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Classic Bistro ideas in Paris

I own a small French bistro in Occidental, California. We have received great reviews and support from the community. Our chef de cuisine has never been to France and we are sending her there in mid January and early February when we will be closed for three weeks. My desire is to immerse her in the food, wine, people and culture of France. Hopefully, she will return with new ideas and appreciation of the food, wine and culture to share with our guests. I lived in Strasburg and I have spent a lot of time in Provence and the South of France with grandparents and aunts, uncles and cousins. I know almost nothing about Paris. I would like to recommend a few moderately priced and high quality bistros to her to try in Paris while she is there. She will be staying in the 6th near to the Luxemburg Gardens. Any help would be most appreciated. Michel

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  1. Make sure to get reservations at : L'Astrance--high end but innovative and delicious; Le Pamphlet--excellant chef; Le Baratan; Les Magnolias--far out but definitely worth the trip for gorgeous food; L'Ardoise; Chez Ami Jean--wonderful food--innovative; L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon; Le Chateaubriand--for the lovely and interesting food of Inaki Aspitarte; Aux Lyonaisse--bistro run by Alan Ducasse; Chez Georges--wonderful, traditional bistro; Sensing--newly opened place under the guidance of three star chef Guy Martin; Le Bistro du Dome--wonderful fish bistro; L'Os a Moelle--my personal favourite prix fixe bistro; Le Comptoir--the man who started it all is still going strong at this newish place in the 6th arr., however it is difficult to get reservations for dinner--maybe being a fellow chef is a way in; Au Petit Tonneau--a wonderful woman chef who has been running this place for years--her mushroom dishes and tarte tatin are outstanding and she is a lovely and sweet person; Ze Kitchen Galerie--in the 6th and very hip with good food and an interesting way with the menu.

    There are many more but this is a start. I would recommend looking for web sites on these so you can view the menu. There is a web site for best restaurants in Paris that gives menus, www.bestrestaurantsparis.com.

    1. We had lunch and dinner at Le Comptoir last March. It was wonderful each time. I would recommend that even if your chef can't get a seat at dinner to go for lunch. For one thing the items on the lunch menu ofter appear at starters on the dinner menu. Also there are items on the lunch menu that are delightful in and of themselves. We also have enjoyed L'Ardoise and L'Os a Moelle. You are very nice to send her to Paris.

      1. I tend to like the traditional bistros more than the trendy restaurants, but that's just me... BĂ©noit, Chez Georges, Le Petit Marguery... and tho NOT very moderate in price, she really shoud dine at the Ultimate Paris bistro, L'Ami Louis.

        As well, Lyon is only a 2-hour train ride from Paris, and the bistro food there may be even better! George Blanc''s Le Splendid, Jean-Paul Lacombe's Le Petit Lyon (lunch only) Philippe Chavent's Comptoir du Boeuf, Bistro de Lyon, Bistro du Vin, La Voute (Chez Lea). I think Lyon has the best food in France... the fine dining is lovely, too, just stay away from Paul Bocuse's restaurant. Don't EVEN get me started!

        1. Thank you very much to each of you for your bistro ideas/recommendations. We will try to make sure she gets to as many of these as she can during the days she is there. If you have further ideas or other web sites to check out, please let me know.

          The only Paris restaurants I have been to are Allards and L'Ami Louis. I have also been to Viaduct Cafe which was owned by the brother of my cousin. I think he has now closed it and opened a new restaurant in Paris. Michel

          1. What street is Chez Georges located on? There seem to be several restaurants by that name in Paris? Thanks Michel

            2 Replies
            1. re: Pammel

              chez georges, 1, rue mail 2nd arr
              01 42 60 07 11
              metro sentier

              1. re: faijay

                Thank you! I want to make sure we get to the right place. Michel

            2. Thanks for the feedback. We (our chef, two of our servers and my co-proprietor and I) have reservations for the 2 1/2 days in Paris for Chez Georges, La Cagouille, Allard and Le Petit Marguery. We prefer the more traditional bistro rather than the new generation.

              We also want to hit some or many of the unique/special "foodie spots" in Paris. I have it on the list to maybe go to E. Dehillerin, Simon and Mora (cookware shops), Specialty shops such as G. Detou, La Maison du Miel, Boutique Maille and Maison de la Truffe, Boulangerie Lionel Poilane, Chocolatiers La Maison du Chocolat and Richart, Patisseries Laduree and Christian Constant, Fromageries Barthelemy and Marie-Anne Cantin, Ice Cream Berthillon and Wine shops Lavinia and Le Grand Filles et Fils.

              Any of these which are a must for Sonoma County restaurant team or more importantly a waste of time? Would also like to hit one of more of the open air markets. We will be there Thursday AM through Saturday mid-day before we head to south of France. What about Rue Cler or Saxe-Breteuil Market? Any others to suggest?

              Thanks for your feedback. It is most appreciated.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Pammel

                fyi - Boulangerie Lionel Poilane will take about five minutes -- you can buy flour there though, so it might be worth it.

                There are a couple locations of La Maison du Chocolate so if you're mapping out an intinery, find the one closest that fits.

                The Laudree in the 6th has no line (unlike the one on Royale near the Boutique Maille) so you might want to try that one, it's also close to Rue de Seine which has da Rosa, and excellent source for Jambon. What do you want to try at Laudree? If you're doing a cross tasting of macrons, then you have to add Pierre Hermes. If you're after pastries, then do not miss the strawberry tarte (it'll look ugly but try it anyway). The tarte citrone there is my favourite in the city.

                I'm not to sure what the deal is with Boutique Maille, as most of their mustards are available throughout the world. It is a neat store though not terribly educational, imho.

                Lavinia is a must.

                Why not arrange a tour of Rungis? for pros that might be more worthwhile.

                Would you consider popping David Lebovitz a note on the Markets? He was the pastry chef at Chez Panisse and he does, among other things, market tours here in Paris. He might be your best source for getting the chef's view of the markets most effectively. www.davidlebovitz.com

                oh, and if you are sending anyone from the front of the house, the best service in the world, imho is at Taillevent.

                1. re: Pammel

                  Last year in Paris I took a short tour with David Lebovitz. We went to a small chocolate shop on the left bank (sorry I can't remember the street but not far from St Suplice)Patrick Roger. Beautifully made chocolates. David's a lovely guy and and I saw and learned (and ate!) so much.

                  1. re: micki

                    Patric Roger is on St. Germain -- they have a metre long box of chocolates in the window right now. As well as these cunning pine trees made of chocolate and coconut.

                2. We like to go to G. Detou, La Maison du Miel, Boutique Maille. At G Detou, they have fabulous dried mushrooms of assorted varieties for relatively low prices. At La Maison du Miel there is a list of what honey is good for various ailments. I am not sure it is a necessary stop for you. At the Boutique Maille there are a wide assortment of Maille mustards that we don't see here. Usually we bring our crock back and get it filled from the pump but since Maille recommends that you place the crock in your carryon luggage we can't do that anymore. E. Dehillerin is a favorite spot for us though everytime I go I kick myself that I didn't buy a copper confiture pan when the Euro was $.85. Since it is so packed full of all sorts of great stuff you might want to make a list of what would be useful to you. The tart pans and assorted tartlet forms are really nice and relatively inexpensive. Have a great time.

                  1. I definitely recommend getting and taking with you the latest edition of Patricia Wells' "FoodLovers' Guide to Paris. It lays out absolutely everything, foodwise, in Paris, by Arrondissement. If it's not in there, it's probably because it's not worth your time to visit. I have never gotten a bad rec from her or her book.

                    The Boutique Maille also has gorgeous mustard pots, if, like me, you like to collect those... I recall the one in Dijon having an interesting exhibit on the history of mustard, tho I prefer the mustards of Edmond Fallot, from Beaune.

                    1. I have looked in three different large bookstores in San Francisco besides the normal suspects for Patricia Wells book as I had heard that was a great source, but to no avail. I will go to Amazon and see if it is available there. I prefer to use the Fallot mustard as well, but thought it would be interesting to go Boutique Maille.

                      Any idea about how to arrange a visit to Rungis? Is it open to the public? I remember going to Les Halles when I was very young and being overwhelmed.

                      1. Patricia Wells books are available thru her website and the library, they are currently out of print.

                        Rungis is not open to the public, tours can be arranged through licensed partise such as Stephanie Curtis http://viatraveldesign.com/archive/A8...

                        1. A. Westermann's Mon Vieil Ami, on the Isle St. Louis, is my pick. A second favorite is Le Pere Claude, just for the creme fraiche, near the military school. For the best omelette in town, L'Voltaire...even better than Cafe Constant's. I second L'Os a Moelle as an authentic and idiosyncratic neighborhood bistro with the chef's choice for dinner. For hot chocolate, Charlotte's beats out Angelina's. For chocolate, period, Jean Paul Hevin's laboratory on Faubourg St. Honore. And I highly recommend the food market on Rue Clerc. One must read: Cornell's Steven Kaplan "Cherchez le pain" (a guide to the best boulangeries in Paris, and it may not be Polaine after all...) ISBN 2-259-20050-8. Good luck!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: zorba

                            Curious whether you are cagily referring to Jean-Luc Poujouran's boulangerie in the 7th? I have always liked their bread (and cookies) better than Poilane.....

                            1. re: ChefJune

                              Actually, no...I prefer Philippe Gosselin (1st) for baguettes....spent an entire morning last October just munching on a perfect baguette...the zen of baking, I guess. For reference: Kaplan's top rated bakers are Le Boulanger de Monge where Master Saibron does his baguette de tradition, and Maison Kayser a popular place for pain tradition by Eric Kayser. They're both in the 5th arr.

                          2. So many good suggestions - my own favorite traditional bistro is Le Scheffer on Rue de Scheffer - it simply is perfectly what it is, a wonderful, warm neighborhood place of high quality and reasonable price.

                            1. Thank you so much for all of your great suggestions. We leave for Paris two weeks from today. I have purchased Patricia Well's Food Lovers' Guide to Paris and will modify some of our non-restaurant visits to take advantage of her suggestions. We will be there for lunch on Saturday and would love to find another great bistro to visit that day, preferably one where we can get a great cassoulet. A dish we are going to add to our menu upon our return.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Pammel

                                If you are planning to put cassoulet on your menu and since you will be in Paris pick up as many pounds as you can carry of tarbais beans. They are the tradtional beans used in cassoulet and are very difficult to find in the US. And if you find them here expect to pay about $15 bucks a pound. But, boy, are they creamy and delicious.

                              2. I have two recommendations to add to the already excellent suggestions. First the Bistro d'Etoille in the 8th. Its small, intimate, and very innovative. The chef and staff are amazing and the culinary experience is fantastic. The pricing - for Paris - is a bargain. The second suggestion is Le Reminnet in the 5th. Its somewhat hectic at times but the food, ambiance, and service is first class.

                                1. We will be in Paris on thursday. We are staying in the Latin Quarter on rue de Ecoles. Please give me your top suggestions for the Fifth.

                                  1. Thanks for the reminder about getting the Tarbais beans. I have only been able to find them periodically at a store in Pasadena, CA when I have traveled down there. They are very expensive here as you point out. They are wonderful and we will stock up.

                                    1. Cassoulet=La Fontaine de Mars in the 7th on rue St. Dominique. Cozy, neighborhoodish --but this is an expensive neighborhood so the service, quality (and prices) match. Fabulous cassoulet. Thoumieux is in the same neighborhood and same type of restaurant (very traditional, family-owned) and their cassoulet is decent. This is a better known restaurant and a bit rowdier, jollier and more touristic but an awful lot of fun. Have fun!

                                      1. Oh, for the street markets, the Sunday market at Richard Lenoir/Bastille is very, very good. A wide and excellent range of products, no attitude, amiable vendors, a couple of very good specialists. Rue Monge in the 5th is good but small. The one in the 17th is great. There is also an organic market on bd. Raspail on Sundays but it is very expensive. Good people-watching, though, as this is a very high-profile neighborhood.

                                        1. There are some great ideas in these notes. I'll add my favorite, about a block from the Metro Charles-Michel, Le Bistro ChampĂȘtre at 107, rue Saint-Charles (XV Ar).

                                          I do hope you'll provide a ranking of your favorites once you've tried them all :) Ciao, bon voyage, et bon appetit!

                                          1. Don't miss the market at the Place Maubert (Wed. and Sat., I believe). Nearby is the Kayser boulangerie which is one of the best in Paris. For an unpretentious but professional and always satisfying dinner try Le Reminet on the Place des Grands Desgres (sp?).
                                            Your chef might not want to come home so soon. Three weeks is hardly enough time to scratch the surface of such a rich culture. Tell her to never refuse the cheese plate, lucky woman!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: brocante

                                              Oohhh, if you go to Kayser. There are two things you must try:
                                              - Le Mixte (which is the best Mixte in the city, imho)
                                              - and the financiers (the plain ones are best in the little size, the raspberry is best in the log size)

                                            2. Also, try to get to the shopping streets: rue Cler, rue Mouffetarde and ru Bucci. There are high end shops on the Place Madeleine.

                                              1. Thank you so much for all of your suggestions. Trip starts Wednesday morning. Very excited. I promise feedback about experiences and where we went and critique. A bien tot.

                                                1. We are going to Paris for 4 nights and 5 days.
                                                  You may want to consider these restaurants on our list but for all of those foodies, please join in and make comments, critiques, etc as we are open to your suggestions as well.

                                                  The places we are considering are:

                                                  L'atelier Joel Robuchon - we know this is fabulous
                                                  Senderens - what about this?
                                                  Le Voltaire - is this still good?
                                                  L'angle du Faubourg
                                                  Le Comptoir - because of the recent press in Food and Wine, do you think that this has become more of a touristique restaurant and maybe something to go to only for lunch?
                                                  Le Vieux Bistro at the L'ile St Louis - touristy? forget about it? What other restaurants on the L'ile St. Louis would you recommend?
                                                  Should we avoid the La Coupole, Le Dome bistrots because they are owned by a chain? Are there other bistrots to visit that are recommended more?
                                                  What is a great vietnamese restaurant to visit now?

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: lisalo

                                                    I ate at Le Comptoir again this Saturday evening (Brasserie menu as the Bistro is only weekdays) and the cooking is still great and I have been going on a regular basis for about a year. My highlight was a Hare cooked in blood sauce (a french version of "jugged hare"). Yes, it has progressivly become more touristy (lots of Japanese on Saturday) but it's quality is still great.

                                                    Don't be put off by the fact that some restautants are owned by "a chain" the Flo Group have actually saved some great hitoric interiors and preserved them. OK the food is not in ther top flight, but they do reasonable brasserie food, in fantastic spaces (although Le Dome and La Coupole are my least favorite). They are busy, they are smoky, the service is rushed - but it is atmospheric.

                                                    In addition I would suggest "Gaya" a Pierre Gagnaire restaurant which is just opposite L'atelier Joel Robuchon on Rue du Bac.

                                                    Not certain I would recomend a Vietnamese restaurant in Paris. The French don't like a lot of heat and spice in their food. Thus the ones I have tried (in both the 7th and 13th) have been pale imitations of the food I ate in Hanoi and Sydney.

                                                    1. re: lisalo

                                                      Le Vieux Bistro is excellent. I loved it, the food was fabulous, I had escargot and the rack of lamb with scalloped potatoes, very,very good.

                                                    2. lisalo: For a budget busting experience in the 5th, you might ask your concierge to book a table at La Tour D'Argent. The glass walls face Notre Dame and the whole dining event is magical.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: amortizor

                                                        ..........or it would be if the food were good! IMO the food does not match in any way the wine list or the ambiance. I wouldn't pay for it again.

                                                        1. re: ChefJune

                                                          ChefJune: Are we talking the same place?? The menu, quality, preparation, presentation are spectacular. And with 400,000 bottles on site, certainly there is a wine for every item of food - or vice versa. And Michelin throws those stars around like manhole covers??

                                                          1. re: amortizor

                                                            It lost a star in '96, then lost another in '06. It is now a one star, down from the lofty three.

                                                            I agree with Chef June, it is far from great. I personally found it pretentious - I visited a few years ago and had to borrow a tie (first and only time in a restaurant). There are far better options in Paris especially for the prices.

                                                      2. I hit the Atelier of JB last week. It lives up to the hype. I had a massive plate of spaghetti with black truffles as well as amazing raviolis with langoustine, black truffles and fois gras, and the veal sweetbreads. Also, the the three glasses that were suggested to accompany the tasting menu were excellent, creative and not too expensive: and included an amazing white cote de languedoc.

                                                        I also hit the Vieux Bistro on Cite which was very nice. They served some of the kidneys I've had at any bistro. I also enjoyed the bottle of triple-marked up 2002 Amiral de Beychevelle (Beychevelle's 2nd wine).

                                                        Zygomates was pretty good too, where I had a generous deer steak and excellent house wine. I think it was a red Chinon.

                                                        Chez Paul on Rue de Lappe continues to be a loser: bad food all around. Of course, it wasn't my suggestion. Another loser was one of the Chinese sushi places on Rue De La Roquette.

                                                        Places I missed were Le Pre Vert where the attitudinous Maitre d' turned us away for not having a reservation. we were forced to eat Ethiopian at Godjo near the Pantheon. This place used to be better. We got seriously white-boy-ed. That is to say served "toned-down" versions of the Ethiopian classics. This place used to be the real deal.

                                                        Anyway, that's about all I have to report. I would have eaten out more but with the holidays, what's the point?

                                                        1. I highly recommend Le Vieux Bistro across from Notre Dame as well; I have sent several friends there and they reported positively. The beef bourginon is trememdous.

                                                          1. You might also have your chef try Aux Charpentier on the r. Mabbion. Nice family run place with a very good menu. I especially like the duck with olives.