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Brasserie Lutetia

43 Boulevard Raspail (6)
Tel:  01-49-54-46-46

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

2018-2019 has not been the best year for Paris.  The Yellow Vest protests have been disruptive and disturbing, but one high note has been the reopening following five years of reconstruction of the Hotel Lutetia on the Left Bank.

Now this part of Paris (one block from Le Bon Marche department store, whose original owners first built the hotel in the 19th Century) has a grand hotel equal in every way to the Right Bank Five Star palais in an arguably better location.

In Paris, grand hotels now feature Michelin-starred restaurants.  The Lutetia is trying with two.

The Brasserie is overseen by Gerald Passedat, a 3 Star chef from Marseilles.  His seafood restaurant there, Le Petite Nice, inspires the Brasserie menu.

This is the more casual restaurant of the Lutetia.  Modern and elegant, but at once casual, chic, friendly and relaxed.  A seafood bar featuring shellfish platters, plus a small a la carte menu, plus a single set menu featuring the chef’s signature, more modern take on traditional bouillabaisse.

FOOD

Our meal began with a small portion of mushroom flavored fish broth.  Delicate; refreshing, exceptional.  This was followed by a small portion of Tempura-style calamari with parsley sauce.

Then the fish soup.  The soup served separately from the broth.  The fish cooked in a light broth with potatoes.  The diner is expected to add it piece by piece to the soup, to add croutons with grated cheese, and in place of the traditional garlic mayonnaise aioli, a tomato concasse.

Delicious dessert was a surprisingly refreshing combination of celery, cucumber, kiwi and yogurt sherbet.  A wonderful meal.

SERVICE

Friendly.  Helpful.

PRICE

Mixed wine prices.  Our 60€ Burgundy at the lower end.  The menu 95€.

This may be the second restaurant, but like everything else about the Lutetia, it is top notch.

(1x) (2019)

Joia

39 Rue Des Jeuneurs (2)
Tel: 01-40-20-06-06

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Joia is the second Paris restaurant of the chef Helene Darroze, whose other restaurant, a more formal Michelin 1 Star, reopens following a major renovation in a few weeks, with a new name. She also runs the formal dining room of the Hotel Connaught in London. Her family restaurant credentials go back several generations.

Joia is a modern, casual and, for Paris, unusual concept. It is fun and very good. Where the fun comes from depends on where you sit.

Downstairs has a large communal high-top, a bar virtually in the kitchen and a scattering of tables. Up a beautifully executed reproduction staircase leads to a large, high-ceilinged, less casual room, featuring a beautiful cocktail bar offering snacks and nicely spaced tables serving the full menu.

FOOD

A modern mix of dishes assembled to please. Our meal began with a prepare-your-own guacamole (a traditional mortar and pestle to mash perfectly ripe avocado, with all of the traditional mix-ins in bowls to add to taste).  Most main dishes are offered for 2 (turbot, chicken, etc.). Ours was a single giant slow-cooked short rib served on a cutting board with implements to slice and serve ourselves. Deeply seasoned, beautiful and delicious. For almost the first time ever in Paris, they offered to pack up what we couldn’t finish, including our 2 sides, cauliflower with stilton and fried potatoes. Very large portions. Wine list featuring female wine makers only.

SERVICE

Informal, but effusively friendly. They are having fun, proud of the restaurant and trying hard to assure that clients are too.

PRICES

Not cheap. 164€ with one drink, 4 glasses of wine, one dessert.

(1x) (2019)

 

 

Photo from “Trip Advisor”

Rigamarole (Le)

10 Rue Du Grand Prieure (11)
Tel: 01-71-24-58-44

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

The food isn’t fussy but the history is.

Opened in late 2017, Rigamarole is a small space in the 11th, around the corner from Clown Bar (see). A counter behind which the 2 chefs work, the French-American husband with the unlikely combination of skills in yakitori and fresh pasta, and his Asian-American wife, a pastry chef with a distinguished French and American restaurant pedigree. They are assisted by a dishwasher and a single waitress, an unusually thoughtful, articulate and intelligent American. Unlikely, but it works!

FOOD

A la carte grilled dishes, pastas and tempura, but the 49€ and 69€ tasting menus are the way to go. A seeming unending flow of small plates, including tempura vegetables, multiple charcoal grilled chicken pieces on skewers including organ meats (they ask first) – every tasting menu customized for the tastes of the table.  Grilled white asparagus, whole grilled fish, pastries. Dessert charcoal grilled strawberries over ethereal ice cream. A wine card in a wide range of mostly reasonable prices chosen to complement the food.

The food is delicious and pleasant, fresher and better than New York’s premier yakitori table, Torishin, where the chef used to work.

The order of the dishes isn’t entirely clear, but it didn’t seem to matter – to me, at least. Every dish was delicious.

SERVICE

Informal, but highly personal. Only a few degrees away from eating at home.

PRICES

Very reasonable.
(1x) (2019)

 

Photo from “Yelp”

Cafe Marly (Le)

93 Rue de Rivoli (1)
Tel:  01-49-26-06-60

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

The best thing which can be written about Café Marly – maybe the only thing – is its prime location literally in the building of the Louvre with a large open terrace overlooking the Pyramid in the Louvre courtyard.  But an A+ location cannot offset mediocre food geared entirely to international visitors.  The inside main dining room is located in an original period room.

FOOD

Entirely forgettable, at prices you will not soon forget.  Salads, a hamburger, grilled dishes reflective of greater ambition.  None the equal of countless alternative nearby neighborhood choices, though none at/within the Louvre.

SERVICE

Superficially pleasant, but without heart.

PRICES

One course each for 6, no wine, three desserts, water.
(1x) (2019)

Restaurant Biscotte

22 Rue Desnouettes (15)
Tel: 01-45-33-22-22

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

There has been a drift in this Diary over its brief history toward more expensive, more high-profile restaurants. Maybe it is because of the leads we receive; what we hear and read about is new, changed in ownership or otherwise noteworthy.

Biscotte brought us back to our original mission. Perhaps that might be why we liked it so much.

Deep in a middle-class residential neighborhood in the pleasant, but undistinguished 15th. A small unadorned storefront with a handful of small tables, a tall eating bar in the center surrounding a partly glass-covered completely open kitchen. A chef assembling plates at a small open pass supported by a sous chef and dishwasher, his wife the pastry chef behind the bar preparing desserts, and 2 servers. A neighborhood crowd, 100% French, filling every seat until well past 10:00 p.m. A small menu, reasonable prices. A perfect model, and a fortunate one for us.

FOOD

3 – 4 a la carte choices in each of 3 categories also offered as dinner for 37€. Or 6 courses for 49€ (smaller versions).

Durade carpaccio, gnocchi with clams, roast pork, merlan (fish), steak or vegetarian option; chocolate mousse, fruit or another chocolate dessert. Each carefully plated with refined accompaniments, all finished to order. The kitchen on top of its game. Good choices, good food, good value. A small space, happy, local people all seem to be enjoying themselves on an April Thursday night.

SERVICE

Two helpful servers with good English. Service appropriate to low key style of the restaurant.

PRICES

37€ for 3 courses. Ample wine list with generally low prices. With a 39€ Graves, water and coffee, a fair and highly satisfying, 128€.

(1x) (2019)

Bouillon Pigalle

22 Boulevard de Clichy (18)
Tel:  01-42-59-69-31

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

When I wrote about Bouillon Chartier in 2011 (see 9th Arr.), I said:  “You’ll probably want to see this restaurant, but maybe not eat there”.

Now, the historic bouillon model is being revived; cavernous, non-stop service, no reservations, very low prices, but in restaurants you would both like to see and to eat at.  For sure if our lunch at Bouillon Pigalle is typical, and that’s what Paris-based American food writer Alex Lobrano writes in the New York Times.  We tried his first pick; a great lunch at virtually fast food prices.

450 seats including 2nd floor covered/heated outdoor terrace.  A short line at 1:15.  1200 covers a day, 7 days a week.

FOOD

Large, traditional a la carte menu.  Classic French preparations:

Egg mayonnaise, three fresh half hard boiled eggs loaded with delicious freshly made mayonnaise; cold leeks with a complex vinaigrette; mushrooms vinaigrette; freshly poached salmon in an herb flecked sorrel sauce; lemon tart and baba au rhum.  We were pleased with our choices and admired the food being brought to other tables.  We would have been equally pleased had these been served in a 20 seat bistro.  And good bread.

SERVICE

Friendly, fast service with bilingual recommendations.

PRICES

Very low.  Eggs 1.90€, salmon 13.50€, dessert 3.10€, etc.

For 2, with two waters, no wine, 52.30€.

 

(1x) (2019)

MaZenay (Le)

46 Rue de Montmorency (3)
Tel: 06-42-83-79-52

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Among literally thousands of named, but otherwise nameless, small restaurants which dot virtually every block of greater Paris, only a handful combine seriousness, ambition and skill. How to identify these needles within the haystack? Only by word of mouth and personal recommendation. Many thrive for generations by the standards of this Diary and more professional reviews, never rising because location, habit and a lack of ambition – or budget – beyond neighborhood loyalists. Some get lucky and noticed. Many fail. Word of mouth – the recommendation of French-born, now part-time Parisians from Boston, we learned of one of their go-to destinations – not fancy, not special, but several notches above what would be inferred from the small, but nicely designed space in an undistinguished neighborhood behind the Pompidou Centre in the 3rd. We tried for lunch and will return for a slightly more ambitious 39€ 3 course dinner, as listed on a blackboard.

FOOD

For lunch, 2 courses of 19€, 3 courses for 25€.

Outstanding fresh Italian tomato soup with melting squares of mozzarella, roasted fish or stewed beef in a dark wine sauce. I skipped the plats in favor of an á la carte platter of delicious fresh pate, cheese and sliced salmon with pickled vegetables. For dessert, sliced fresh strawberries with a light shortbread biscuit – a light version of old fashioned strawberry shortcake. Surprisingly refined food served to neighborhood workers at lunch.

SERVICE

Two professional servers covered the 25 or so guests.

PRICE

Very fair – even cheap by the standard of the food. Recommended wines 6€/glass or 15€/carafe.

(1x) (2018)

Juveniles

47 Rue de Richelieu (1)
Tel:  01-42-97-46-49

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A long-established wine bar begun by an English-born owner, now evolved into a small, popular restaurant in the second generation.  His daughter, one of two very busy servers, her husband the chef.  Popular with tourists and French, it is well-located a few blocks from the Louvre, tight and slightly uncomfortable, boasting plenty of energy, especially on a Saturday night in June.  Prices are fair, value high, but for us, it was not unique or in any way distinguished.

FOOD

Á la carte, langoustines with grilled melon in a spicy chili sauce, dressed with chopped raw almonds as entrée.  Grilled tuna and roast lamb as plats, each dressed with herb sprigs, chopped nuts and vegetable nuggets, clearly the cooking style of the chef.  Roasted fresh apricots with mascarpone and rhubarb panna cotta with sliced strawberries.  Wines from every region by the bottle or glass.  Good food, but short of very good.

SERVICE

Two incredibly hard-working servers do it all.  They serve the water and wines, slice the bread, explain the menu, consult on the wines, clear and present the check.  Helpful, but they could use a third.

PRICES

For two, with five glasses of wine:  138€.

(1x) (2018)

Oseille (L’)

3 Rue Saint Augustin (2)
Tel: 01-45-08-13-76

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Our last night in Paris on a recent 2 week visit. Tired, stuffed, but we must eat dinner. We’ll try an unknown name recommended by American/Paris acquaintances who say it is one of their favorites. A home run.

A larger room, but spare and dressed down. As many as 60 seats, with decent space between them, plus a small outdoor terrace in the 2nd near The Bourse and Palais Royale. Working in a busy open kitchen, what appears to be a real chef of some age (and experience) assisted by 3 hardworking assistants. On the floor, several young, but proper waiters overseen by an even younger maître d’.

This is in no way a fancy restaurant, nor is it trying to be. But neither is it the standard 4 choice formula for 35€, so ubiquitous in Paris (and in this Diary), invariably manned by young people, some gifted, many promising, but necessarily of limited experience. This chef has been around and he is a pro. It is reflected in the menu, on the specials blackboard and, most importantly, in the food. It is fresh, unusual, carefully sourced and served with garnishes and accompaniments of startling complexity given the relative modesty of the surroundings and the prices – and in very large portions. You will not leave hungry.

FOOD

On the 36€ prix fixe, two entrees, one hot, one cold. House smoked salmon served in 3 thick slices served with sorrel cream, mussels served out of the shell in a rich nage bouillon. A thick slice of chicken liver pate served with fresh toast, cornichons, caramelized onions and celery root remoulade, and a Breton crepe (gallette) “sandwich” of beets and warm meat.

For mains, sweetbreads (a special, at 10€ premium) served with just cooked potato puffs and roasted merlu with peas and fava beans.

For dessert an apricot tart and raspberries in pastry cream served between wafers.

Together, the meal was imagined and executed at a level far above our expectations. Between the menu and the specials, at least six other choices for entrees and plats.

SERVICE

Kind. Earnest. Casual.

PRICE

Reasonable. Regular 3 course formula menu at dinner, 29€. With 2 entrees 36€. Wines across a range. Our Chinon, 34€. For 2, 121€. In quality, surprise and value, hard to duplicate.

(1x) (2018)

Café Trama

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

FOOD

Fresh.  Creative.  Unusual.  Untraditional.  International.

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

SERVICE

Friendly.  Helpful.  Bilingual.

PRICES

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

(1x) (2018)

Comice

31 Avenue de Versailles (16)
Tel: 01-42-15-55-70

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Eight months old, four with a Michelin star, this is a wonderful, personal, cleanly designed, carefully managed, youthful, friendly, high-end restaurant with complex,artfully plated, delicious food.  A keeper in every way.

The chef, about 40, Canadian, 3 years at The French Laundry, a brief stint at L’Astrance in Paris.  He bakes his own bread and churns his own butter.  His wife, also Canadian, manages the front of the house and oversees the wines, of which she is justly proud.  Thirty seats, one block back from the river in a less fancy part of the 16th.

FOOD

Tight menu, essentially four choices in each category.  Carpaccio of fish, foie gras, roast tenderloin of veal, sweetbreads, breast of pintade, monkfish.  Two desserts:  chocolate soufflé, rhubarb tart.  An attractive entrée also offered as an extra course, tagliatelle with shellfish in a rich butter sauce.

Yet a listing hardly suggests the complexity, beauty, deliciousness (and richness) of each dish which emerges from the open kitchen, which forms an active, colorful stage at the rear of the small, but well-designed room.

SERVICE

All young.  All impeccably dressed, friendly, but formal, bilingual.  If occasionally less polished in move or manner, it is all a fast moving work in progress.

PRICE

High a la carte, but good value.  A spread of wine prices arranged on the list by price.  For two, with a wonderful 68€ red, 266€.

(1x) (2018)

Racines

8 Passages des Panoramas (2)
Tel:  01-40-13-06-41

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Even part-time Parisians like me count the available nights.  I hate the idea of squandering a night on a disappointing choice, recognizing that a miss here and there is inevitable.  Some people – locals particularly – avoid the risk of negative surprise by limiting their dining options to a concentrated few favorites.  We go farther afield, recognizing that we rarely do more than scratch the surface.  This is one reason why guides such as this Diary exist.  To avoid disappointment, to avoid the misses.

Racines was a miss – big time.  Long a darling of the often unreliable food press when it grew to a two location wine bar, it was evidently sold to an Italian chef of some local renown.  It is located in the charming, if extremely tired Passage des Panoramas (see Passage 53, Gyoza Bar in the 2nd), a mid-19th Century shopping mall.  It is possible within a crumbling building to freshen the restaurant space, as some neighbors have.  Racines has not.  Everything about it fell short.  Not an awful experience (we were with close American friends), but a disappointing one.

FOOD

Small blackboard menu, with an Italian bent, including one main course, pasta.  I would put it, along with the veal cutlet Milanese (large enough to share) on a par with similar dishes from my home kitchen, not French restaurant caliber.  No wine list per se.  Choose your bottle from a wall of bottles, each marked in white chalk with a price.  A tart du jour for dessert, nicely prepared under an excessive mountain of whipped cream.

SERVICE

Two busy servers having a good time handling the 30 or so guests, mostly adequately, with no attempt at finesse.

PRICE

With one bottle of wine, for 4, 235€ all in.

Ignore the PR sirens and use your precious Paris night more carefully.

(1x) (2018)

Reminet (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

Prompt.  Solicitous.  Friendly.  Bilingual.

PRICE

With two bottles of wine, 292€ for 4.

(1x) (2018)

Table

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

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

FOOD

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

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

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

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

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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


A second visit confirms everything experienced from my original writeup.

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

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

(2x) (2018-2019)

Hugo

12, rue Papillon (9)
Tel:  01-40-22-01-91

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Except to make two unrelated points which follow, this was an entirely forgettable restaurant, otherwise unworthy of this Diary or of using a precious night in Paris on.

Observation #1:  Be careful of names.  A friend passed along a tip, a new personal favorite:  Hugo’s.  We went to Hugo in the 9th.  Subsequent research confirmed it was completely unrelated to Hugo’s in the 5th, which we were advised to try.  Our Hugo was a bust!

Observation #2:

It was an unseasonably warm night.  We decided to walk, knowing it was a good distance.

We left the 7th, crossed the river, traversed the 2nd and entered the 9th, about 50 minutes through areas we had never been before, at least on foot.  We passed – literally – several hundred eating venues – fast food, slow food, cafes, bars, brasseries, bistros, French, pizza, burgers, tapas, Asian of every type, North African.  Most full of young French people, especially those with outdoor seating.  Virtually not one would fit the taste criteria of “French restaurant”, traditional or modern, high end or simple bistro, which is the focus of this guide.  For reasons of budget or neighborhood, this is not where young people in Paris congregate.  A phenomenon not unique to France.

FOOD

To give the restaurant its due, it was not bad, merely forgettable.

Low a la carte prices, or 39€ three course menu chosen from menus.  Quite good foie gras and salmon tartare, swordfish (unusual in Paris) with roasted potatoes and sautéed vegetables, an unacceptable fruit tart with dough off peak freshness.

SERVICE

One busy maitre d’/waiter/runner did it all for the 15 tables, of which half were full.

PRICE

One of the least expensive three course meals with wine we can recall in Paris, 78€.

(1x) (2018)

Récamier (Le)

4 Rue Récamier (7)
Tel:  01-45-48-86-58

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

One of the unique dining opportunities widely available in Paris is eating outside.  Since an indoor smoking ban was instituted many years ago, every café and bar has installed some form of outdoor seating supplemented in season by portable heaters.  Some “outdoor seats” crowd the sidewalks and seem almost on the narrow, busy street, but others are genuine and garden-like.  Le Récamier is one of these, an unlikely alcove in a busy neighborhood in the 7th, two blocks from the Bon Marche department store and food hall along a pedestrian street leading to a small, gated park.  It is civilized, popular and, on a spring day, very welcoming.

FOOD

And it is not only the location.  The food is very good, long focused on (but not limited to) soufflés, savory main courses and sweet dessert versions.

We shared a wonderful deconstructed Caesar salad with shrimp, followed by Roquefort soufflé with Roquefort sauce to pour inside, and a large portion of fresh salmon tartare.  For dessert we shared a lovely raspberry tart.  Perfect lunch for a hot day.

SERVICE

Competent, although with a full outdoor house (and a near-empty interior) on one of the warmest days of spring, they were busy – too busy for anything resembling attentive.

PRICES

For two, with water, two glasses of wine, shared entrée and dessert, 104€.

(1x) (2018)

 

Photo from lerecamier.com

Basilic (Le)

2 Rue Casimir Perrier (7)
Tel:  01-44-18-94-64

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A handsome, modern art deco reproduction with a large heated terrace looking out on a small majestic park in the 7th.  On a busy Saturday night, full of casually dressed French friends and families.  The surroundings would support a more ambitious menu and execution.  Instead, a large printed menu which involves little actual cooking.  Mediocre execution, careless service and low prices.  Obviously a model which works for the neighborhood.  Like New Yorkers and Bostonians, many people prefer (or accept) a comfortable nearby address where they are known.  No lofty ambition, nothing modern, nothing traditional, as long as it comes with frites!

FOOD

A mammoth veal chop Milanese best shared, scallops with truffle-specked rich mashed potatoes, grilled cod.  Probably okay, but not better.

SERVICE

Waitress in black leather pants.  Waiter in loose jeans and untucked shirt.  They get the food to the table.

PRICES

3 main courses (1 shared), 1 68€ bottle of wine, 1 dessert:  196€.

(1X)(2018)

Photo from “Trip Advisor”

Flaubert

10, Rue Gustave Flaubert (17)
Tel:  01-42-67-05-81

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

More than 20 years ago, when we last ate here, the then-named Bistrot a la Cote launched a new concept in Paris restaurants.  A famous chef (Michel Rostang) running a highly acclaimed Michelin starred restaurant opening a popularly priced annex.  Until then, even the thought of running more than one kitchen seemed impossible.  Not only was the original bistro revolutionary, it was literally around the corner from the original.  It was located in the vacated space of a traditional small grocery, with most of the décor in place, tired but charming.  Since then, Rostang has repeated the trick several more times in the form of differently named, less ambitious places in Paris, and so has virtually every other Michelin 3 star chef.  It is a form of extending the halo of the brand.

What made us return – actually, what reminded us it was there – was a slight name change and reports of a new chef, possibly in anticipation of Rostang’s retirement and disappearance.  (Actually, he appeared at dinner to greet a table of French clients, I assume through an inside door which must connect the two kitchens.)

FOOD

Quite separate from the distinguished history, the food was terrific.  Short formula menu with several blackboard additions, several notches above comparable places.  The 2 star Rostang pedigree was evident in every dish, notwithstanding the modest surroundings and small, crowded, but not uncomfortable space.

Gnocchi with sweetbreads and mushrooms, raw scallops with a delicious crunchy topping.  As entrees, quenelle de brochet with classic rich sauce nantua and beautifully portioned and plated poached cod in a seafood broth as entrees.  Poached pear and light and dark pots de chocolate (sophisticated chocolate puddings).  All 6 excellent dishes.

SERVICE

One capable front of the house woman takes the coats, the orders and the credit card.  A runner brings the food.  Simple, friendly, casual, appropriate.  Tight seating.  All French.  All 50 or so seats full on a rainy weekday night.  Walk-ins turned away.

PRICES

3 courses, 45€, with a few supplements.  Diverse wine list focusing toward medium prices.  With 45€ wine, water, 2 coffee, 154€ for 2.

(1X)(2018)

Photo from “Trip Advisor”

Resto (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DECOR

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1X)(2018)

 

Photo from “The Fork”

Camondo (Le)

61 Bis Rue de Monceau (8)
Tel: 01-45-63-40-40

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

This is a Paris restaurant guide, not a tour guide. That said, The Museum Nissim de Camondo has always been among my favorites; for its unmatched collection of period French furniture and decorative arts, for the mansion itself, and because of the tragic history of the Camondo family and of WW II in France which it reveals. I write “reveals”, because like so much of the modern history of French Jews, there is an ambiguity in the telling of that story, which is not what the Museum is meant to be about.

In any case, Le Camondo opened in early Fall, 2017 in the former carriage house/garage and garden of the mansion. In no way is it a museum restaurant. It is an upscale, stand-alone restaurant housed in what was an unused section of the Park Monceau mansion which houses the decorative arts collection.

That there is only a la carte at lunch suggests its uncompromising ambition. We ate inside. If that was all there was to it, we might not make a special effort to return but on a beautiful spring day the private garden would make the effort worthwhile.

The inside room is spacious and very high-ceilinged, as befitting a carriage house, and comfortable in every way, but the garden is quite special.

FOOD

Complex. Modern. Many ingredients. Not tweezer food, but over-thought, overworked and untraditional.

Confit of tuna over cold cucumber sauce with bits of bean, Spanish ham, lightly boiled egg in a round of crabmeat. Filet of bass with celery root puree and foam; cuttlefish (like squid), scallops, belotta ham and guacamole. All quite tasty, but overwrought and more modern than our taste.

SERVICE

Attentive. Bilingual.

PRICES

A la carte only. With water, coffee and one glass of wine, 128€. Not cheap in a city where 30€ – 40€ two course lunches are routinely available.

(1x) (2017)

 

(Photo from “Trip Advisor”)

Arnaud Nicolas

46, Avenue de la Bourdonnais (7)
Tel:  01-45-55-59-59

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A new (May, 2017) restaurant in the 7th; handsome, modern, small, spacious.  A specialist in charcuterie, but with a broader menu.  If our one lunch so far is indicative, this will become a regular stop.

FOOD

To call this restaurant and integrated pate takeout shop (“boutique”) a charcuterie specialist may shortchange the chef’s specialty.  These are pates of such delicacy, beauty, variety and finesse that they elevate the craft.  In addition, Michelle’s entrée of shrimp in a tempura-style batter, so light it resembled a single sheet of filo.  This was followed by roast cod and a vegetable accompaniment.  28€ for two courses!

I ordered a la carte, large servings each of two recommended pates, one en croute, served with a delicate green salad.  With wine, water and coffee, 70€ for two.  And according to the menu, much more where that came from.

SERVICE

Two waiters covered the room.  At lunch, all well-dressed businessmen, no women.  Efficient, but without the finesse of the room or the execution of the menu.

PRICE

Formula lunch:  two courses 28€; three courses 35€.  Plus a la carte.  At dinner, 62€ with three wines, 80€. Or a la carte.


As promised, we returned on our next trip for dinner. Every seat filled by middle-aged French (from the upper middle class residential neighborhood?)

Marinated salmon served elegantly, with unusual accompaniments. Lobster pate, both top notch. Lotte (monkfish) over lentils, quenelle de brochet. Both impeccable.

Modern, clean space lacks warm touches, but food and genuinely caring service more than compensate. A very carefully thought out and well executed meal at a fair price.

A la carte with 49€ wine, 164€ for 2.

(2x) (2017-2018)

 

(Photo from “Trip Advisor”)

Clown Bar

114 Rue Amelot (11)
Tel:  01-43-55-87-35

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Experience has taught me to avoid the hype on new restaurants until the serious reviews come out.  Good word of mouth can be created by skilled PR.  (In the U.S., even before the restaurant opens, complete with photos of “delicious” dishes which will be served.)  And if the new restaurant occupies an historic space, the hype is magnified.

So we took the drumbeat about Clown Bar with detachment.  We were wrong.

In the out of the way 11th Arr., the name derives from an original painted circus décor inspired by a real circus next door.  Nice, but not worth the trip.  What is, is the food.  Two Japanese chefs cooking highly refined versions of classic French dishes.

The space is small.  22 seats inside, plus a seasonal terrace.  The original bar dominates the small room, with the tables filling in the rest of the space; modest, spare and lacking additional decorative touches.  Don’t dress up, but do go for the food.

FOOD

At lunch and dinner, all a la carte.  No formula menus, and not cheap, except by Boston or New York standards, where neither menu nor the plating or execution can be matched – at any price.

22 – 30 covers, a surprisingly long menu covering the range of snack-like entrees through more complex executions.  A number of tables seemed to be enjoying self-created tasting menus.  For the space, an extensive wine list.

Cold beets with pear and burrata, a caramelized onion and parmesan buckwheat crepe; photo-worthy turbot wrapped in an herb-decorated cabbage leaf with a light cream sauce; duck and foie gras pithiviers (solid duck breast and a slice of foie gras in a duck pate baked inside a pastry, served individually as two half-spheres), accompanied by a green salad.  Too much food for one of the four more simple desserts.  The menu evidently changes daily.

SERVICE

Hard working waiters take orders and run the food, but clearly the kitchen takes precedence.

PRICES

All a la carte.  With one glass of wine, water and coffee, 111€ for two.  Main courses 34€-36€ in a city where two and three course lunches are routinely available at that price, but well worth the splurge.


When I wrote up my very positive lunch at Clown Bar last October, I expressed a strong desire to return. I tried upon my return to Paris in January, but no luck. Fully booked. In April we succeeded. Worth the wait.

As described above, the décor is mixed, part historic art nouveau-like décor; part cramped and scruffy. Small tables here and there, plus a crowded bar and terrace on the street. Clearly the space was not designed as a full service restaurant. It is part of its charm and the surprise, but may not be for everyone. Don’t dress up.

That said, the food is the draw, plus unusually attentive, caring, intelligent service. Bilingual. Lucky for that, because plenty of young English-speakers. What they have discovered is an unusual a la carte menu of well-executed, carefully plated dishes, several measures ahead of seemingly comparable places. This is much more than another 39€, 3 course meal. A la carte doesn’t mean necessarily higher cost, but a wider range and greater sophistication. An extensive wine list characterized by young makers and bio wines, with a wide range of modest choices. (Our Rhone wine was 32€, and delicious.)

Sliced charcuterie to go with our first glass of wine. A buckwheat crepe filled with caramelized onions and cheese, and raw scallops with parmesan and arugula as entrees. White asparagus with sliced turnips and garlic cream as an extra in between course. Sea bream with romaine and an enormous pithiviers as mains. A rare, but well known preparation, duck breast and foie gras surrounded by duck pieces are wrapped and baked in pastry. The softball sized disc is sliced in half and served open, along with a fruit sauce.

For dessert, molten chocolate over vanilla ice cream.

All in, 157€. A significant restaurant.

(2x) (2017-2018)

(Photo from “Pinterest”)

Mascotte (La)

52 Rue des Abbesses (18)
Tel: 01-46-06-28-15

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Good seafood at reasonable prices remains a challenge in Paris. Fish is represented on virtually every menu, but the choices are limited. There are fish restaurants and oyster and shellfish brasseries, featuring a variety of raw oysters and grand shellfish platters. La Mascott is the latter. The shellfish is good. A range of cooked seafood dishes somewhat less so.

FOOD

Six oysters served with Mignonette sauce and brown bread and seasoned butter, four Madagascar shrimp, both outstanding. Dover sole (44€) and grilled St. Pierre served with accompaniments good, the sole particularly. Desserts offered, including sherbets from the renowned Berthillon.

What was missing in the meal and the large brasserie-like space was any energy or style, an impression heightened by walking to the restaurant from the Abbesses Metro stop a few blocks away. Along the Monmartre street we passed several crowded cafes, with happy people filling the terrace tables. Arriving at La Mascotte was a downer, notwithstanding the acceptable food.

SERVICE

A kind, reasonably attentive waiter.

PRICES

With wine, dessert and coffee, 174€

(1x) (2017)

(Photo from “Pinterest”)

Alan Geaam

19 Rue Lauriston (16)
Tel:  01-45-01-72-97

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

For a careful reader of this Diary, it must be clear we have a strong preference for traditional French cooking and only occasional admiration for modern cooking, what I sometimes refer to as “tweezer” food.  Sadly, in Paris at least, traditional food in restaurants is in decline and modern food on the rise, in addition to fast food, sushi, pizza and burgers.  So many different factors are at work to explain this.

Alan Geaam is a contradiction.  As modern as can be, but in a small space (what was once the even more modern Akrame) of eight tables, the five people in the kitchen produce a five course meal with an array of extras of beautiful, delicious food for 60€.  Astonishing (and unlikely to last; the numbers just cannot work.)  You will not recognize without help what you are being served, but it is a meal of high order at an astonishing price.

FOOD

A cracker-like snack followed by three carefully imagined small bites.  Raw scallops with kohlrabi, followed by quickly seared foie gras as two entrees.

Main course of slow cooked (sous vide) chicken breast with Lebanese spices (the chef is Lebanese).  Cheese as an option, followed by two complex pastry desserts.  Modern, but delicious.

SERVICE

Two professional, bilingual servers.  One doubles as sommelier and oversees available wine pairings – 40€.  Helpful.  Professional.  Relaxed.

PRICE

A bargain.  Five courses, no choice, 60€.  Seven courses 80€.  Five is plenty to eat.  Wine pairings 40€ and 50€ with the five and seven course meal, respectively.

(1x) (2017)

Détour

15, rue de la Tour des Dames (9)
Tel: 33 1 45 26 21 48

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Eighteen seats in a nicely redecorated room the size of a bedroom, a chef who doubles as dishwasher during service, and a lovely partner/waitress/hostess/reservationist.  28€ for three courses, at dinner 35€ for four.  Wines by the glass under 10€.  Budget so tight that not even the check carries the restaurant’s printed name, yet in the early days critically noticed and successful.  At lunch, every seat taken.

FOOD

No choice for entrée.  Poached cold leeks with tiny clams and chopped nuts and toasted breadcrumbs with a clam juice cream; either poached fish or roast pork jowl with roasted and puree of turnip, both served with same brown glacé poured over at the table; either polenta cream with dried fruit or blue cheese whipped with cream and white grapes for dessert.

SERVICE

Relaxed, but proper.  Each selection either described or offered as a surprise.

PRICE

28€ for three courses.  (At dinner) 35€ for four.  50€ multi-course tasting.

The small size is not uncomfortable, but energy difficult to find.  Such highly personal restaurants are not unknown in Paris or on this list.  One admires both the ambition and the execution, albeit not for everyone.

(1x) (2017)

Victor Resturant

101 bis, rue Lauriston (16)
Tel:  01-47-27-55-07

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Victor is not a destination restaurant – except for the neighborhood, which crowds its many tables and clearly enjoys the traditional menu of French favorites prepared with perfectly acceptable ingredients in a workmanlike way.  No one – client or staff – carries different expectations.  Good looking in an authentic way, a look more modern, more ambitious bistros often attempt to duplicate.

Want to see how most Parisians who eat out eat?  Victor could be a case study.

FOOD

Perfectly OK, but easily forgettable – no surprises good or bad.

A “modern” first course of raw tuna and salmon could have benefitted from a sharper knife.  Swordfish with eggplant was small; slices of rare-cooked fish fanned over a puree of eggplant.  A roast piece of veal with peas and griolles was fine, if not memorable.

Profiteroles and pain perdu for dessert

SERVICE

Prompt. Friendly.  Professional.

PRICES

As expected, very reasonable a la carte.

 

(1x) (2017)

 

(Photo from “Trip Advisor”)

Café des Marronniers

Jardin Des Tuilleries
113, rue de Rivoli (1)
Tel: 01-40-20-04-97

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

In addition to la cream and snack kiosks, the Tuilleries Gardens has 4 sit down restaurant/cafes, all seemingly similar in format, menu and price. We happened to choose Café des Marronniers, but we might as well have been at any of the other 3, each with different names, but occupying 4 corners of an imaginary square.

The food, service and menus are oriented toward the tourists who crowd the beautiful park on warm days. All serve light meals, including perfectly acceptable hot dishes, plus drinks, coffee and ice cream desserts. Service is completely pleasant and friendly. Not to be confused with a real restaurant, but neither are these American-style snack bars.

For a lunch or afternoon tea in the sun, well worth trying.

(1x) (2017)

Photo from “Trip Advisor”

Restaurant David Toutain

29, rue Surcouf (7)
Tel: 01-45-50-11-10

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

With many exceptions, this Diary skews its restaurant selections toward traditional and classic versus new and modern. If asked, I respond without further thought: I do not enjoy “tweezer” food or otherwise over-intellectualized dishes and combinations. Yet sometimes (Astrance, see 16th), if done exceptionally well, such menus can at once astonish and please. For sure, Restaurant David Toutain is such an exception.

A small, sparsely decorated space in a restaurant–heavy short block in a restaurant–heavy section of the 7th near the Invalides, 25 or so seats on 2 levels, plus an adjacent small event space accessed separately seating up to 18.

No choice, only wine pairings or not. The dishes keep coming, 12 or more, heavy on vegetable combinations, most 2-3 bites. After 2½ hours some lag at the end as the room begins to empty, but never a lag in the mystery of the preparation or the inventiveness of the ingredient combinations.

FOOD

We should have taken notes, or like everyone else, joined in the rudeness of picture-taking. Yet even with pictures, which would be good to capture the beautifully designed plates and bowls and the detail and care of the plating, full recall would be difficult. Beets, white and green asparagus, smoked eel, egg, cod, duck breast, strawberries and chocolate dominated eight of the dishes, but to mention a primary ingredient doesn’t begin to do justice to the beauty of the preparation or the remarkable tastes. Even the breads (focaccia, brioche roll, peasant loaf) were paired with specific dishes.

SERVICE

In the main dining room, 22 guests and 7 servers and runners; approachable, young, bilingual, knowledgeable about what was being offered.

PRICES

Simple: 110€, the only choice available for dinner. With wines, 40€ more. With “prestige” wines, 180€. At lunch, smaller meals available, but not many seats available. For the result and the effort which went into it, a bargain.

(1x) (2017)

Lucas Carton

9, Place de la Madeleine (8)
Tel: 01-42-65-56-66

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Lucas-Carton has a very long and distinguished history.

In modern times it was a 3 Star restaurant, first as classic and traditional in an era when the chef stayed in the kitchen and worked without rock star celebrity. In the 1980’s, 3-Star chef Alain Senderens moved his L’Archestrate into the Lucas-Carton space (with the L’Archestrate space becoming Arpege). That lasted through a disastrous architectural “modernization”, with Senderens eventually renouncing his Michelin stars and walking off the competitive field.

Now a new incarnation of the venerable location, a young chef and a concept for 2 restaurants within one, an ambitious, expensive a la carte downstairs restaurant in the large museum-like art nouveau main rooms (worth visiting on its design merits alone), and a 45€ short “market menu” in a smaller upstairs room, which is what we reserved.

It was the night following the 3 day Easter weekend. Not much business. So the upstairs room was closed. We were seated in the exquisite 1902 dining room with a picture window view of the Madeleine Cathedral, with the 45€ menu. We may have been the only such ones among the 8-10 occupied tables. What luck, in combination with a finely cooked meal, replete with finesse characteristic of much more refined and expensive food.

FOOD

The menu needed sorting out. Three courses from a concise menu offering 4 choices in each category, but with several items changed, as explained by the waiter, probably reflecting the slow night.

What we ate was exquisite, although the portions were small.

Asparagus with grapefruit, beef in a rich wine sauce with a clever slice of terrine of macaroni, a chocolate dessert, barely baked clams with basil topping, parmesan gnocchi with asparagus tips, rhubarb tart. A fine meal at twice the price.

SERVICE

Perfectly adequate and friendly, but not what would be expected of the a la carte room, history, prices or ambition. Maybe a post-holiday schedule.

PRICE

45€ for 3 courses. Reasonable wines by the glass from a short list. For full bottles, the main wine list virtually all 3 digits.

(1x) (2017)

 

 

Photo from “The Fork”

Arlots (Les)

136, rue du Faubourg Poissonnière (10)
Tel: 01-42-82-92-01

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Les Arlots is a perfectly pleasant, small bistro in the marginal 10th. While reports point to gentrification, it isn’t yet intuitive that one walks the streets in complete comfort, although any such concerns are probably unjustified.

Very small, 28 seats, 22 in the street front main bar room, an unlucky 6 in the corridor between the kitchen and dining room. Earnest, dedicated, frenetic staff, friendly and bilingual. Largely French middle class, plus what seem like young neighborhood regulars. Small blackboard menu. Not unlike 25 others of similar character and history. For inexplicable reasons, Les Arlots hit the February New York Times lottery, followed by the Alex Lobrano blog and the Financial Times. Must have been a slow news day. Why and how some restaurants experience such remarkable and unique good luck while others languish for years in obscurity remains a mystery of the food (and journalism) worlds.

FOOD

Five or so enticing first courses:  white asparagus, beef cheek terrine, beet salad, fresh pea soup.  Of the plats, the most popular, a house made sausage, was out by the time we ordered.  Dish after dish appeared all around us at tables which ordered earlier.  With a choice of five, being out of one at 8:45 is a serious failure.  That left entrecote, cod or lemon sole meunière on the bone, but easy to filet, drenched in too much butter.  For dessert, wonderful cheese plate, chocolate mousse or strawberry crumble.  No wine list per se.  Sommelier/manager asks what you would like, brings to the table several options, all reasonable in price.  Our Cahors was right on at 29€.

SERVICE

Friendly and totally in keeping with the intended character of the restaurant, but frantic.  Hold onto the silver and pass the plates.

PRICE

A la carte.  Very reasonable.  Entrees 10€- 16€; plats 22€; desserts 9€.  For 2, 124€.

(1x) (2017)

 

 

Photo from “The Fork”

Divellec

18, rue Fabert (7)
Tel: 01-45-51-91-96

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

This old, established fish restaurant facing the Esplanade in the 7th has just been reopened by the chef/owner of Hexagone (see 16th Arr.).

It had been closed for several years following the retirement of its previous owner/chef, M. Divellec. Now expanded into what was an adjacent boutique and exquisitely redone, it remains a high-priced, serious restaurant, but no longer fussy, unfriendly and self-important, what I recall from several visits to the original years ago and before this Diary. But, like all fish specialists in Paris (Ecailler may be a rare exception, see 11th Arr. or Helen at lunch, see 8th Arr.), the a la carte menu offered at lunch and dinner is very expensive.

FOOD

Unfortunately as applies to a broad review, our meal was a special 49€ weekend brunch, a stand-out bargain compared to the normal menu, but not sufficient for a definitive opinion.

The brunch itself was plentiful, unique and indicative of the care, plating and artful execution which also distinguishes the a la carte menu, as it also does the lunch menu at Hexagone.

Fresh juice, a basket of warm breakfast pastries with two types of butter and jams and coffee, then a beautiful plate of thinly sliced and dressed fish crudo and a half bagel with herbed French cream cheese, avocado and seared tuna, along with a boiled egg to which a sauce had been added. For dessert, a bowl of sliced strawberries with strawberry sherbet served with a pastry shortbread topped with fraises du bois. 49€ all in!


At a follow up dinner a few months later, all of the good things remain, but as predicted, at very high prices. The a la carte dinner menu offers a broad range of enticing entrees. Main courses consist of prepared dishes and whole fish sold by the kilo, for simple preparation. Plus a 282€ tasting menu and various caviar-themed menus, even more expensive.

But also a 90€ “Discovery Menu”. No choice and delicious. Hard to call it a bargain except relatively, and relatively it was, and wonderful.

A beautiful plate of paper thin slices of fish crudo, followed by tuna pastilla, almost raw tuna seasoned with middle eastern spices and wrapped in a single sheet of phyllo, the entire thick disk browned on a plancha. This was followed by John Dory fillets with tiny clams over Jerusalem artichokes in a light foam. For dessert, oranges with chestnut sorbet. A beautiful meal with a 70€ wine happily chosen by the sommelier from a generally much more expensive list. It was a top meal and a top notch experience.

SERVICE

Formal, friendly without a lot of small talk.  Bilingual.

PRICE

The brunch is a virtual giveaway.  The offered a la carte menu tells a different story.  Three courses +/- 125€, plus drinks.

(2x) (2017-2018)

Clover Grill

6, rue Bailleul (1)
Tel: 01-40-41-59-59

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Steak frites is a ubiquitous dish on every café menu. Traditional French luxury bistros may offer chateaubriand for two, but the classic American steakhouse model (The Palm, Morton’s, Capital Grill, etc.) is unknown in Paris. The ambitious chef, Jean-Francois Piege (see Le Grand Restaurant, 8th; Clover, 7th) has created one model in the form of the year-old Clover Grill in the 1st, two doors from Spring (see 1st Arr.).

Luxurious in a hip and modern way and staffed by an entirely under-30 crew, it has a beautiful, open kitchen, a wine list plus cocktail menu, and a young vibe. How that will succeed with high prices remains to be seen, but the kitchen delivers on the focused menu’s promise. Very good food.

FOOD

Prime focus is open flame grilled steaks for two, with 3 beef choices: French, Eastern European or Kansas, each served and priced for two with a choice of sauce and roast potatoes.

Entrees (foie gras, grilled romaine Caesar salad, tuna “pizza”, asparagus) and desserts (the standouts: rotisserie grilled pineapple, strawberries with whipped cream) supplemented by grilled fish, smaller steak preparations for one, rotisserie lamb or chicken (at 68€ per person for 2!). Most tables ordered the steak for two.

SERVICE

Young, engaged, bilingual, both waiters and 21 year old sommelier.

PRICE

Very high a la carte with a small print 69€ 3 course price fixed option.

With a wonderful “trust me” wine recommendation, 261€ for 2. As I said, very high, although not unlike New York for similar food in much larger spaces and less welcoming environments.

(1x) (2017)

Vantre

19 rue de la Fontaine au Roi (11)
Tel:  01-48-06-16-96

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

It might have been months or longer before we would have ever heard of the 3 month old wine-focused restaurant Vantre, except for a personal recommendation from a New York-based friend, a young wine expert, experienced and well-fed beyond his years.  Although his taste is often more cutting-edge and less traditional than mine, we agree on Vantre.

The bilingual French and French-Canadian team which opened Vantre came from the 3-Michelin star Epicure at the Hotel Bristol.  The chef returned from 5 years of travel after opening his own Paris restaurant. Marco Pelletier, the senior member, was sommelier at the Bristol and before that at Taillevent.

Their space on a quiet street in the 11th is high-ceilinged and spare, with 15 or so marble-topped tables.  Highly personal modern dishes from a constantly changing daily a la carte menu.  For the scale of the restaurant, a vast wine list across a broad price range.  A very proud team, earnest and professional.

FOOD

A la carte.  Four choices in each category.  Entrees:  ethereal classic gnocchi with sage, squid in bouillon with avocado, Spanish-style ham.  Plats:  steak with roasted pumpkin, turbot with Swiss chard, scallops.  Desserts:  a potato (!) soufflé with blood orange sherbet (which tastes like a brioche), rich chocolate ganache.  A 46€ Southeastern wine, recommended according to my price and other parameters with genuine enthusiasm.

SERVICE

By the owners.  Room was half full, but the attention paid and genuine interest expressed was fully reflective of the proprietary tone of the entire staff.

PRICE

Entrees 8€ – 12€; main courses:  24€ – 28€; desserts 8€.  With aperitifs, cheese course, 16€ for 2.

(1x) (2017)

Poule au Pot (La)

9 rue Vauvilliers (1)
Tel:  01-42-36-32-96

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Les Halles is gone, sadly. The awful Forum de Halles is nearly gone, thankfully. (see Champeaux, 1st Arr.). But there remain vestiges of Les Halles, including numerous late night or all night restaurants originally catering to food market workers, customers and visitors.

La Poule au Pot is one. Open from 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. According to the 3 waiters who run it perfectly, it remains busy at 2:00 a.m., despite there being no market anymore.

Founded in 1935 and looking more or less as it must have then, we walked past it one afternoon and wondered “tourist trap”?

Not so. Its specialty: chicken cooked in bouillon with vegetables, potatoes and a toss-in of pork served from a steaming earthenware tureen. Basic, rich, filling and a throw-back to a different time. At 8:30 on a cold January night, nearly full, all French.

FOOD

Chicken namesake, lamb shank, cassoulet, beef specialties, supplemented by blackboard specials.

Wonderful tarte tatin for dessert.

SERVICE

Friendly, fast, professional, hardworking. No 35 hour French work week for this team.

PRICES

Relatively low a la carte prices. Chicken and most plats 26€. Entrees 18 – 20€.

(1x) (2017)


Same name and address, but taken over to operate with a traditional bistro menu by two-star chef Jean-Francois Piege (see Clover, 7th Arr., Le Grand Restaurant, 1st Arr.)


This is what this Diary is really about. An 85 year old market restaurant taken over by a successful 2 Star chef. And everything changes – almost.

See the last sentence of our 2017 write-up of La Poule Au Pot – the original. Most printed guides will not have yet caught up with the makeover. For Paris, where restaurants used to seem to go on forever, this “tear down” and make-over trend has become widespread, often for the better, but not always.

Piege has left intact everything physical. Even the once-ubiquitous chicken in the pot remains on the menu, probably unchanged, but the rest of the menu has changed a great deal, as have the prices.

FOOD

We had warm green asparagus with hollandaise and duck galantine, a rare and sophisticated duck pate, both perfect and both expensive. We followed this with baby leg of lamb in a parsley crust served for two, sliced at the table (and slightly overcooked from the rose ordered) and served with a heaping plate of shoestring frites, a gratin dish of ethereal mashed potatoes (the familiar name does not dignify this version) and a dressed salad to share. The entire plate was covered with sliced lamb, surely the best, most tender we have ever eaten. Served simply with parsley and garlic infused jus, it was as delicious as it was abundant.

That good menu choice notwithstanding, I’m not ready to call this a triumph on the order of the new owner’s 2 Star in the 8th, where attention to detail brought forth a meticulously orchestrated experience we will not soon forget.

Here things are more casual; sometimes too casual.

The early crowd (8:00 – 8:30) was scruffy and largely tourists (like us). The staff is bilingual, but the atmosphere with the tables inches from one another is not that of an undiscovered French restaurant. By the time we were ready to depart at 10:15 p.m., people were still coming in and all French.

No room for dessert.

SERVICE

Friendly and well meaning, but somewhat chaotic. A long wine list without obvious bargains, but there is a 48€ menu.

Traditional French food. Unusual choices within a 1950’s space. A new life for a venerable address.

(1x) (2019)

 

Photo from “lapouleaupot.com”

Champeaux

101 Porte Berger (1)
Tel:  01-53-45-84-50

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

When history makes comparisons of the destruction of artistic monuments, ISIS will have competitors.  Pennsylvania Station in New York City and the Les Halles market in Paris each represent official cases.  In the name of urban progress, Madison Square Garden and the crime scene below now called Penn Station, and the underground Forum retail shopping center in Paris which replaced Les Halles were respectively destroyed and rebuilt.  Unlike New York City which periodically announces its latest new plan, in Paris a modern successor of parks and retail has already opened between the old Bourse on the end and the great Saint-Eustache Cathedral along the side, the excavated underground complex covered by a contemporary glass canopy with new shops, restaurants and cafes opening steadily.  It proves to be a vast improvement.

The Alain Ducasse organization has seized the initiative and opened Champeaux; a large, modern, well-designed, carefully appointed, modern brasserie.  It serves continuously day to night from a simple, well-chosen, moderately priced traditional menu organized in a way which allows a conventional meal or lighter grazing.  For what it is, it is very good and already quite popular – effectively full on our first visit on a Sunday night in October.

FOOD

Large, relatively moderate wine list with bottles, carafes and glasses.  A train station arrivals board fills one wall announcing a revolving list of specials.

Sections of the menu dedicated to crus (salmon, scallop or dorade), delicious.  Another devoted to steaks; 4 cuts, 3 sauce choices (béarnaise excellent) and 4 sides; frites, salad, etc., choose one.

Other traditional entrees and many courses (including beautiful roast salmon served with mango sauce).  And a section of savory soufflés (cheese or lobster), in addition to dessert soufflés.  We shared a wonderful, room temperature classic chocolate mousse for dessert.

SERVICE

Young, but professional servers order on iPhone-sized electronic devices.  No paper tickets.  Orders go directly to kitchen.  Runners deliver food.  Service friendly and attentive, if sometimes overburdened by full house, even with the all-hands on deck assistance of manager/sommelier and hostess.

PRICES

2 crus, a platter of charcuterie, salmon, steak, mousse plus 4 glasses of wine, 139€ for 2.

Light on charm, strong on good food, a unique new location and an obvious professional hand behind every step along the way from conception through execution.

(1x) (2016)

 

 

Photo from “Pinterest”

Petit Machon (Le)

158 rue St. Honore (1)
Tel:  01-42-60-08-06

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

The area behind the Louvre along the St. Honore is full of cafes and small restaurants, most, like this one, modest in ambition and execution, all catering to tourists and local shoppers.  Except for convenience and an 18.50€ two course lunch, nothing distinguishing about this one.

FOOD

Fresh carrot soup or sautéed chevre in filo, sliced supreme of chicken with vegetables and potato au gratin.  That and a 15€ carafe of wine hit the spot.

SERVICE

On a busy Saturday afternoon, three energetic servers covered a steady stream of late arriving customers.

PRICES

18.50€ for either entrée and main course, or main course and dessert.

(1x) (2016)

 

 

Photo from “paris-bistro.com”

Smiley

37 rue des Martyrs (9)
Tel:  01-53-20-00-67

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

If you love Paris, maybe you’ve read the recent book, The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino, former Paris bureau Chief of The New York Times. It is a history of the small market street in the 9th, where she lives. Like other Paris streets, it is a neighborhood.

We went to explore on a sunny and warm fall day, and ate lunch outside at the otherwise non-descript Smiley.

FOOD

14€ 2 course lunch, beef bourguignon and roast chicken preceded by hard boiled eggs with rich homemade mayonnaise and a green salad with cheese. All perfect for the price, with the bright sun and friendly passers-by an unexpected bonus.

SERVICE

Friendly. Casual.

PRICE

14€ for 2 courses. Hard to go wrong. By no means a destination, but if you are in the neighborhood…

(1x) (2016)

Diables au Thym (Les)

35 rue Bergere (9)
Tel:  01-47-70-77-09

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

The restaurant was recommended by a very knowledgeable food friend as his new favorite. He described it as honest, and without pretense. He was right on both, and that the sophistication of the food belied the space and the address in the 9th. But that is not the full story.

There must be hundreds of similarly serious, chef-driven small spots in Paris, restaurants which have settled into their neighborhoods owned by talented, but once more ambitious and perhaps more optimistic chefs hoping for wider discovery. Instead, they come to work every day running marginal small businesses, no longer hoping for discovery by critics, or in this case, even by “Zagat”.

The inventive 40€ formula menu offers unusual dishes, each unique and personal. All of this is undermined by the overly lit, tired and barely decorated small room with 28 tightly spaced seats. Charming it is not. Nor particularly inviting. I guess you are meant to bring your own.

FOOD

The menu and execution are the highlights of the experience. Except for the concert of serving each of our dishes from a bowl (which we are seeing elsewhere in Paris too), the plates look good, sound complex and prove both delicious and unusual.
First courses of slow cooked whole chicken served warm and served with pineapple chutney and confit of cepes with salad, monkfish over caramelized leeks and wonderful stuffed cabbage with chestnuts. Desserts were roast figs with chocolate sauce and ice cream, stewed plum with plum gele and sherbet.

SERVICE

Friendly, helpful, bilingual waiter with well-meaning but inexperienced assistant.

PRICE

40€ for 3 courses, plus a few supplements (meaning 45€/person), plus modestly priced wines. 155€ for 2.

(1x) (2016)

Aux Pres

27, rue du Dragon (6)
Tel:  01-45-48-29-68

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

If you do not speak French you do not routinely watch French TV, so there is no reason to know Cyril Lignac, a dashing young TV chef with a small group of restaurants.  This is the most modest in terms of size and ambition, what appears to be a former café with a beautiful white marble bar and a dozen or so tables for two in a well-decorated, updated wood panelled space in the 6th.

At the bar for lunch, friendly service and a nice formula menu of modern food.  (But also at the bar for lunch – I learned after, when I checked out Cyril Lignac on the internet – was Cyril Lignac, when he wasn’t outside posing with customers for photos.  This was confusing to me.  Chefs are supposed to be in their kitchens, especially Michelin-starred chefs (See Le Quinzieme, 15th Arr.) with 3 kitchens!

FOOD

From ten or so choices, fresh crab over avocado on toast, followed by pulled chicken tacos served with roast potatoes.  The crab entrée was attractive and good.  The pair of tacos not nearly as good as 100 U.S. alternatives, without sufficient originality to compensate.  Probably a poor ordering choice.

SERVICE

Helpful.  Friendly.

PRICE

3 course lunch 45€, expensive for the neighborhood.  Skip dessert (or the main course) and 2 courses become 32€.  With a glass of wine and a complimentary warm madeleine, 43.50€.


On a very busy Saturday night, every seat full; restaurant and bar for each of 2 seatings. Small, crowded, high-energy (noisy) space, about 60 seats total. All French. No tourists, except us.

3 course 48€ menu, 6 or so very good choices in each of 3 categories. Marinated dourade over chick-pea squares and quick fried filo wrapped shrimp over shredded romaine in dressing, roast cod and sautéed scallops in foam, with vegetables underneath, molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and brie with salad. All preceded by American-style cocktail menu.

Exceptional/surprisingly good and inventive dishes in much less than sedate atmosphere. Service quick, but intentionally hurried. No thought to finesse. And everyone seemed to love it.

In all, a terrific dinner.

(2x) (2015-2016)

 

Photo from “Pinterest”

Grand Restaurant (Le)

7 rue d’Aguesseau (8)
Tel: 01-53-05-00-00

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Diary policy is a restaurant cannot become a “Favorite” on the basis of a single visit.  Policy honored, but the risk is Le Grand Restaurant will no longer offer an 80€ lunch, or that its 30 or so seats will become impossible to book.  You’ve been warned, assuming you would consider this seven month old Michelin 2-Star, surely determined to become more.  Its chef carried his previous stars with him from the 7th, now in a beautiful modern space of his own.

Open kitchen in front with a window on the small rue d’Aguesseau steps from the American Embassy.  If you cannot book, look through the window.  10 cooks led by Jean Francois Piege, reportedly there for every service.

The size and refinement leads to comparison to Astrance, but the food, while also modern, is less intellectual and more derivative of a three course meal (expanded to 5 or 6, or more with extras).


So good at lunch in May, we returned for a birthday dinner in October. 195€/person for a magnificent dinner, plus wines. Appropriate for a very special occasion. Post-terrorism, seats available. A modern take on classic high-end food, service, helpful wine selections for the price-conscious.

FOOD

The lunch allows a choice, fish (yellowtail) or meat (roasted sweetbreads), preceded by three exquisite bites, a first course of roasted celery root slices which on the plate resembles a baked apple, in morille sauce, followed by three desserts, followed by a chocolate surprise which you must be there to experience.  Plus extensive a la carte and two tasting menus.

In a city populated by numerous high-end restaurants, this merits real distinction.

SERVICE

Formal, friendly, gracious, bilingual, completely friendly.

PRICES

80€ becomes 238€ for two with three glasses of wine and overpriced coffee and tea.  Two hours but not three, and worth the experience.

(2x) (2016)

Table Lauriston (La)

129 rue Lauriston (16)
Tel:  01-47-27-00-07

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

This didn’t work out as we had hoped. A well regarded, if modest location. For us, the perfect combination of elements: chef-owned, wife in the front, small, diverse a la carte menu with interesting choices, ambition in seeming proportion to what they try to deliver. In most respects we were not disappointed. The food was quite good, if pricey. The welcome was warm and genuine. The problem: When we arrived at 8:30 p.m. we were the second table of 15 or so. A third reservation arrived at 9:30 p.m. And that was it for the night. Obviously, no energy. Some awkwardness, on our parts at least. We have decided to try again sometime. Maybe it is a lunch spot; maybe an off night. We do not enjoy empty restaurants, even good ones.

FOOD

White asparagus with fresh herbs, crayfish tails over herbs and arugula. Large veal chop heaped with seasonal morilles in light cream sauce. Prune and Armagnac ice cream.

SERVICE

One funny, friendly waiter who seemed unphased by empty room, plus chef’s wife. Both warm and helpful.

PRICES

We ordered luxury dish (veal chop with morilles). With 46€ wine, 212€.

(1x) (2016)

Photo from “Google Images”

Helen

3, rue Berryer (8)
Tel:  01-40-76-01-40

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

I have written elsewhere in this Diary that high-quality, wild-caught seafood is very expensive in Paris, as it has become worldwide. There is plenty of fish available, but the handful of top choice fish specialists is a pricey group. Helen, a three year old restaurant staffed from the similarly themed Le Duc, is no exception, except it offers a 48€ lunch, not normally a bargain except within this category.

In most ways it is a perfect Paris restaurant; smallish (50 seats), impeccable food; approachable, but perfect service; a broad a la carte menu; and the special lunch. It does not disappoint.

FOOD

From the menu, three choices for each course; raw salmon with horseradish cream, fish soup (we would call it bisque – no cream), and eel. For plats, scallops or rouget simply prepared, or pasta with fish sauce. Torte, sherbet or pastry for dessert. Plus a few extras, including spinach and mashed potatoes served with the scallops, prepared with equal care. A great meal.

Dinner is a different matter, not only is it more expensive – geometrically so, and all a la carte – the menu is slightly confusing and hard to navigate although the staff is genuinely attentive and helpful. The food was excellent, the preparations perfect, but the ambiance was different – more formal and somber. Even aside from the staggering cost, I preferred lunch.

SERVICE

Proper. Bilingual. Deft. (Many other tables ordered a la carte. Waiters boned and plated the fish with surgical skill.)

PRICES

48€ is not a bargain, especially when three glasses of wine, coffee, etc. bring the bill to 157€. Still, we will return – for lunch. Not as quickly for dinner.

(2x) (2016)

Stern Caffe

47 Passage des Panoramas (2)
Tel: 01-75-43-63-10

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

In the still-tired, but on the upswing Passage Panoramas, an intact engravers shop taken over by an Italian 3-star Michelin restaurant group (Padua) and made over into a chic, upscale, pricey, Italian café and restaurant.  High-quality food and service.  A nice lunch.

FOOD

Largely a la carte menu with 38€ limited choice lunch:  entrée of 6 tastes of Venetian cicchetti (Italian tapas) followed by seafood risotto, followed by dense espresso.  No dessert on lunch menu.  Worth trying.  Not sure whether worth returning for.

SERVICE

Busy at lunch, but overseen by immeasurably able, attentive, considerate tri-lingual Italian general manager.

PRICES

High

(1x) (2016)

 

Photo from “Out and About in Paris”

Bon Georges (Le)

45, rue Saint Georges (9)
Tel: 01-48-78-40-30

 

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Experienced diners in every country know that behind a good meal is a team, a complex of factors which either make or undermine an experience. Location, décor, size, format, menu, kitchen, prices, hospitality, greeting and service all part of the mix. A good greeting, and the strong and attentive interest of a working owner can elevate the ordinary to the memorable.

So it is at Le Bon George. Great location in the attractive 9th, steps from the Place St. George metro. An attractive décor inside and out. Only three years ago a new owner cut the lock off a bistro there for decades. Simple, short blackboard menu emphasizing meat. Modest ambition. Largely local crowd. All elevated by caring service led by bilingual host who clears tables, takes orders, delivers food.

FOOD

Asparagus with hollandaise. Roast lamb in four cuts. Fresh strawberries. Proudly served simple food. A blackboard wine list with broad range.

SERVICE

Friendly, caring, informal.

PRICES

A la carte with 56€ wine (many less expensive offered), 156€ for two.

(1x) (2016)

 

Photo from “Trip Advisor”

Village (Le)

25 Rue Royale (8)
Tel: 01-40-17-02-19

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

In deference to there being a paucity of listings for the 8th Arr., I offer a lunch spot around the corner from Hermes off the rue St. Honore.

In warm weather, the interior crossover between rue Royal and the parallel street is a lovely enclave of small shops, plus this Costes-owned café.  Like their hotel and other establishments, it is high on style (and price) without much soul.  For a sunny day and the opportunity to sit outside without visible traffic, it could work if you are in the neighborhood.

FOOD

Competent, with a menu which images what fashion models would like to order.

SERVICE

Bilingual. Casual.  Upscale.  Café-like.

PRICES

High for what is offered, but in a high priced neighborhood.

(1x) (2016)

Photo from “Yelp”

Train Bleu (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

Formal.  Slow, but friendly.

PRICE

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

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

(1x) (2016)

Photo from “letrainbleu.com”

Neva

2 Rue de Berne (8)
Tel: 01 45 22 18 91

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

This is a promising and deservedly well regarded restaurant in a far off corner of the 8th.  The female chef and pastry chef have strong credentials (Grand Cascade; see 16th), and it shows in the food.  The problem is the room.  A fairly large space with places for 45 or so.  So when it is less than 1/3 full, as it was at a Monday night dinner, any energy is dissipated.  And with a staff geared to more demand, the food comes too quickly.

FOOD

Choices of each of three courses; wonderful, rich gnocchi or marinated tuna with fennel salad; roasted cod or grilled veal rump steak.  A sophisticated chocolate dessert (a perfect sphere of chocolate, hot chocolate sauce poured over it which melts a hole in the top, revealing cooked pears and ice cream!)

SERVICE

Not unfriendly, but distracted, part of the missing energy.

PRICES

44€ for three very good courses.  We shared dessert, so 38€ for one dinner.  With four glasses of wine, water and coffee 118€.

(1x) (2016)

Amarante

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

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

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

FOOD

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

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

SERVICE

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

PRICES

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

(1X) (2016)

 

Photo from “Trip Advisor”

Sylvestre

79 Rue Saint-Dominique (7)
Tel: 01-47-05-79-00

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

This is a small, 2 Michelin star restaurant above and part of Thoumieux, what used to be the breakfast room for the adjacent hotel.  Until six months ago, it was called Jean-Francois Piege.  That chef left (see Le Grand Restaurant, 8th), to be replaced by Sylvestre Wahid, an established star from Ducasse, who cooks for Sylvestre’s 24 seats and oversees the much larger Thoumieux downstairs.  This is elegant, inventive, hand-crafted food, with wine choices to match.

Small, elegant, intimate space, but still relaxed.  Several formality notches down from Astrance or Le Grand Restaurant, but otherwise comparable, and every bit as worthy.

FOOD

Three menus or very high priced a la carte, or select choices from the menus.  A meat and vegetable menu, a seafood menu and a larger tasting menu.

We tried the first:  Four exquisite hors d’oeuvres, a taste of asparagus bouillon, asparagus with morilles in an appropriately modest pastry, fresh peas and early spring vegetables in a pea flavored foam, a tasting of tiny baby roast lamb with eggplant and potatoes, cheese selected from a “cheese bar” with jellies and breads, a yuzu sherbet to prepare for the multi-course dessert and green tea.  The dessert – strawberries in five versions – was irresistible, leaving (almost) no room for the coulis with warm chocolate sauce which concludes the meal.  The individual preparations surely number twenty or so, but not twenty courses.

SERVICE

Hardworking.  Gracious.  Helpful.  Bilingual.

PRICE

Menus 155€ (ours), 175€ or 295€.  Not cheap, but a bargain.  A range of wines, many under 100€.  Ours 110€.

(1x) (2016)

Photo from “Trip Advisor”

Fulgrances

10, rue Alexandre Dumas (11)
Tel:  01-43-48-14-59

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

This small, brand new restaurant in the young, Brooklyn-like emerging 11th is difficult to review, primarily for its concept.  In my words, it is a permanent pop-up.  There is a permanent space and address, and a permanent infrastructure staff, but by design a temporary chef, style and menu.

The idea is to hire a chef for six months or so, someone in between emerging prominence on an established team, and having his/her own place.  This “ownership internship” gives the chef practice and experience (on someone else’s investment).  The risk is that it becomes an entirely new restaurant every six months.

FOOD

In its first iteration with a former sous chef from Septime (see 11th Arr.), the three choice menu (3 entrees, 3 plats, 2 dessert choices and cheese) was weak in entrees (crab bouillon, steamed oysters), stronger with what came after (beef, fish and wonderful breast of pintade baked en croute in a pita-like crust).

SERVICE

This is both new and intentionally casual, almost seat-of-the pants in style.  And it works perfectly for its target audience.  On a spring Saturday night, young couples, a few with strollers, waited for the 24 seats.

PRICE

44€ fixed price.  A short wine list.  With a 50€ Bordeaux, 130€ for two.

(1x) (2016)

Photo from “Paris Bouge”

Bistrot Belhara

23, rue Duvivier (7)
Tel:  01-45-51-41-77

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

In the heart of the restaurant-heavy 7th, beyond the Invalides off Rue Grenelle; a small, brightly lit, traditional space.  A small bar, with white tablecloth-covered tables closely spaced in two parallel rows spread back toward the open pass.  Every one full.  An adult crowd, plus the requisite table of four Japanese girls.  A surprising number of Americans, evidently guests of nearby hotels.  A negative, but not nearly enough to spoil a very good meal comprised of unusual, original dishes.  Two and a half years old, and a very welcome, appealing addition to this Diary.

FOOD

Short menu, five or six choices in each category, plus one or two plats du jour.

Most part of the prix fixe, a few with supplements.

Beautiful, rich-looking fish soup with shellfish, sautéed baby squid over caramelized eggplant, a fricassee of octopus, foie gras and griolles.  Main course choices of roasted salmon, cod on plancha, what was described as sparerib casserole over beans (without bones).  Most tables displayed one of two terrific desserts:  berry soufflé or chocolate tart.

Medium-sized, but wide-ranging wine list.

At the end of the meal, a hot madeleine served from the oven and a mini-macaroon.  A friendly touch.

SERVICE

Two hard-working, competent waiters, plus chef, helper and dishwasher.  This is the way small Paris restaurants succeed today.

Service friendly, if harried.  In an effort to be friendly and approachable, English-speaking waiter first offered poorly translated English menu and tried to explain the 38€ formula, then pushed hard several dishes.  Was perfect for some foreign guests, an off-note for us, notwithstanding what I think were good intentions.

PRICE

Two formulas at 38€, no supplements, but including one soufflé, 76€, plus a 45€ wine, water and coffee, 135€.

A warm, friendly, truly Parisian experience with a winning format, and good and original cooking.

(1x) (2015)

 

Photo from “The Fork”

Quinzieme (Le)

14, rue Cauchy (15)
Tel:  01-45-54-43-43

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

This is a very good, very high end restaurant working hard to move into a more rarified Michelin category.  It is ten years old, large for a luxury restaurant and the original solo effort of French TV chef Cyril Lignac, who now boasts a small empire of restaurants (see Aux Pres, 6th Arr.) and pastry shops.

It is the lone commercial occupant of a large middle class apartment block in the 15th, an inauspicious location, but attractive and comfortable inside.  On a Monday night, quite busy, with a mature clientele, understandable given the high prices.

Le Quinzieme aims very high.  For the French who know the chef from TV, it may be a problem that he seems not to be in the kitchen, but 2 young chefs recently recruited from the 3-Star Pic in Valence turn out beautiful, high-end food without him, no different than innumerable American restaurants with “celebrity chefs” like Thomas Keller, Mario Batalli, etc.  But if you are not French and don’t know Cyril Lignac, it should only be evaluated on its merits.

FOOD

Two menus offered, no a la carte.  One four course, with extras, the other longer.  The smaller 120€ menu is light, well composed, recognizable and quite beautifully presented.  Variation of cepes, cod, beef and hazelnut pastry comprise the menu, with exquisite hors d’oeuvres and a few dessert add-ons.  All elegant and top rate.

SERVICE

At a very high, formal standard, bilingual and friendly, led by capable, experienced service director from 3-star Astrance.

PRICE

Expensive, as expected.  Menus 120€ and 150€, with much lower priced lunch.  Deep wine list with a broad range.  Sommelier very happy to recommend from the lower end.

(1x) (2015)

 

Photo from “Yelp”

Hexagone

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

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

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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

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

FOOD

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

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

SERVICE

Polished.  Attentive.  Very professional.  Bilingual.  Friendly.

PRICE

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

(2x) (2015 – 2016)

 

Photo from “Trip Advisor”

Bourse Ou La Vie (La)

12, rue Vivienne (2)
Tel:  01-42-60-08-83

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Two things are going on in Paris, both impacting on and reflective of this (then) 22 day old restaurant from American chef Daniel Rose of Spring (See 1st Arr.)

Paris is crazy for everything American at the moment.  It is evident on the streets of New York and on every flight between Paris and New York:  planes full of French tourists of every age.  Paris retail stores are branding themselves with a “Brooklyn vibe”.  Hamburgers and hamburger spots have become ubiquitous.  Bagel stores abound.  Stories appear in the English language food press about a spate of new Paris barbeque restaurants. And American chefs cooking French food like Spring, the nearby Verjus and the mini-empire of Frenchie (See 2nd Arr.) are jammed with French and American clients. Some of this may reflect the French economic malaise, but the trend continues. Verjus opened a second spot last year. And now Spring opens a “traditional French bistro” manned by American cooks.

Except a traditional French bistro it is not.  In fact, despite a level of hype reminiscent of the opening of Spring itself, it is no better than pleasant and fair.  Despite its very small size and an instant reputation of a hot but impossible table, there were tables to spare.

FOOD

Five or so traditional a la carte starters:  three delicious oysters with cream served hot from the broiler, leeks, beet salad, cold mackerel, foie gras.

Plats included a pot au feu specialty, a workman-like steak frites with pepper sauce, skate and duck breast.

Great chocolate mousse among desserts.  A giant gougere served for the table at the start.

More than acceptable food, but not special, and no obvious connection to Spring, which with its act now well together continues to turn out 4 distinguished courses, albeit at a very high price, and the chef himself headed for New York.

SERVICE

A young, friendly bilingual woman takes the orders and serves the food.

PRICE

A la carte and reasonable.  Entrees 9€ – 14€, plats 26€ – 28€.  Let’s hope this is a work in process, and not the final product.

(1x) (2015)

 

Photo from “Trip Advisor”

Bistro-Cave Quedubon

22, rue Du Plateau (19)
Tel:  01-42-38-18-65

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

We loved this restaurant.  And good we did, because getting there – in the remote 19th – represented a substantial commitment.  Fortunately, worth the journey (by Metro, return by Uber).

Storefront on a nondescript residential street.  Seven years old, but unknown to us.  A crowd of mixed ages, joined together in their comfort and enjoyment.  Not a neighborhood place, but unprepossessing in appearance, clientele and ambition.  A self-described wine restaurant.  One large wall a blackboard wine list across a range of prices.  Small blackboard menu; 4-5 choices each category.  Friendly welcome.  Smiles and good cheer throughout.  Terrific food, without pretense.  The business card reads “sincere and serious”.  Not a tweezers in sight.

FOOD

White asparagus with bacon crumbs; turbot over bed cabbage; leg of lamb with root vegetables.  Cheese plate of 6 artisanal selections.

Straight-forward “home style” cooking with top ingredients – confirmed by a 10:00 p.m. fish delivery.  A large white refrigerated truck pulls up outside the restaurant, completely blocking the street.  Out the front door goes the chef.  Driver and his clipboard-wielding wife stand behind open cargo door deep in negotiation.  In come trays of sole, mackerel, cod.  The truck direct from Normandy, where the driver buys from the boats that afternoon.  No dealer.  No Rungis.  Same day, direct to selected restaurants in Paris, including Quedubon.

SERVICE

Two extroverted, highly competent, experienced servers who help to animate the experience and assure satisfaction.

PRICE

A la carte, medium prices.  Entrée 14€; plats 25-30€, cheese 12€, middle/low priced red wine (delicious) 35€.  Bill for two 131€.  Lunch formula:  17.50€.

(1x) (2015)

Restaurant Entredgue (L’)

83, rue Laugier (17)
Tel:  01-40-54-97-24

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

On paper – and in place, mostly – this restaurant possesses all of the elements needed to merit the highest possible evaluation:  exceptional, refined food from a blackboard menu; a small, attractive space; very low prices.  We will return.  The misgivings are hard to nail down.  Somehow it lacks energy or buzz.  Maybe it was the rainy Friday night.  The second (back) room was dark and empty.  The cozy front room with 8 or so tables, six occupied (disappointingly, half by Americans – us included) was nearly full, but without energy.  Could it be the composition versus the size of the crowd?

Classic small storefront bistro on a quiet street.  A hike, but convenient metro ride from central Paris.

FOOD

Outstanding formula menu which appears to change every day.  A sophisticated hand in the kitchen (about which there must be a back story – he has a cookbook on display).

Warm white asparagus with poached egg, shredded beef slow cooked in red wine and laced with minutely minced vegetables between top and bottom layers of macaroni; pissaladière (lightly cooked vegetables over sublime flaky pastry), cod over smashed potatoes.  A wedge of goat cheese and perfect Grand Marnier soufflé.

SERVICE

One server (wife?) manages front, serves, handles the phone, clears, pours.  All efficiently and with a smile, perhaps too quickly with no attempt beyond getting the job done.

PRICE

A bargain.  36€ with two 2€ supplements (asparagus and soufflé).  Moderately priced wine list.

(1x) (2015)

 

 

 

Akrame

7, rue Tronchet (8)
Tel:  01-40-67-11-16

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

This is a very small, very expensive, very special restaurant.  Tasting menu only, 6 course or 9 at dinner.  No choice except for meat course (beef, squab or sweetbreads).  Very small portions, each served and plated with whimsy and complete originality.  But that is just the food part of the story.

Steps from the Etoile, walk into what looks like the cocktail lounge, greeted by black-clad hostess.  It is the restaurant.  That is all there is.  Nine tables, 20 or so guests, maximum.  Open kitchen.  The hostess is one of four servers, all of whom, taking their cues from the extroverted young chef, bring humor and infectious informality to their work.  That spirit animates the restaurant, making what could be a somber temple to 2-star cuisine into a relaxed, enjoyable experience.  Until the check!


As of Fall, 2017, new address, new space. Now in the 8th. Not yet reopened.

FOOD

Extraordinary, unique.  Small portions, some with multiple sub-courses.  Yet not an over-filling meal, preceded by 5 separate amuse-bouche (hors d’oeuvres).  Several courses characterized by humor.  A lobster tail appears in a specimen jar.  Out comes a teapot.  Ginger broth is poured over, left 3 minutes, then extracted with tweezers and placed in a bowl over mussels and seaweed.  Delicate red mullet served with crispy quinoa over Greek yogurt.  Squab breast roasted in chocolate beans, dug out from a covered terrine.  Clever, but in every course, great food.

SERVICE

Polished-looking, but unpolished – and intentionally so according to the chef.  Unlike so many equally accomplished Paris counterparts, not possible to feel intimidated or out of place.  They do their jobs well, but serve as the deliberate spirit-lifters of the restaurant.

PRICE

High, but fair.  So-called 6 course had 14 separate services, 130€.   Four course 100€.  Appropriate wine list.  Our choice 110€.  With coffee, aperitifs, 435€.  Not an everyday experience, but without equal in the U.S.

(1x) (2015)

Clover

5, rue Perronet (7)
Tel :  01-75-50-00-05

 

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

Unquestionably, New York has great food.  Boston too (although I know it less well).  But the food in Paris is different, as is the entire eating-out experience across the price spectrum.

Clover is a good example.  It is a new restaurant, the third opened under the Jean-Francois Piège name.  He is a Michelin 2-Star chef and a hot property.  At Clover, not surprisingly, he is nowhere in sight, except on the PR blogs.  The restaurant is in the supremely capable hands of a 10 year Asian protégé, with help from two waitresses, a (Bangladeshi?) dishwasher, and two sous chefs.  Not a Frenchman in the kitchen, but what a kitchen!

First the space:  a narrow storefront, no more than 10’ wide.  Deep enough for 10 closely spaced tables for 2 along one wall, opposite glass fronted refrigerators holding fresh produce.  In the back, an “open kitchen”, not one where you see the top of the cooks’ heads, but not the mess on the floor.  This kitchen is open – in the room, with no separation, installed galley-fashion stretching the length of the space, with no dividers.

In New York/Boston, 20 seats and 30 covers at a multi-course dinner with no choice would be a financial non-starter.  It seems to work in Paris.

FOOD

A fixed menu.  No choice except for the main course.  On our night, filet of merlan or ris de veau, quinoa crackers with eggplant; cured bacon with foie gras; asparagus with hollandaise; scallop in shell cooked on a burning hot rock; the chosen main course, followed by strawberries with rhubarb ice cream and meringue, and a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie.

Every dish inventive and beautifully executed, but be prepared for a menu replete with unfamiliar ingredients.

SERVICE

Two helpful, bilingual waitresses handle the 20 or so guests with ease.  If I was to make one complaint, it is that the food emerges too quickly.  (Increasingly in Paris restaurants, no lingering over aperitifs.  Guests are seated.  Menus are immediately handed out.  Orders expected to be taken 2-3 minutes later.  Food arrives promptly.)

PRICE

58€ menu at dinner.  A bargain.  Fairly priced wines from a limited list.  With wine and 2 aperitifs, water and coffee, 182€.  And at the moment, among the hottest tables in Paris.

At lunch two menus, 30€ and 42€.

(2x) (2015)

Grande Cremerie (La)

8, rue Grégoire de Tours (6)
Tel:  01-43-26-09-09

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A good looking small wine bar with small plates and a 19€ lunch – plat plus glass of wine.  Popular, convenient.  Serious, but for a glass of wine and snack before, after or instead of a conventional meal.

FOOD

Nicely put together dishes, sourced, not cooked.

SERVICE

Casual and friendly.

PRICE

Wines, plus by the glass.  (Wine bars are not well-represented in this Diary, but are very popular among Parisians.)

(1x) (2014)

Closerie Des Lilas (La)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

FOOD

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

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1x) (2015)

Pascade

30, rue Daunou (2)
Tel:  01-42-60-11-00

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

One good thing leads to another.

 

With all of the restaurant choices in Paris, there is no likelihood we would risk or “waste” a dinner slot at a small, casual, modern, almost-fast food restaurant in the 2nd Arr., a safe but commercial area near the Opera. Except two nights before on a weekend excursion to Honfleur in Normandy we had one of our best meals ever in the Michelin 2-Star SaQuaNa.  The set menu there began with a crepe-like dish from Aveyron, the chef’s home region, almost like a soft tarte crust of popover-like consistency, a modern version of a traditional pascade (a word and dish I had never heard of).  In Paris, the same chef owns Pascade, where the namesake dish is all they serve, with truffle oil and chives as a first course, filled (with cod and chorizo; with curry chicken, shrimp and penne; with vegetables) as a plat, and with several fillings in a miniature version as dessert.

 

As elegant, upscale casual food, it was delicious.

FOOD

Better, lighter and more delicious than the best pizza.  More sophisticated than a crepe.  Perfect for lunch.

 

SERVICE

Simple food served simply by two helpful, accommodating waitresses.

PRICE

Three courses, wine, water and coffee, 114€.

(1x) (2015)