Arrondissements

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Mon Vieil Ami

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

Very good. Varied menu.

SERVICE

Detached, but proficient.

PRICE

Medium/formula

(3x) (2010-2014)


Reported Closed (2017)

Monsieur Bleu

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

High, but not impossible. All a la carte.

(2x) (2013)

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)

Oeillade (L’)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

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


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

FOOD

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


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

SERVICE

A charming, helpful, proud waitress/owner.


Without great charm, but more than competent and professional.

PRICE

A la carte. Immense portions. Moderate prices.

(2x) (2010-2012)


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

(1x) (2012)

Origins 14/Regalade (La)

49, av Jean Moulin (14)
Tel: 01-45-45-68-58
(See La Regalade St-Honore in the 1st for the distinguished history.)

AMBIENCE / DÉCOR

This is where it all began, and the original does not disappoint. The food quality and menu inventiveness is the same, but this less convenient location in the 14th boasts wonderful bistro décor, a young, high energy crowd heavy with French which seem to never stop coming (they book until 11:30 p.m.), a busy but skilled wait staff and the same diverse three course formula menu which revolutionized Parisian dining when first introduced.

People seem to be having more fun at this restaurant than any other we know, staff and customers Always full. Always good.

FOOD

The food is first rate, the dishes unusual (beef cheek, stuffed cabbage in court bouillon, risotto in squid ink, St. Pierre in cream sauce, pork belly). A flood of impeccable Grand Marnier soufflés flows from the kitchen as part of the 35€ formula. Luxury supplements, a few daily additions, but no steak frites here. A good range of wines, some high-priced.

SERVICE

In contrast to its St. Honore branch, the service is experienced, attentive and professional, though harried – more or less appropriate to the format.

PRICE

With water and a half bottle of wonderful red wine, our 34€ formula was 114€ (a neighboring table of three spendthrift Americans worked their bill up to 450€. It must have been a record.) On another night with more supplements, it was 128€.


The history is hard to follow: La Regalade in the 14th (there are now 3 others, see La Regalade St. Honore in the 1st) began the entire modern bistro movement. When it sold 15 or so years ago, its style, menu and clientele were left untouched – to everyone’s advantage. A second La Regalade was opened (then relocated across the street). Two others were added. And in April, 2017, this original location was sold. And change has begun.

Beginning with the name. The old business cards are a carry-over, but the credit card receipt bears the new name “Origins 14”.

The daily menu is not unchanged, except for the terrine of house-made pate which is put on every table, along with a large crock of cornichons. And the dessert list on the 37€ three course prix fixe still includes a wonderful Grand Marnier soufflé. In between, and out in the dining room, change is everywhere, and it isn’t all bad, except if you showed up looking for the original.

The crowd is all French, and all middle-aged friends and family. Not a motorcycle helmet in sight. Three young children (at 3 separate tables), plus one dog. The ambiance is still attractive and the energy still strong, but La Regalade has moved from destination to neighborhood restaurant. The menu is more diverse, with less emphasis on long-cooked traditional dishes using less familiar ingredients. The execution is good – if not as good – the menu arrestingly different.

Our dinner: oyster in bouillon and scrambled eggs with truffles; a small portion of grilled bass and house-made sausage with mashed potatoes, both served with roast cabbage with cheese; the soufflé and orange segments under glazed sabayon. Coffee served with fresh Madeleines and 2 glasses of port – gratis.

Service professional and friendly.

With a 56€ wine, 143€ for 2.

(4x) (2012-2018)

Photo from “Trip Advisor”

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.

(2x) (2018-2019)

Oudino

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1x) (2011)

Ourcine (L’)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

Casual and competent, without finesse.

PRICE

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

(1x) (2013)

Pamphlet (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

Good food. Ambitious execution. Limited choice.

SERVICE

Particularly friendly, but the food comes too quickly.

PRICE

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

(1x) (2009)

Papilles (Les)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

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

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

FOOD

Exceptional, assuming you like what they serve.

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

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1x) (2014)

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)

 

Passage 53

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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


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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

Choreographed, proper, practiced, but friendly and informed.

PRICE

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

(1x) (2012)

Pere Claude (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

Friendly, but not particularly professional.

PRICE

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

(1x) (2011)

Perron (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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


Reportedly, white truffles in season at fair prices.

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1x) (2012)

Petit Bordelais (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

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

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1x) (2013)

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”

Petit Marguery (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1x) (2010)

Petit Pontoise (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

(A new annex next door.)

FOOD

Fair, but ordinary in choice and execution.

SERVICE

Good. Friendly.

PRICE

Low/formula

(2x) (2010-2014)

Petit Vatel (Les)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

Low prices, 18€ for two plates at lunch.

(1x) (2010)

Philippe Excoffier

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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


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

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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


Now 37€ for three courses. Lunch 21€.

(7x) (2011-2019)

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”

Poulette

3 Rue Etienne Marcels (1)
Tel: 09-53-62-89-17

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

It may not be fair to fault an otherwise good restaurant for a lack of energy, either because of the mix of the crowd (too many Americans – like us!) or too few covers. After all, the impact of saying so may be to worsen the problem, not correct it. Surely, the owners must agree. But it is what it is. There is so much more to a good restaurant experience than just good food.

Poulette has good food (and abundant portions). Ironically, it may have suffered from a recent well-known American expatriate food blogger writing that it is the prettiest restaurant in Paris (it isn’t, not close), but it has a lovely period tile wall which may or may not be original. It has attentive, helpful service appropriate to a small, personal restaurant. It isn’t aiming for Michelin stars. And it was a Monday night. All of that said, and wishing we could say more because of so many likeable elements, it lacked any edge whatsoever.

FOOD

Very good. Small menu. Three entrees, five plats. Cocktails. Desserts. Nice octopus plat and small hangar steak with frites. Starters of warm leeks and tiny clams in bouillon with Thai chives (enough for 2, easily). Both excellent.

SERVICE

Two front of the house did dishes, wine, served, cleared. Helpful. Low-key. Bi-lingual.

PRICES

141€ for 2, with 45€ wine. Fair.

(1X) (2019)

1st Arrondissement|

Pre Catelan (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(2x) (2014)

Provinces (Les)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

No reservations. Walk in.

(1x) (2014)

Quincy (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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


Another spectacular dinner demands amplification.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Large portions. Small, now more diverse wine list.

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

Competent waiters supported by owner – there since 1972.

PRICE

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


Nothing changed, the best we could ask for!

(11x) (2010-2019)

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”

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)

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

Rech

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

For high quality seafood, very expensive, as expected.

(1x) (2011)

Regalade Saint-Honore (La)

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

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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


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

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(2x) (2011-2017)

Relais de l’Entrecote (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1x) (2009)

Relais Louix XIII

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

Very good.

SERVICE

Good. Appropriate to a 2-star.

PRICE

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

(1x) (2009)

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)

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)

Restaurant Cartet

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

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

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

FOOD

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

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

SERVICE

Gracious and personal

PRICE

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

(1x) (2014)

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)

Restaurant du Marche

59, rue de Dantzig (15)
Tel: 01-48-28-31-55

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

A nearly 50 year old bistro hidden on a nondescript street in the 15th can hardly be described as a “find”. Obviously, plenty of people found and enjoyed Restaurant du Marche over the decades, but it was not known to me. I discovered it thanks to the normally discerning “Hungry in Paris” website.

A small, classic bistro, ten or so tables for 35 guests – all middle aged French when we were there. Authentic, bordering on seedy, as in untouched, but charming because of that. Movie set-typical, but try to find many more like it. Best of all, it is not limited to the look. The greeting, menu, friendliness and execution all aligned perfectly.

FOOD

Limited three course menu with unusual specialties, plus a handful of supplements. Blackboard wine list across a price range with good choices.

Entrees included foie gras, house specialty pig’s foot prepared as a grilled open sandwich with chevre and a delicate green salad. Plats included another house specialty, steamed whole duck liver, plus a grilled and a roasted fish, duck Sheppard’s pie. Five dessert choices, including a sublime slice of brie and sherbets from Berthillon. Very good food.

SERVICE

Two in front, the senior English speaking and exceptionally welcoming in a low-key way. Service style very casual.

PRICE

Three course formula 34€, plus mid-range wine 40€. Supplements (oven roasted scallops) 5- 8€. Very fair prices. The blackboard listed lunch: salad, plat, water and one glass of wine: 18€.

(4x) (2010-2014)

Restaurant du Petit St. Benoit

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(2x) (2012 – 2013)

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)

 

 

 

Restaurant ES

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(2x) (2014)

Restaurant Pottoka

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

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

FOOD

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

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1x) (2014)

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”

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”

Robert et Louise

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

Friendly, haphazard. Gets the job done.

PRICE

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

(1x) (2009)

Rotisserie d’Argent (La)

19, quai de la Tournelle (5)
Tel: 01-43-54-17-47
Renamed La Rotisserie

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

On the quai beyond Notre Dame. Casual, something less than crisp décor, but good menu and very fine food. Warm welcome. Professionally run. Open Sunday.


My 2010 write-up omitted what wasn’t clear to me at the time:  La Rotisserie (they dropped “du Beaujolais” several years ago) was started and is owned by the venerable and still legendary La Tour d’Argent (See 5th) across the street.  Except for website bragging rights and house-branded wines prominently featured on its list, you wouldn’t know it otherwise, and I didn’t five years ago.

Interesting as history, but every restaurant must stand on its own.  We returned because we had heard good comments following our pleasant, but otherwise unmemorable meal, also on a Sunday night.

A successful and entirely satisfactory dinner, roasted shoulder of lamb for two.  Exactly the type of food we hoped for – a lesson in itself.  Few Paris restaurants aspire to be everything to everyone at every service.  It is hard when you book far ahead for a full week or more, but keep in mind when planning that variety/diversity is no less desirable in Paris than at home.  Sometimes you feel like one thing, sometimes something else.

Two rooms, an enclosed sidewalk terrace and a cozy dining room, of which one side is an open kitchen focused on a gas-fired rotisserie.  A chef and two helpers, 3 waiters and a manager.


A name change, this time more than name only.

Long-owned by La Tour d’Argent, it is now edging closer in several highly positive ways. Completely redone; brighter, fresher, but clearly casual. The Tour d’Argent wine and memorabilia shop on the corner has become a bakery serving both restaurants with wonderful bread. Dessert pastries from the staff across the street (supposedly – but very nice). Best of all, menu additions including a superb quenelle de brochet “Andre Terrail” (founder of La Tour). Not clear whether sourced from that kitchen or a third party, but an entrée worth going for if nothing more. But there is more and always was, including 5 hour lamb shoulder for two which was our main course. Otherwise menu of mostly meats, many prepared on rotisserie, continues.

On a Monday night nearly full, more full than on any of our previous visits, suggesting the May, 2016 re-do is working.

Service was entirely friendly, but rushed and without polish as the staff struggled to keep up with what must have been an unexpected crowd.

Fair prices still, including several wine selections from the La Tour d’Argent once vast cellar.

FOOD

Quite good, focusing on roasted meats and poultry. Roast chicken at 15€ ranging to duck, lamb, beef for two at 50€. Simple desserts.


Grilled/roasted food, mostly meat, foul and game.  Lamb beautifully sliced over a heaping mound of roasted potatoes, preceded by a mélange of mushrooms provencale and ceps with boiled egg to break into a sauce.  Chocolate mousse to share.  A perfect fall dinner.

 

SERVICE

Like the décor, quite relaxed, but warm and professional.


Friendly, helpful, bilingual, informal, but largely efficient.

 

PRICE

Wide-range, low to moderate.


A la carte.  Reasonable wines within a broad range from a short list.  Starters 9€ – 19€.  Plats 22€ (roast chicken) – 87€ (sliced steak for 2 with béarnaise).  Our dinner:  148€.


A note following our most recent 2019 Sunday night dinner:  the website boasts caneton for 2 in 2 services (roasted whole duck).  The menu lists it.  The blackboard menu of daily specials above the kitchen pass includes it.

Of our 3 most recent meals here, including  this one, “Out of duck”.  To be fair, all were Sundays.  Of course, they are open on Sunday (one reason, in addition to the promise of duck, we go there).  Two times of 3 is not just bad luck.  Could anyone imagine eating at the parent restaurant across the street, La Tour D’Argent, and not ordering – and being served – pressed duck?


For our Sunday night dinner this time we called ahead and reserved a duck. (The table next to us was served one too, the last, without reserving). It was good, but a rotisserie duck is not the same, and to my taste, not in the same league as a traditional roast duck with orange or cherry sauce carved tableside, memories of which represent the quintessential French meals (in New York and Paris) of my high school (NYC) and college years. Now pretty much unavailable in either city, in favor of (invariably inferior) sautéed duck breast (magret) sliced and fanned over plate. A concession to cost, prep time, skill level in the kitchen and on the part of front of the house staff now without carving skills.

Still, we got our duck.

Surprisingly, on our normal Sunday night, a large banquet style birthday party for a well-dressed French group, plus more Americans than we had seen anywhere on this off season November trip.

(5X) (2010-2019)

 

Photo from “Trip Advisor”

Rotisserie d’en Face (La)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1x) (2010)

Select (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

Old school. Busy. Gruff, but friendly

PRICE

Low prices appropriate to the limited menu.

(1x) (2010)

Semilla

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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


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

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

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

FOOD

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


At dinner, more complexity, higher prices.

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(2x) (2012-2013)

Sensing (Le)

19, rue Brea (6)
Tel:  01-43-27-08-80


Rebranded: Now Guy Martin Italia

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

Quite elegant, reflective of 3-star pedigree.

SERVICE

Professional, but without warmth.

PRICE

Very high.

(1x) (2009)

Septime

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

Warm, friendly and bi-lingual, if casual

PRICE

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

(1x) (2013)

Severo (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

Good energy. Friendly service.

PRICE

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

(1x) (2011)

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)

Spring

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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


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


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

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

FOOD

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


Getting better.


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

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

SERVICE

Casual; almost uncoordinated.


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


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

PRICE

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


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


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

(3x) (2011-2013)


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

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”

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”

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.


Now a third meal. Still very high prices, still a highly personal meal, inches from the 3 cooks (2 English speaking women) and the larger than life chef, with whom we also talked (in English) periodically during the meal.

We left our meal to the chef, what became 9 courses (scallops, mushrooms, rouget, John Dory, lobster, vegetables, chicken, cheese, 2 desserts). Each dish was unusual; small portions, attractive, unusually flavored. This was a tasting menu, of course, but put together in front of us, served and explained by the lovely, hardworking people who cooked it, overseen by a somewhat eccentric older chef who created it. And an unusually attentive, knowledgeable and solicitous sommelier who poured wines by the glass. And two waiters who checked in with us throughout the meal, charming and friendly if slightly redundant except to clean plates.

A very expensive, but very memorable meal.

(3X) (2018-2019)

Table des Anges (La)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(2x) (2013)

Table D’Aki (La)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1x) (2012)

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”

Tablettes (Les)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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


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

FOOD

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


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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(3x) (2011 – 2014)

Tan Dinh

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1x) (2009)

Tante Marguerite

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

Adequate, but unexceptional.

SERVICE

Attentive, but colorless

PRICE

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

(1x) (2010)

Taokan

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(4x) (2013-2019)

Temps au Temps (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

One helpful, skilled waiter/host/ reservationist.

PRICE

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

(2x) (2011-2012)

Terroir Parisien

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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


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

(1x) (2013)

Terroir Parisien

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1x) (2012)

Thoumieux

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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


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

FOOD

Better than one would expect, but no gourmet rendezvous.


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

SERVICE

Proficient. Old school.


No school.

PRICE

Low/Medium

(2x) (2009-2011)


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

Timbre (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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


A 2014 ownership change. These bets off.

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

A good meal for a reasonable cost.

(1x) (2010)

Tour D’Argent (La)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

FOOD

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

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


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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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


(2x) (2010 -2011)

Now 85€. (2014)

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.


As reflected in my original write-up, Train Bleu was a mixed experience; it still is.

The affirmative case is compelling. It is historic, unequaled in the flamboyance of its design and scale; a century-old throwback to when train travel required luxury amenities equal to the expectations of long distance travelers.

Now, more like train travel itself, but still (deservedly) attracting restaurant tourists like ourselves. But there was a culinary change which demanded our return: Michel Rostang, a longtime Michelin-starred celebrity chef now in charge.

As always in such situations, not clear what his involvement means. No evidence he (or his group) purchased the restaurant. Is he in the kitchen? Unlikely. Might he have installed new kitchen management? Redesigned the menu? Instilled ambition to a kitchen which lost it long ago?

Hard to judge after a second meal. One “before” and one “after” hardly counts as definitive. But if there was a reason to experience Train Bleu before, there is more reason after.

The atmosphere remains raucous, within a grand period space which has no equal. But the food is quite good. The service is professional and helpful. Scallops cru on a bed of mushroom duxelles, sliced leg of lamb with a large gratin dish of creamed potatoes. A so-so dessert.

A good meal. A memorable experience.

(2X) (2016-2019)

Photo from “letrainbleu.com”

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.


A repeat visit, largely unchanged. Décor the same. Warm, casual, welcome the same. Ditto prices, wine focus. Food, menu still very nice, if in no way memorable, as they probably intend.

(2X) (2017-2019)

Vaudeville (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

Medium. A la carte.


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

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

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


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

(3x) (2010-2019)

Versance (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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

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

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

FOOD

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

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(1x) (2014)

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”)

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”

Villaret (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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


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

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

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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

(6x) (2010-2017)

Violon d’Ingres (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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


Violon has changed since we last ate there in 2011.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOOD

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

SERVICE

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

PRICE

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


(See Ambiance/Décor)

(4x) (2011-2017)

Voltaire (Le)

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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


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


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

FOOD

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


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

SERVICE

Professional. Friendly. Many regulars greeted warmly.


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

PRICE

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


Very high prices across the a la carte menu.

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

(5x) (2012 – 2014)

yam’Tcha

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

AMBIANCE/DÉCOR

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

 

FOOD

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

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


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

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

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

 

SERVICE

Attentive, proper, friendly. English- speaking.

PRICE

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

(12x+) (2012 – 2019)

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