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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Entries in Le Carre des Vosges (2)
Le Carre des Vosges (B+), a Great Find in the Marais, and La Fontaine de Mars (B+), a Very Good Bistro
Tearing myself away from my new SEB Acti-Fry, an ungainly but otherwise remarkable new machine that makes enough frites for four with a tablespoon of oil and also does a terrific risotto on which more later, I met my friend Robin for lunch in the Marais. An American who grew up in Paris and now lives in New York, she knows and loves her food and wine, and also appreciates a bargain, so I booked at Le Carre des Vosges, a quiet restaurant that's in the Marais and which has been on my go-to list for ages.
Tucked away behind the magnificent Place des Vosges, it's a good looking restaurant in a beautiful 17th century mansion on one of my favorite streets in the Marais. Stepping through the door, I knew we'd eat well. Why? The welcome was cordial but professional, the place was packed with local boutique owners, and it smelled delicious. We opted for the 29 Euro three-course lunch menu, an excellent value, and it was exceptionally good. I started off with one of the best risottos I've ever eaten in Paris, perfectly al dente and topped with tiny pan-fried squid, and Robin had a delicious galette of roasted pork shank meat mixed with lentils and foie gras. "This is terrific," she said, "and this restaurant is exactly the kind of place we'd kill for in New York. The ingredients are first-rate and there's so much technique in the cooking, but it's reasonably priced, low key and quiet." Next, cod with a crust of buttery crumbs and fresh herbs for me and a daube de sanglier (braised wild boar) for Robin. Neither of us could resist the tarte Tatin for dessert, and we were wise to sucuumb, because it was beautifully made with soft tart caramelized apples and a flakey buttery crust. We were dawdling over coffee when the chef, young Marc Ouvray, emerged, and during a friendly chat, he told us that he'd previously cooked with Eric Briffard, now chef at Le V at the Four Seasons George V and one of the most exigent classically trained chefs working in Paris today.
Though the wine list and a la carte menu are more expensive (we drank a very good Corsican red from Ajaccio for 29 Euros), I can't wait to go back for dinner.
Sunday lunch in Paris is always a challenge because so few really good places are open. I'm not a big fan of brunch in restaurants--I can do a much better one at home and don't have to change out of my home gear uniform of an over-sized T shirt and sweat pants to eat it, and most of the cities brasseries, the weakest link in the Parisian food chain, are at their worst at Sunday noon. The main reason is that the Sunday lunch crowd usually orders the cheap prix fixe menu, but service is likely to be slow and the kitchen sloppy, since no one really wants to be working in the middle of the day.
So I gave it some thought when Frances, a new friend from California, suggested we meet for lunch. Knowing that she loves old-fashioned Paris, I booked at La Fontaine de Mars, the 1908 vintage bistro that was selected for a very public private dinner by President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle when they were here recently. I hadn't been to this old-timer for a while, but knew the atmosphere would make Frances happy--red-and-white checked table cloths and a pretty setting overlooking a fountain on the rue Saint Dominique and also that owners Jacques and Christiane Boudon are consummate pros.
Suffice it to say, we had a very, very good meal, and that this place has vaulted to the top of my Sunday lunch list. The elegant Frances didn't want a starter, but I couldn't resist the oeufs au Madiran "facon meurette," which are as good a reason as I can imagine to get out of bed on a Sunday before noon---two perfectly poached eggs in a sauce of reduced Madiran wine with onions and lardons (bacon chunks). A charming Dutch woman at the table next to us had the foie gras de maison mi-cuit and probably because I couldn't take my eyes off it, very kindly offered me a taste on a toast point, and it was excellent.
Frances ordered the steak bearnaise with homemade frites because "the beef in France has so much more flavor that it does in the U.S.," and I had free-range chicken in a cream sauce that was generously loaded with morilles. My chicken was juicy, tender and wonderfully infused with the taste of the morilles, and after Frances put a serious dent in her beautiful pile of golden frites, I finished them off. Her bearnaise was homemade, too, a sad rarity in Paris these days, with a lovely bite of tarragon preserved in vinegar.
Finishing up over first-rate mousse au chocolat and baba au rhum, I concluded that the presidential minders had made an excellent choice for the first family, whom, I gather really like their food. Putting politics to one side, I'm all for a president who loves the superb Mexican cooking at Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill in Chicago as much as I do.
I'm also heartened by the fact that Michelle Obama is taking such an interest in healthy eating, and word is that my batterie de cuisine shares something in common with that in the White House, since the kitchen there is apparently equipped with a SEB Acti-Fry, too (The Obama girls love fries). As I mentioned, this brilliant new appliance, the fruit of ten years of research by the French SEB appliance company, makes a whole load of fries with any oil you care to use--olive, duck fat, etc., and it does so via an ingenious system that uses hot air from a small electric fan to crisp the fries. By avoiding the traditional deep-fry method, these fries have a fat content of 3% instead of the 20% you find a Mickey D's, and the most miraculous difference between SEB fries and traditional ones is that they actually taste like potatoes. I cut tiny Rattes du Toquet potatoes in half the other night, tossed them with sea salt and herbes de Provence and cooked them with tablespoon of Greek Kalamata oil, and the results were terrific. The other advantage to this machine is that it doesn't leave your house smelling like a MacDonald's for a day or two.
Le Carre des Vosges, 15 rue Saint Gilles, 3rd, Mo Chemin Vert. Lunch menus 22 Euros (2 courses), 29 Euros (3 courses), Avg a la carte 50 Euros.
La Fontaine de Mars, 129 rue Saint Dominique, 7th, Mo Ecole Militaire or Pont-de-l'Alma. Avg 40 Euros.