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Clos des Gourmets (Le)

16, avenue Rapp (7)
Tel: 01-45-51-75-61

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

In the upscale Alma neighborhood near the Eiffel Tower. Small, warm room. Modern cooking. Attentive, professional service. On a weekend night, every seat booked, mostly middle-aged groups, mostly locals. Not cool. Just what we hoped for.

FOOD

Modern dishes or modern takes on traditional dishes. Formula – sort of. Numerous supplements. Good food, instantly comfortable and likable ambiance.

SERVICE

Attentive and professional.

PRICE

The menu – including at dinner – 35€ with an average supplement of 10€ each. Relatively expensive wines, but a lovely meal, fairly priced.

(1X) (2011)

Climats (Les)

41, rue de lille (7)
Tel: 01-58-62-10-08

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

I’ve read that Les Climats is housed in a former dormitory for unmarried post office employees. It has been a different restaurant since the advent of this Diary, and evidently several other restaurants before that.

The space is large and elegant, with a separate bar area, an outdoor garden and a bright garden room, plus a large dining room. The crowd at a recent lunch would have filled innumerable other nearby spots, but the space is too large for its own good. It needs a larger crowd to infuse it with the energy it requires.

It will be worth checking in again at dinner, a la carte or a 75€ six course tasting menu. Only Burgundy wines are served – many by the glass.


Positive changes in management, kitchen and service. The public seems to have responded.

FOOD

Two choices for each of three courses at lunch. Inventive, complex, good to look at and carefully prepared. Mushrooms with soft poached egg or octopus salad over burrata and sautéed eggplant, pheasant with brussel sprouts or a large portion of poached merlu, each with sauce and puree of parsnips. Very nice food in comfortable surroundings.


New chef, but food still outstanding.

SERVICE

Our waiter tried hard and meant well, but with a slight case of attitude. By observation, service, at lunch at least, might suffer from too little business (the restaurant has only been open since April) and a consequent reluctance to notch up service to match the food and wines.


Now, service and greeting couldn’t be better.

PRICE

36€/45€ lunch, plus a la carte, with two glasses of wine, water and coffee, 107€ for two.

At dinner, 75€ tasting, plus a la carte. The tasting menu appears to be the way to go.

Also a separate bar area with tapas-type menu.

(2x) (2013-2014)

Cinq Mars

51, rue de Verneuil (7)
Tel: 01-45-44-69-13

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Some rustic charm. Good Left Bank location. Otherwise forgettable. Easily duplicated in innumerable similar spots in the neighborhood, often at lower prices.

FOOD

No better than fair.

SERVICE

Friendly, but amateurish.

PRICE

At Saturday lunch, at least, a la carte only. Expensive for what it is.

(1x) (2009)

Chez Les Anges

54, bd de la Tour-Maubourg (7)
Tel: 01-47-05-89-86

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

We were walk-ins. When we showed up at our reserved restaurant to find it had turned Thai (same phone number accepting reservations intended for its predecessor), we walked over.

Chez Les Anges is a venerable name. Forty years ago a 2-star restaurant. Possibly in the same location. This version same ownership as Bon Accueil.

FOOD

A formula menu in a more modern, more upscale location. Completely full. Food conceived, cooked and plated with finesse and style. Older crowd typical of the neighborhood. Plenty of a la carte orders. An appealing find at a surprisingly attractive price.

SERVICE

Professional, formal.

PRICE

At 33€, a bargain, plus a la carte.

(1x) (2010)

L’Ami Jean (Chez)

27, rue Malar (7)
Tel: 01-47-05-86-89

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Fabulous. Noisy. Busy. Non-descript exterior opens to busy, crowded, high- energy bistro with semi-open kitchen and ever-present chef. Not a locale for an intimate evening.


Showing its popularity. Prices creeping up. Tables turn too quickly. Go with a group.


There has been an announced change. Supposedly, the chef decided to slow down. Fewer tables (hard to notice; maybe fewer bookings), less turnover and fewer covers; an emphasis on tasting menus (at dinner 75€ for multiple courses, at lunch 42€ and 52€), plus a shorter a la carte menu. Table cloths. Decidedly less noise, except from the kitchen. Still the source of great fun, frantic activity and a stream of large casseroles and luxury meats, punctuated by shouts from the chef. In all, it is a better experience than before.

FOOD

Excellent. Hearty. Never delicate. Southwestern tilt.


Soups, charcuterie Basque ham, veal chop, pintade, beef, some fish. Hearty. Large portions. Roasts. Casseroles with vegetables. Large portions from serious kitchen, all plated carefully or at tableside without frills.

SERVICE

Fast, maybe rushed, but competent. Very friendly.


Sadly, turnover has become the model. Uncomfortably hectic on a weekend night.


What hasn’t changed is the frantic atmosphere. Small, always full. Experienced, long serving waiters run, slide, shout, gesture. They know what they are doing, are having almost rollicking fun at it and make it fun for the customer. If this looks, feels and sounds like a Basque soccer bar with a focused, serious luxury kitchen, they play their parts.

PRICE

Medium/high


Prices were always high. If you are prepared to spend 75€ plus wines (offered in a high but wide range, with only a few below 50€), it is a great value. A la carte with a 50€ St. Joseph, 180€ for two.

(6x) (2010-2012)


As evidenced from three write-ups of 8 meals in the early years of this guide, the last in 2012, L’Ami Jean was once one of our favorites. It changed and we changed. In the interim it changed again. We returned to a jumble of contradictions.

The energy of a coiled spring inspired by the highly visible chef, who continues to shout impatiently from the kitchen, now renovated and with a slim window to the dining room removed to make an open wall, allowing the energy and theater to spill out into the tight, uncomfortable dining room. There is no real renovation except a possible rearrangement of tables. Maybe they have squeezed in more seats, however challenging that must have been. Now, chairs and tables must be lifted and moved to allow access to the banquette along one unbroken wall. Don’t try for the bathroom!

Service is chaotic if deliberately so, surely part of the style of the house. The menu is smaller and shorter, the prices higher, a la carte with a multi-course tasting menu. The food is very good, although our entrees and principal courses were all insufficiently hot. Maybe a kitchen issue, maybe service. Each of the four servers who work the room covered our table, a system which must work for them, less so for us. All work with intensity, speed and gruff manner in French and English. Lucky for that, because half the tables (at least) are non-French, a big change from earlier visits.

Glad we returned, but a reinforcement of why we gave up.

Forget a party of two. A table of four would not overcome, but would help push back against the many negative threads of what we used to admire as the restaurant’s unique energy. Simply said, the food is good, but the restaurant is not remotely comfortable (which is different from its level of luxury. This guide is largely composed of restaurants where the physical ambiance is basic, but not so uncomfortable and cramped that it detracts from the food.)

L’Ami Jean is simply not a relaxed place to dine. And the food is simply not so good or the prices so low that we can look past it.

(1x) (2017)

Café de l’Esplanade

52, rue fabert (7)
Tel: 01-47-05-38-80

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Modern, chic café overlooking the Invalides. Beautiful location catering to Paris’ beautiful people, complete with uniformed car parker and luxury cars stacked in front. At a Sunday lunch, well dressed French families with a sprinkling of elegant elderly couples. None are there for the food, which is perfectly acceptable, but cautious and basic.

FOOD

Simple preparations across a fairly diverse menu. Fish, meats of high quality, but without imagination. The scene and being seen takes priority.

SERVICE

Surprisingly inexpert.

PRICE

High a la carte.

(1x) (2013)

Bistrot de Paris (Le)

33, rue de Lille (7)
Tel: 01-42-61-16-83

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Busy neighborhood bistro with local business and resident clientele. Good menu. Competent execution. Stylish French crowd. Feels like the Upper East Side.

FOOD

Not ambitious, but reliable. Many regulars. Menu without flourishes. Good, well-priced plats du jour.

SERVICE

Professional, but not normally warm. Over time, waiters know the regulars.

PRICE

A la carte with plats du jour. Average 45€.

(7x) (2012 -2013)

Billebaude (La)

29, rue de l’Exposition (7)
Tel: 01-45-55-20-96

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

There must be literally hundreds of Paris restaurants just like this one, small storefront, 32 seats in a warm square room with a bar on one side, blackboard formula menu offering three courses for 33€, six or so choices in each category. Indeed there must be more than 100 in the 7th arrondissement alone, including numerous on this small, short block. Some, like this one, have serious ambition and food, others a large supply of sauté pans overseen by untrained, but hardworking novices.

FOOD

They specialize in season in game. Out of season, a diverse, interesting menu. Each dish quite well executed. Pheasant terrine, pheasant in jelly, gravlax, supreme of pintade, several choices of fish, each with appropriate sauce. Home baked pastries, frozen Grand Marnier soufflé.

SERVICE

With every seat taken, one manager/waiter/wine server. He handles the entire room calmly, professionally and quietly.

PRICE

33€ for three course. With aperitif, wine and water, 201€ for four. Some wines by the pitcher.

(1x) (2012)

Aux Fins Gourmets

213, bd St-Germain (7)
Tel: 01-42-22-06-57

Aux Vieux Garcon
(New name as of mid- 2013)

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

According to the awning, founded in 1904. Also the date of the last paint job. That, plus its outstanding Rue de Bac/Boulevard Saint Germain location give it its charm. Less so the food and predictable menu, but convenient for the right mood.


New name. New kitchen. New owners and staff. And a paint job (see). Not a Michelin-track competitor, but a very well-located, friendly bistro which has turned a new page. Friendly staff proud of fresh, never frozen commitment and connections to their suppliers. Promising.

FOOD

Decent, but not much more.


Simple. Traditional, with some more unusual daily options at lunch. Salmon cake and tagine of veal, thin sliced beets wrapped around goat cheese and grilled whole calamari salad. Poached pear with spice cake. Comfort food with a twist. Reasonable wines. Well sourced bread.

SERVICE

Competent, but no better.


Unpolished, but helpful. Friendly. Proud.

PRICE

A formula menu which makes it a good candidate for lunch. Don’t bring high expectations.


A la carte with water, carafe of wine, coffee, 88€ at lunch.

(2x) (2011-2013)

Auguste

5, rue de Bourgogne (7)
Tel: 01-45-51-61-09

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A neighborhood location. Modern, small. Severe décor. Friendly, but cool greeting, service. Elaborate, delicious, but overly rich and complex food. Heavy on foams, etc.

FOOD

Fancy, beautiful, but too rich.

SERVICE

Formal. Reserved.

PRICE

Very high

(1X) (2010)

Au Petite Tonneau

20, rue Surcouf (7)
Tel: 01-47-05-09-01

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Sometimes you just want lunch. For us, that normally means “comfort” food, what used to be considered, in Paris at least, lunch, vs. a quaint memory of what food was. Largely, this Diary eschews trendy, hot, crowded, large, noisy and new. It is less judgment than preference.

Au Petite Tonneau, on a Left Bank block distinguished only by a concentration of other small restaurants in a neighborhood crowded with other old streets and small restaurants. Relates to the original Gorille Blanc (see 7th), the lamented L’Oeillade (see 7th), although the only female we saw was the one waitress. (Her filling-in husband/manager told us his wife owns the restaurant).

FOOD

The food was close to homemade. Simple, basic, fresh without visual artistry on the plate. Artichoke heart with poached egg and mushrooms, pan seared lamb, broiled scallops, scalloped potatoes, chocolate mousse and Tarte Tatin. Modest. Just cooked. Delicious.

SERVICE

Two cooks, One waitress. Charming fill-in husband chef. Caring. Attentive. Not particularly polished. Perfect for the Sunday afternoon multi- generation families which surrounded us.

PRICE

A la carte and 37€ menu. A la carte with 1⁄2 bottle Cote du Rhone, coffee, water: 138€.

(1x) (2012)

Auberge Bressane (L’)

16, av de la Motte- Picquet (7)
Tel: 01-47-05-98-37

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

This is real a French bistro; authentic, good looking, high energy. Busy, popular, open Sundays. Classic dishes, well prepared and served, with a deep wine list. Food served in large portions. Every bistro specialty. Not Michelin star quality, but dependable and enjoyable.

FOOD

Traditional bistro dishes plus a few atypical specialties (cheese or crab soufflé as starters, Baked Alaska for dessert), Lyonnaise sausage, coq au vin, scallops Provencal, grilled meats, chicken in cream sauce with morels). Some better than others; all served with verve. Some, but not all, prepared with care. Deep wine list.

SERVICE

Young, friendly bilingual servers. Warm greeting in a style which suggests old hands, but delivered by 30 year olds. The staff makes it fun while taking their work seriously.

PRICE

At dinner, a la carte, but reasonable for large portions, some quite inventive, most fresh and well- executed.

(4x) (2011-2016)

Vaudeville (Le)

29, rue Vivienne (2)
Tel: 01-40-20-04-62

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Across from the old Bourse in the 2nd. Large, noisy, Art Deco interior. Marble walls. At Saturday lunch, every seat taken, every terrace seat taken and a line out the door.

Not calm, but wildly popular. All French. Perfect for lunch

FOOD

Plateau of shellfish and oysters. Traditional dishes plus plat du jour served hot, with appropriate sauces. Seasonal mushrooms. Traditional desserts, baba a rum, oeufs a la nage, profiterole.

SERVICE

It may be the brasserie style, but service noisy and chaotic, yet always with a smile. Waiters running, pushing, dishes crashing. And yet it gives energy to the environment.

PRICE

Medium. A la carte.


A brief mention in an English language food blog noted new ownership (to a different commercial brasserie group) and an uptick in the kitchen.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, a short walk through the Louvre and across the beautiful gardens and arcades of the Palais Royale. A small table on the large terrace facing the plaza and colonnade of the classic Bourse across the street. With almost no traffic on a Sunday, some street theater, but no commotion.

Oysters and shrimp, two beautiful grilled Dover soles expertly boned, served with fresh string beans and delicious béarnaise. A warm chocolate mousse/soufflé for dessert. Service friendly, if haphazard, about what we experienced on our original visit, but an otherwise perfect Sunday lunch 138€.


Same weekend lunch one year later. Weather not as nice. A Saturday, which meant the possibility of Yellow Vest demonstrations (we saw none). Restaurant much quieter, but food and service equally satisfying.

(3x) (2010-2019)

Ardoise (L’)

28, rue du Mont-Thabor  (1)
Tel: 01-42-96-28-18

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Another Regalade clone. Falls far short. Well located behind Rue de Rivoli near Concorde. Small room with downstairs cave. Rustic, but comfortable. Mixed tourists/French. Lacks ambiance.


Now modernized. Still attractive.

FOOD

Good, if not refined. Ambitious blackboard menu with some high points, plus daily additions.

SERVICE

Competent, but inelegant.

PRICE

Medium priced (36€) formula. For same price, other choices superior.

(1x) (2010)

Atelier de Joel Robuchon (L’)

5, rue Montalembert (7)
Tel: 01-42-22-56-56

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Try it, but recognize it has become a small global chain. Barely anything French left. Prices very high. Worth trying – once. Counter seating only. Limited ability to book.

FOOD

Excellent.

SERVICE

Professional; friendly.

PRICE

Very high.

(6x) (Pre-2010)

153 Grenelle

153, rue de Grenelle (7)
Tel: 01-45-51-54-12

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A “grande” restaurant in ambition. Small, formal, friendly. Limited menu.


Closed. Now an Irish pub.

FOOD

Pure, high style. Three – four choices; multiple desserts.

SERVICE

Formal. Proper.

PRICE

High/formula 59€.

(3x) (2009)

Timbre (Le)

3, rue Sainte-Beuve (6)
Tel: 01-45-49-10-40

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

For the most part Le Timbre is famous for its size – as in postage stamp. It is small, with an open kitchen the size of a closet. One (English) chef, a server and a dishwasher. Limited formula menu. Facing tables lined up against each wall. 26€ for lunch with a handful of supplements. A good meal and a nice time. That said, if not for the unusual space, it would probably be less talked about. Of course, it is always the package, and this is a nice one.


A 2014 ownership change. These bets off.

FOOD

Several choices per course, all carefully prepped and brought to the table with surprising speed – although I have heard it is not always that way.

SERVICE

Efficient and friendly, including the chef who hands it over when ready.

PRICE

A good meal for a reasonable cost.

(1x) (2010)

Taokan

8, rue du Sabot (6)
Tel:  01-42-84-18-36

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Most foreign visitors (Americans like us, at least) come to Paris for French food. Yet like in New York, Chinese food, sushi, pizza and pasta, and now even hamburgers are becoming ubiquitous. The absence of Chinese restaurants in this Diary reflects our taste, not the range of choice.

French friends introduced us to this contemporary, high-style space, deceptively large, decorated with a Zen- like sparseness. Nothing French about the Chinese food, except an aspiration of finesse in menu, food and service not typical of Chinese restaurants at home. A welcome break. (A second branch in the 1st)

FOOD

Dim sum, composed menus, steamed fish. Food on the lighter side. Fried options lightly fried. Good food. Nice change, if not equal to the best Chinese food in New York.

SERVICE

Black-clad servers. Some polish, some mix-ups.

PRICE

No bargains. This is not Chinese take-out. Spring roll, rice and dim sum assortment menu, 22€. A regular French wine list.

(4x) (2013-2019)

Sensing (Le)

19, rue Brea (6)
Tel:  01-43-27-08-80


Rebranded: Now Guy Martin Italia

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Very modern. Cold. Was a tough table, but overall experience not memorable. (Guy Martin, Grand Vefour – the 3-star name chef).

FOOD

Quite elegant, reflective of 3-star pedigree.

SERVICE

Professional, but without warmth.

PRICE

Very high.

(1x) (2009)

Semilla

54, rue de Seine (6)
Tel: 01-43-54-34-50

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Same owner as La Fish Boissonnerie across the street. Totally open kitchen in modern, nicely designed, causal space. At lunch on a busy Saturday, every seat taken for a pleasant if not memorable meal, an alternative to Fish at an equivalent level.


A second try, this time a dinner. A disappointment. Very crowded. Not comfortable. Many Americans. High prices. Diverse menu, but without finesse to the point of discomfort. Sole not boned; lamb shoulder for two not portioned.

The room is good sized, but conditions are crowded and tight. Tables are small. Two grilled soles and a lamb shoulder for two served uncarved with just a spoon from a hot-from-the-oven jus-filled sauté pan just doesn’t work. No plate for fish bones. No room for extra plates. No utensils or room to cut the shared lamb. Traditional French tableside service would be out of place. And, of course, the servers could not spare the time even if they possessed the skill to bone a sole or carve a lamb shoulder. Obviously no side tables – so it is left to the diner – at 35€ for the sole and 75€ (for two) for the lamb.

A menu oblivious to the comfort of the diner. Messy and uncomfortable conditions at high prices, reflecting a careless attitude and flawed concept.

FOOD

At lunch, limited choice of well prepared, but relatively simple dishes. On the two course 23€ formula, one first course of three plates centered around rich cauliflower soup, choice of dorade with fennel or lamb shoulder with roasted carrots. Dessert or cheese, 8 – 10€ extra. Reasonable wines by the glass, carafe or bottle.


At dinner, more complexity, higher prices.

SERVICE

Taking a broad view of “service”, there is a more fundamental problem, which is a disconnect between the menu and the “style” of the restaurant, including its physical limitations.

PRICE

For the neighborhood, low prices for solid food at lunch. A reversal at dinner, including very few lower priced wines.

(2x) (2012-2013)

Select (Le)

99, boulevard du Montparnasse (6)
Tel: 01-45-48-38-24

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Picasso and the other great artists of the early 20th Century are no longer coming to Le Select, the brasserie in Montparnasse – or to Le Dome or La Coupole across the boulevard, or to La Rotunde next door. A few metro stops and a world away from St. Germain, Montparnasse is now trendy and urban-renewed, the great cafés of history mostly chain-owed and touristy – but they are a part of Left Bank history and worth a lunch if touring the Cimetiere de Montparnasse.

FOOD

Great salads. Bargain formula. Don’t come for the cuisine, come for the scene.

SERVICE

Old school. Busy. Gruff, but friendly

PRICE

Low prices appropriate to the limited menu.

(1x) (2010)

Rotisserie d’en Face (La)

2, rue Christine (6)
Tel: 01-43-26-40-98

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

For 20 years this was 2-star Jacques Cagna’s “second” restaurant, one of what became several. In August Cagna closed his restaurant, sold the building and retired. His empire is now La Rotisserie d’en Face. Rotisserie roasted chicken with mashed potatoes is a specialty, but the offerings are much broader. It isn’t suggested that the famous chef is now in the kitchen, although it is said he stops in.

It is medium sized on an ancient Left Bank street just off the quai. The space has been recently redone. It is comfortable and modern, but restrained and in good taste. The surroundings are well done and the staff both professional and solicitous.

The mystery is in the guests. No longer very many, at least on a late March Tuesday night.

It surely isn’t explained by the food, service, surroundings or prices, all of which were favorable and in good balance. At one time, this was a popular spot for Americans – too popular. Fewer Americans are traveling to France; surely fewer to Rotisserie d’en Face. They are missing an enjoyable experience, if not an exciting one.

FOOD

Foie gras, smoked salmon, braised pork shoulder, rotisserie chicken. Of course, molten chocolate cake and tartelette Tatin. Similar sautés and hot and cold starters from a longish menu including six fish choices. What we ate was well prepared.

SERVICE

Highly professional. Bilingual. Helpful without a hint of condescension.

PRICE

A la carte. Entrees 10€ – 20€. Plates in the mid-20’s. Desserts 10€ +/-. With wine from a good list, water and coffee, 178€ for two.

(1x) (2010)

Restaurant du Petit St. Benoit

4, rue St. Benoit (6)
Tel: 01-42-60-27-92

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

In business since 1901 and probably not much changed. Never ambitious in décor, menu or execution, but unerringly reliable, predictable, dependable. Long, narrow room. Crowded. Small tables. Little effort at finesse, exactly the source of its charm. Hearty, unfussy, traditional bistro menu, with blackboard additions. Perfect for lunch. In the heart of St. Germain

FOOD

Hot, hearty, traditional and plain, but quite good for what it is. (I have been eating at Petit Benoit for 40 years, but never dinner. There are just too many better choices, but sometimes all you want is lunch.)

SERVICE

Also part of the charm; rough, friendly, professional and to the point. Orders written on the paper table cloth. No computers here (and no credit cards).

PRICE

Two starters (endive salad, egg mayonse; two roast pork specials with squash and mashed purple potatoes; water, two glasses of wine, one pear in wine: 50€)

(2x) (2012 – 2013)

Relais Louix XIII

8, rue des Grands Augustins (6)
Tel: 01-43-26-75-96

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Left Bank. Small. Two levels. Old timbered building. Enjoyable food, but not a full Michelin 2-star experience.

FOOD

Very good.

SERVICE

Good. Appropriate to a 2-star.

PRICE

Very high, a la carte, a less pricey formula lunch.

(1x) (2009)

Relais de l’Entrecote (Le)

20, rue Saint-Benoit (6)
Tel: 01-45-49-16-00

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

The 6th Arr. branch of a mini chain, recently expanded to Lexington Avenue. No menu. Attractive, bistro-like décor. Probably less classic than the Rue Marbeuf original. No reservations. Good meal, if low on originality.

FOOD

Salad, frites, sliced steak with (too much) butter and herb sauce. Choice of desserts. Inexpensive house wines. And a line out the door – every day, every meal.

SERVICE

Women in black and white uniforms bring the food. Only choice is how you like your steak and what you want for dessert. They do the job and add to the idiosyncratic format.

PRICE

One price, 24.50€. (On Lexington Avenue, the same price in dollars!).

(1x) (2009)

Petit Vatel (Les)

5, rue Lobineau (6)
Tel: 01 43 54 28 49

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Opposite the St. Germain covered market. Well located. Along a “restaurant row” pair of streets replete with small restaurants. This the smallest, its principal distinction. At lunch, nine other customers and the place was almost full. Not for dinner. Wash up before you get there.

FOOD

Hearty food with numerous choices. Stuffed cabbage, slow cooked lamb and pork. Simple, but pleasant desserts. Good for a quick lunch, probably not a leisurely dinner.

SERVICE

One server. Friendly. She hardly has to do more than stretch her arms to reach every table.

PRICE

Low prices, 18€ for two plates at lunch.

(1x) (2010)

Maison du Jardin (La)

27, rue de Vaugirard (6)
Tel: 01-45-48-22-31

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

I have probably walked by La Maison du Jardin, more than once. Its exterior is unprepossessing. There is nothing chic or cutting edge about its look, its clientele or its interior. In fact, it is quite traditional physically. So are its clients, at a Monday lunch at least. Mostly regulars. Several occupying single tables among 15 or so, with napkins tucked under their chins and half bottles of red wine open at the table. Just our kind of place!

Had it not been for some well-travelled New York friends we would have continued to walk by. Not anymore.

This is not a bistro, but a middle class restaurant for middle of the road clients with a real chef in the kitchen.

FOOD

The menu is original by today’s standards, but probably quite ordinary by the rules of 30 years ago. Yet there is no time warp, only well- prepared dishes with carefully chosen accompaniments prepared fresh and served piping hot. Beef cheek terrine with beet sauce, salmon and halibut chilled, rolled and sliced, roasted fish over potatoes and onions, prunes in red wine, apple tart. Comfort food for the comfortable.

SERVICE

Two hard working, skilled, middle-age professionals who act as if they care. Friendly and bilingual.

PRICE

34€ fixed price for 3 courses. A few small supplements from the menu, plus plats du jour.

(1x) (2014)

Laperouse

51, quai des Grands Augustins (6)
Tel: 01-43-26-68-04

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Forty or so years ago Laperouse was my favorite Paris restaurant. It was a splurge, but I ate there when it had 3 Michelin stars. I ate there when it had 2 Michelin stars. Then it became a historic relic; a beautiful building and location hollowed out as a great restaurant. In the meantime, Paris changed. Paris chefs and restaurants changed. French food changed.

Now Laperouse is attempting a revival with a serious chef and, according to the a la carte menu, serious ambitions. And there is a special lunch menu, 45€ for two courses, 55€ for three, each served with wine.

Good food in exquisite, historic surroundings. Not a 2 or 3-star experience (see Astrance, Grand Vefour, Lasserre, etc.), but a very good one.

FOOD

On the lunch menu, carrot soup with mushroom ravioli or skate wing meat over sliced radishes, grilled pike or lamb in pastry over wild mushrooms, pain perdu or exotic fruits.

SERVICE

Laperouse is primarily a warren of small and smaller private rooms. In an open space overlooking the river from the 2nd floor, 8 tables nicely served by three. If lacking some polish, it was not because they didn’t try.

PRICE

A la carte, chef’s menu at 115€ and lunch at 45€ and 55€. An extra glass of offered wine, 13€.


In 2019, shuttered. Not clear when it closed. And a 3 Star historic property now a relic. Sad. (Spring, 2019)

Update:

Being reopened by new owners with a name chef, but as an event space, not per se a traditional classic restaurant. (Summer, 2019)

(1x) (2013)

Locanda (La)

8, rue du Dragon (6)
Tel: 01-45-44-12-53

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Martino is a charming and hard-working host of this small, well located Italian restaurant just off the Blvd. St. Germain. The space is cozy and frequented by many regulars. Sadly, the kitchen is not up to the promise of the host or the ambition of the menu, with prices reflecting the elusive promise. Still, on a low-key night, a worthwhile stop.

Open every day.

FOOD

The kitchen falls short on a compact menu of familiar Italian dishes of pastas, simple meat and fish grills and sautés, plus specials. In general, execution and presentation disappoint.

SERVICE

The two servers carry through on the owner’s spirit of warmth and welcome.

PRICE

Too high for the type of restaurant it is. Grilled vegetable entrees 14€ and 19€; fish or pasta with sausage and cepes, 27€ and 29€. Wine by the glass, 10€.

(1x) (2014)

Huitrerie Regis

3, rue de Montfaucon (6)
Tel: 01.44.41.10.07

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Oysters, and virtually only that. A handful of tables with white tablecloths and a counter, no seats. High shelves of wine bottles behind counter, plus two “chefs” (oyster-openers) (plus shrimp, clams and urchins). A Left Bank institution.

FOOD

Oysters. Chosen by season, medium or large. One dozen minimum or two set menus, oysters with a glass of wine and coffee. Fresh, delicious oysters. Ditto shrimp and scallop pate offered as first course.

SERVICE

A little snippy, but not egregious. Waitress at times seemed stressed. No big deal.

PRICE

Oysters 34€/dozen. Shrimp 25€. For a light lunch, this could be the spot.

(1x) (2014)

Grille Saint Germain (La)

1, rue Guisarde (6)
Tel: 01-43-54-16-87

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

On a small street of restaurants and wine bars adjacent to several other small streets (Rue Princesse, etc.) of restaurants and wine bars, La Grille St. Germain is among the oldest and most established – and perhaps most establishment, but it serves the same largely young neighborhood clientele. The area surrounds the covered Marche St. Germain, itself now composed largely of established restaurants and bars, plus a few traditional food vendors which populated it exclusively in earlier times.

The neighborhood is casual, a block or so off the Boulevard St. Germain. Each of the restaurants is different, but each small, convivial and inexpensive. Not surprisingly, none are distinguished. No hidden jewels. La Grille St. Germain no exception. But sometimes no plan is the best plan. Walk until you spot an appealing posted menu, an attractive décor and an empty table.


And now the Apple Store has opened across the street. Coffee while you wait for your call.

FOOD

The menu is predictable. Cooked to order sauté dishes, mostly meat with a few fish choices, each competently prepared with generous accompaniments of vegetables and potatoes. Two entrées and two plats du jour, daube of beef and salmon with sorrel.

SERVICE

As you would expect. Casual, rudimentary, friendly.

PRICE

With water and a bottle of wine, a la carte for two: 95€.

(2x) (2010-2017)

Fish Boissonnerie (La)

69, rue de Seine (6)
Tel: 01-43-54-34-69

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A somewhat thrown together wine bar/café into a restaurant. Kitchen upstairs. Food arrives by dumbwaiter. That the food is so good for the price is the surprise. Unusual wines. Dishes executed and plated with care. Many Americans. Great value.

FOOD

Mostly fish. Interesting wine list (the owners run a nearby wine shop). The value and finesse of the cooking, sauces and presentation surprise. “Finesse” is not how one would describe the atmosphere.

SERVICE

Casual, but professional.

PRICE

Lunch 25€ – a bargain. Dinner higher.

(3x) (2009-2011)

Ferrandaise (La)

8, rue de Vaugirard (6)
Tel: 01-43-26-36-36

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A total disappointment despite the dated guidebook write-ups.

FOOD

Only fair.

SERVICE

Slipshod.

PRICE

Low/formula

(1X) (2009)

Epigramme (L’)

9, rue de l’Eperon (6)
Tel: 01-43-26-36-36

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Entirely forgettable, which is too bad. A small, pleasant room on an ancient Left Bank street just doors from the once venerated Chez Allard, now, sadly, a mecca for American and Japanese tourists.

A 38€ formula menu in every way unobjectionable, but with nothing to recommend it.

FOOD

Nicely cooked shrimp with foam, lamb without embellishment, the ubiquitous durade (or was it the more universal cod?), molten chocolate cake. Good, but passé.

SERVICE

What service? The food got to the table, but entirely without finesse – or even a tucked-in shirt. Could the wait staff have had the night off?

PRICE

38€ formula. Fairly priced wines.

(1X) (2010)

Epi Dupin (L’)

11, rue Dupin (6)
Tel: 01-42-22-64-56

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Ten years after first eating at L’Epi Dupin (on a recommendation from a Ritz chef), and tens of meals later, a late 2011 summary reassessment:

Still among the best food to cost values in Paris. (Except lunch at Frederic Simonin, see 17th).  Inventive dishes, well executed, served by a hardworking, long serving team in tight quarters, always packed. Turnover the key to its model – no lingering over the table for the evening. 2 – 3 turns the norm. That plus small, closely spaced tables and hard surfaces makes for noise, bustle and palpable energy. Not for everyone, but the concept succeeds better than a legion of others which have tried to duplicate the basic format.

Why? The menu is constantly changing and the food is always first-rate; well thought out and well executed.

FOOD

Exceptional, and consistently so. Every meal a winner.

Unique dishes. Constantly changing menu. Real thought goes into the menu and the six choices for each course.

L’Epi Dupin is not as comfortable physically as many of the other three course formula restaurants in this Diary, but year-in, year-out, its food is both superior and unusual.

SERVICE

Friendly and professional. Chef often on the floor. High turnover, but not without grace.


A 2014 change in key dining room/service staff with the departures of the two most senior waiters/managers, but you wouldn’t know it unless you did.

PRICE

Medium/Low formula. 38€. Some supplements.

Lunch 27€

(10x+) (2010-2014)

 

Photo from “Yelp”

Cuisine de Philippe (La)

25, rue Servandoni (6)
Tel: 01-43-29-76-37

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

With so many favorites to return to, plus those among our new discoveries to try again, plus new names and recommendations, we rarely leave the apartment without a plan and reservation.

Today we took a long walk in the 6th, following an exhibit at the Luxembourg Museum. We passed this place, at the top end of a small street we know (at the other end is Au Bon Porcain, see 6th). It was small, cozy and had an unusually ambitious menu, part of a 27€ formula lunch. We were very pleasantly surprised, notwithstanding the toilet outside in the cold courtyard.

FOOD

Starter soufflés (wild mushroom, cheese or smoked salmon), plus mousseline of fish. Four choices for the main course, plus a plat du jour of duck tortue (a pastry wrapped minced duck preparation), plus dessert soufflés, apple tarte or crème brulee. The soufflés were very good, the moussenline outstanding. In all, food unexpectedly pleasing and sophisticated. And very large portions.

SERVICE

One friendly, helpful young woman for 30 or so guests (supporting the owner / chef and one helper / dishwasher). She did great.

PRICE

27€ includes one glass of wine and coffee. Refills, 4€. At dinner, similar menu for 35€.

Lunch now 29€, still noteworthy for price, portion and quality. And the chance to eat two soufflés in one lunch, cheese to start and chocolate to end!

(3x) (2013 -2018)

Comptoir du Relais (Le)

9, Carrefour de l’Odeon (6)
Tel: 01-44-27-07-97

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

For Americans, the best known and most highly publicized of the formula/price fixed menu/formally-trained chefs gone downscale places. And among the first. (Original chef of Regalade.) Still perennially crowded, hard to get a table. Good food, but no longer unique- no longer even unusual.

FOOD

Five courses at dinner. 50€. No choice. Smallish portions, plus cheese tray. One sitting. At lunch, no reservations. Line up at noon. Some choice, 35€.

SERVICE

At dinner, bring out the plates. All the same. Not quite a test of a waiter’s skill, and it shows.

PRICE

Plenty of competitors, many as good at 35€-40€.

The wine list a shocker, without equal among formula spots: prices/selections disproportionately, unfairly high.

(2x) (2011)

Brasserie Lipp

151, boulevard St. Germain (6)
Tel: 01-45-48-53-91

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

There are many good reasons to want to experience Lipp, at a weekend lunch with friends or relatives, for example, it is just that the food isn’t one of them – not if facing so many choices for too few days in Paris.

Brassiere Lipp is historic, original, beautiful and classic. It is an institution with a celebrated history at a Left Bank crossroads across the boulevard from Café Flore and Deux Magots. Every guidebook counsels to eat downstairs; that upstairs is “Siberia”. Maybe so. Drop by the day before and book a reservation. They are happy to have you.

On a winter Saturday lunch, not a tourist in sight. All French. Many couples. Some singles. Motorcycle helmets outnumbered by canes, with many regulars.

FOOD

The food is no better than fair. Hearty; traditional; German- influenced. Chourcroute, roast chicken, roast leg of lamb. Nothing modern. Nothing exciting, but taken together, a wonderful experience.

SERVICE

Experienced, old school, deft waiters. The grumpy, but friendly type. What you expect at a New York steakhouse. If you play along, they can make it fun.

PRICE

Surprisingly high. All a la carte. With wine, 50€/ per person.

(11x) (2009-2018)

Bouquinistes (Les)

53, quai des Grands-Augustins (6)
Tel: 01-43-25-45-94

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A moderately expensive, moderately elegant, comfortable, modern restaurant on the Quai near Notre Dame. Lovely, formal, without being overbearing. Businessmen in ties are comfortable; so are tourists without them. The kitchen is Guy Savoy 3-star standard for a “second restaurant” (of four), but managing a restaurant is challenging to delegate. Where is the soul?

FOOD

Professionally managed, creative, carefully executed food, as one would expect from Guy Savoy ownership. The formula lunch menu focuses on seasonal choices, without shortcuts.

SERVICE

Professional service, but without a sense of ownership.

PRICE

The surprising news is the formula lunch: Two courses for 26€, three courses for 29€, with a glass of wine. A steal.

Dinner a la carte and more expensive.

(2X) (2011)

Bastide Odeon (La)

7, rue Corneille (6)
Tel: 01-43-26-03-65

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Lovely Left Bank location. Comfortable, but nondescript modern decor. On two floors. About 60 seats. Open kitchen. Upstairs is not Siberia. Mostly French neighborhood crowd – at least in winter.

FOOD

Provencal-oriented menu. Heavy on vegetables, fish, roast chicken with garlic.

SERVICE

Semi-professional, but helpful and friendly. Quick; maybe too quick.

PRICE

Three good courses, 36€ formula for dinner.

(1x) (2012)

Aux Charpentiers

10, rue Mabillon (6)
Tel: 01-43-26-30-05

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A low priced basic bistro across from the St. Germain market in a neighborhood of restaurants. Fairly large, with small, closely spaced tables, but a real chef with his wife in the front. Friendly, warm, welcoming. Avoid the basement room.

FOOD

Good, basic, hearty, traditional. Not refined. Just what we wanted. Relatively extensive menu, including traditional daily plats du jour. Name the day and you name the plat, week after week, year after year.

SERVICE

Friendly, helpful, informal.

PRICE

Lunch 19.5€ formula for two plats. Dinner 28€. Plus a la carte.

(1x) (2010)


RECENT UPDATE:

As of Fall, 2017, closed.

Au Pied de Fouet

3, rue Saint Benoit (6)
Tel: 01-42-96-59-10

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Movie set French. Small as in tiny. Twelve seats downstairs plus only slightly larger upstairs balcony. Ambition (and price) commensurate with size. Surely not a destination, but the second of a three location group, in business for a long time. The combination makes it highly popular, and deservedly so.

FOOD

Comfort food in the extreme, but cooked by an actual chef (roast pork, Shepherd’s Pie with duck, fresh fruit tarts, sausage with lentils), carafe wines. A perfect simple lunch or dinner on a narrow Left Bank street, steps from the Blvd. St. Germain.

SERVICE

Four employees, including the chef. Waitresses leave finesse at home, but neither is it called for. They are friendly and warm, if always in a hurry.

PRICE

Very low. Three courses, plus water, coffee, wine for two: 55€.

(4x) (2012 – 2014)

Allard

41, rue Saint Andre-des- Arts (6)
Tel: 01-43-26-48-23

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

I first ate at Allard in the late ‘60’s. It was chic, with Americans in particular. An old (1932) traditional bistro in an obscure, ancient Left Bank street, it looked the part and delivered old fashioned French comfort food at a time when the best known alternatives for tourists featured haute cuisine, formality and were focused in central arrondissements.

After hitting a peak, Allard began a decades-long decline, along with the neighborhood, which became a street of pizza, crepe and souvenir shops. Five years ago (pre-Diary) we gave it another try. The food and décor were less changed than the all- foreign clientele, heavily weighted toward Japanese, guide books in hand and coke bottles on every table. To the rescue (?) Alain Ducasse (again), very recently.

The result is a work in progress – it is hoped. The décor is unchanged, as it should be. The food at a Christmas week dinner was excellent, prepared by four chefs in toques who work just inside the front door. Recognizing the holiday timing of our single datapoint, our meal may be untypical. The crowd was mixed, including French. It arrived late (9:30 p.m.+), but energized the two rooms, which were 1⁄4 full at 8:30 pm. Service and management were shockingly disorganized for a Ducasse- managed operation. It made a difference, but did not mar the quality of the food, only the overall experience.


Since first trying the “new” (Ducasse-owned) Allard in 2013, we have enjoyed progressively better meals and appealing menus, including a recent Spring, 2017 dinner.

In the older (read: very old) of the 2 rooms bi-sected by the female chef-run, traditional bistro kitchen, it was full (international mix) and convivial. Family and couples-focused; casual in look and manner. Except the menu and food were serious and delicious. Early asparagus with sauce mousseline, frisse salad, turbot with buerre blanc and roast lamb with vegetables. A plate of pre-selected 3 cheeses for dessert. All excellent, pricey (216€ with a 52€ Givry 1st Cru) and served with energy and good feeling, if somewhat less than old school finesse.

A good restaurant.

FOOD

Thick-sliced marinated salmon and frisee salad with croutons and lardons, followed by a Bresse chicken for two. Profiteroles with chocolate sauce for dessert. Other meat, fish choices, all in the bistro tradition. Accompanying potatoes and a la carte string beans both exceptional.

SERVICE

Uncoordinated, even sloppy. A few of the waiters had the old-timer look and knew what they were doing, but did not function as a team, much less a well- oiled one. Surely, the Ducasse machine knows how to do this, and to install a management system to oversee it.

PRICE

High, but fair a la carte. Chicken for two 36€/person, on a par with/ Le Coq Rico (see 20th). 34€ formula lunch with two choices. Extensive wine list weighted toward the high-end. With a 60€ wine, 184€.


Lured by a well-promoted 34€ 3 course lunch (with only two choices), we gave Allard another try and are pleased we did.

A new (female) chef, what appears to be a fresh staff and serious management combine, albeit on the basis of a single meal, to correct the disappointments experienced in the immediate aftermath of the Ducasse ownership change in 2013. We loved everything about our lunch.

Sea bass cru or onion soup, roast chicken with mashed potatoes or monkfish with vegetables in a light cream sauce, baked figs with ice cream or cold chocolate soufflé.

SERVICE

Service was cordial and attentive (and bilingual). The surroundings are charmingly run-down (as a restaurant founded in 1932 should be), but freshly painted, clean and with a gleaming new bathroom.

(3x) (2013-2017)

Agape Substance

66, rue Mazarine (6)
Tel: 01-43-29-33-83

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A very modern, very expensive tapas-style menu with many courses on set menu, described on the menu card only by principal ingredient. Of the 30 or so seats, most on stools at long tables running 2/3 of the length of the long, narrow, very modern room, with the kitchen taking the rear third.

FOOD

Many of the combinations on the 2 – 3 bite dishes were interesting. Many of the tastes were good, some very good. All were carefully and artfully plated and served with optional wine pairings. In all, a great deal of food, but to our taste, too modern, too untraditional. Others will love it.

SERVICE

Service is caring and attentive, but physically awkward. Couples are seated on opposite sides of the long table. For our party of five, three on one side two on the other.

PRICE

Shockingly high. At dinner no choice menu 129€. With wines, 199€. Alternative truffle menu higher.

(1x) (2012)

21 Rue Mazarine

21, rue Mazarine (6)
Tel: 01-46-33-76-90

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Fish is expensive worldwide. A great deal of fish is consumed in Paris, and there are no bargains. The best (wild caught) fish is more expensive still. Paris has always been distinguished by a few specialist fish restaurants, but every menu carries fish choices.

Paul Minchelli is a legendary fish chef who has had several restaurants. This is the latest. Small, deceptively casual, located on a street of art galleries in the 6th. Fish only, with a limited number of choices. Each we tried was delicious with an emphasis on simple preparation. Prices were chokingly high, including 48€ for a modest portion of steamed bass.

FOOD

The food was good, the fish soup particularly. Simple preparation can be taken to an extreme; steaming in seawater a popular technique.

SERVICE

For the handful of tables (of which only a few were occupied at lunch), service is casual, bilingual and helpful.

PRICE

No price concessions at lunch, all a la carte and all through the roof. (On the next block is Fish le Boissonerie. For the price of one fish soup, an excellent multi-course fish meal is available there. It may be a better bet.)

(1x) (2011)

Tour D’Argent (La)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

FOOD

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

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


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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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


(2x) (2010 -2011)

Now 85€. (2014)

Terroir Parisien

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1x) (2012)

Petit Pontoise (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

(A new annex next door.)

FOOD

Fair, but ordinary in choice and execution.

SERVICE

Good. Friendly.

PRICE

Low/formula

(2x) (2010-2014)

Papilles (Les)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

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

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

FOOD

Exceptional, assuming you like what they serve.

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

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1x) (2014)

Moissonnier

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

One competent waitress, not unfriendly, not much more.

PRICE

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

(1x) (2011)


(Now Closed)

L’AOC

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

Attentive. Professional. Experienced.

PRICE

A la carte, but reasonable.

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

(2x) (2013)


Restaurant now closed.

(2019)

Itineraires

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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


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

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

FOOD

Excellent, with careful plating and attention to detail.


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

SERVICE

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


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

PRICE

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

(2x)(2010-2011)


Now 59€, 79€

(1x)(2013)


Restaurant now closed.

(2019)

Coupe-Chou (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1x) (2012)

Chez Rene

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

Good, friendly service.

PRICE

A la carte prices fair to slightly high.

(1x) (2010)

Buisson Ardent (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

Attentive, but appropriate for causal, young clientele.

PRICE

Formula. Very reasonable.

(1x) (2011)

Brasserie Balzar

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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


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

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

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

Professional, detached. Not chatty, but neither unfriendly.

PRICE

Medium

(4x) (2010 – 2017)

Atelier Maitre Albert

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

Practiced, but casual. Friendly, if rushed.

PRICE

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

(3x) (2010-2011)

Mon Vieil Ami

69, rue Saint Louis en L’Ile (4)
Tel: 01-40-46-01-35

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

I’lle St. Louis location. Busy tourist street. Modern décor. Popular. Many non- French. 3-star chef-affiliated (Antoine Westermann).  Cool décor. Good value, but lacks ambiance. Open Sunday.

FOOD

Very good. Varied menu.

SERVICE

Detached, but proficient.

PRICE

Medium/formula

(3x) (2010-2014)


Reported Closed (2017)

Gorille Blanc (Le)

4 Impasse Guéménée (4)
Tel: 01-42-72-08-45

(See Le Gorille Blanc in the 7th for the history)

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Walking on the Rue St. Antoine in the Marais we spotted the name on a new orange awning. A coincidence? Let’s look in. There, in a larger, more rustic space was the original owner, now with his son and a new chef, serious if not aspiring to a Michelin star, in a lovely space virtually steps from the Place des Vosges, Similar menu and format to original. 18€ formula lunch. Cozy surroundings, already busy if not swamped. Glad to see them back.

FOOD

Better food than before, even better versions of some of the original specialties such as warm terrine of mushrooms in garlic sauce. Small menu with meat and fish, plus plats du jour (wonderful roast chicken and scallops with leeks, preceded by avocados with smoked salmon or vegetable soup).

SERVICE

Like the restaurant itself, it aims to be comfortable, lively, friendly and unobjectionable without steep ambition. The service fits right in.

PRICE

Reasonable a la carte and exceptionally reasonable formula. Wines by the bottle, pitcher or glass, similarly priced.
(3x) (2012 – 2013)

Gaigne (Le)

12, rue Pecquay (4)
Tel: 01-44-59-86-72

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

20 seat Marais location. One chef, one helper/dishwasher. One waitress. Five courses at 39€. More memorable for the unlikely combination than the food. Unfortunately, discovered by Sunday New York Times and over-hyped.

FOOD

Good, not great, but wonderful walking neighborhood.

SERVICE

Somehow, the single waitress does it all and does it well.

PRICE

Low/moderate. Equally so the wines. Great value, if not great cooking. Formula and a la carte (larger portions).

(1x)(2010)

Chez Marianne

2, rue des Hospitalières St-Gervais (4)
Tel: 01-42-72-18-86

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

If you are not ready for the line or the grittiness of L’As du Falafel (see 4th Arr.), Chez Marianne around the corner serves Jewish/Israeli/Middle Eastern meze at tables in a smallish room, including falafel. In warm weather, there is a spacious adjacent garden. It attracts both the overflow and the less intrepid, and its own following too, which explains weekend lines out the door.

FOOD

Choose ten meze items for two people, 26€. Or four choices for 12€. Or five for 14€, etc. Pita, what the French call bagels, to go along. (Skip dessert. Save it for Sacha Finkelsztayn, the Jewish bakery across the street.)

SERVICE

Quick, impersonal, charmless.

PRICE

A la carte, but a great lunch (if you are in the mood) for the price. Not a dinner venue.


10 meze now 30€. All else unchanged.

(2x) (2012-2017)

Bofinger

5 et 7, rue de la Bastille (4)
Tel: 01-42-72-87-82

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A large, historic, exquisitely designed and well preserved brasserie between the Bastille and the Place des Vosges. Chain owned. Food and service now in the style of similar cafes (Balzar, Lipp); hearty, plentiful, varied and good, but never memorable. Without the décor, you wouldn’t bother. But the décor – and the tradition which accompanies it – makes it worthwhile – and very Parisian.

FOOD

Oysters, roast pork, roast chicken, scotch salmon, choucroute. Traditional desserts.

SERVICE

Willing and professional, but distracted.

PRICE

Medium. No bargains.

(1x) (2011)

Benoit

20, rue Saint Martin (4)
Tel: 01-42-72-25-76

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Beautiful bistro décor, including a new, small third dining room which looks as if it was always there. Front room still best. (They used to sit the French there, Americans in the back. Ducasse ownership may have changed that.) Calls itself a bistro. Maybe. Some traditional items remain on the relatively limited menu. At best, a luxury bistro, with prices to match. At lunch, a 38€ menu. Three choices for three courses. No one would mistake this for a chef-owned and managed address, but the Ducasse organization is no ordinary commercial chain.


After 4 years, a return to Benoit. Refined, beautifully executed versions of what may have once been bistro dishes, but are no longer. Benoit becomes two restaurant concepts within one, both successful: a beautiful and beautifully maintained bistro décor with an Alain Ducasse-level execution of historical bistro dishes (pate en croute, calf’s head, asparagus with sauce mousseline), all at very high Alain Ducasse prices.

FOOD

Terrific food which would be equally at home in a 2-star establishment. Every dish carefully plated. Subtle flavors.


The pate en croute is laced with foie gras, the sauce mousseline with truffles. 28€ and 44€, respectively (5 asparagus spears!).

Our main course, on the menu forever, rolled dover sole with sauce nantua (crayfish). Superb, at 52€.

SERVICE

Good, attentive service. Bilingual.
Professional wine service.


Charmless, but efficient, except sommelier and manager, who attempted to bridge the problem inherent in so many corporate group restaurants, even those characterized by a culinary pedigree the equal of Ducasse. There is no owner in the kitchen, and no owner or owner’s wife (or husband – see Yam’Tcha, our single favorite restaurant in the 1st Arr.) in the front, one notices.

PRICE

Prices high, even with a choice from the page of moderately priced wines at dinner, 100€ per person, easy. A fine meal, but not a bistro meal. At dinner few foreigners. At lunch, many. Formula lunch 38€.

(3x) (2011-2017)

Robert et Louise

64, rue Vieille-du-Temple (3)
Tel: 01-42-78-55-89

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A (very) poor man’s L’Ami Louis. In the Marais. Small ground floor room and bar. Shared tables. Open fireplace for grilling, mostly steaks. Young crowd; French and tourists. Redone downstairs cave (and modern bathrooms) with mostly gay clientele. Fun.

FOOD

Good, if not great. Try once; with larger group particularly. Focus on steak and potatoes.

SERVICE

Friendly, haphazard. Gets the job done.

PRICE

Moderate. One quarter (or less) than L’Ami Louis.

(1x) (2009)

Pamphlet (Le)

38, rue Debelleyme (3)
Tel: 01-42-72-39-24

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Attractive space on a quiet street in the 3rd. Hints of elegance. Short formula menu. Quite good execution, but one is conscious that they make it on the volume. Somehow, it doesn’t come together as the individual elements suggest it should. Lacks soul.

FOOD

Good food. Ambitious execution. Limited choice.

SERVICE

Particularly friendly, but the food comes too quickly.

PRICE

Reasonable for what you get, but the experience less memorable than it could be.

(1x) (2009)

Marche de Enfants Rouges

39, rue de Bretagne (3)
No phone

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

This Diary is a personal restaurant list, not a Paris Guide, so it is questionable whether Enfants Rouge even belongs. It is not a restaurant per se, but an ancient covered market (from the 17th Century) in the process of evolving into what Americans would call an international food court.

There remain a handful of traditional market stalls for fish, fruit and vegetables, etc., plus established specialist shops on the surrounding blocks. What appear in every other outdoor market as Italian or North African prepared food vendors are takeout stands here, with outdoor tables on the sidewalks surrounding the market somehow allocated to each shop.

FOOD

Italian, hamburgers, filled crepes, Moroccan, Libyan and Asian are only some of the cuisines represented. Each stand displays heaping platters of cooked food to be reheated, served, sliced or portioned. Line up. Order. Pay. A waiter will help you carry your food to an eligible table. Not for the fainthearted, but on a Sunday midday full of happy French and visitors.

SERVICE

Primitive, and appropriately so.

PRICE

Very low. We chose the longest line, assuming someone knew what he was doing. Moroccan couscous, in countless variations.


Five years later, except for noting that hamburgers are appearing as the French Sunday brunch favorite (and so is Sunday brunch now replacing the traditional Sunday family lunch, at least for young urban dwellers), I would not change a word.  And the Moroccan line still the longest

(2x) (2014-2019)

Ami Louis (L’)

32 rue du Vertbois (3)
Tel: 01-48-87-77-48

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Movie-set bistro. Could not be more authentic, but not worth the price. Mostly foreign clientele. It is among the most famous tables in Paris among Americans and Middle Easterners.

FOOD

Terrific. Roasted meats, roast chicken, foie gras.

SERVICE

Professional, but cool and distracted.

PRICE

Astronomical.

(6x+) (pre-2010)

Terroir Parisien

28 Place de la Bourse (2)
Tel:  01-83-92-26-31

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

In a gesture of wasted objectivity (this Diary makes no claim of objectivity), we visited for lunch the second branch of 3-star Chef Yannick Alleno’s Terroir Parisien (see 5th), this one located in what was once the employee cafeteria of the Bourse (stock exchange) building, literally above the Bourse metro stop

In most ways, the one or two good elements (the fine design of the open kitchen and eating counter, with tables flanking) and the longer list of less good ones (food without character, absent management, smiling but unprofessional young service staff, etc.), the two branches are duplicates of one another, proving the same core point: a Michelin listing does not always travel well (although it can, see Le Coq Rico, 20th, Laraze, 8th).

FOOD

Fine for lunch if in the neighborhood, although better choices, including directly adjacent across the square. Pate en croute and sliced raw mushrooms, scallops in foam, and ham and grilled endive with cheese sauce. Perfectly fine. Entirely forgettable, more so than the décor, which is radical in departure and surely influenced by American restaurant design in the causal vs. “white table cloth” sector.

SERVICE

A duplicate of all of the shortcomings of its 5th Arr. sibling. Inexplicable. Casual young servers may be a new phenomenon in Paris, but no reason it cannot be combined with experienced adult professional supervision. Absent. Indeed, the open kitchen also showcases a goofy playfulness not typical of French kitchens.

PRICE

Where they should be for casual chic, under a stellar brand name whose provenance is not really connected to the concept which carries his name. 91€ for two, no desserts.


Closed. Deservedly. Now a rebirth of the Alan Ducasse casual, vegetable-focused restaurant, Spoon, first opened 15 years ago.

(1x) (2013)

Passage 53

53, Passage des Panoramas (2)
Tel: 01-42-33-04-35

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Situated in a now somewhat honky tonk 19th century arcade, a form which anticipated the modern shopping center. This arcade the oldest remaining in Paris, a combination of inviting bars, bistros and stamp dealers. Go figure. Right in the middle, an austere, spare restaurant. 22 seats spaciously arranged. Mostly Asian staff formally dressed. Up the narrowest staircase in Paris to the kitchen. Four Japanese chefs. One menu. No choice, 85€.


Now a Michelin 2-star, menu 130€ (2014)

FOOD

A near perfect marriage of Japanese sensibility with French ingredients. Each course a marvel to look at and to taste. None more than two bites, each anticipating the next. An extraordinary meal.

SERVICE

Choreographed, proper, practiced, but friendly and informed.

PRICE

85€. No extras. No shortcuts. Wines moderate to pricey. Mostly Burgundies. The location a paradox, but one which makes it more intriguing. An exceptional experience. Now 130€.

(1x) (2012)

Versance (Le)

16 rue Feydeau (2)
Tel:  01-45-08-00-08

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

An enigma which should have worked better as a complete package than it did.

Complex, modern food from a small menu (five choices per category). Imaginative. Exquisitely plated. A large, two-level space with spaciously placed tables for 35, including a salon for drinks or coffee.

Very expensive a la carte prices. Deliberate pacing makes for a long evening, sapped of joy. You must bring your own.

The space and food make this an attractive possibility, but with too few guests (albeit on a Tuesday) leaving each room half full. (They would have been better to fill one.) Ironically, all of the energy of the well designed, quite elegant 19th Century space was in the kitchen in the hands and mind of the owner/chef. Once it left the pass, it became somewhat drained of excitement. I kept looking at my watch.

FOOD

Easier to describe than to fully capture. Minced sweetbreads in an egg-shaped fried crust paired with a beautifully soft-boiled egg, roast scallops, lobster served two ways, raw and with tails warmed in poured-over broth.

For plats, turbot served in smoke-filled bell jar, Spanish-sourced pork chop with multiple intricate accompaniments, chicken breast with crayfish sauce, sweetbreads. Complex desserts which impact on the eye better than they excited the mouth.

SERVICE

Somber. Knowledgeable, formal servers without the real skill to do formal and without the personality to animate the overly serious atmosphere of the experience.

PRICE

Shockingly high relative to this Diary. A la carte entrees 25€ ±, plats 39-59€, desserts 13€. Range of wines. Less expensive formula lunch.

(1x) (2014)

Gyoza Bar

56 Passage des Panoramas (2)
Tel:  01-44-82-00-62

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Passage 53 (see below) is now a two star Michelin destination. About three years ago it opened a simple, modern, apparently authentic gyoza bar (Japanese dumplings) two doors away in the same historic, but now somewhat rundown passage, the antecedent to today’s shopping mall. By itself the passage makes an interesting visit, one of about 20 which still exist in Paris.

This is a one trick pony: gyoza only, cooked to order. One variety, sautéed and steamed. Sides of rice, noodles or edamame available. Only choice: platter of 8 or 12. A second location in the 3rd.

FOOD

Gyoza. Delicious. Inexpensive. Very popular.

SERVICE

Four hardworking Japanese women behind the bar sauté, steam and serve. About as much “service” as at a McDonald’s, and equally efficient.

PRICE

8 gyoza 7€; 12 for 9. With two waters, one side and one glass of wine, 33€. Not for every day, but Paris is an international city devoted to Japanese food.

(1x) (2014)

Frenchie

5 rue du Nil  (2)
Tel: 01-40-39-96-19

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Small room. Minutes from Les Halles. 22 seats, some on stools. Semi-open kitchen. Chef plus two helpers. Three relatively ambitious courses, 35€.

Reports of attitude and a mostly American clientele. Disconcerting.

It is hard to know why some formula spots get hyped, as this one does, while others not. As good as/no better than L’Agrume, Temps Au Temps, Itineraires, Affriole. Chef worked in New York.

FOOD

A notch more ambitious in terms of the combination of ingredients than the average. Well thought out, unusual dishes. Two choices for each of three categories. Every choice a winner.

SERVICE

Not in any way bad and surely friendly, but the one waiter has more to learn and maybe needs help.

PRICE

The 35€ standard, and another bargain at that. Maybe the shape of the room causes the physical space to sap some of the energy. It does not buzz like some of the others, but always full. Diners certainly seemed pleased with their choice.  (Now 45€)

(2x) (2010)

Chez Georges

1, rue du Mail (2)
Tel: 01-42-60-07-11

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

There is more than one Chez George, each unrelated. Book the right one. Situated in the 2nd, a beacon of warmth on an otherwise deserted street. Terrific, busy; the good news and the bad news. Reportedly, lunch is all French. At dinner, half American. It doesn’t change the food; it does compromise the ambiance.


It was announced in the fall of 2010 Chez George had changed hands, not good news. The buyer owns Bistro de Paris and Chez Rene. In fact, so far, so good. Nothing changed, including classic bistro food, friendly service and high prices.


A return after several years to Chez Georges, which used to be a favorite.

The good news: high energy, classic bistro menu, very good food all intact, along with the traditional décor. A Hollywood French bistro.

The less good news: If it was half Americans before, it is 2/3 foreigners today, mostly Americans. Tables packed tightly, so highly likely your two is an effective table of six with Americans (or Japanese, or Italians) on either side. Service and turnover quick – too quick, allowing for at least two turns. In some ways Chez Georges has become so authentic it is inauthentic, a problem if you are looking for the same great food, classic preparations and attractive décor, but in a French environment.

The restaurant is doing just fine. It has not changed its standards except to accommodate to the demand, but it is not the French bistro experience it once was.

Roasted cepes couldn’t be better. Grilled Dover sole (no sauce offered, even though I asked), impeccable. Tarte tatin and profiterole with chocolate. Great meal, but a compromised experience.


A return visit to what was once a favorite three years later, a paradox.

Chez Georges is an old, traditional French bistro, physically authentic in every way and movie set perfect exactly as is, including the efficient, black-clad team of hardworking waitresses. Crowded. Busy. Always full. The menu is as authentic as the surroundings; classic French specialties unchanged from three years ago; well-sourced, well-cooked, quickly served, accompanied by a long and varied wine list at every price level. One or two seasonal blackboard specials. So the good news is very good still, and unchanged.

But so is the bad news: alongside the two long mirrored facing walls tables for two or four, with a long banquette and facing chairs. Not uncomfortable because of the spaciousness of the room, but literally no space between the tables. And to the left and to the right, English – almost exclusively. English spoken mostly by Americans, but also by English, Germans and Italians. Some French squeezed into the bar area.

Try to explain it: Among the most historically correct and attractive French restaurants taken over by American visitors.

We prefer to experience France among French, but it often means passing up the few remaining French restaurants still true to a history which has mostly passed them by.

FOOD

Bistro classics – salads, terrines, a famous smoked herring, meats, plenty of fish, all with wonderful sauces. Profiterole an irresistible dessert. Entrees slightly boring, served family style. Serve yourself. Wonderful, though pricey fish.

SERVICE

Efficient and friendly. Like the food, without finesse.

PRICE

A la Carte. Medium/High.

(5x) (2010-2017)

Brasserie Gallopin

40 rue Notre-Dame des Victoires (2)
Tel:  01-42-36-45-38

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

The only consolation from the otherwise wasted lunch at Terrior Parisien (see 2nd Arr.) was that we walked by Brasserie Gallopin across the street. Elegant and refined in appearance, I later looked it up in multiple sources.

Dinner confirmed the published reports: an adult restaurant. Tablecloths, an extensive a la carte menu of traditional dishes with an occasional nod to Asia and modernity, plus a 35€ 3 course menu of four choices, a bargain.

But nothing comes easily. There was a downside too, in the form of a completely out-of-place giant screen TV over the otherwise quite stately bar, with music to supplement it. Out of place hardly describes it.

We were offered the more crowded (but hardly full) front bar room, or the sparsely populated, more sedate back room. We chose the company and the TV. More guests and no TV could elevate this to a favorite.

FOOD

The food was far beyond what we expected. Compared to the steam table of some large brasseries (see Brasserie Lipp, 6th), this was refined, unusual and freshly prepared. Marinated salmon and grilled dorade with sautéed Asian vegetables, open ravioli of pigs feet and almonds in a sauce of rich foam, and slow cooked shoulder of lamb with mashed potatoes. For preordered desserts, orange tart with orange sherbet and molten chocolate cake. All from the a la carte menu offered as a nightly formula.

SERVICE

Indications suggest this is a more popular lunch location than dinner. That may explain the large staff who, while attentive and professional, seem to enjoy one another’s company. The TV may be for them. (And, as the waitress explained as she turned it off when asked, for the bar traffic at lunch watching news and markets.)

PRICE

35€ for the three fine and perfectly executed courses we ordered was a standout bargain, even among a Diary replete with 34-38€ menus. This came in a more refined, historical environment, albeit without evidence of the young crowd which normally predominate in other neighborhoods. Of course, for the TV, no supplement.

With drink, wine, water and coffee, 120€.
(1x) (2014)

Bistrot Capucine

22, rue des Capucines (2)
Tel:  01-49-26-91-30

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

We enjoyed a wonderful cote du boeuf for two, but it wasn’t quite like going out to dinner.

A small, narrow wine bar with food. A handful of tables. What was on the plate was very good, but the choices are limited in the extreme. Similarly, the bartender/server was exceptionally pleasant and helpful, but it was not a real restaurant experience.

FOOD

Three course “market” menu with two choices in each category, plus at night a steak special for two at 48€. We ate Spanish bellota ham while we waited for our steak, cooked beyond bloody as requested, and very good. Shared an equally good apple crumble.

SERVICE

Helpful. Friendly. Bilingual.

PRICE

Set meal 30€. Steak 48€. For two, with recommended Margon, 97€.

(1x) (2013)

 

Aux Lyonnais

32 rue Saint Marc (2)
Tel: 01-42-96-65-04

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Alain Ducasse purchased this venerable restaurant some years ago, but you would hardly know it, which is good. A few inauthentic elements.

FOOD

Spruced up bistro; very good. Classic Lyonaise dishes. Some unusual.

SERVICE

Casual; professional; appropriate.

PRICE

Medium.

(2x) (2011)

Brioches Vapeur a Emporter – (yam’Tcha Boutique)

4, rue Sauval (1)
Tel: 01-40-26-06-06

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

The Yam’Tcha “boutique” now selling steamed Chinese buns (bao) from the former kitchen window and offering tea inside (but not buns). I’m skeptical that format will endure, but all involved in this exemplary restaurant deserve to succeed here and at their new space around the corner scheduled to debut in March, 2015. The buns – purchased cold and steamed at home – are terrific, four assorted varieties for 16€.

(1x) (2014)

Spring

6 rue Bailleul (1)
Tel: 01-45-96-05-72

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Every reader of every English language Paris food blog knows about Spring and its Chicago-born chef, Daniel Rose. Talk about hype. It is over the top. Spring closed its 16 seat restaurant two years ago. Finally, it has reopened, with a no reservation tapas-type menu downstairs (reserved for a private party when we were there). The impossible reservation crush and praise from loyal bloggers is unrelenting. I must have missed something. A nice space dominated by a completely open kitchen. In contrast to the ballet of a practiced brigade, three or four cooks wandering in the space.


Seven weeks later, the cooks still have not established a rhythm. Better to hide the kitchen until they have.


As users of this Diary may have experienced personally, and as warned in its Introduction, it is intended as neither definitive nor universal. My observations reflect what works and doesn’t for me.
What I wrote on the basis of two visits to Spring in 2011 stand. That it is now a new and different restaurant, and a very good one, doesn’t reflect reconsideration on my part, but evolution on theirs. So let’s start again.

Six cooks plus Chicago-born chef Daniel Rose at the pass, calling orders and reviewing plates. A dishwasher; young and helpful sommelier; outgoing, professional manager recruited from the Ducasse organization, plus three other servers/coat checkers/hosts/hostesses.  This is now a professional organization turning out very good food to a full house at every meal. 45 seats upstairs and down. No longer a separate menu for the downstairs, which lacks a view to the theater of the open kitchen that dominates the small upstairs room. What a change! Spring is now worthy of the hype which surrounded – and wildly exaggerated – its opening phase.

FOOD

Four courses (one more than the traditional 33€- 38€ formula of so many others); 64€, plus wines on the high end. Good, but not exceptional food (mullet and duck consommé, “bacon and eggs” with mushrooms, squab). Good food, not great food. No menu. No choice. No listing of what you are eating.


Getting better.


Chef’s menu only.  Five courses.  At our dinner, either pigeon breast (guinea hen) with lobster, or saddle of lamb with neck of lamb, with or without wine pairings.

Ambitions multi-course menu. Truffle bouillon with roasted vegetables and truffle slices.  Scallop and oyster combination, with a second course of two fried oysters in oyster cream.  Filet of sole over sautéed cabbage leaves.  Beautiful saddle of lamb with second serving of slow cooked caramelized lamb’s neck, served with puree of celery root.  Cheese or dessert.  Cheese: eight slices of wonderful selection.  Dessert: in five courses, including fruit and light chocolate tart.  Unusual.  Well-prepared.  Not all works of art to look at, but they are working on that too.

SERVICE

Casual; almost uncoordinated.


Now more attentive and professional.
Better staffed. A dedicated team of young waiters work and try hard, and seem to be succeeding.


Polite. Attentive. Informed. Still less polished, but in keeping with the tone of the restaurant, which straddles formal in terms of ambition, no choice chef’s menu and prices, while casual in terms of its obscure alley location and room-dominating open kitchen.

PRICE

Insupportably high fixed price. Twenty alternatives in this Diary, including the new La Regalade Saint-Honore literally around the corner, serve better food (but one fewer course), at barely more than half the price. I don’t get it.


38€ lunch still on the high end for two courses and dessert plus extras (See Frederic Simonin in the 8th.)


Very expensive. Menu 78€ with expensive wine list (although the sommelier happy to recommend less costly choices. Just ask). So prices on a par with vastly more traditional, more formal competitors. Take your choice. You will no longer be disappointed at Spring.
(Now 84€)

(3x) (2011-2013)


Daniel Rose, the now-elevated chef/owner of Spring (plus two other spin-offs in Paris) has announced Spring will close in 2017. I sense business was strong, but Rose has more or less moved to New York where he is a chef and part owner of Le Coucou, a very hot and ultra expensive Tribeca French restaurant.

Regalade Saint-Honore (La)

106, rue St.-Honoré (1)
Tel: 01-42-21-92-40

New Address:  (Across the street. Better, still not equal to original.)

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

It is widely accepted that La Regalade in the 14th launched a sea change in Paris restaurants, classically trained chefs moving from high end hotel kitchens and reinventing themselves in a stripped down formula format: three courses, limited choice, high end food for a price. That chef – Yves Camdeborde – moved to the always sold out (and over-hyped) Comptoir in the 6th, with a hotel to go along with it. La Regalade was sold, but continued to succeed and to spawn a host of similar establishments. Now Regalade has expanded to a second location in the 1st, steps from the Louvre. Not atmospheric. Very good food.


A revisit to new space, almost directly across the street from the 2011 satellite launch. Same format, now 39€, lunch and dinner. Pate, plus three high-end, sophisticated courses. Almost raw tuna, black rice risotto with deep fried croutons and garlic slivers with shrimp; cod over beans and flavorful foam; lean pork belly with sautéed shredded cabbage; Grand Marnier soufflé and a dish described as 3 tastes of chocolate; one scoop chocolate mousse, one scoop chocolate ice cream, one scoop chocolate ganache.

Well prepared, carefully served, sophisticated dishes for a remarkable price.

If there is a downside, the Saint Honore spinoff has moved away from the original in the 14th in its first space. The move across the street has added more tables, but more space and comfort too, maybe allowing for a larger kitchen. Ownership has changed too, more recently. None of the tight space and very high energy of the original in the 14th which made the food even more of a bargain surprise, but even better food.

FOOD

Widely reviewed and widely praised. Many diverse, appealing choices within each category. Three courses preceded by signature terrine set on the table. A long and diverse wine list. Menu heavy on luxury ingredients (scallops, foie gras, cepes, Grand Marnier soufflé, figs, etc.)

SERVICE

Casual in the extreme. Three girls who mean to be helpful, but clearly not in training for careers in the restaurant business.

PRICE

33€, a remarkable bargain. A short blackboard of supplements reasonably priced – i.e., duck for two an 8€/p supplement.

(2x) (2011-2017)

Grand Vefour (le)

17, rue du Beaujolais (1)
Tel: 01-42-96-56-27

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

One does not have to experience a Michelin 3-star restaurant to understand French cuisine, what it was or what it is today. In most ways, the handful of Paris 3-stars are costly anachronisms, characterized by a range of ingredients and flavors, impossible to consume largesse and choreographed service hardly equaled in refinement and repeated excellence of execution in other aspects of modern life. But neither does one need a private plane to experience travel.  A 3-star experience is equally special, a onetime indulgence which is more or less affordable – at lunch at least.

The modest Introduction to this Diary says “no 3-stars” (except Astrance – see 16th Arr.). That is being put aside to avail ourselves of 3-star lunchtime specials (if you can call $150/person with wine a “special”).

Technically, Le Grand Vefour is now – perhaps momentarily – a Michelin 2-star. It changes nothing. The décor is original 18th Century, in a part of the Palace Royale. The setting is exquisite and unrivaled. The greeting is friendly, considering how august the history and the meal (and bill) to follow.

FOOD

Like all 3-star food, it is conceived, executed and designed to perfection. I might prefer one establishment’s style over another’s (traditional vs. modern, etc.), but what unites them is perfection.
The 96€ lunch offers three entrée choices (foie gras, marinated bass), three main courses (boned baby duckling, cod, lotte), cheese and one dessert. Every plate is designed, every execution exacting. The meal offered on the menu represents about 2/3 of the food and 1⁄2 of the courses. Complimentary beginnings, pre and post desserts, chocolates, bite sized pastry assortments, etc., abound.

SERVICE

Very formal. Very choreographed. Very proper. Surprisingly friendly and, of course, bilingual. It doesn’t happen by chance.

PRICE

96€ lunch, plus drinks. No food supplements. Wines from a suitably broad, deep and costly list are part of the draw. (There are also some less expensive wines on the list. There should be no embarrassment in asking. That is what sommeliers do, and at Le Grand Vefour they do it well and without condescension. Of course, “less expensive” means under 100€.)
Count on 300€ for two, plus.

(1x) (2013)