[A sidebar to this post about our October 2008 trip to Paris]
A note about dining: We learned this trip the value of a reservation. Our friends made a few of these for us, but the rest we simply walked into during the afternoon and asked what they had available. Reservations are way more important in Paris than they are in most NYC restaurants, which tend to leave a percentage of the room unbooked for walk-ins. In Paris, they do not, and if the place is particularly small–and most are–they won’t let you linger until a table opens up, which if you have ever dined in Paris, know will never happen! Also, the restaurants appreciate knowing when you’ll arrive at their “home”, and I don’t know about you, but I prefer being a welcome guest.
More about dining and eating: Clotilde, of ChocolateandZucchini.com fame, just wrote a book that is absolutely perfect for anyone interested in a fresh take on where to eat in Paris. In it, she also explains a lot of the dining customs, such as the reservations and the bread that never sits on the lip of the plate and the best things to pack in your suitcase to bring home, along with her favorite places to go. We simply loved it, and heartily recommend it. [Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris]
Where we ate: So, people always ask us where we eat on vacation, I guess because they’re hoping for recommendations. But we usually just go wherever strikes us in Paris, a random cafe, etc. Not this time. This time, our apartment swap partners made dinner reservations for us at some of their favorite places, and we filled out the week with suggestions from another friend of ours who grew up in the neighborhood. We ended up with a lot of great, low-key meals in places filled with locals, places we universally would not have found without someone suggesting them.
A La Biche au Bois
What we ate: Alex loved his wild boar stew and salmon rillettes, and I loved my steak au poivre and mushrooms a la Grecque. It’s really a fun place, and was incredible to find people still walking in for dinner at 11 p.m. on a Monday!
Bistro Paul Bert
Probably the most widely-recognized place we went, it was fantastic. They have a three-course price-fixed (34€) and have great steak frites, but the steak only comes “saignant” (rare) or “bleu” (basically raw). Don’t even ask for medium or (god forbid) well-done, or at least not if you wish to feel welcome there. They’re also famous for their “maison” Paris Brest pastry, a flaky ring filled with a praline cream filling, and topped with almonds.
What we ate: Organic buckwheat crepes (the flour is from Brittany and I hear almost damp if you feel it uncooked), mine with an egg, artichoke hearts, ham and cheese and the best beer I have ever tried, something called La Morgat Ambree. The dessert crepe, topped with a dark brown salted caramel made with Brittany butter, and the inspiration for this post, is something I am still too emotional to discuss. I plan to revisit this place every time I return to Paris.
Specializing in Provencal food, Chez Janou is cute and cute and cozy place [photo above] on a quiet street. The lamb chops are incredible, but I’d skip the stuffed vegetables I ordered next time.
What we ate: Couscous with vegetables, couscous with chicken, perfect olives in a Mediterranean Salad with rose wine. Casual and inexpensive, to boot. They don’t take reservations, so get there before 8 or be prepared to wait.
What we ate: We had a late lunch here one day (quiche and pizza du jour), and it’s the second trip where we swung by this place in Montmartre on a blogger’s recommendation. The place is simply adorable–they make excellent bread and the most fantastic chocolate pastry that seems like it was the stroke of some genius who said “you know, pain au chocolat, it is good but perhaps it doesn’t have enough chocolate in it?” My apologies for not photographing it; it didn’t last long enough.
Our second visit this Italian wine bar, and I expect there to be a third. They have wonderful food and fantastic wine, and the place is packed with regulars. (Hilariously, across the street from a store that specializing in “Lousiana” food–it had cans of pumpkin, corn syrup, Jell-O, Dr. Pepper and Zatarans in the front window. The store was always full of people.) We insist that you order the Corleone dessert at least once; don’t ask what it is, don’t read the description, just try it. [Snicker.]
Richard Lenoir Market
Near the Bastille metro, it is the largest outdoor farmers’ market in Paris. You’ll have to go to this guy for more concrete recommendations, but we bought wonderful cheese and olives, bread and even a half chicken and the potatoes that had been cooked under it at different points during the week. Definitely worth swinging by (Thursday and Sunday) if you’re staying at a place where you can stash or eat food.
Le Verre Vole
A wine store/wine bar specializing in charcuterie. They cook very few things on the premise (when you see how tiny it is, you’ll understand) but everything is no less delicious for it. Look out for an inexpensive bottle of wine called “The Black Pope.” We didn’t try it, but can’t imagine it being anything less than awesome.