I’ve recently spent the summer in Paris (June/July 2010) with my wife and two-year-old son and thought I would share some of our dining experiences here. I’m not going to list everything we ate; we just don’t have time for that but rather include the places that we thought were worth mentioning. Most of the places here are pretty popular and have been reviewed by more important people than me. You can find reviews on a lot of these places at the website Paris By Mouth http://parisbymouth.com/
I will also add that these restaurants were all in the 40-60 euro range per person (food and wine) and were mostly casual (no jacket required) – I wore “nice” jeans to all of them without a problem.
Since Paris is a place that can seem pretty intimidating to American diners, I also included how we viewed the staff and if they spoke English. My wife and I don’t speak French but we would try to start off with a few French phrases before the staff took pity on us and tried some English.
In addition to these places, we hit the Eric Kayser bakery almost daily as well as a few markets on a weekly basis.
I addition to Paris, we also took trips to Nice, St. Malo, and Reims but, as with Paris, we also had a two-year-old in tow so we didn’t do too much on the restaurant front but I’d be happy to let you know if we enjoyed anything specifically.
Here you go…
Les Papilles (first meal)
30 Rue Gay-Lussac
Entrée – cold cream of celery soup with bacon and crouton
Plat – beef braised in a red wine sauce with potatoes and carrots
Cheese – blue cheese with prune
Dessert – strawberry panna cotta
Les Papilles (second meal)
Entrée – cold cream of cauliflower soup
Plat – braised lamb shoulder (deboned and rolled) served with Provencal vegetables
Cheese – blue cheese with prune
Dessert – strawberry panna cotta
This is one of my favorite places in Paris. It’s a laid back – jeans and t-shirt – type of wine bar by day, restaurant at night. They have one menu, four courses for about 32 euro or so. They have a great wine selection that they will sell you for 7 euro over the store price. The braised beef was a hit with my wife, think beouf bourguignon – cut with a fork tender. Huge portions – you’ll get a soup pot filled with twice as much soup as you need and two soup bowls with the garnishes (bacon/ham/crouton, etc), the main is typically a copper pot with a braised meat and vegetables and cheese/dessert has been the same all three times I’ve been there – small but satisfying portions. Friendly staff, some English speaking and always courteous. It’s a few blocks walk to some nightlife but that’s not a big deal. Weekdays are easier to snag a table than weekends. Highly recommend.
La Maree Verte
9 rue Pontoise
Entrées – escargot with roasted tomatoes; goat cheese salad
Plats – duck breast with cherries; a whole roasted fish (not noted)
We went here because it was close to our apartment and we were trying out a new baby sitter. The food is okay; the staff is very friendly and speaks some English. Hotels direct guests here so there will be some other tourists as well. If you only have a few days, there are other places I’d recommend.
Le Verre Vole
67 Rue de Lancry
Entrées – cold veal scaloppini with cream sauce; ricotta crostini
Plats – roast pork with onion gratin; monkfish with de Puy lentils
Desserts – chocolate mousse
This was an interesting place. Like Les Papilles, it’s a wine bar by day and resto at night but they have a selection of items to choose from. The place is tiny and it seems that they don’t have a kitchen or maybe there’s one close or downstairs or something. Many of the entrees offered are served cold - the veal entrée and the ricotta were both good. My pork was pretty good but was probably a slice of pork roast prepared in the hidden kitchen and transported to the dining room. The onion gratin was prepared in a toaster oven behind the bar. You probably get the idea by now but the food was good, desserts weren’t the best we had and the wine was picked off the shelf for about 6 euro over the store price. Great neighborhood though and we found a great little bar down Rue de Lancry for some music and after dinner beers. Some English spoken.
La Boissonerie (Fish) (first meal)
69 Rue de Seine
Entrées – veloute of rocket with feta; house made foie gras (mixed with cognac)
Plats – saddle of rabbit; filet of sea bass with poached egg
Desserts – orange crème brulee tart; berry crumble with rosemary ice cream
La Boissonerie (second meal)
Entrées – salad Nicoise with seared tuna; cotechino risotto, foie gras
Plats – saddle of rabbit; linguine with pesto and smoked salmon; limone sole, filet of seared rascasse with pistachio risotto
Desserts – orange crème brulee tart; chocolate tart with chocolate ice cream; crème brulee
Well, we went back a second time with another couple visiting from Chicago. This place is open on Sunday and is in a very casual section of the 6th. English speaking staff (from England) and solid food. The foie gras was great as was my rascasse. I also enjoyed the sea bass with poached egg very much. If there was a miss, it may have been the linguine with salmon – nothing special but otherwise, a great place to go, especially on a Sunday. Recommend.
49 Rue des Ecoles
Entrées – escargot (6); tomato and mozzarella salad
Plats – steak au poivre; skirt steak w/ blue cheese sauce
Desserts – chocolate cake (dense flour-less?) with vanilla ice cream and vanilla sauce; chocolate mousse
When we were turned away from our 9pm reservations at La Pre Verre due to a power outage, we walked over to this classic brasserie. We didn’t have reservations so they placed us outside, which was not ideal. It was hot and uncomfortable but hey, we had to eat. What I can say about this place is that they do classic brasserie fare well. The chocolate mousse was the benchmark with which I compared my others. Everything hit and I would imagine it is consistent. Service was fine but little English spoken. Recommend for a brasserie.
139 Rue Saint-Dominique
Entrées – ratatouille with poached quail egg; cream of potato and leek soup with peas and ham
Plats – ½ young male young chicken roasted with fresh peas (with ham); quail stuffed with foie gras and mushroom with lentils du Puy
Desserts – cheese plate (one really good cheese); profiteroles with chocolate sauce
The guide books are all over this place and you can tell as soon as you walk in. This summer, Chef Constant was awarded the Ordre de Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur and I thought it would be impossible to get into any of his places on Rue Saint-Dominique but Café Constant does not take reservations and we walked right in. Our dinners were flawlessly prepared and very well balanced. The service was great (English speaking as well). The one thing we did notice is that there weren’t too many locals there. It was packed with Americans – loud Americans, ordering “just a salad” or “splitting dessert.” Now, I’m not one for rules but I like to follow the old adage – “when in Rome…” and in Paris you don’t take up valuable table space to just order a salad or split and main and dessert. If you concentrate on the food, it’s worth the trip; however if you’re looking for a “Parisien” restaurant, you may want to skip this American crowd.
La Rotisserie du Beaujolais
19 Quai de la Tournelle
Entrées – goat cheese salad; Provencal mushrooms with parsley and garlic
Plats – roasted lamb shoulder for two
Like most rotisseries, this place focuses on roasted meats. We went with the lamb shoulder for two and were not disappointed. My mushrooms, I wish I knew the variety, were amazing. Just mushrooms, sautéed in butter, garlic and parsley. They were a special that day and our table neighbors strongly suggested them. Staff is friendly as well but not much English spoken.
A La Biche au Bois
45 Avenue Ledru-Rollin
Entrées – venison terrine (2 slabs); green salad with terrine (1 slice) with potato “slaw”, marinated mushrooms
Plats – duck breast with chanterelle mushrooms; coq au vin
Cheese – huge cheese plate – your choice
Desserts – chocolate mousse; warm chocolate cake with crème anglaise
If you want an inexpensive, filling meal, with a huge cheese plate at the end, this is the place for you. They specialize in game but there are other meat-centric offerings as well. I had the venison terrine – a huge portion for a first course. The coq au vin was popular with my wife and my duck was well prepared. Just when you’re leaning back in your chair from all the food you just ate, the waiter swings by with a huge plate of cheeses. I think there were six or seven varieties and you can try them all if you’d like. Desserts were good but overkill after the cheese. This prix fixe was 28 euro I think. Great value. Limited English but very friendly staff. Recommend.
5 Rue de Pontoise
Entrées – sardine tart; polenta with mushrooms
Plats – 24 hour braised veal breast with root vegetables; fillet of cod with shallot, parsnips and champagne sabayon
Desserts – fennel with berries and chocolate; apricot tart with whipped cream
Another place close to our apartment that we had walked by a number of times. We decided one night to pop in and grab dinner. The menu had some interesting combinations and the space is very modern. The 24 hour veal breast was one of the best things I ate in the two months we spent in Paris. I also enjoyed the sardine tart quite a bit. The service was a little slow and the room was very warm but we enjoyed it overall. Limited English but a very pleasant staff. Recommend.
Bistrot Paul Bert
18 Rue Paul Bert
Entrées – terrine Campagne; swordfish ceviche
Plats – cote du boeuf for two
Desserts – giant raspberry macaroon with ice cream; rice pudding with caramel sauce
There’s a reason this restaurant lands of “favorite” lists all over Paris. Walking out, my wife and I declared it one of our favorites as well. Solid entrees (I love my terrines and cornichons). The cote du boeuf was a great tasting piece of meat. We didn’t have a lot of red meat while in Paris but this mineral-ly piece of steak was prepared rare and really hit the spot. The surprise hit was my wife’s giant macaroon dessert. It was huge and very tasty. We had an English speaking waitress and overall the staff was very friendly. Highly recommend.
Le Buisson Ardent (lunch)
25 rue de Jussieu
Entrées – cold carrot soup with orange, finished with toasted pine nuts and a mild chili oil
Plats – sautéed cubed lamb over ratatouille
Desserts – panna cotta with lychee fruit and syrup
I walked by this place several times a week on my way to the Jussieu metro stop so one day, I decided to stop for lunch. The cold carrot soup tasted fine but the texture reminded me a little of baby food. The lamb was recommended but I found it pretty average. The ratatouille that accompanied it though was great. I loved the lychee panna cotta and thought it was the hit of the meal. It’s a pretty popular dinner spot and we never had the opportunity to try it out. Staff was nice as well. Some English spoken.
Josephine "Chez Dumonet"
117 Rue du Cherche-Midi
Entrées – foie Gras; shrimp croquette
Plats – chateaubriand with potato Lyonnais; duck confit with potato Lyonnais
Desserts – millefeuille for two
Went here specifically for duck confit and was rewarded with one of the best versions I’ve ever had. Very traditional, huge portions (especially the foie gras and millefeuille), and everything was well prepared. Nice staff, little English spoken. One of our more expensive meals though – mostly due to wine and Armagnac. Highly recommend.
Café de Musees
5 Rue de Thorigny
Entrées – House Terrine with slaw and salad; green salad
Plats – boneless pork shoulder, seared and served in a garlic sauce (maybe a rich veal stock with whole roasted garlic cloves); entrecote with béarnaise and fries
Desserts – rhubarb clafoutis brulee; chocolate terrine with crème anglaise
Another favorite place for us while here. We didn’t have reservations and they spoke limited English but we walked in and grabbed two seats, snugly placed between two other two-tops and diners. At first, we didn’t know what to expect from the menu but when I saw Cochon le noir de Bigorre with garlic sauce, I had to go for it. Another favorite dish and may end up being the dish that I remember most, it was worth the trip just for this pork. The house terrine was fantastic (again, with my terrine) and the entrecote with béarnaise and perfectly done fries was also solid. I also liked my rhubarb clafoutis that came with a crème brulee-like topping. Great place, open Sundays. Highly recommend for a low key neighborhood restaurant.
La Pre Verre
19 Rue du Sommerard
Entrées – foie gras with lemon preserve sundried tomato and zucchini; marinated sardine with gno gai
Plats – fricassee of chicken with ginger and avocado; suckling pig poached in a semi spicy sauce and cabbage
Desserts – chocolate truffle with molasses ice cream; apricot crumble with citronella and eggplant ice cream
Our last meal was at a place that turned us away one night because of a power outage and then told us that they don’t speak English (only French!) over the phone a few weeks after we had booked in English previously. We’ve heard good things and it was a neighborhood place and we didn’t have reservations, so we decided to roll the dice. No reservations and American means you sit downstairs. The staff wasn’t the most pleasant and the atmosphere was – well where we were sitting, it felt like a basement. The food was okay but it was the only time we felt a little hurried. Our dishes came out unusually lightning fast. The combinations were interesting, a sort of French with Asian ingredient fusion, but sometimes just missed. As in most of the restaurants we visited in Paris, our food was prepared well but the overall experience made us feel a little flat. The best part of my meal was the apricot crumble with eggplant ice cream, which tasted little like eggplant but it was good. Very limited English.