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Jan 25, 2014 05:21 PM

Traditional Bistro question

I am trying to decide between Cafe des Musees, Chez Denise or Bistro Paul Bert for one night of our May visit to Paris. Is Musees very different from the other two restaurants?

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  1. Yes. They are really nothing like each other.

    If I had to choose, I would order them Denise, Paul, knowing that others might reverse this, and very far down the line, Musees.

    I realize that Musees is a Chow favorite, but (at night particularly) it can be tourist central with harried service and food that is nothing special. One of our worst dinner experiences.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mangeur

      mangeur....for a Sunday lunch in Marais, steak frites at Musees or go lighter at Breizh and go "bigger at dinner"??

    2. Café des Musées has somewhat updated trad cuisine but not exactly life-changing, great value, conveniently located and easy to get to from the tourist zones, and is open on Sunday. Having never had the bad experience that Mme Mangeur has had, I value it higher than her and it's always on my Sunday list if I happen to be doing something else in the area... but not a destination resto in my opinion.

      Bistro Paul Bert is pretty trad with a few modern twists but no fireworks, often conforms to the tourist notion of what Parisien bistro should be, closed Sunday, very foodie location on the rue Paul Bert restaurant row (great food karma). I've never had an unsatisfactory meal but there are other very good restos in the same quartier that distract me enough from being a regular at Bistro Paul Bert. Closed Sunday.

      Chez Denise is very old-school, very historic, fabulous option for after-hours eating (open until 5am), usually a very enjoyable buzz from the very harmonious mix of tourists and locals, duck specialties (but the foie de veau is very good too), central location in Les Halles, closed Saturday and Sunday. My heart belongs to Chez Denise. Never a less than enjoyable meal even if the cuisine is a bit too trad for my usual preferences.

      But in the end, I would let whimsy and convenience decide which resto to choose on any given night. Yet, if I was absolutely obliged (let's say, by an interrogator at Guantanamo) to make a ranking of the 3, mine would be exactly the same as Mme Mangeur's.

      15 Replies
        1. re: Parnassien

          The last two times I went to Café des Musées:
          - Once was to accommodate vegetarian friends of mine. The restaurant is near their home and is user-friendly in that way and many other ways. Yes, lunch is always better. More relaxed, fewer non-English speakers, until we walked in and started screeching, that is.
          - The other time was when, again, Candelaria was not open when it said it would. It has good food, lowkey hip atmosphere, friendly if excessively lackadaisical sense of service.
          And guss what ? Café des Musée happened to have pré-salé for lunch. It is best for that kind of thing: Marais-ized classic bistro experience.

          1. re: Parigi

            On January 26th, 2014, Parigi wrote on Chowhound : "vegetarian friends of mine".

            Just sayin'.

            1. re: Rio Yeti

              Bien vu. :)
              That's how cool I am. I have 2, no, 3 of those.

          2. re: Parnassien

            Thanks to all for your responses. Looks like Chez Denise gets the most love. We have eaten at Cafe Des Musees and Denise sounds like a good change. We are staying at edge of 3rd on Rue de la Verrerie (apt with a terrace, yea!) so the location is good. Also, looking at Les Enfants Rouges and Taxi Jaune for new spots to try and perhaps returning to Le Metropolitain (I know this place has some detractors and admirers, but we have enjoyed on both our visits), Ober-Sale and a night of grazing at Mary-Celeste.

            Again, thank you all for your dedication to good eating and helping me countless times make the right food decision in Paris.

              1. re: John Talbott

                John, would you consider Terroir Parisien updated classical bistro food? There also seems to be a consensus that the new TP is better than the first place. We have eaten at the TP in 5th and enjoyed it. Appreciate that I can make reservations on line.

                1. re: macdog

                  "updated classical bistro food." Yah I guess you could call it that. I mean terrines and steak are pretty classical but the saucisson of sweetbreads and mushrooms and spinach were updated. I too liked it better than TP #1.
                  For my two meals there so far (last month) check out:

              2. re: macdog

                Mac, I'm a huge fan of Métropolitain (as well as this little less touristy slice of the Marais between the rue Rivoli/ rue St Antoine and the river) and of Ober-Salé in the 11th. I see nothing wrong with re-visits. (And, John Talbott, speaking of re-visits, you promised to have another look at Métropolitain, right ?).

                If it's a matter of "either... or" (but "both...and" is better, innit ?), Les Enfants Rouges has much better cooking but I'm still a fan of Taxi Jaune for the total experience. Not being especially fond of most of the tourist-ridden Marais/ 4th, I do think that as many forays into the buzzy more real-life Haut Marais/ 3rd the better... and turning a meal into a night out with apéros at this or that bar/ café and coffee/ digestifs somewhere else, people-watching, lèche-vitrines (especially the small art galleries and trendy shops), parading arm-in-arm on the rue de Bretagne, etc.

                1. re: Parnassien

                  Parnassien, That all sounds perfect, although I'm not sure what a leche-vitrines is. We have 5 nights so hoping to try some new and enjoy some old. Chez Denise, Metropolitian, Les Enfants Rouges and maybe the new Terroir Parisien all sound interesting.

                  Love the haut Marais and have saved a couple of your great write ups of that neighborhood. We enjoyed Le Barav last year and had lunch at Cuisine de Bar and Nanashi (hoping to try Au Bon Pho or Kunitoraya this trip). You have mentioned Le Progres, Le Charlot and Le Sancerre in your haut Marais reccomendations -are these places more for drinks or can you get meals there? Thanks again for all the great info!

                  1. re: macdog

                    Mac, re Le Progrès, Le Charlot and Le Sancerre....all 3 have food but typical café-brasserie fare. Fine for something simple when you want a light/ quick meal or snack or when the better eateries or closed or full. But all 3 are more popular as watering holes/ pitstops in the sip-and-chat Haut Marais circuit. Tourists are usually are little too frantic to experience all of Paris in 48 hours to appreciate the art of doing absolutely nothing (except peoplewatching, witty chat, and savouring the company of friends) that these cafés represent. But I'm a typical Parisien idler and so I love them. If forced to say whose food is the best, I'd say le Charlot. For the total experience and most points on the trendy scale, le Progrès. For hot weather hanging out/ munching and the chance to overhear Christian Lacroix gossiping, the terrace of Le Sancerre (which is also more of a resto than a café).

                    Lèche-vitrines (literally windows licking) means window-shopping... obviously we French are very oral. :)

                    1. re: macdog

                      Deleted... duplicate reply. Stupid me.

                    2. re: Parnassien

                      "(And, John Talbott, speaking of re-visits, you promised to have another look at Métropolitain, right ?)."
                      Yah I did, been a little busy, I'll move it up on the list.

                2. All three places are favourites of ours, although like most of the other comments, we only have lunch at Café des Musees. It has never been a contender for dinner with us, but without fail it has delivered a satisfying lunch, good service and location. I love their hand-chopped beef tartare. At our most recent lunch there, we were surrounded by local people, but that may change in the evening. Actually, all three places are well-known and popular, so you can always expect a mix of tourists and locals.

                  If we are wanting very traditional French, in a lively bistro setting we choose Chez Denise and drink their house Brouilly.

                  At Paul Berts bistro we love their quality ingredients that have the "gout de terroir." Their dishes are more simply prepared, but always products from well-sourced suppliers. I am a fan of their hanger steak with shallots and their Paris-Brest, and also their well-chosen wine list.

                  1. Also do it in the order of all the others. Have been going to Denise for 30 years, live two blocks from Paul Bert but still always go to Denise.
                    Their boeuf tartare, their morue auvergnat, razor clams, civet de cerf, are classic and their choc mousse is my fav in Paris.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                      "Their choc mousse is my fave in Paris" Wow, that statement had me sit up and take notice - not only because I read menus backward, but because I know you are not usually a dessert lover! I'll be having it next time - and I'll let you know....

                      1. re: francaise

                        Scary you noticed, that and the vanilla ice cream with dried fruits at Le Quincy are the only desserts l eat in Paris.

                          1. re: mangeur

                            He serves a portion of homemade vanilla ice cream with so much vanilla it is very grey. With this comes a pot of fruitcake fruits macerating in God Knows what liquors and for God Knows how long.
                            It is rum raisin ice cream to a ridiculously high standard.

                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                I was enticed by the chocolate mousse, but now I'm really drooling.

                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                  OMG, Stefan! you just gave me the BEST idea what to do with my leftover "Stollen fruit" from the holidays!

                                  Milles mercis. :)

                              2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                Please don't be scared - I only notice because pastry is my métier!

                                1. re: francaise

                                  Not scared just flattered you noticed my posts and remembered them.

                          2. I'm tagging onto this to relay info on a traditional Lyonnais Bitrot (aka a bouchon) in Paris. After its fire in 2007 or so, Chez Fred in the 17th, reopened in 2008 and a famous member of the ParisCHbunch and I ate here and were greatly disappointed. In 2010, its brilliant Master, Alain Piazza, I assume, brought in Chef Jean-Francois Robert from Tante Marguerite and our meal today was both traditional and had spins to it.
                            And no pesky fellow Yankees either.