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 Paris Bistros (16)
LA REGALADE CONSERVATOIRE - Another Superb Performance from Chef Bruno Doucet, B+; L'AFFRIOLE - In Top Form After All of These Years, B
Ever since he took over the original La Régalade in the 14th arrondissement from founding chef Yves Camdeborde in 2004, Bruno Doucet has continued to delight bistro-loving Parisians with his shrewd and technically impeccable modern French bistro cooking. First he rebooted the menu at La Regalade, making it brighter and more modern than what Camdeborde had originally been doing, and then he opened a branch, La Régalade Saint-Honoré, in the 1st arrondissement.
For anyone who hated trekking to the outer reaches of the 14th arrondissement--and most people did, this second address was a real blessing, not only for its convenient location, but also because the contemporary bistro cooking served here is so outstanding. Now Doucet's launched a third address, La Régalade Conservatoire in the gorgeous new Hotel de Nell, which opened two weeks ago and has already become one of the hottest boutique hotels in Paris.
Arriving with Bruno, Tina and Francois on a wintry night, we had a drink in the bar with a glass room behind reception, and enjoyed the gorgeous hand-made oak furniture that is a major component of the interior design that brilliant designer Jean-Michel Wilmotte did for the hotel. Here, Wilmotte, black-and-white checkerboard floor, solid oak chairs, and tables with beige runners create an atmosphere that's profoundly Parisian, but modern by teasing the usual nostalgia this term so often implies when used in a decorative context with strong graphics and a rigorous Zen design aesthetic. This is the second restaurant I've recently dined in by Mr. Wilmotte--the last one was Yannick Alleno's Terroir Parisien, and I have to say that he's become one of the best restaurant designers working in Paris today.
Doucet's menu for this handsome dining room rolled out some terrific new dishes I'd never seen before, too. What I really wanted was the creamy cauliflower, Stilton and bacon soup that Tina had, but since I'm still flogging some of the caloric discipline I learned during a week of low-calorie thalassotherapy in Brittany, i went with the marinated scallops with Granny Smith apples and aged Comte in a fine cubed hash adding texture and a gently acidic bite to the creamy scallops under a thatch of frisee dressed in chive oil. I also loved the quiet daring of pairing cheese with scallops, since according to conventional Gallic kitchen wisdom the only dairy produce appropriate for this shellfish is cream. Instead, the comte deliciously enunciated the natural creaminess (sic) of the scallops.
After our main courses, a few sticking points registered. When the delightful hotel manager excused himself and went home, service fell off a cliff in the dining room, with the waiters clustering behind the bar like a bunch of crows and almost pointedly ignoring their customers, and this was after they'd failed to present the complimentary terrine that's one of the signatures of a La Regalade meal without being prompted. The bread was also dull, and lighting in this dining room needs to be tweaked, since the built-in ceiling spots cast small short hard beams of light instead of illuminating the room gently and thoroughly. And as good as the food is and as attractive as Wilmotte's dining room may be, this place has very little atmosphere. All of these flaws will doubtless be remedied as the restaurant settles in, however.
Our main courses were excellent. Francois tucked into a big juicy steak sliced and presented on a mound of stewed beef cheeks and carrots in a red-wine enriched jus; Bruno and loved our griddled half-salted cod with a pistachio crust on a bed of winter vgetables and shellfish (mussels and cockles) in a delicate shellfish bouillon, and Tina wolfed down a grilled breast of veal with winter vegetables.
Rice pudding with caramel sauce, a classic La Regalade dessert, and pomelo-and-pineapple fruit salad with excellent ginger sorbet concluded this very good meal, which had a particularly festive air for me and Bruno, since this new branch of La Regalade is a very easy walk from our front door.
The following night, after we'd both had non-stop days during which neither of us had time to shop, we decided to meet for dinner somewhere midway between Bruno's office and our apartment. I asked Bruno if he had any ideas. "That's your job," he said. Oh, okay. Well, I left it until the last minute, and then was trying to think of someplace relaxed, pleasant and reasonable on the Left Bank, no small order, when it occurred to me that it had been years since we'd been to L'Affriole, a long-running and very good bistro in the 7th run by chef Thierry Verola, who'd worked with Alain Senderens a longtime ago. So I booked us there, and our first surprise was that the warm honey-and-ochre vaguely provencale dining room of yore had vanished in favor of a good-looking and much hipper decor that referenced various Fifties French classics--the green chairs have the shape and design of those found in public parks like the Jardins du Luxembourg or French classrooms, and the tile walls and factory-style suspension lamps also had an appealing retro look.
The chalkboard menu offered all sorts of appealing choices that night, but both of us started off with the butternut veloute, which was rich and pleasantly garnished with Savoy cabbage, and then Bruno had sea bass with a red wine sauce and winter vegetables en cocotte, and I continued on my cod bender with a perfectly cooked filet in a creamy soubise sauce. Our desserts were excellent as well--ile flottante with creme anglaise for Bruno and apple-and-raisin compote for me. All told, with its warm friendly service and reasonably priced wines, L'Affriole is a very good neighborhood bistro that well deserves its swarming crowd of regulars.
L'Affriolé, 17 Rue Malar, 7th, Lte. 01-44-18-31-33. Metro: Pont de l'Alma Closed Sunday and Monday. Lunch prix-fixe two-courses 26 Euros, three-courses 30 Euros; Dinner prix-fixe 36 Euros.
La Régalade Conservatoire, Hôtel de Nell, 7-9 rue du Conservatoire, 9th, Tel. 01-44-83-83-60. Metro: Bonne Nouvelle. Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday. Prix-fixe 35 Euros.
"Dear Alec, Looking forward to seeing you in a week, and to introducing you to my sons, especially the eldest, who's seems to be just about as food mad as you are. I know you'll be away the first two nights we're in Paris, so I've been poking around your blog to see if I could find a relaxed reasonably priced and decidedly French restaurant just out the door from our hotel in the 1st arrondissement. You've written about some terrific sounding spots in the 1st in your book and on your blog, but what I really need is a 'normal people' restaurant. Anything trendy would be lost on me and the boys, as would anything too cutting edge. Sorry to bother you with this, but maybe you'd have an idea of a friendly sort of meat-and-potatoes spot that won't break the bank but will serve us some good food, and, for dear old Dad who'll be running this excursion and is, as you know, fond of the grape, a nice bottle of wine!"
This was the message I received a couple of weeks ago from Todd, a college friend from Pittsburgh who was taking his sons to Paris for the first time while his wife was on a long business trip in Asia, and it got me to thinking about how rare 'normal people' restaurants have become in the heart of Paris. With a few wonderful exceptions, only chain restaurants or slickly designed places peddling the ersatz health food that's become the new Gallic noon-time normal for office workers--smoothies, salads, soup, etc., can afford to set up shop these days on this prime turf, and this really can make it a challenge for visitors staying in any of the many hotels in the heart of Paris, or that turf defined by the Madeleine, Place de la Concorde, the Opera Garnier and the Place Vendome, to find a reasonably priced, good quality French meal. So I gave this request some thought. I like the Bistrot Volnay a lot, but knew it would be too fashionable for Todd and his boys. Then I remembered. As luck would have it, however, I actually had found a swell little bistro in this neck of the woods a few weeks back, Le Bistrot Capucine.
I'd met a friend who's a hotel executive for lunch, and he told me that this friendly little spot with a gorgeous red Berkel slicing machine on the bar (anyone want to know what I'd like for Christmas? Yes! And the machine's painted the very same red as Santa Claus's jacket. Alas, these things run around $5000)--always a good sign, is not only his go-to spot for lunch but favorite new place to have a cave-man dinner, since it just started serving a swell small plate and côte de bœuf only menu in the evening.
That pretty Indian summer day, I loved chef Jean-Marc Berthelot's market-driven menu, and we had a terrific lunch--roasted smoked mozzarella with artichoke cream and cherry tomatoes, poached cod with really nicely made squid's ink risotto, and some brie de Meaux to see us through a last glass of a wonderful bottle of Minervois. It was while we were lingering over the rest of our wine and a coffee that we fell into conversation with the amiable Berthelot, who opened this restaurant in 1998 and who recently went through a royal battle with his landlord to prevent himself from being priced out the neighborhood. The reason that this later subject came up is that I'd been talking about how all of the 'real people' places in the neighborhood had been priced out of existence, and specifically reminisced about the excellent traiteur where I used to buy lunch almost every day when I worked in the rue Cambon. The nice lady who owned this place smoked the ham she sold in the chimney of her country house and made all of the salads--celeri remoulade, potato salad, grated carrot, etc., from scratch everyday and they were delicious.
Berthelot, whose interesting and accomplished career includes stints at Chez Pauline--the great now-gone bistro in the rue Villedo, Guy Savoy, various London kitchens and as a private chef on Caribbean yachts sailing out of Saint Martin, despairs of the economic gentrification that's making it hard to find a good meal in the heart of Paris, and this is why he not only put up a fight to keep his restaurant, but takes pride in serving only the very best organic produce, which he buys himself at the Marche de Vincennes or the Marche d'Aligre, and sourcing his meat at the Boucheries Nivernaises. He obviously loves his work as a chef and a host, so it came as no surprise when he mentioned that execs from nearby Chanel like to privatize his place for let-their-hair-down feasts in the evening every once in a while.
In need of a similar let-down-your-hair meal a month or so ago, Bruno and I headed over here for dinner and had a terrific night. We sampled almost all of the small plate starters, including big fat fleshy Sicilian olives, grilled artichoke hearts, salami and sublime ham, and then tucked into a terrific côte de bœuf. This superb mountain of first rate meat came cooked perfectly medium rare with a generous side of sea-salted roasted baby potatoes and a chlorophyll bright sauce verte that was vivid with the tastes of flat parsley, chives, chervil and a little basil and tarragon. It met the char on the meat as a real treat, too. But since this dinosaur dinner weighed in at 900 grams, or almost two pounds, we struggled to finish it despite the fact that it was juicy flavorful meat with a perfect texture--it firm enough to require a sharp knife but was easy work under the blade.
Over coffee and a slug of great Basque eau de vie, we chatted with Berthelot and his wonderfully wry bar tender, and beyond politics and food, everyone railed about how no one makes time for a good time anymore--work has just about gobbled up everyone's lives, and about how they're fewer and fewer 'real' streets in the heart of the Paris anymore. By this we meant, streets with shops that sell things that you actually need and/or can afford, but a few survive, including the rue Vignon and the rue Caumartin, both of which we all like a lot.
So on the way home, I ressolved to try and cover more 'real people' restaurants on this blog, and I also sent a message to Todd about the Bistrot Capucine. A few days later, I had a response.
"Alec, Thanks so much! We were pretty jet-lagged when we wandered into Bistrot Capucine, but Jean-Marc was so welcoming, speaks great English, and his beef was some of the best any of us have ever eaten. We liked this place so much we went for lunch a day later. I persuaded the boys to try Jean-Marc's cod steak with risotto and they loved it! Big step for American teenagers who will only eat pasta, pizza and burgers at home! See you on Friday and maybe we can talk them into some foie gras...or keep it all for ourselves! Best, Todd"
22 rue des Capucines, 2nd, Tel. 01-49-26-91-30. Métro: Madeleine or Opéra. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Lunch menu 28 Euros; average la carte dinner 30 Euros