Paris trip/food report (kind of long)
I was in Paris the third week of January --thanks to the CHers who responded to some of my info requests prior to the trip. I combined CH suggestions with various other sources --Paris food blogs, a couple guide books, direct suggestions from a local I know, and a couple of random drop-ins. Kind of going by memory here, so forgot some details (especially, oddly, what I had for desserts).
The first night we strolled the market on Rue Daguerre (near to where I was staying, the market is just off Rue Leclerc and about a block from one of the Denfert-Rochereau metro entrances). The market appears to be local shops who just extend out into the street. Lovely cheeses and fish in the first block. For those looking for a bustling "locals" scene/market great for strolling in the early evening and surrounded by a number of restaurant options, I'd highly recommend going here. Not a huge market but fun.
Second day: Paris-by-Mouth tour of St Germain. Lots of fun, and great and knowledgeable guide (Diane). Great intro to some of the more notable shops in the area. That was lunch.
Second night: Huitrerie Regis (near St. Germain de Pres). I'm not sure where this recommendation came from. I think a couple of Paris food blogs (John Talbott's and David Lebovitz's and probably the Paris-by Mouth website). Tiny place of about a dozen small tables. We dropped in a bit earlier than peak time so did not have to wait (I do not think they take reservations). We ordered a tray of the size 3s with shrimp and a caraff of Sancerre. Yum! The oysters were fresh and clean. Not much more needs to be said than that, except that it was exactly what we were looking for: a place that just does good, fresh huitres in a pleasant atmosphere. (My guess is that the place is a sea of tourists during peak tourist season, though that is not oyster season. Hmm, so does a place like Huitrerie Regis just shut down?)
Third night: Mansouria for Moroccan food. This came from two independent recommendations: one from CH (thanks "Ptipois"), and separately from a Moroccan friend of my sister's who lives in Paris. The restaurant is located in the 11th near Faidherbe metro (a couple metro stops east of Place de La Bastille). The neighborhood seems to be pretty cool --off the beaten path for tourists (save for a couple of restaurants that attract us, including Bistrot Paul Bert). It also seems to have a good deal of ethnic diversity: numerous central asian, african, other international mixed in with fun cafes. At Mansouria we had the fixed price dinner which included small plates of numerous Maroccan
tidbits, lamb tagine, and a dessert. The initial plates included a shredded carrot salad which had being flavored with rose water --lovely, though one only needs a few bites. Aubergines, tabouleh, and other tasty items. The tagine was delicious --a huge shank (I think) of lamb full of tender and flavorful meat.
Fourth day lunch: Le Taxi Jaune near Le Pompidou. I think the recommendation came from the same source as for L'Huitrerie Regis. I had an entree and a plat principal. The entree was a sort of white fish mousse served over endive. I cannot recall the name of the fish --something beginning with a "C" (in French). The plat principal was also a (different) white fish beginning with the letter "C" (I think carrelet --flounder-- but not certain). This came poached over baby carrots and cubes of parsnips and a lovely light sauce. I did not intend to order two fish dishes. The waitress who was very sweet and helpful to the limits of her English (and limits of my French) recommended the entree, but was not able to come up with the translation (though I'm certain she never said it was fish). Anyway the other plats were not as much of
interest to me. So, oh well, no complaints. The atmosphere was classic small French bistro, very attractive and friendly, and a welcome
relief from much of which surrounds Le Pompidou.
Fouth night dinner: Le Dome near Montparnass. This was hands down the biggest disappointment for me. It had been recommended by my companion who had been there before, so we went. If you go, be prepared to spend some Euros. My companion was not feeling well, and soup sounded good. I had never had a real bouillabaise. So, perfect, we'll order the bouillabaise. The price was 51 Euros per person and a minimum 2 people had to order it. It took 45 minutes to prepare (as they warned us). Our waiter was pretty snooty at the start and put off by the fact that we only ordered the bouillabaise, and no plats principals in addition; and we only ordered a half-bottle of wine. Friends, we could only finish about half of the bouillabaise as it was. Meanwhile of course we were taking up a table for a dish requiring 45 minutes of prep. The waiter brought out a platter of various white fish (whole poached or steamed -not sure), and a large bowl of broth was placed before us. The fish was boned and divided into bowls and topped with the broth. The fish was beautifully cooked. The broth was incredibly rich and salty; it appears to have been flavored almost exclusively with lobster and/or crab tomalley. It tasted like a mouthful of the ocean, but whereas say urchin (uni) tastes like the ocean with a sweetness, this broth tasted like the ocean with a saltiness. While I do not question the quality of preparation, I think I can say after eating it, I do not really care much for bouillabaise (but give me a good cioppino any time). Anyway, after we were done, the waiter asked if we wanted more fish. We hadn't realized that they had only boned and divided about half the fish on the big platter and clearly we were paying for it all! We both felt really bad, but were just too full. In any case, I am sure their other dishes are high quality, but I doubt they are worth
the hefty price tag.
Fifth night: Bistrot Paul Bert. This was our "star" choice in terms of planning ahead and it did not disappoint. We were seated where a lot of English speakers were seated, which I think was for efficiency reasons --the waitress spoke good English. Interestingly though, she thought we were Italian: because we both speak Italian better than French, our efforts to understand the menu involved thinking about the word in Italian. The waitress heard that and at least at first tried to explain questions in broken Italian. I had halibut cheeks "tempura" which were very lovely, with a very light breading and some greens. This was followed by slices from a baby roast boar. So it was a sort of pork roast. My companion had a golden beet salad followed by the classic entrecot saignant with frites (though the meat looked pretty "bleu" to me). It came with a sort of celery root whip. Now if only I could remember the desserts.
Sixth day: market around Place de La Bastille. This is great, and huge!
Beautiful vendors of fuits, meats, nuts, fish, etc. Plenty to snack on. We later went to L'As du Fallafel. This one appears as a recommendation everywhere, from guide books to local food blogs, and I can understand why. The Fallafel were excellent, and the pita was stuffed the the gills with fixin's. Perhaps the best Fallafel sandwich I've ever had (having never been to Israel and claiming no vast experience on the matter). Two down sides from my experience: The line is very long at the peak time (made up mostly of American's) --though it moves fast, and there is no place to sit down. Even the nearby building window ledges seem deliberately designed, being sloped not flat, to discourage people from setting a drink on them to stand and eat. I guess I cannot blame them. I wonder: is the Fallafel place right across from L'As du Fallafel with a shorter line as good?
Sixth night: Creperie Quimper on Rue du Montparnasse. The block of this street has about a dozen Creperies, some more boisterous and some more cosy and intimate. Again, I do not know how it is in high tourist season, but the week I went it was almost all locals and perhaps a handful of tourists willing to explore farther afield. We chose Quimper because it looked warm and cozy, was very small, and frankly was one my companion had not yet been to. I think I had a pretty basic crepe with mushrooms and cheese and I think spinach, finished with a crepe with pear and chocolate. The crepe was great, but the atmosphere was especially nice. (Who knew it had a set of good reviews on Tripadvisor, as I just discovered now as I write this?)
Seventh night: Le Bistrot des Pingouins off of Rue Daguerre. (Ha, apparently it too has good reviews on Tripadvisor). This was a case of walking down the street in a very residential area, and walking into a place that looked nice, had a good-looking menu, and where we overheard an Italian couple telling their friends in passing that it was good. This is quite possibly the best place I ate during my entire week. The waiter could not have been friendlier either. I started with a lovely herring salad: a plate of potato accompanied by a terine dish in which were floating large, beautiful filets of house-prepared pickled herring. I served myself a couple of larger filets, and was all smiles.
I than had a classic l'entrecot with frite. Had to have that once before leaving. My companion had a delicious lentil salad and a rack of lamb. The only disappointment was the dessert --a tarte tatin, which was more like an apple cake, lacking the nice carmelized sugar that makes a tarte tatin so good.
And somewhere in there, I made it to Angelina's for a lovely hot chocolate. All in all a lovely time in Paris. I hope I can get back soon!
Thanks for the feedback and some of the credit goes to Parnassien not me.
As for "Le Dome" I think we would have steered you away or at least across the street to its Bistro.
As for ordering one course at night, when we still ate out at night my wife was feeling ill but wanted "to watch" me eat and the waiter (at another place, La Maison de Charly, which was nigh-empty) refused to take my order so we went to Chez Georges where they were more understanding.
"Apropos "Chez Georges" : are you referring to the Chez Georges at 1 rue Mail? Is it worth a return visit?"
I thought about that before I wrote it but didn't specify because I assumed, wrongly, that because it would have taken me/us an hour to go to the other two I stayed nearby - my fault - no, La Maison de Charly is out near the Porte de Maillot as is the Chez Georges on the Bd Pereire, which should not be confused with that in the 4th or the Pompidou.
The one in the 17th does have a charriot with a great petit salé selection and I like the Georges at the Pompidou for its view but for old boy/old school chow Chez Georges on the Rue de Mail is my idea of fun. Go, CHounders will disparage this sort of 1950's food but I think one needs to go back to the future. Please report.
Mille mercis/ grazie mille for your delightful report.
Fab that you were able to take in the rue Daguerre. These rues commerçantes/ market streets (like Daguerre) as well as marchés volants/ 2-or- 3-times a week street markets (like Bastille) are such an important part of real-life Paris that I am surprised that so many foodie tourists seem to overlook them. Unfortunately, the best rues commerçantes and marchés volants are usually located outside the normal tourist zones. So bravo to you for including it during your stay.
And yes, le Dôme in Montparnasse is a has-been, living off its near-depleted reputation and landmark status. For me, it's only value is as cafe with a great terrace for sipping a cuppa and watching the world go by. But I wonder if you went to the big brasserie or to the somewhat better and more affordable bistro across the street (rue Delambre) ?.
And another bravo for finding the Bistrot des Pingouins. Great prices and great ambiance, eh ? I never found that its trad and, at least for us locals, predictable food is all that outstanding but good enough and made even better by the superb price-quality ratio. The standard Chowhound advice is always plan and reserve but I for one prefer to be a wee bit more whimsical and impromptu, especially during the week. Your experience is proof that even tourists can stumble across some great little eateries. Of course, following your nose and instincts is always much less risky outside the tourist zones.
Sorry for the mix-up and double fish at Le Taxi Jaune. Even though I'm bilingual I occasionally find it difficult to translate some menu items from French into English. Once out of the tourist rut (as you were), waiters are rarely fluent enough to adequately explain menu items. Next time you come to Paris (soon, I hope!) I suggest you download the app for Patricia Wells' French-to-English glossary of food terms. Really really comprehensive and helpful. And I gotta say I'm chuckling at the irony of ending with two fish dishes at Le Taxi Jaune where meat in general and horsemeat in particular are the specialties.
Re the falafel, Mi-Va-Mi just across the street is better but less hyped than L'As du Fallafel. Chez Hanna and Chez Marianne on the rue des Rosiers towards the rue Vieille-du-Temple are also good and much more civilized/ enjoyable. Falafel is more generally Middle Eastern than specifically Israeli and you can also find excellent falafel at quite a few Lebanese and Syrian restos throughout Paris. For me my choice of falafel joint is usually determined by the proximity to a park where I can have a bench picnic. For us Parisiens, eating on the street is considered pretty uncouth... it's becoming more and more common but not common enough for me to feel comfortable doing it. But it doesn't matter on the rue des Rosiers because almost everybody there is a tourist or suburbanite.
Thanks for the comments. No problem about the fish issue at Taxi Jaune --I enjoyed both. I remembered one of the places I looked at specialized in meats, but could not remember which one, and the board at Taxi that day did not reveal much to suggest meat as a specialty. Oh well.
And on the Bistrot des Pingouins place, I erred (oops!) As I said, I was going by memory. The place we went was Au Bistrot d'a Cote, I think. At least, their address on their business card (which gives the name as "Au Bistrot") has an address which matches Au Bistrot d'a Cote from an online search. In any case, it was tasty. At least now I have a place for next time.
But the your general point, and my experience is clear, that perhaps the best advice for posters asking for suggestions for restaurants where the locals go is not to recommend restaurants, but rather, neighborhoods, and tell them to just try what looks appealing -some will be hits and some will be misses, but that will be the "real" experience.
"a quartier rather than a restaurant". You're thinking like a Parisien. BTW, when you went to Bistro Paul Bert, you were in a neighbourhood with some of the best food karma/ feng shui in Paris. The rue Paul Bert is magic... a street of winners. And the quartier is magic.... ranging from Septime in the north to Clandestino in the south, the Marché d'Aligre, the rue de Cotte restaurant street, etc... anybody has to be very, very unlucky to go bust playing restaurant roulette here.
Your joke was perfectly clear, John. It was mine that fell flat.
And, Monsieur P, your rule #4 is a good one, but if you are a visitor your options are playing on weekends or going on a monastic fast. This is the first time we have been stiffed, and the problem was exacerbated by having to please DH with sketchy alternatives in the immediate area. He wanted a fast fix rather than our usual cross-town standbys, while turning up his nose at any place with seating. C'est normal.
What a great recap of your trip -- and all places I have not been. Good info.
As for your Bouillabaisse experience, I hope you will not judge it by that one! When you find yourself in Marseille or (even better) Cap d'Antibes @ Restaurant Bacon... I hope you will try it again. It is, after all, a specialty of the French Riviera, and not at all Paris.
Ditto for the wonderful post.
Our previous apartment was just off rue Daguerre on rue Gassendi. Glad you enjoy the away from the tourists neighborhood. The owners of the markets on Daguerre are some of the friendliest. So are the two nearby markets, Montrouge and Edgar Quinet. Le Bistrot des Pingouins was our neighborhood fallback. Hope you got to enjoy the excellent viennoiseries at d'Antan, the only good boulangerie of the many on Daguerre.