The best 102 Paris restaurants are reviewed in Hungry for Paris. Since the Paris restaurant scene changes constantly, I regularly post new restaurant reviews and information on the city’s best places to eat on this site. I also review selected books with various gastronomic themes and comment on favorite foods, recipes, cookware and appliances. In addition to the reviews and writings here, I'd also invite you to follow me on Twitter @ Aleclobrano. So come to my table hungry and often, and please share your own rants and raves in the Hungry for Paris readers forum.
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PIERRE AU PALAIS ROYAL--A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, B+; FISH LA BOISSONERIE--High Tide at a Left Bank Favorite, B+
GOUST--The Best New Table in Paris This Spring, A-; INVICTUS---More of a Redux Than a Victory, C+/B-
Though Paris continues to be subjected to a surfeit of B & Bs--burgers and beets, and I've also noticed a growing number of dishes on young-chefs' bistro menus that feature the tastes of fermentation and smoke, the most interesting trend I've observed locally this year is that the forever-amber format of a restaurant meal in the French capital--you call and book a table, you arrive and sit at this table and are fed, then you pay the bill and leave this table without having spoken to anyone but the people you came with and those who served you--is in the midst of a very welcome melt-down. For a dramatic example of how a trendy new Paris restaurant is re-slinging Paris dining, take a peak at Miss Ko, the Philippe Starck designed Franco-Asian restaurant that recently opened on the Avenue George V in the 8th arrondissement.
Here, a table d'hotes with a glass top protecting video screens that show non-stop excerpts from various Asian news shows (a rather wearying design element, since its on a constant noisy loop) runs almost the entire length of the restaurant, and you sit on high stools to dine. Or if you come as a group, you can book one of the tables for four, six, etc. that are arranged perpendicular to the long table d'hotes, but it's the table d'hotes that gives this restaurant its personality. It's also clever marketing in a neighborhood that's a prime up-market destination for the type of unattached Parisians who would unblushingly describe themselves as 'single,' since the constant sensory input and prompt service mean that most people come for a quick stylish and gastronomically non-committal bite to eat and then are on their way.
As seems to be generally true in Paris these days, however, the best declension of the new-format trend is found in the quieter neighborhoods usually lesser to little known to tourists. One of the best recent meals I had in a longtime was a totally off-the-cuff meal with someone I almost literally bumped into in the street, a friend who'd been an editorial assistant at the same New York publisher I worked for before she was somewhat improbably romanced by a wealthy doctor old enough to be her father while visiting her grandmother in Florida. The last I'd heard of her, in fact, was that she was training to become a yoga instructor in Boca Raton. "Well, in some freaky way, I really did love him, the doctor, but there was just way that could have been forever," she explained after we'd settled down over cocktails at the rather fabulous Le Mary Celeste in the northern Marais.
To make a long (but juicy) story short, Marsha has long since bolted out of that marriage, first living with a lady plumbing contractor in Austin, Texas for a while, and now with the Dutch environmental landscape architect from Rotterdam she'd met when she took her kids from Florida on safari in South Africa two years ago. Since it was a surprise shading to a shock to run into her, I wasn't really thinking a lot about where we'd go to sit down, but it just so happened that Le Mary Celeste, a place I'd been wanting to try, was right across the street. So early evening, we had no trouble finding seats at the bar, and it was nice to run into Carlos, the terrific bartender who'd previously been the talented drink meister at L'Hotel on the Left Bank.
Though I was thoroughly preoccupied by the chance rediscovery of my old pal--and it really did feel like we'd last seen each other yesterday afternoon, especially when she insisted on paying for our drinks, because she actually remembered owing me $5 from 25 years ago, Jeesh, I also couldn't help but noticing that we couldn't possibly have found a better setting for our reunion. The nice looking room, kind of a charming hybrid between Marblehead, Mass. oyster house, Dublin pub and Marais tavern, had a great atmosphere and a wonderful looking crowd. Our "Raindogs"--Bourbon and citrus cocktails, slipped down a treat, and rightly suspecting that we'd be drinking a wee bit, I suggested we shift to wine--a nice bottle of de Moor Chablis, and that we have some oysters--the wild English ones from Maldon were gorgeous miniature maritime mines of briny flavor, and order a few of chef chef Haan Palcu-Chang's (ex- Le Verre Volé) small-plates, including sublime kimchi and small puffy Chinese crepes with pork knuckle and celery.
So we miscellaneously ate and drank for three hours until Marsha had to dash off to get her train at the Gare du Nord, and after she'd left it occurred to me that I'd enjoyed this untethered free-form feast more than anything else I'd eaten in Paris in a very longtime. If Marsha's company was the real treat, and the Raindogs left us both happily muddled, what made this interlude so much fun was that it wasn't following any map except our spontaneous desire to celebrate a carpe diem moment and let ourselves off the leash in doing so.
A few days after my reunion with Marsha and a meal with Bruno's parents at Le Musigny, the only one-star restaurant in the small northern French city of Valenciennes where he grew up, which left me wondering if they'd hired the surely senile art director from the TV show "I Dream of Jeannie," I went on a mystery dinner date in eastern Paris. I'd been invited to be one of the guinea-pig guests of Crave Paris, a new supper club being set up by three decidedly talented recent graduates of Ecole Ferrandi, which I think offers the finest professional culinary education currently available in Paris.
Even though I explained to him that I like the intimacy of the private dinner party format, enjoy playing the odds of its Joker factor, and have often eaten some excellent food in such settings (the late lamented Hidden Kitchen in Paris comes to mind, along with the supper club that Chef Mun used to run in Buenos Aires) Bruno, whom I spared this particular outing, thought that I was mad as a hatter to go off to dinner with total strangers. Happily, he was completely wrong, since this was a charming and ambitious meal targeted at those whose food tastes blazed past Chicken Breasts 101 a longtime ago.
Eric from Florida, Rita from Taiwan via Canada and Camille from Hawaii via Washington, D.C. let it rip on a sophisticated meal that showed its cards right off the bat with pats of umami-rich miso butter to be smeared on good bread. And so their cooking often tilted to the Orient for inspiration. Here's what we ate:
Amuse Bouche: Crab, turnip, cucumber kimchi, citrus, salmon roe
Starter: Salmon, wasabi mayonnaise, ponzu vinaigrette, parsley oil, fried caper
Fish: Sea bass, leek, pea, miso, dashi, carrot, brioche crumb
Meat: Pig Snout, king trumpet mushroom, Asian pear, kohlrabi beignets, black mustard, preserved plum
Pre-dessert: Lemon Cremeux, olive granita, olive oil
Dessert: Chocolate Cake, macha powder, chili whipped cream
With table d'hotes, impromptu bar eating, and supper clubs propitiously popping up all over town, perhaps my favorite idiom among the new feeding formats in Paris are the increasingly numerous new breed of casual-dining neighborhood places, a delightful example being the just opened Jeanne B, an Epicerie-Rotisserie-Table d'Hotes that's the latest address of exceptionally talented restaurateur Frédéric Hubig, who also owns Astier, Jeanne A, Sassotondo and the Cafe Moderne.
Meeting my tropical gal pal Cynthia from Singapore for dinner on a snowy Monday night, this place turned out to be just the ticket, since it was relaxed and friendly but also delivered some exceptionally good Gallic comfort food. We sat up front at the table d'hotes instead of the handsome blue dining room, so we could watch the snow falling through the big picture window, and also because we liked the sort of boffo Seventies decor where the late but forever lovely Dalida, Montmartre's most famous recent songstress, would surely have felt right at home.
Hungry, we shared three starters--a nice fat artichoke, some excellent pate en croute, and a lobster croque, a recent invention of Hubig's which is comprised of focaccia like bread topped with Parmesan cream and lightly grilled before getting a final garnish of perfectly cooked lobster tail medallions and claw meat. Having neatly cut this latter sandwich in half, we scarfed our portions down in deeply contented silence, which we broke simultaneously with the same shared regret: "We should have ordered two of these." This sandwich is so good, in fact, that it will be a certain reason I go AWOL in the middle of the day, since Jeanne B is just a brief hike up the hill from me.
Our rotisseried mains, both of which came with salad and Dauphinois potatoes, were fine produce well-prepared, too. My roast lamb was juicy and generously served, as was Cynthia's chicken, and the wines poured by the glass by the exceptionally charming young manager were excellent. We finished up with good fresh fruit salad and a pleasant tart sable with caramelized pineapple that brought Mom's vanished into the mists of time pineapple upside down cake pleasantly to mind. With gracious friendly service and good food at fair prices, this place will surely become a big hit, especially since it's as perfect for the locals as it is for travelers exploring the neighborhood, so my hope is that Hubig will be tempted to open a whole alphabet of Jeannes all over Paris. And if he's looking, the Turkish carpet shop across the street from my front door has just gone out of business, and I know he'd make a mint in the 9th.
Prix-fixe lunch menu 15 Euros, 17 Euros; Prix-fixe dinner menus 23 Euros, 27 Euros. Average a la carte 35 Euros. www.jeanne-b-comestibles.com
Everyone has their own personal geography of gastronomic pleasure, which is why you might occasionally have trouble navigating mine without some help. My love of stuffed grape leaves? They were served as part of father-and-son Cub Scout banquets at a Bulgarian restaurant which once rather improbably existed in the decidedly Topsider shod Connecticut town I grew up in. A weakness for fresh mangos? I associate them with the first heady days I lived in my own apartment on West 85th Street in New York City; I'd never eaten a mango before, and noticing them for sale outside of a bodega one night on my way home from work, I bought one out of curiosity, almost lost a thumb trying to cut through the thick pit I didn't know they had, and finally peeled off a patch of green skin and cut out a juicy deep orange chunk of the fruit, which was sweet, succulent, sensual, tropical. And during that same new-in-New York time frame, I also developed a life-long love of pastry stuffed with poppy-seed filling. This was not something I grew up with either--the baked goods in my life up to that time ran to cinnamon-crumb-topped coffee cakes, brownies, layer cakes, the occasional pineapple upside-down cake and apple pie, bien sur.
I didn't even know poppy seeds were edible the first time I stepped through the front door of the Louis Lechtmann bakery on West 86th and hungrily took in the linzertorte, rugelach, streudels and mohntorte. If two of the solid older blonde women who worked in the bakery were stern and often impatient Germans, the third was a jolly, ample and, for a sixty some odd year old woman, surprisingly flirtatious Hungarian. I asked for a loaf of rye bread and a confectioner's sugar dusted jam cookie, and she looked me up and and down and shoved a slice of mohntorte into the bag with the cookie, amiably shaking her head and muttering "sovány fiu"(skinny boy). As surely as the mango did, the poppy seed filling, which also included Corinth raisins which had been soaked in something alcoholic, instantly propelled me thousands of miles from Manhattan and deep into the heart of a Mittel Europa I'd never laid eyes on. I loved not only the taste and texture of the poppy seeds but also the very idea of poppy seeds, seeds from a flower, which is why it was a huge pleasure to sample them again for the first time in many years when I stopped for an impromptu lunch while doing some shoe-leather research on the covered passages of Paris the other day.
It's rare for me to be out at noon--I'm invariably shackled to my computer, so there was something festive about rummaging around in Paris in the middle of the day, and since I'm an inveterate menu reader, I stopped in front of the tidy good looking store-front of a German restaurant called Le Stube as soon as I came upon it in the Passage Verdeau, one of the quieter covered passages, which has its northern entrance on the rue du Faubourg Montmartre in the 9th.
I'd actually been thinking about something Asian for lunch, but the more I read of Le Stube's menu, the more tempted I became, and so I finally went in to inspect what was on display in the glass cases. The pastries looked wonderful, and based of their visual quality, I guessed that the bratwurst I was also craving would be good, too, and went upstairs to the eat-in dining room.
While sipping a nice glass of Grauer Burgunder, a pinot gris from Baden, I noticed that the dining room was filling with regulars--they were warmly greeted by the head-waiter, always a good sign. My nice fat bratwurst looked so good when it came that I was instantly tempted to order a second one, but tamped down this gluttony and tasted the accompanying kartoffel salad instead. This was beautifully made German style potato salad, and the bratwurst, which was drapped with sauteed onions and came with small tidy pumps of sweet and hot mustard, was delicious, which set me to thinking about how nice it was to be sampling the comfort food of another European kitchen instead of running into yet another cheeseburger in burger mad Paris. Don't get me wrong--I really like burgers and I'm delighted that you can now get a decent one in Paris, formerly a near impossibility, but I also love gastronomic variety, and the burger trend in Paris seems to be developing sort of snow-balling copy-cat momentum that's pushing other possibilities to one side.
The chatty antique-dealers sitting next to me had ordered sauerkraut plates, which looked wonderful, too. And so I found myself wondering why German food, which I've always loved, is so under-appreciated, especially when it's not only regionally varied and delicious, but Germany has some of the most stringent food purity regulations in the world. Years ago, on Sunday visits to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, we'd eat at the long-gone Cafe Geiger on East 86th Street, and I craved the Königsberger Klopse--meatballs in creamy caper sauce, from one visit to the next. I also loved sauerbraten (marinated pot roast) with red cabbage and potato dumplings. But most of all I looked forward to dessert, usually a slice of Palatinat, or very light cheesecake.
Palatinat was on the menu at Le Stube, but I had my head set on some Mohntorte, and it was unexpectedly excellent, with a perfect dry crust and impeccably spiced poppy seed filling. I was so impressed by the quality of this pastry, in fact, that I ran amok before leaving Le Stube, and brought home a slice of the Sachertorte, which was easily the best Sacher Torte I've ever eaten, some sour cherry streudel--superb, and slice of feather-weight Palitinat, which is surely the most elegant cheesecake in Paris and will be a revelation for anyone who's accustomed to the very heavy thick New York style cheesecake that predominates in the United States.
I was so amazed by the quality of this pastry, in fact, that I looked up Le Stube when I got home, and found out that it has three addresses--another one on the rue de Richelieu and a stand at the Goethe Institut in the 16th arrondissement, and that it's the latest endeavor of Gerhard and Sylvie Weber, the charming couple who ran the very good Le Stubli in the 17th. Gerhard Weber, who's originally from Sachsenberg in Germany, is a fifth generation pastry chef and baker, and he's the one who assures the spectacular quality of the bread, cakes and pastries sold at Le Stube. And so my life in Paris acquires yet another outpost of permanent and powerful temptation, since it's not going to be easy to resist the Lorelei like call of Gerhard Weber's bratwurst and mohntorte.
Le Stube, 23-25-27 Passage Verdeau, 9th, Tel. 01-47-70-08-18. Metro: Le Peletier, Grand Boulevards, or Richelieu Drouot. Mon-Sat 8.30am-8.30pm, non-stop. Avg 15 Euro