Going to Paris this week -- what should I order off the menu?
I'm going to Paris for the first time -- we'll be there for three days and I'm so excited. I've done a lot of research on the boards about where to eat. We're not doing anything fancy -- mainly bistro fare. I know I'll want Steak Frites, maybe a nicoise salad. But besides that, please tell me some other classic bistro fare to order. I don't speak any French and hopefully will be going to restaurants that don't have translated menus (I'm trying to avoid touristy places) so it will be good to know what to order in advance. My only limitation is I don't eat baby animals (veal, lamb, etc.) and I'm probably a little too squeamish to go for frog legs. Thanks!
you will find duck, veal, lamb and rabbit to be featured much, much more prominently on menus in France than the US, with beef being the exception rather than the rule on the vast majority of menus so you are excluding yourself from some of the best things to be had in Paris. But, here are some bisto things you should try:
Frisee lardons - Salad with thick cut fried bacon, often served with poached egg
Salade chevre chaud - Green salad with seared goat cheese
Quenelle de brochette - Pike quenelles, minced pike fish scooped into oval shapes (quenelles) usually served with either bechamel or crustacean sauce
Coq au vin - chicken braised in red wine
Foie gras - prepared in several different ways, pan seared usually often with a fruit based sauce, au torchon - rolled into a cylindrical shape and lightly poached, Terrine - refers to a rectangular dish (terrine) the foie is molded into then usually sliced served with a wide variety of sauces, and there are probably others I have overlooked, all are very good.
Huitres - oysters, you will find an astonishing variety available, usually served with rye bread, butter and mignonette sauce, red wine vinegar, shallot and black pepper.
Turbot - A fabulously delicious north Atlantic fish, be sure and have it if you see it on a menu. In my opinion the French do a much better job a cooking fish than you generally find in the US, exception being le Bernardin in NYC (which moved from Paris in 1984)
Brouillade - Scrambled eggs, you will see eggs in different forms on dinner and lunch menus, I think they are not eaten for breakfast in France. Omelettes too are often on lunch and dinner bistro menus, they are wonderful with black truffles
Oeufs en Meurette - One of the glories of FRench farmhouse cooking, poached eggs served with a sauce of reduced red wine, veal stock, shallot, carrot, bacon
Pintade - Guinea hen, very rich dark meat poultry.
Confit de Canard - duck, most always the leg, that has been preserved in its own fat, then roasted or pan fried, highly delicious.
Pigeon - Very common on bistro menus and very good roasted and sauced with their cooking juices, also sometimes listed as the name palombe.
Langoustine - A sea creature that looks like a cross between a very large shrimp and a very small lobster, they are delicious and prepared many different ways.
Fromage - Cheese, be sure and order some before dessert
Ice creams and sorbets - ask if they are house made, if so they are usually of high quality and a very good choice for dessert
Paris Brest - A circular shaped pastry ring cut in half horizontally and filled with praline cream, topped with toasted almonds
Pain Perdu - Forgotten bread (French toast) served as dessert never at breakfast
These items are common to many bistro menus and good choices as an introduction to basic French dining.
You should consider going to a place with a good cheese course. I've been to Restaurant Astier in 11th arrondisement. They have an amazing cheese course. It comes out in a woven tray about the size of the table that you are eating on.
I think that you should go with an open mind and try whatever strikes your fancy at the time! The prix fixe menu is usually a good value. As well, if you go to the more expensive restaurants for lunch, prices are lower.