Here’s my rankings of the restaurants I ate in based on overall enjoyment considering food, service, price.
L’Arpege — Lunch surprise menu – by far the most memorable meal and the most fun I’ve had dining which is surprisingly since I usually don’t find tasting menus fun. If you have time for a 3 hour weekday lunch, highly recommended.
Le 6 Paul Bert — this is quintessential French cooking that’s really hard to find elsewhere. Get the chef’s menu (2 seafood, 1 meat, 1 dessert). It’s really “simple” cooking, but that’s because the cooks let the ingredients do all the talking.
Le Servan — exactly what I think a neo-bistro should be: cozy and cheery, charming Levha sisters, market driven ingredients with serious novelty. A la carte daily menu so you still have choices. The neo-bistro to go to.
Yam’Tcha — not as unique as I was expecting given it’s French-Chinese, but many of the best dishes I had in Paris were here. Tea pairing not worth it.
L’Avant Comptoir — This place is a must visit because it’s really unique to Paris. Really crowded, so much going on, overwhelming, absurdly good quality/price ratio. They also have the largest selection of natural wines I’ve encountered. Try to go when Eric is there; he has really good recommendations.
Les Chouettes — really well done classic French at reasonable prices. Feels like a high-class hotel but it’s actually not pretentious. My go-to for traditional French food.
Le Chateaubriand — it’s now too hyped and too expensive an experiment. Food was all cooked well but given the wealth of other neo-bistros now around, the food wasn’t novel enough to make it a must-visit. The only time I found wine super memorable — best Pinot Noir I’ve ever drunk.
Clamato — open Sunday, seafood tapas.
Chez Denise — If you want a really classic bistro from the old days, go here. Open 24 hrs on weekdays so good for late nights.
Juveniles — I thought Les Chouettes did classic French better. Try the menu of the day.
The quality of the wine is the most impressive thing about dining in Paris/France. And there’s definitely more “good food” in Paris than anywhere else, and most of it is in really casual environments which I think is hard to find elsewhere. But in terms of novelty and eye-openers, my opinion from the trip was that the neo-bistro scene is still catching up to places like New York or Copenhagen.
This site is very good for Paris coffee information. I had a double espresso at each place (except L’Arbe). Here’s my rankings.
1. Loustic — good single origin espresso of the week (Belgian roaster Caffè Nation), not too sour like most. Has wifi and room in the back. The owner was training a cute barista during the morning off hours. He’s super obsessed with details, which I approve of.
1. KB CaféShop (formerly Kooka Boora) — my other favorite espresso (Five Elephant roaster), lots of crema. No wifi on weekends (probably for the better), might get crowded during prime tourist hours. It’s on a nice corner of Rue de Martyrs with an impressive little market on Sunday morning.
3. Ten Belles — Belleville Brulerie/Bodybuilder blend of Costa Rican beans. Good flavors, just a hint of sour. No wifi, small space but not cramped. Everything run by one woman when I was there.
3. Boot Café — a darker blend (Café Lomi’s Bordeaux blend), lots of crema. Similar to KB in taste. Very cramped, no wifi, run by single woman.
5. Holybelly — also Belleville/Bodybuilder, slightly sour but maybe that’s just the beans. Has wifi. Seems this place is known for brunch and has crazy lines if you go in peak hours.
6. L’Arbe à Café — 3€ for a single shot of single origin Ethiopia Yergacheffe so it’s quite expensive. The shot was prepared with care and did taste good. This place is more for selling beans so there’s no sitting room and inconvenient hours.
7. Espressamente Illy — I went here just to calibrate. Basically everything is machine programmed. Surprisingly it tastes pretty much like a traditional Italian espresso, but it’s the same price as all these other cafes so only come if in the area.
8. Fondation Café — another Belleville/Bodybuilder espresso, but quite sour for me. No wifi, only a little room inside, a few seats outside (people-watching?).
9. Coutume — double espresso came in a huge cup which I dislike, shot was sour in a “badly pulled shot” way rather than anything to do with beans. I didn’t like their Tokyo location either. Crowded but once you get a seat there’s wifi so you can hang around.
Telescope was closed for renovation but it looks like it’ll reopen soon.
No one can escape the “New Wave”… I am of the opinion that the new roasters/beans do produce better tasting espresso. But I read someone saying all the café owners follow the same tumblrs and it’s pretty true. All the new cafés have the same look and feel, and I like the classic French cafés with little tables out front better. The espresso was worse of course but that’s the trade-off.