Paris Dining In 2012

Bestselling author Mireille Guiliano with an insiders guide of where to eat in Paris

Where should I eat in Paris?  Do you have any restaurant recommendations for Paris?  Two variations of the same question I get all the time, but more than ever in late spring when people are lining up a summer holiday that includes the City of Light, and my part-time home town.   Paris is the most visited city in the world.  Some fifteen million hungry visitors arrive each year.

For the industrious, sure there’s help from the Michelin guide, the annual big red Bible of restaurants and hotels to turn to that really doesn’t provide advice or recommendations, just coded data on location, quality, price, specialties and phone numbers (don’t trust the days/times or vacation information).  As it is built on symbols, you don’t have to read French to follow its points.  The various French guides do require a working knowledge of French to move beyond the ratings.

Lately, I have a particular weakness for the new small places opened by young and creative chefs who trained with the best and then go out on their own.  I do get out a lot in Paris and enjoy some of the famed and multi-starred eateries, but too often I have a been-there-done that feeling when am invited.  And those prices are breathtakingly high, so I would not push them on my friends.

While I can and do tweet my latest, best experiences or add them to my website, here’s the real report vintage 2012 I’d like to share with those who ask me, “where do you recommend eating in Paris these days?”  What’s here — and of course it could easily be twice as long but then you’d need to move to Paris to experience it — covers a range of prices, styles and areas (arrondissements).  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!

Always a treat. Perfect for singles or two-somes as there are no tables just counters.  Sitting around the kitchen and bar on high stools is a fun way to see what the gifted 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.  I have 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 place is tiny and a bit claustrophobic, but what’s on the plate is amazing.  Go for lunch and pick a guest who doesn’t mind sitting and hearing the dozen or so people along the long table.  Not much privacy unless you are lucky enough to sit at one of the two tables for two on the side. The menu card lists a dozen ingredients to choose from, and the chef will concoct the menu.  Fantastic soups/veloutés, scallops, pigeon and spring vegetables cooked oh so slowly. Don’t miss the breads and butter…or the desserts.  Potential galore and perhaps someday a move to a more comfortably dining room.

 The three small salons in this gorgeous and timeless hôtel particulier will transport you to period fantasyland.  Okay, the price is high, but for very special occasions it is in the price range of any three-star/ Michelin…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.

  • L’Arôme, 3 rue Saint-Philippe du Roule, 8th; tel. 01 42 25 55 98; www.larome.fr

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 perfectly moelleux soufflé.

Once in a while why not a wine bar?  This newly opened one is my favorite wine bar in the Batignolles area.  So far local friends who have been agree. Laure, the owner, is friendly, knowledgeable and a stickler 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.

A little famous (many actors and politicians who live in the area come at all hours), cozy gem for a quiet breakfast, though lunch has become very popular with the new owners who have a good chef and an enticing menu. Eating on the comparatively quiet terrace on nice days is a plus and my morning place of choice on my way to the Luxembourg garden. Bistro cuisine with cuisine du marché.  Good foie gras maison, mixed salads, charcuterie and last lunch was a perfectly cooked filet de sandre.  Bread and desserts come from nearby Mulot.

  • Chez Michel, 10 rue de Belzunce,10th; tel. 01 44 53 06 20;

A solid bistro with homey, cozy room and comfort food. It’s a Breton place with marvelous seafood choices from oysters to clams to scallops and cod and sea bass.  The meat dishes are equally well prepared and don’t miss one of the best Paris-Brest on the planet.

An uncommon concept in Paris, but trust Antoine Westermann (of l’Ami Louis and Drouant fame) for bringing the best chickens, pigeons and more and serving them rôtisserie style or in pâtés, salads and more along with some tasty French fries, macaroni gratin or vegetables en cocotte all washed down from a good selection of wines by the glass

Forget the crêpes around the corner.  This is a chic little place in black and white in a former home with upstairs/downstairs, a skylight and on the street floor an open kitchen.  The famous chef Rollinger (of Cancale fame) is involved. Pick from a range of the best galettes (5 classics such salted butter, mackerel or seaweeds) and 5 seasonal (grilled sardines or langoustines with fennel) and crêpes (caramel with salted butter or fruit of the day) with a cidertheque homage to Brittany.

  •  Cobea, 11 rue Raymond Losserand, 14th; tel. 01 43 20 21 39; www.cobea.fr

Probably my favorite of the moment for food, wine, décor, atmosphere and service. Everything is a class act here.  They just got their first Michelin star but clearly deserve two.  The dining room is small, so it is essential to book ahead for dinner way in advance.  The formula of 4, 6 or 8 courses is a good one for appetites and budget. Raviolis with mushroom duxelles, sea scallops with a mix of chestnuts and banana and the chocolate dessert are all inoubliables.

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.

The best oysters in town.  What else can I say?  Great Sancerre and Meursault.  The bread and butter ain’t bad either, and Régis’ extraordinary tarte aux pommes is to die for. Simplicity at its best. The place is tiny but classy.  No reservations.

On my Parisian foodies top list.  Daily menu as well as a menu découverte and a menu dégustation.  Raviole 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.

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.

Like l’Ambroisie this place will break the bank but ,wow, Pierre is the ultimate passionist and a long-standing three-star icon.  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.

Another top winner in the luxe, three-star  category. Plus it is a country experience in the city out in Paris grand park on its outskirts.  Zen décor perfect for a tête-à-tête.  Bone marrow dish worth a visit.  Lobster, frog legs, fruit desserts will transport you to heaven.

A black-and-red neo-bistro near the Sorbonne.  Among today’s crop of Parisian chefs, Chef Delacourcelle was one of the early devotees to incorporating oriental spices into French cuisine.  His remarkable savoir-faire produces well-seasoned dishes that pair well with wines from the South of France.  Try the day grill or start with a pâté or fennel cream and dried tomatoes tapenade.  Follow with cod with cinnamon or lamb with quinoa and end with strawberry with parsley syrup and ice cream, a dessert that gave me lots of ideas to surprise guests with new marriages (strawberry with basil is now a classic in my corner of Provence).

A wine bar and restaurant with a young chef artisan who serves dazzling dishes. The col vert and foie gras brioche with mesclun salad opens one’s appetite. The guinea fowl with crispy skin is oh so tender and served with grilled corn and rapeseed oil, and the chocolate tart makes for a perfect ending.

Trust the chef who trained at Astrance and has come up with two menus changing with the season that offer the best in Franco-Japanese.  The setting in an old little house with charming beams where 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.

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 with his own concept is far more compelling with a short menu that offers three menus from the carte (découverte, de saison et dégustation) presented on iPads (tablettes). 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 opened 7 days a week, a rarity in la belle France.

  • 35˚ Ouest, 35 rue Verneuil, 7th; tel. 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 all taste of the sea and lightness.  The chouquettes glacées praliné is a clever and light variation on the rich profiterolles.

The former CEO of Champagne Veuve Cliquot, Mireille Guiliano is the bestselling author of French Women Don’t Get Fat. Her latest book is The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook. Visit her at mireilleguiliano.com.

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