This is a terrific restaurant. The dishes are for the most part simple (one exception: quenelle de brochet with sauce bon femme), but perfectly executed. The portions are large enough to share, including starters and desserts. If they could be it would make Voltaire affordable. But that would undermine its business model and change the clientele.


An added note from a 2014 meal: Mostly English being spoken; most of these older, over-dressed. Detracts more than I recalled. Two corner tables reserved for French.

FOOD

Café (lunch only): mediocre.
Restaurant: very good. Relatively simple soups, composed salads, grills with sauces. Vegetable accompaniments. Nothing “modern” on offer. An appealing package for an Upper East Side crowd and their French equivalents.


Many cold starter choices augmented by daily specials, followed by daily specials for fish, meats and desserts. All top notch, including simple, but great desserts.

SERVICE

Professional. Friendly. Many regulars greeted warmly.


Waiters are fixtures. Part of the allure (for some) is to be remembered by the waiters, which adds to the clubby mystique. An ever- present, sometimes frosty owner takes orders and the cash.

PRICE

Very high. Wines also very high, with only a handful of exceptions.


Very high prices across the a la carte menu.

The wine list is simply eccentric:. Five pages of high three and four digit wines, with page 1 listing five choices in the mid 30€ range, including our 35€ “wine of the month” Morgan.

(5x) (2012 – 2014)

Violon d’Ingres (Le)

135, rue Saint Dominique (7)
Tel:  01-45-55-15-05

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

In 2006, Le Violon was downgraded from 2-stars to one. This led to a complete change in décor and menu, from plush to less formal and more bistro-like. Still, a bistro it is not. The cooking is refined, the menu a mix of original and modern spins on more traditional dishes. Either way the food is first rate; carefully imagined, well cooked, artfully plated. Open Sunday.


Violon has changed since we last ate there in 2011.

The décor has been freshened. High tables have been added near the open kitchen. Prices have risen – by a lot. A 208€ dinner in 2011 was 235€ in 2014. A la carte menu still a modern take on traditional dishes and the cooking still quite good. Service has slipped, with weekend fill-ins eager to please doing on the job training for high paying guests. This is a very good restaurant, but shockingly expensive and no longer “good value for the money”.


After a three year gap, we return to Le Violon, unchanged physically and in evaluation. The menu, food and history of this restaurant merit an “A”. The restaurant overall merits a “B”. In every way, the food in conception, choice and execution is better than the restaurant, recognizing “A” level food is increasingly rare, even in Paris.

Considering its high prices (263€ with a wonderful 66€ wine from an extensive French list), long-held Michelin Star and pedigree, a “B” reflects choice; a giving up of what is possible.

Pedigree matters. The owner/chef (not clear if he ever cooks), Christian Constant, is a legend. He led the brigade at the Crillon Hotel and was the first top chef to go off on his own to found the upscale bistro movement, now dominant. He was followed by his team, many of whom established their own small and individualized restaurants, numerous of which (chefs and restaurants) remain well-known and successful today. (Their photographs, with Constant in the center, dominate one wall of the well-decorated and maintained dining room).

The website for Le Violon pictures 6 personal specialties. Three – eggs moellet, sea bass with almonds and chocolate torte made up my meal. Each was delicious, if not 3-star in the perfection of plating or decoration. Wonderful food.

The relatively small a la carte menu lists six or so choices in each category. No specials.

What otherwise makes it a “B” restaurant – unchanged from 2014 – is the staff and service. Young, unpolished, poorly supervised and insufficiently trained/experienced. Friendly and earnest (and largely bilingual), but not close to equal to the food. That by one-star standards the restaurant is large – at least 60 covers – means a small army of young servers bumping into one another throughout the meal.

But that said, the food is worth a visit, what merits an “A” rating.

FOOD

Meat and fish. Entrees: terrine of foie gras layered with thin sliced beef tongue, fish crudo, cold soups, “Caesar” salad. Plats: Rotisserie of the day (roast lamb), roast fish, pigeon, sole soufflé. Desserts: vanilla soufflé with caramel.

SERVICE

Friendly; particularly competent, with vestiges of its former pedigree. English spoken, with plenty of guests using it.

PRICE

Prices: A la carte and not cheap. Entrees: 15 – 20€, Plats: 36€, plus or minus. Desserts 10 – 15€. That said, good value for the money.


(See Ambiance/Décor)

(4x) (2011-2017)

Thoumieux

79, rue St.-Dominique (7)
Tel: 01-47-05-49-75

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Large food hall. Original ‘20’s – ‘30’s décor. Traditional menu with occasional 20th C. touches. Time warp décor and menu, which isn’t all bad.


All that was is gone. Costes brothers new owners. New famous chef. New décor. Mediocre food remains, only different. The old-fashioned charm, the prime allure, is gone. New, haute luxury annex upstairs, reportedly very high end.

FOOD

Better than one would expect, but no gourmet rendezvous.


Now less than one should expect. Short a la carte menu.

SERVICE

Proficient. Old school.


No school.

PRICE

Low/Medium

(2x) (2009-2011)


Now a new chef in charge. Let’s wait and see.

Tante Marguerite

5, rue de Bourgogne (7)
Tel: 01-45-51-79-42

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Like Le Ferme St. Simon, but even cooler/colder. Beautiful Left Bank location adjacent to Assembly National. Upscale, businessman/politician hangout.

FOOD

Adequate, but unexceptional.

SERVICE

Attentive, but colorless

PRICE

47€ formula. Fair, perhaps, for the ambiance, but who needs/wants that ambiance?

(1x) (2010)

Tan Dinh

60, rue Verneuil (7)
Tel: 01-45-44-04-84

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

On Rue Verneuil for thirty years. A nondescript, even scruffy exterior. Inside, a slightly dated Oriental décor. Could be Hong Kong, but of course, it is Vietnamese with authentic, serious, even renowned Vietnamese cuisine. Surprise: A legendary wine list. An unusual combination and an exquisite meal – if you are in the mood for Vietnamese food. Every seat taken. Every seat reserved. Most appeared to be regulars. All French. All well-dressed, although the place is not dressy.

FOOD

Limited menu. Two chefs. Sons of the elderly founder who still works the front. The sons alternate, one day one in the kitchen, the next day in the front, and vice versa. All Vietnamese dishes. High quality ingredients.

SERVICE

The non-cooking son takes the orders and explains the menus. Silent waiters bring the food and leave the charm at home. Food promptly served.

PRICE

A la carte, and it mounts up. Some tables appear to be sharing dishes, probably the way to go. The wine list is special. Even without one of the legends, pricey. Relatively expensive (except by Paris standards). Worth it.

(1x) (2009)

Table D’Aki (La)

49, rue Vaneau (7)
Tel: 01-45-44-43-48

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Move over Le Timbre (see 6th). La Table D’Aki makes Le Timbre seem large. Eight tables for two along two facing banquettes, with an open kitchen in the back. In total about the size of a Boston fashionista’s suburban closet. Literally. One chef (Aki). One waitress. Period. Open one year, Aki was for many years a fish chef at 3-star L’Ambroisie. He is not making that kind of food here, but the very limited a la carte menu is refined and subtle. The experience is good and the food top notch.

FOOD

Two entrée choices (scallops cooked one of two ways, sautéed sole in a rich brown sauce or fish with vegetables in a rich yellow sauce), an ethereal baked apple.

SERVICE

Hardly service. She checks A or B, tells the chef, prepares the checks and opens the wine. Two steps from kitchen to table to deliver food.

PRICE

Prices are high. Entrées 12€. A la carte plat 26€ or 39. Dessert 8€. A splurge, but good story telling thrown in.

(1x) (2012)

Restaurant Pottoka

4, rue De L’Exopsition (7)
Tel: 01-45-51-88-38

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

This relatively new French-Basque restaurant has received major publicity and uniformly strong reviews. At the 8:00 p.m. seating (there is also 9:30 – 9:45) every seat taken with mostly middle-aged, serious-looking French. The chef comes with a pedigree tracing to the nearby Les Fables de la Fontaine.

As far as the food goes, the buzz is justified, but Pottoka doesn’t fully come together for my taste, despite exceptional plats.

The room is small, modern and narrow; a few seats at a bar, high tables for two or four mixed with small tables for two. It isn’t comfortable. The great food comes too quickly. An 8:00 p.m. table has us back on the street close to 9:30 p.m. – after 3 courses. The combination of tight conditions and excessively quick service combines to explain the two service business model, but does not add up to gracious dining for me.

FOOD

Very good. A 35€ menu, plus a la carte specials, plus a tapas menu.

We began with two a la carte tapas, basque charcuterie – enough for 3, and wonderful sautéed calamari. Our a la carte plats were wild striped bass in a white truffle foam over slow cooked chopped leeks. Outstanding. We shared a freshly assembled chocolate dessert with passion fruit sherbet. Sophisticated.

SERVICE

Young. Bilingual. Helpful, but no space for anything like traditional service.

PRICE

With 32€ wine, 142€. Also 3 courses for 35€. 22€ at lunch. A la carte bass 33€, tapas 19€.

(1x) (2014)

Restaurant ES

91, rue de Grenelle (7)
Tel: 01-45-51-25-74

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

By far, the discovery of a month-long stay in Paris in late 2014. I had failed twice before in trying to book ES for dinner. Both times, its 20 places were already full by the time of my call. Yet at a pre- Christmas lunch, we were two guests of only four.

ES is barely recognizable as a restaurant in walking by. No sign. No view inside. Only a small card in the window listing the lunch options, 42€, 55€ or 80€. No menu because there is no menu. Chef’s choice.

I know from the avalanche of favorable reviews the chef is a young Japanese whose primary training was at 3-Star Astrance (See 16th).

The food is French, but the sensibility is Japanese, reflected in the “hidden” location, the delicacy of the plating, the incredible attention to detail and the Zen- like, undecorated, all-white space. Open less than 18 months, it already has a Michelin star. The food and experience merit more, although you pay for the experience.

FOOD

The mid-price lunch menu began with cream of artichoke soup. The entrée was two beautiful, delicious scallops, followed by cod followed by pork, followed by dessert followed by delicate pastries. Every course a marvel of taste and presentation.

SERVICE

The tri-lingual French waiter – English/French/ Japanese – was kind, proper, professional and informative. Of course, he and his assistant served only 4 guests!

PRICE

Very high – and worth it. The wine list was impressive, but devoid of less expensive options. The 5 wines by the glass offered were very fine, but in the range of 18€!

(2x) (2014)

Philippe Excoffier

18, rue de L’Exposition (7)
Tel: 01-45-51-78-08

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A new discovery. Just off the Rue St. Dominique, an area already heavy with good, smaller restaurants. On a small one block street, the former chef (11 years) of the American Embassy purchased an existing restaurant, at first left the name and changed everything else. Now the name too. Refined without a hint of stuffiness, it offers a tightly edited menu of carefully prepared, cooked to order plates. A menu exciting to read. Food good to look at and to taste.


Some important changes. In place of a la carte, now 37€ Formula.

According to the chef, quality untouched, but some of the a la carte luxury ingredients gone. And on a Thursday night, every table full.

A slightly larger staff to handle more business, but this remains a small, personal restaurant.

FOOD

Refined. Beautifully plated. Fish, scallops, veal shoulder, chicken with morels, lamb shank. Desserts: poached pear, caramel soufflé. Entrees: lobster stuffed ravioli, crabmeat. Limited additional plats du jour, but the menu offers plenty of choice. Desserts a weak spot.

SERVICE

The chef and his wife are ubiquitous and attentive hosts, assisted by a small staff offering fine, personalized, but informal service.

PRICE

A la carte, medium to high. Four people with wine, 220€ – 335€. Not a 34€ menu, but at its own level, a great value. 29€ menu at lunch.


Now 37€ for three courses. Lunch 21€.

(6x) (2011-2014)

Petit Bordelais (Le)

22, rue Surcouf (7)
Tel: 01-45-51-46-93

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A paradox: A restaurant where the food is better than the restaurant and where the chef outshines in warmth, welcome and service his entire service staff put together, who are, in a word, hapless.

On a narrow Left Bank street of mostly modest restaurants. What is put on the table, and the ambition and evident experience of the chef stands out – despite the dreary and faded décor.

The chef works the room, then disappears to cook and plate the food, then reappears to serve it, then reappears again to say goodbye. The house is full- mostly French couples and groups of all ages.

How can this coexist with a staff so leaderless, sullen, graceless and inept?’

It is a reminder that good restaurants do not just get that way. It is difficult to get all of the elements in place, then to keep them in place. Here, so much is right, but not everything.

FOOD

The food is quite good, and very good value. Most people seem to order the five course menu, preceded by gougeres and mackerel with mustard cream. Foie gras in cider jelly, scallops with truffles, sautéed lamb with eggplant roulade, cheese and desert. 56€, or 73€ with paired wines. A bargain.

SERVICE

What more to say? No one seems to be in charge of the front. Not exactly unfriendly, but no one with personality (or training, experience, supervisory skill or particular purpose). And they looked the part, including drab uniforms of untucked shirts. It was completely unfathomable, given how proud and solicitous the chef. Yet happy French fill every seat on a busy Friday night.

PRICE

Extremely reasonable. Menu 56€, 73€ with wine. A la carte entrees 15 – 20€, plats 25€. Small wine list with low to medium prices.

(1x) (2013)

Perron (Le)

6, rue Perronet (7)
Tel: 01-45-44-71-51

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Recommended by a neighborhood antique dealer as a canteen for neighborhood antique dealers. Low key Italian restaurant on an obscure one block street, just behind Blvd. St. Germain. Sometimes, one gets a craving for pasta. Everyone is having a great time, including the waiters. A real chef in the kitchen. Good, not great food. Nice place. Nice welcome. Good change.

FOOD

Pastas, meats and fish. All freshly prepared if not inventive.


Reportedly, white truffles in season at fair prices.

SERVICE

Service – and everything else – with a smile, even laughs.

PRICE

A la carte. Reasonable. 110€ for two with a bottle of wine.

(1x) (2012)

Oudino

17, rue Oudinot (7)
Tel:  01-45-66-05-09

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

In every way pleasant and a notable value, but not memorable in décor (perfectly nice Art Deco in style, not original), service (manager/bartender, one workman-like Asian waitress) or food.

In a quiet, out of the way residential part of the 7th. Medium-sized. On the night we were there, few clients. More energy would have helped. We enjoyed it, but not enough to return.

FOOD

Diverse, surprisingly extensive menu (cold tomato and pepper soup, salmon with avocado, slow-cooked lamb reheated in phyllo, tuna steak, refreshing rhubarb with fraises. Some refined attempts (they like food rings in this kitchen).

SERVICE

Like the restaurant, acceptable, but without style or engagement.

PRICE

For Paris and a restaurant with actual cooks in the kitchen, very low a la carte. Entrees: 8 – 12€. Plats under 20€. House wines by the pitcher, plus a longer list. Formula lunch: 19€.

(1x) (2011)

Oeillade (L’)

Affable (L’)
10, rue de Saint Simon (7)
Tel: 01-42-22-01-60

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

No ambiance. Dated décor. On Rue St. Simon in the 7th, two doors from Hotel Duc de St. Simon. An abandoned restaurant? No, part-time, lunch-only with an intriguing blackboard menu posted outside. Eccentric, but appealing.

Sadly, now closed. In its place a new “bistro”, so far untested. A real loss.

I was disappointed, but not surprised to see L’Oeillade close. I don’t know how long it was there, but it was surely both idiosyncratic and uneconomic, with erratic opening hours and not much evidence of clients, notwithstanding what I found to be large portions of very good home-style food.


In its place, following a total physical redo, is L’Affable, a more conventional, but surprisingly pleasant successor. Based on a Tuesday, lunch with a nearly full house, it is a worthy addition to the neighborhood.

FOOD

More like home cooking than any Paris restaurant we know. One chef, one waitress, no helpers. Lunch only, Tuesday – Friday.


At lunch, a short a la carte menu plus a two plat (entrée and plat, or plat and dessert) formula for 26€. Chicken liver pate (fair) and lamb shoulder pastilla (quite good).

SERVICE

A charming, helpful, proud waitress/owner.


Without great charm, but more than competent and professional.

PRICE

A la carte. Immense portions. Moderate prices.

(2x) (2010-2012)


Very reasonable, with good bread, nice linens and good local crowd.

(1x) (2012)

Gorille Blanc (Le)/Botanistes (Les)

11 bis, rue Chomel (7)
Tel: 01-45-49-04-54

Botanistes (Les)
(New name as of 4/10)

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Quiet. Civilized. Small. Pleasant. Welcoming. Very comfortable, without luxury. A favorite. Near Bon Marche.


Les Botanistes is, sadly, the poster child for this personal restaurant diary and why long lead time restaurant guidebooks do not work.

In less than four years this otherwise small, charming, well located Left Bank restaurant has had three owners, two chefs and two names. Change is not your friend, in this case at least.

Now owned by a couple. He cooks, she serves. Some of the dishes are quite good (duck pate, warm raspberry dessert), others acceptable, but unoriginal and uninspired. The pate, served without garnish or cornichons, may be a metaphor for what the restaurant has become: no energy, no spirit.


Stop the presses. Le Gorille Blanc lives – but now in the 4th, in the Marais. (See the 4th).


A long-postponed revisit reveals the same “new” owners, but a new chef (husband) and new staff (wife, with waiter), plus a new attitude.

Same small, charming, inviting room. Same great location (almost next door to Bon Marche). Now an a la carte menu; six entrees, six plats plus dessert. No complex cooking, but honest, fresh and appealing, except without a formula prix fixe, more expensive than it should be and more expensive (by alot) than any number of comparable restaurants which offer better value. Still, a welcome return.

FOOD

Good, but food may not be the main draw. Less appealing than before the change.

SERVICE

Informal. Attentive

PRICE

Low/formula lunch.

Prices have crept up, but still reasonable. Formula lunch still offered. It might be the meal to try. Too bad. This is a potential gem waiting to be re- polished.

(2009)


(2010)


(10x) (2011 – 2014)

Garance

34, rue Saint Dominique (7)
Tel:  01-45-55-27-56

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Opened in 2012 by a former chef from 3- star Arpege. This is a serious, high-end, modern a la carte luxury restaurant. Small. Two levels. Kitchen on street level with a few seats at the pass to watch the action at lunch. Dining room upstairs. Eight or so tables in main room, plus second room used some nights for private parties.

Non-traditional, but readily recognizable food offered from compact menu, plus well priced five course “surprise” tasting menu. Service takes second place to food. Friendly and helpful, but casual given the price level and food quality. An outstanding meal.

This is “modern” food, but very good. Small size allows for real conversation.

FOOD

A la carte. Three choices in each category. 88€ “surprise” menu about the same price as two courses: asparagus with Spanish ham with sliced and shaved black truffles, sautéed scallops, lobster tail, duck breast, roasted pineapple. Generous tasting portions. Original preparations, without obscuring the fine core ingredients. Each course beautifully arranged and decorated, although a certain sameness to the basic vertical look of plates (asparagus, lobster tail, thick-sliced duck breast, etc.) An observation, not a criticism.

Open kitchen at entry shows small, but disciplined four person brigade still prepping for the next day when we left after 11.

SERVICE

Warm and friendly. Bilingual. Casual in (welcome) contrast to the more formal atmosphere. Runners carry trays of plated food up the stairs; waiters serve.

PRICE

Untested bargain formula at lunch at 34€. A la carte dinner, plus 88€ tasting menu. Wines by the glass plus large list. Open wine storage suggests an additional reserve list. A la carte entrees 24€±, plats 42€±.

(4x) (2014-2016)

Florimond (Le)

19, avenue de La Motte-Picquet (7)
Tel: 01-45-55-40-38

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Neighborhood location and clientele. Modest ambition. Small. Cozy. Warm. No pretense.

FOOD

Quite good with some unusual dishes cooked with care.

SERVICE

Accommodating.

PRICE

Low/formula

(1x) (2009)

Ferme St-Simon (La)

6, rue de St-Simon (7)
Tel: 01-45-48-35-74

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Traditional; what some would call old- fashioned in a formal way. Little ambiance, but comfortable. Not required, but a tie would not be out of place. Worth a try. Mostly French.

FOOD

Large a-la-carte plus daily fixed price limited menu. Ambitious dishes. Execution good, not great.

SERVICE

Professional

PRICE

Fixed price 36€, moderate for the style

(1X) (2010)


Restaurant closed. Former space now Gaya, the second restaurant of 3 Star chef Gagnaire, which was nearby on Rue du Bac.

Fables de la Fontaine (Les)

131, rue Saint Dominique (7)
Tel: 01-44-18-37-55

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Small, crowded. Limited blackboard menu. Mostly fish. Less memorable than advertised. Christian Constant pedigree, now independently owned. Not as good as its reputation or self-importance.

FOOD

Good, not great; not up to the hype.

SERVICE

Proficient.

PRICE

High/formula

(1x) (2009)

D’Chez Eux

2, avenue de Lowendall (7)
Tel: 01-47-05-52-55

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Classic, long established bistro. Warm greeting. Regular clientele.


(Rumor that ownership has changed)

FOOD

Good. Meats. Not truly memorable, but always reliable. Hors d’oeuvres and dessert carts.

SERVICE

Old school. Professional. Welcoming.

PRICE

Medium/high

(3X) (2009-2010)