Paris Dining Now

French cuisine is what many of us fantasize about as we prepare for a Paris trip.  Sadly, as in many major capitals, for every excellent brasserie there are twenty that simply aren’t up to snuff, which is why it helps to come prepared with a list of bonnes addresses, as well as some advance bookings. Here is Indagare’s diverse—but concise—short-list of Paris’ restaurants to know now.

Classic Bistros

The Trend: Increasingly hard to find, the traditional Parisian bistro may soon be an endangered species.

The Picks: Tucked away on a quaint street in the 11th arrondissement, Le Paul Bert is popular with locals and visitors who come for the traditional fare (signature dish: côte de boeuf), a good wine selection and convivial atmosphere. Up in Montmartre, Restaurant Miroir also has a loyal neighborhood clientele who flock to this charming bistro for its reasonable prix-fixe and chalkboard specials. Open since 1912, Benôit, not far from the Pompidou Center, is part of Alain Ducasse’s culinary empire.  The food is what one expects from Ducasse (superb) and the dining room is très francais, with red banquettes, engraved glass windows and daily newspapers mounted on sticks. Allard, another historic bistro now managed by Ducasse, is located in Saint-Germain-des-Près and also checks the requisite boxes in terms of bistro accouterments (zinc bar, tile floors, brass coat hooks) and menu staples (beef filet with pepper sauce, roasted Bourbonnais chicken, crème caramel.)

Back on the Right Bank, just steps from the Louvre behind the Palais Royal, the recently refurbished Bistro Valois is a good bet for a hearty, traditional French-style lunch in the heart of Paris’s 1st arrondissement.  Two good alternatives to the numerous trendy, here-today-gone-tomorrow restaurants in Le Marais are Café des Musées and L’Ami Louis.  The former is a charming inexpensive bonne adresse where you will find fashionable locals and hungry visitors enjoying generous portions of steak-frites.  The latter is known for its roast chicken, celebrity clientele and high prices—but if you can score a reservation for one of the dozen tables, you’re in for an authentic bistro experience (sassy waiter included.)

Neo-Bistros

The Trend: The nouvelle garde of chefs are breathing new life into the city’s dining scene with inventive interpretations of classic dishes.

The Picks: When Le Chateaubriand opened on a sleepy stretch of the now uber-trendy Oberkampf neighborhood in 2006, the neo-bistro immediately racked up rave reviews for its contemporary take on traditional bistro fare. Today, the dining room is still packed in the evenings for the unique €65 prix-fixe. Frenchie, despite its casual digs—exposed bricks, mismatched chairs, bare light bulbs—is one of the hardest reservations to score. The €48 prix-fixe offers limited options, but those looking for delicacies like foie gras and ris de veau will find them here, expertly prepared with a modern flare. Septime, located on rue Charonne (a blossoming restaurant row in the 11th arrondissement) offers a unique five-course carte blanche tasting menu everyday. New on the scene since 2013, Bones (also in the 11th) offers a share-friendly menu featuring house-cured charcuterie, oysters, and seafood carpaccio. No stranger to Paris’s high-end dining scene, Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alleno opened Terroir Parisien in 2012.  As its name suggests, the restaurant’s farm-to-table cuisine is based around Ile de France-sourced products. With only a dozen or so tables in its charming Art Deco dining room, Comptoir du Relais St. Germain is always packed with fans of chef Yves Camdeborde’s elevated French comfort food.  Located in the rapidly gentrifying 9th, Restaurant Richer doesn’t take reservations, but joining the young couples waiting on the sidewalk (glasses of wine in hand) for the well-priced neo-bistro fare is part of the convivial experience offered by this neighborhood favorite.

Les Terrasses

The Trend: When the weather is fine, there’s nothing lovelier than a long al fresco lunch accompanied by a carafe of crisp rosé.

The Picks: During the spring and summer months, Monsieur Bleu, the fine dining restaurant inside the Palais de Tokyo, opens out onto a splendid plaza.  An unbeatable view of the Eiffel Tower, makes for a magical setting in which to enjoy nouvelle cuisine and sophisticated cocktails. Georges, likewise, serves up modern French cuisine alongside an incredible view—this one from the top of the Pompidou Center. When visiting the Louvre, Café Marly, whose the terrace overlooks I.M. Pei’s pyramid, is a great spot for a pre- or post-museum bite. And at the magnificent Grand Palais, don’t miss a chance to enjoy classic bistro fare in the palm tree–lined terrace of the MiniPalais restaurant.

Sidewalk cafés are a Paris must, but not all are created equal.  For a fashionable lunch near the high-end Right Bank boutiques on Avenue Montaigne, the perennially chic L’Avenue is known for its salads and other light fare as well as its people watching.  Overlooking a small leafy park, Square Trousseau’s sidewalk tables are typically filled with neighborhood professionals and families enjoying a side of sun in addition to brasserie staples. On the Left Bank, La Palette welcomes local gallerists and designers to its an enviable corner terrasse with simple, well-prepared daily specials.  And Ralph’s, tucked away in a beautiful courtyard inside the glamorous Ralph Lauren boutique on Boulevard Saint Germain, not only has a great setting, but also boasts one of Paris’ best burgers.

Foodie Hot Spots

The Trend: From fusion cuisine to molecular gastronomy, the superstar chefs at the helm of these restaurants are bringing French haute cuisine into the twenty-first century.

The Picks: The latest bonne adresse to open on the hip rue Oberkampf, Pierre Sang, has foodies lining up around the block for the chef’s inventive mix of traditional French and Asian cuisines. Pierre Gagnaire, known for his imaginative molecular gastronomy, continues to earn rave reviews at his eponymous restaurant in the 8th arrondissement.  Kei Kobayashi, who honed his skills working for Alain Ducasse, now presides over his own kitchen at Kei, which serves Japanese-French fusion in an all-white dining room. Another best-kept foodie secret is Sola, a spectacularly innovative Japanese-French restaurant on a lovely side street near the Île de la Cité. A popular foodie destination since 2006, American chef Daniel Rose’s Spring features an open kitchen and a daily tasting menu centered around on seasonal market-fresh ingredients. At L’Abeille, Michelin-starred chef Philippe Labbé turns out splurge-worthy haute cuisine for the sumptuous dining room at the Shangri-la Hotel. Those in-the-know head to the small Left Bank Restaurant Itinéraires for chef Sylvain Sendra’s carte blanche menu, which features dishes made with regional specialties. Known for his vegetable heavy menu, David Toutain (formerly of Agapé Substance) now has his own restaurant: Restaurant David Toutain—a minimalist dining room decorated with natural wood, concrete and handmade ceramics—near Les Invalides. Those looking for a little break from typical French fare will welcome the South American- and Asian-inspired tapas at Le Mary Celeste, a hipster hangout in the Haute Marais that also serves freshly shucked oysters and fabulous cocktails.

Newcomers Here to Stay

The Trend: Having enjoyed a steady buzz, these relatively recent additions are poised to make a permanent impression on the capital’s culinary map.

The Picks: The excitement around Septime has not quieted down since its opening in 2011.  If you want a reservation at Bertrand Grébaut’s sophisticated hipster hangout, it is still necessary to book weeks in advance. Bones, opened in early 2013,epitomizes the current Parisian craze for Brooklyn-chic design and farm-fresh locally sourced products. With its checkerboard tile floors and daily chalkboard menu, La Régalade Conservatoire is the latest neo-bistro by Bruno Doucet (La Régalade and Régalade St. Honoré) to become an instant classic. Serving elegant nouvelle cuisine in a splendid Art Deco-inspired dining room (with unbeatable view of the Eiffel Tower), Monsieur Bleu has become a regular hang out for artsy types. Opened in 2013, Le Perchoir, which translates as “the roost,” is a clandestine rooftop bar and restaurant located at the top of a non-descript office building in the 11th arrondissement. After enjoying an expertly mixed cocktail and the view from the tented roof, head one flight down to the stylish dining room for Provençale-style comfort food.

Top Wine Bars

The Trend: At these wine bars you can order a variety of wonderful nibbles (or, in some cases, a full meal) to accompany your glass or bottle.

The Picks: Verjus, near the Palais Royal, is a welcome respite after a visit to the Louvre or shopping excursion along rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré.  The ground-floor wine bar is walk-in friendly and offers a delicious, small plates menu. Legrand Filles et Fils, a grander option in the same area, is a high-end wine shop that offers tasting flights. Located inside one of Paris’s most picturesque passages, this is an enchanting place to sample les grand crus before purchasing a bottle or two to bring home. Le Baron Rouge, situated just off the Place d’Aligre (home to a fantastic produce market), is a neighborhood institution where wine is served straight out of the barrel and can be enjoyed with cheese and charcuterie. Boasting an impressive 110 wines by the glass, Les 110 de Taillevent near the Champs-Elysées, is also an upscale (pricey) brasserie. Le Dauphin, an offshoot of popular neo-bistro Le Chateaubriand (and located just next door) serves organic wines and fantastic small plates in a small space designed by Rem Koolhaas. A favorite among the artsy crowd that has taken over the Belleville neighborhood, Le Chapeau Melon, started as a cave and now offers a small but well-prepared prix-fixe menu.

– Mara Hoberman on July 3, 2014

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