The Lovage, A Diary: Tarajia's Paris List
In Paris, as in New York City, my worst nightmare is thinking of the people I love eating poorly when there are so many great options. The thing is, you do have to know where to look. The often repeated phrase that the food is better in Paris is true…and it’s not. My summer of, eh, “research” was a real pleasure, and as I’m inundated with requests for restaurant guidance, it’s time to put that pleasure to good use and put it all in one place.
If you are looking for old school Michelin tasting menus like Le Grand Véfour, La Tour d’Argent and Le Meurice, then this is not your list. There’s an occasional place for that multi-Michelin dining in my world, but while I love the classic, that overly architectural plating and service stodginess is not how I like to eat often. I like to feel satiated but not stuffed after a meal…and most importantly, feel inspired, and for me that means eating where the chefs tend to be younger and more experimental, sourcing locally and serving it up in boisterous informal rooms. If you dig it, map out a plan using the below. Purchase the LeFooding app in case you find yourself hungry in an unfamiliar area and refuse to waste a meal on mediocrity.
But if you have just two days in Paris and you want to eat the way I like to eat, perhaps those four meals should be: Le Chateaubriand, Septime, Bistro Paul Bert, Comptoir du Relais…With oysters and Champagne at Le Dôme before one of those meals…And apèro at La Buvette before the other. Et voila! That’s a good way to know what’s happening in Parisian restaurants maintenant, but also recall what current dining was born out of. I’ll keep this updated as I discover more, so check back before your next trip.
* N.B. Many restaurants are closed on Sundays. Reserve whenever possible. This is not an exhaustive list…but it’s a beginning. XX
THE PERFECT CROISSANT
Pain et des Idées – A boulangerie extraordinaire in the 10th Arrondissement just south of the Canal Saint Martin. Not only are their croissants exceptional, but their loaves and more experimental recipes never disappoint. The shop itself is a jewel box of antique painted glass that will make your mouth water as much as the pretty confections . Hours: 6:45am-8pm; closed Sundays. 34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris. T: 01 42 40 44 52
Bistro Paul Bert – This traditional bistro with classic French fare in the 11th arrondissement never disappoints. Prix fixe lunches (19€) feature your choice of an entrée, plat et dessert ou frommage, with seasonal highlights such as sautéed morels with fried eggs, asparagus with langoustines & spring peas, tête de veau with sauce gribiche, calve’s liver and pigeon. It’s just so good. Prix fixe dinner is 34€. Closed Sunday & Monday. Open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch (12pm-2pm) and dinner (6:30pm-11pm). 18 rue Paul Bert, 75011. T: 01 43 72 24 01
Le Verre Volé – This is where the food-loving, natural wine-sipping locals go. The owner, Cyril Bordarier, created the notion of a cave à manger fifteen years ago by adding a few tables in the middle of his wine shop. The food has Japanese flair, particularly in the fish dishes, thanks to chef Takao Hinazawa, but with Le VV classic dishes, like the must order blood pudding, it just tastes like Paris now. If you have to wait for a table, do as a Parisian would: buy a bottle of natural wine and sit on the banks of the Canal Saint Martin to drink it while you wait. Everyday, from 12:30pm to 2pm and from 7:30pm to 10:30pm. 67 rue de Lancry, 75010, T: 01 48 03 17 34
Comptoir du Relais — Chef Yves Camdeborde led the bistronomy movement in Paris with la Regalade, but wanted to create a place with the same rigorous attention to sourcing at a more approachable price point. He did so with Comptoir, where the egalitarian spirit means there are no reservations so there’s always a wait. Lunch can be quicker. The salty butter is as dense and rich and textured as cheese. One of the only places in Paris to get a decent salad, but…don’t skip out on the dishes with foie. Camdeborde’s adoration of the best ingredients is evident in every bite. Brasserie menu €30-50 (lunch), menu €60 (dinner). 9, carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006, T: 01 44 27 07 50
L’Ami Jean — Chef Stephane Jego marries bistronomy and traditional bistro fare in a fantastic, rustic environment, replete with his antics as caricature of crazy French chef, shouting and throwing plates in the kitchen. You’ll need a long walk and a big nap after, so don’t plan much for the afternoon other than a slow tour of the nearby Musée d’Orsay. Open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. 27 Rue Malar, 75007. T: +33 1 47 05 86 89
Septime – One of Paris’s finest neo-bistros, Septime has a polished consistency but always surprises in terms of new dishes and ingredients. The ever changing prix fixes make for the most romantic dinner or lovely lunch with a pal. It’s got a Michelin. Lunch Tuesday-Friday: 12:15-2pm; Dinner Monday-Friday: 7:30-10pm. 80 Rue de Charonne. T: +33 1 43 67 38 29
Café Des Musées – If you’re in the Marais and hungry for an authentic but unpretentious lunch, head to this old bistro with unassuming but quintessentially French classics such as Champignons Farci with Escargots, Côte de Boeuf Béarnaise and a Tarte du Jour. It’s not a revelation, but it’s a good standby for hungry visitors. 49 Rue de Turenne, 75003, T: 01 42 72 96 17
Café de Flore – A good place to see and be seen at any time of day or night, this is where Grace Coddington relaxes between shows and Japanese tourists photograph their café crèmes. Even if it’s freezing out, the most coveted tables are the ones outside (they have heat lamps), where the people-watching is at its zenith…et on peut fumer. Not really a place to eat, but if a hangover requires it, an omelette is serviceable. Also, it’s possible to survive on their peppery potato chips and cold white wine. I’ve done it. From 7:30am to 1:30am. 172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006, T: +33 1 45 48 55 26
Aux Deux Amis – The story behind this irresistible hangout is as charming as the place is cool. When chef Iñaki Aizpitarte started Le Chateaubriand in 2006, a waiter, David, came with the restaurant (waiters come with leases in France…and it’s impossible to fire anyone, hence the lack of effort for great service). Eventually David opened Aux Deux Amis nearby, and now a former Le Chateaubriand sous is in the kitchen, creating simple yet creative tapas. Their natural wines, enormous wheels of local cheeses, and adorably snooty staff make this place the bees knees. Best in the evenings. From 12:30pm to 2:30pm and from 7:30pm to 10:30pm (snacks served nonstop until midnight). Closed Sunday and Monday. 45 rue Oberkampf, 75011. T: 01 58 30 38 13
Septime la Cave – Buy a bottle of natural wine to take home or stay and enjoy the vibes here while waiting for your table at Clamato across the street. Everyday from 4pm-11pm. 80 Rue de Charonne, 75011.
Le Train Bleu — If you find yourself in need of refuge near Gare du Lyon on a rainy afternoon, take yourself to Le Train Bleu, the Rococo restaurant on the mezzanine of the 19th century station. Built for the World Exposition of 1900, the station retains its fin-de-siecle charm and the beauty of the room is well worth the hardship of oysters and Champagne. Everyday 11:30am-10:45pm. Gare de Lyon, Place Louis-Armand, 75012. T: +33 1 43 43 09 06
Le Mary Celeste — American cocktail impresario Josh Fontaine opened this hub in the Marais where mixed drinks and natural wines are joined by quirky, easy-to-nibble small plates. An ever-buzzing room seven days a week. Everyday, from 6pm to 11:30pm. 1, Rue de Commines, 75003. T: 09 80 72 98 83
La Buvette – Camille Fourmont is a one-woman-show inside this tiny gathering spot in the 11th arrondissement. A veteran of Le Dauphin, Camille brings a sophisticated palate to streamlined dishes, such as Mozzarella di Bufala with a dusting of spices, Smoked Haddock with yuzu caviar pearls and Galician sardines. Camille does everything from prep to plate to pour the natural wines. It’s always crowded there, and for good reason. Closed Mondays; Open Tuesday-Friday 5:30-10pm and Saturday-Sunday 11am-10pm. 67 Rue Saint-Maur, 75011 Paris 11ème, T: 09 83 56 94 11
Le Chateaubriand – Iñaki Aizpitarte’s trailblazing restaurant was the first neo-bistro (an unpretentious restaurant that is at once utterly French but modern in its fare, sourcing and style…you can read my article about it here). For 70€, you’ll enjoy 8 dishes that show off some of France’s most carefully sourced products thanks to Aizpitarte’s playful approach and deft restraint. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 7pm-11pm (closed Sundays & Mondays). 129 Avenue Parmentier, 75011, T: +33 1 43 57 45 95
Le Dauphin – Inaki Aizpitarte’s Rem Koolhaus-designed tapas and wine bar next door is as gorgeous as its natural wine and Basque-inspired dishes are delicious. Everything about this place is addictive. If I went to Paris and didn’t stop in here, my trip would feel incomplete. No reservations. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 7pm-11pm (closed Sundays & Mondays)131 Avenue Parmentier, 75011. +33 1 55 28 78 88
Papillon – Alain Ducasse alumn Christophe Saintaigne delivers interesting and inspired delicacies at this 17th arrondissement sophisticated spot. The room doesn’t have the same anything-can-happen cool as, say Le Chateaubriand, but the food is lovely enough to be the perfect backdrop when you want to focus more on your date. Open for lunch & dinner, Monday through Friday. 8 rue Meissonier, 75017. T: +33 1 56 79 81 88
Semilla – A modern bistro (“neo-bistro”) and great standby if you find yourself in Saint Germain late at night and need a better-than-decent meal. No relation to the Brooklyn restaurant. Everyday, from 12:30pm to 2:30pm (12:30pm to 3pm Sunday) and from 7pm to 11pm (10pm Sunday). 54, rue de Seine, 75006. T: +33 1 43 54 34 50
Le Baratin — This incredible, authentic but also innovative and influential bistro in Belleville is where the chefs go to eat Raquel Carena’s food. Her adroit understatedness and dexterity with classics is evident in dishes such as her bright, cloud-like cervelles (veal brains), her nearly naked crudos and rich stews. From noon to 2:30pm (except Saturday) and from 7:30pm to 11:15pm. Closed Sunday and Monday. 3 Rue Jouye-Rouve, 75020. T: +33 1 43 49 39 70
Clamato – Septime’s little sister, Clamato offers à la carte fish-focussed dishes in a fun, slightly raucous environment. They often sell out of the best dishes mid-service, so come early or accept fewer choices. Dinner Wednesday-Friday: 7pm-11pm; Saturday and Sunday noon to 11pm. 80 Rue de Charonne. T: +33 1 43 72 74 53
Clown Bar – From the same owners and chef as Michelin starred Saturne, Clown Bar is the the more approachable and informal off-shoot. If the jewel box room weren’t enough, the natural wines and creative dishes make this an essential spot to visit if you call yourself a foodie. Book ahead or go for lunch. Just on the border of the 11th and the Marais. From 12pm to 2:30pm and from 7pm to 10:30pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday.114 Rue Amelot, 75011. T: +33 1 43 55 87 35
Yam’tcha – Adeline Grattard’s singular dishes are truly seasonal with a backbone of French technique but also reference the flavors and textures of China, where her husband, Chi Wah, is from. Wah oversees the tea program and pairings, as well as the Yam’tcha tea shop around the corner. Open for lunch Wednesday through Saturday and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. 121 rue St. Honoré, 75001. T: +33 1 40 26 08 07
Frenchie – Grégory Marchand worked at Gramercy Tavern in New York before returning to Paris to start his mini-empire in the 2nd arrondissement. He currently has 3 storefronts on Rue de Nil…and they are all always full. A favorite of the fashion pack for its non-intimidating and comforting take on modern French cuisine, Frenchie Bar à Vins is place is a good Sunday night option. Order whatever ravioli he’s serving. Frenchie: 12pm to 2pm (Thursday and Friday) and from 6:30pm to 10pm. Closed Saturday and Sunday. 5 Rue du Nil, 75002. +33 1 40 39 96 19. Frenchie Bar à Vins open everyday.
L’Arpege — Chef Alain Passard has done for France and vegetables what Francis Mallmann has done for South America and meat, which is to say, elevated them and their treatment to divine ecstatic measures. Passard famously removed meat from his haute cuisine menu when he didn’t feel what was available was up to snuff. He’s reincorporated it minimally, when he’s satisfied with the product, but vegetables are the star at Arpège, where they are sourced from one of his three farms. My article about his ethos and Neflix Chef’s Table episode here. Three Michelin stars; prix fixe only. Closed Saturday & Sunday; Open Monday-Friday for lunch & dinner. 84 Rue de Varenne, 75007. T: +33 1 47 05 09 06
Spring — American expat chef Daniel Rose’s beloved Parisian bastion. Full disclosure: I haven’t eaten here, but fell head over heels for his food at Le Coucou in NYC. A prix fixe of 84€ for 7 courses. This is tip top of my must visit list. He also owns “Bourgeois bistro,” La Bourse et La Vie, which is à la carte. Closed Sunday & Monday; Open Tuesday-Saturday for dinner only. 6 Rue Bailleul, 75001 +33 1 45 96 05 72
Achille — Owner Pierre Jancou (of the original Racines & Vivant) has something of a reputation. The word that Parisians often use to describe the principled chef is sauvage, which given his gift for creating restaurants, is a good and very intriguing thing. Jancou was not, however, cooking here when I visited, but rather a lovely mild-mannered Swede, Svante Forstorp, presided over the neo-bistro menu, which felt conceptual and decisive, if hard to follow. The room makes up for pared-down combinations that fall short on the palate: it’s steamy and cozy, with gorgeously curated tableware, tiles and mirror. Still, there is something about the little restaurant that feels wild at heart; Achille seems less obsessed with pleasing and more fixated on being true to itself. Closed Sunday & Monday. 43 Rue Servan, 75011
Racines — Relaxed and joyful. Originally founded by Pierre Jancou, the current iteration of Racines is a cave à manger with a completely seasonal menu and phenomenal, reasonably priced wine choices abound. Located in the Passage de Panoramas in the 2nd, this restaurant’s sister is the Racines on Chambers Street in Manhattan. Noon to 2:30pm and from 8pm to 10:30pm. Closed Saturday and Sunday. 8, pas. des Panoramas, 75002 T: +33 1 40 13 06 41
Poulette — Another jewel box, Poulette, in the 1st arrondissement, is bedecked in its original Art Nouveau tiles and serves beautifully cooked comfort food, perfect for when you’ve had too many tasting menus. The food may not be adventurous, but it’s authentically French and really quite excellent. Charm in spades. Closed Sundays. 3 Rue Étienne Marcel, 75001. T: +33 9 53 62 89 17