Where Should I Eat in Paris?
A Paris restaurant update from Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat and forthcoming (Nov. 4) Meet Paris Oyster
Let the indoor restaurant and unofficial and official rating season begin. All is forgiven, fall is upon us and casual summer dining experiences are a memory. The new Michelin Guide to New York is out, as of October 1, 2014…congratulations to the winners, commiserations to the losers, especially those who lost a star. In France the guide is a rite-of-spring event--French gourmets’ heads and tongues turn to debating and often trashing the updated big red Bible of restaurants (and hotels) that makes or breaks careers and restaurants. To earn a Michelin star is to have arrived as a chef and restaurant. In all of France in 2014 there are 504 restaurants distinguished by one star. To have earned the ultimate three stars, you have been elected to the College of Cardinals, you have been elected to the pantheon of culinary gods, you have won a special French lottery, all in one. There are now 27 three-star restaurants in France, nine of which are in Paris.
But almost no one agrees with the Michelin rankings. That is called being French. France is a country of philosophers and opinionated individualists. Every spring and throughout the year (that’s me) as people visit starred and deserving un-starred restaurants, they debate the merits of restaurants with Michelin being the reference. The French, it must be noted (and I am French), are a breed of people who when at a restaurant talk about the restaurants they have just been to and what they have eaten, deconstruct what they are currently eating, and talk about what they will eat next and where. C’est normal.
“Where should I eat in Paris?” “Do you have any restaurant recommendations for Paris?” Those two variations of the same question I get asked all the time, but more than ever in late spring when people are lining up a summer holiday—when many of the restaurants close for a holiday—and now, fall, when the serious dining takes place in New York and in the City of Light, my part-time home town. So with a nod to Michelin, here are some recommendations for Paris fall 2014. What follows covers a range of prices, styles and areas (arrondissements). I don’t list all the three-stars…they all deliver as advertised from Arpège to Le Meurice Alain Ducasse to Astrance (the latter where it is an ultra-challenge to book a table), and I don’t include some of the restaurants I recommended on previous lists if I have not returned recently (And how many recommendations does one need? Shouldn’t 10-15 suffice?). All have in common value overall and excellence as far as produce is concerned, a top priority for all these French women who don’t get fat, oui!
Akrame, 19 r. Lauriston, 16th; tel. 01 40 67 11 16
My 2014 discovery and certainly my best meal in Paris so far. The place is small, the menu keeps changing but trust Akrame, one of the most amazing chefs there is, who trained with two of the greatest chefs alive, Pierre Gagnaire and Ferran Adria, and then developed his own signature menus. The service and all details say quality, care, passion, creativity and uniqueness (bread and butter is a case in point). I could eat there once a week if I lived in Paris and never tire. Surprise marriages of foods and flavors are only served because they work, and one senses a sensibility for the best at all levels. Unique indeed.
Atelier Vivanda, 20 rue du Cherche-Midi, 6th; tel. 01 40 67 10 00
Wow, some great concepts by chef Akrame’s second tier restaurants (he started the first across the street from Akrame, at 18 rue de Lauriston). Meat lovers beware: he picks the best from France and abroad, his black angus from the US and entrecôte from Holland were incredible…also serves duck, pork and chicken with a variety of potato dishes, and he has a talented patissière who concocts 3-4 delish endings to a superb meal. A great value. The “formule” is 35 euros for your choice of appetizer, main course, accompaniment and dessert. You can start with “picorer” and that night we tried the smoked entrecôte, which for 12 euros could be a main course by itself: served paper thin on a wooden block it was addictive. You can also share the 35 euros meal, which we did considering the amount of meat, way and beyond the French portion, especially with the added “amuse.”
l’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, 5 rue Montalembert, 7th; tel. 01 42 22 56 56
This perennial two-star is still a treat. Great for singles or twosomes at the counters. Sitting around the kitchen and bar on high stools is a fun way to see what the gift kitchen team is concocting. You can’t go wrong with the daily specials, but tasting and sharing a few signature dishes is one more reason to go back. Yummy memories of the tomato gazpacho, bass with leeks, quail with truffled mashed potatoes and Chartreuse soufflé. You can control your costs here, but they won’t be modest. The new little room on the side allows for a quiet meal with friends and is more fitting for conversation.
L’Ambroisie, 9 Place des Vosges, 4th; tel. 01 42 78 51 45
The three small salons in this gorgeous and timeless hôtel particulier will transport you to period fantasyland. Ok, the price is high, but for very special occasions it is in the price range of any Michelin three-star …and this is the longest-running three-star in Paris (reserve ahead as there are not many tables). The inventive cuisine of Pacaud junior, now in charge, will send you to heaven. Langoustines with curry, sea scallops with black truffles, chicken breast with morilles, sweetbreads and decadent desserts made for a splendid end of winter/spring menu. This is one of the grand restaurants where you will indeed see locals.
L’Arôme, 3 rue Saint-Philippe du Roule, 8th; tel. 01 42 25 55 98
A strong one-star and well-kept secret since it opened in 2006. The small dining room is warm and elegant and the service professional. Last meal confirmed the chef’s command of the classics with his added modern touch: calamari with zucchini and lobster oil and peanuts, pigeon with multicolored beets, tarragon and xeres juice, and a perfect moelleux soufflé.
L'Ebéniste du Vin, 72 rue Boursault, 17th
Once in a while a wine bar, and this is my favorite, located in the Batignolles area. So far, local friends who have been agree. Laure, the owner, is friendly, knowledgeable and a sticker for one quality, the finest. Her various platters are presented on grey slates, and one can easily make a meal with the crudités with a secret herb sauce, the charcuterie, the fish (salmon, trout and tuna), the cheese selection (another superb trio) all served with great bread. Don’t skip the yummy desserts finale. Trust her for the wine selection, and should you like what you drink you can even buy a bottle at the store within the wine bar. And while in the neighborhood do explore the postcard-like little square and church nearby, a lovely corner of Paris from another era. And now, there is l’Ecailler de l’Ebéniste for oyster and seafood lovers, and it is on the same street and by the same Laure and her companion (each got their own place now) with the same ambiance and service.
Citrus Étoile, 6 r. Arsène-Houssaye, 8th; 01 42 89 15 51
Ironically, there is a star in its name and this long-deserving restaurant has yet to wear a Michelin star. Good value for a restaurant of this style, quality and location. Of course, this is for scallops with black truffles, but what about a little sea bass sashimi or foie gras ravioli? Good high-end service.
Chez Michel, 10 rue de Belzunce, 10th; tel. 01 44 53 06 20
A solid bistro with a homey, cozy room and comfort food. It’s a Breton place with marvelous seafood choices from oysters to clams to scallops, cod and sea bass. The meat dishes are equally well-prepared and don’t miss one of the best Paris-Brest on the planet.
Cobea, 11 rue Raymond Losserand, 14th; 01 43 20 21 39
One of my very favorites for the past couple of years for food, wine, décor, atmosphere and service. Everything is a class act here. They just got their first star but clearly deserve two. The dining room is small so it is essential to book for dinner way in advance. The formula of 4, 6 or 8 courses is a good one for appetite and budget. Raviolis with mushroom duxelle, sea scallops with a mix of chestnuts and banana, and the chocolate dessert are all inoubliables.
Colliot, 40 rue Blancs Manteaux, 4th; 01 42 71 55 45
When in the Marais, this is a perfect place on a quiet street. Claude Colliot’s cuisine is all about the moment: Asparagus may be married with rhubarb, veal with daikon, and fowl cooked with licorice wood. Whatever inspires the chef any given day, trust me, is worth tasting and discovering. Great sense of pairing and balance in every dish he creates.
Les Enfants Rouges, 9 rue de Beauce, 3rd; 01 48 87 80 61
Another casual chic bistrot, but trust the ex-Comptoir du Relais Japanese chef, Dai, who took over this tiny place of about a dozen tables behind the marché des enfants rouges. His lovely wife is in the dining room with a young, able and efficient staffer while Dai is in the tiny kitchen concocting dishes like country pâté and rabbit with tarragon and yummy veggies. The set menu is a great value at 38 euros.
Huîtrerie Régis, 3 rue Montfaucon, 6th; 01 44 41 10 07
The best oysters in town. What else can I say? Great Sancerre and Meursault. The bread and butter ain’t bad either, and Régis’ famous tarte aux pommes is to die for. Simplicity at its best. The place is tiny but classy. No reservations.
Invictus, 5 rue Ste Beuve, 6th; 0145 48 07 22
Hard to get a table at this traditional bistrot favored by locals. His veal and pork dishes are wonderful, and so is the millefeuille, but truly whatever is on the short menu is worth tasting.
Itinéraires, 5 rue Pontoise, 5th; 01 46 33 60 11
On my Parisian foodies’ top list. Daily menu as well as a menu découverte and a menu dégustation. Ravioli with goat cheese and mint, avocado with tourteau, lamb with sweet spices and a chocolate ganache make me want to go back on my upcoming visit.
Jadis, 208 rue de la croix Nivert, 15th; 01 45 57 73 20
Another good example of mixing tradition and modernity in a casual elegant setting. The lunch menu is a steal. Start with an assiette of ham or charcuterie and try their risotto or pasta with truffle sauce or their shrimp with saté and curry or the grilled scallops with pear gratin and celery. Lovely little wine list.
Le Timbre, 3 rue Ste Beuve, 6th; 01 45 49 10 40
Another small and friendly bistrot on a quiet street. A locals’ favorite. You do have to trust the chef as there is no carte and a single menu that changes daily. The day we went, the anchovy tartines were awesome and so was the pork belly dish and the baba au rhum.
Le Pantruche, 3 rue Victor-Massé, 9th; 01 48 78 55 60
The ratio of quality to price here is first rate. It is not fancy dining, but it is not expensive yet is very good. The bistro classics are all there, from pig to sweetbreads to a fine chicken and, of course, a soufflé Grand Marnier for dessert. What’s fun is it is old Paris with a 1940s, 1950s bistro look and feel.
Pierre Gagnaire, 6 rue Balzac, 8th; 01 58 36 12 50
Like l’Ambroisie, this place will break the bank but ,wow, Pierre is the ultimate passionate. A unique experience in many ways. The langoustines three ways is mouthwatering. For oyster lovers, huîtres boudeuses is a must. Pike, frogs, guinea fowl or duck are also unique dishes with the special Pierre touch. The dining room is spacious, calm and filled with modern art.
Pottoka, 4 rue de l’Exposition, 7th; 01 45 51 88 38
Simplicity, southwest/basque food, super service. The food is inspired with a modern touch. You can tell the care in the service, presentation and cooking of the various dishes. Top. The moist chicken is a treat. A place for foodies. Fun, quiet, convivial and totally unpretentious. A delight.
Pré Catelan, Bois de Boulogne, 16th; 01 44 14 41 14
Another top winner in the three-stars category. Zen décor perfect for a tête-à-tête. Bone marrow dish worth a visit. Lobster, frog legs and fruit desserts will transport you to heaven. Lunch in fall…yum!
Saturne, 17 rue Notre-Dame des Victoires, 2nd; 01 42 60 31 90
A wine bar and restaurant with a young chef artisan who serves dazzling dishes. The col vert and foie gras brioche with mesclun salad opened the appetite. The guinea fowl with crispy skin was oh-so-tender and served with grilled corn and rapeseed oil, and the chocolate tart made for a perfect ending.<
Semilla, 54 rue de Seine, 6th; 0143 54 34 50
A good bistro especially at lunch (unless you love super noisy tables) with limited selection appealing to an international crowd. The open kitchen and the bar make for a lively place, and the short menu changes often and sometimes lacks diversity so check it out first.
Septime, 80 rue de Charonne, 11th; 01 43 67 38 29
Another chef who trained at Arpège and then at wonderful Agapé (6th) before starting on his own. His consistently evolving menu is all about balance and flawless dishes, so never mind the rough-looking dining room. Here it’s all in the plate. Both a lunch and dinner were truly exceptional.
Le Sergent Recruteur, 41 rue Saint-Louis en I’lle; 01 43 54 75 42
Looking for a restaurant on the island…on Ile St. Louis? This is it. A delicious little spot sporting one Michelin star. The story of the restaurant alone is worth a visit. Expect high level from beginning to end. Even the bread is made in-house, and the chef works with a couple of farmers and changes the menu accordingly.
Servan, 32 rue St Maur, 11th; 01 55 28 51 82
Trust the ladies, two sisters, Katia and Tatiana. The latter is the chef who also trained at Arpège as well as Astrance, a good sign and reference. Some of her pairings may seem a bit off beat (she’s half Filipino, so another influence to add to her use of spices) but they work as most are classics revisited. The baguette is exceptional and needed with the cockles and its spicy sauce. We also enjoyed the duck and the moist chicken with apricot purée, and all the tarts but especially the chocolate tart are not to be missed.
Sola, 12 rue de l’Hôtel Colbert, 5th; 01 43 29 59 04
The amazing chef also trained at Astrance and has come up with two menus changing with the season that offer the best a Franco-Japanese can offer. The setting in an old little house with beams adds charm and the service is exemplary. The food makes you very happy, from the delicate pumpkin soup to scallops with turnips, quenelles of beef tartare, pork served two ways and amazing desserts.
Tablettes de Nomicos, 16 avenue Bugeaud, 16th; 01 56 28 16 16
Left bank citizens are notorious for not visiting the right bank except for special reasons. This is one. The chef worked with Ducasse and was chef at Lasserre, but what he does here is far superior with a short menu that offers three menus from the carte (découverte, de saison et dégustation) presented on I-Pads (tablettes), a nice touch for single customers particularly. The menu club is an outstanding value only served at lunch, but some specialties are tough to dismiss like his macaroni with truffles, foie gras and parmesan. The tapioca dessert is top. And it is open 7 days a week, a rarity in la belle France.
Taokan, 8 rue du Sabot, 6th; 01 42 84 18 36
Cantonese cuisine of superior quality. Good presentation and for sure good ingredients at this charming Chinese spot near St Germain. The dim sum and steamed fish should not be missed, though the sweet and sour duck magrets and chicken dishes were equally enticing.
35˚ Ouest, 35 rue Verneuil, 7th; 01 42 86 98 88
For fish and intimacy lovers, this is a little gem with a cozy atmosphere and a small bar. The fritter d’éperlans and a tourteau with granny smith, turbot with artichoke barigoule and the risotto with crayfish were all tastes of the sea and lightness. The chouquettes glacées praliné is a clever and light variation on the rich profiterolles.