Category Archives: France

Paris Restaurant and Coffee Rankings

Restaurants

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.


 

Coffee

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.

Les Chouettes, Paris, France

I wanted to try another newer restaurant, and limited to those open Sunday, I decided on Les Chouettes after seeing it on John Talbott’s top restaurant of 2014 list. The restaurant is a lot fancier and larger than I expected: the interior belongs in a high-end hotel, and there are 3 floors: the ground floor is main dining area, while the top 2 floors (I dined on the second) have small 2-3 tops. I must say, the restaurant looked pretty pretentious superficially. But food doesn’t lie, and I was very pleasantly surprised to see that they serve classic French food at reasonable prices.
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Since I was going traditional French, I decided to get the terrine of rabbit with assortment of confit fruits. The terrine was incredibly good: seasoning was just right, with intricate flavors. I forgot all the fruit/vegetables but there was a good variety such that it was almost enough to eat the terrine with fruits without any bread. For the main, of course I had to get the duck breast again. I wish they gave me a serrated knife, as it was just a little hard to cut the meat (which was pinkish red). Also I realized that the filet de canette is not the same as magret de canard as the skin is thinner so the cook is inherently different. While I still wish for that crispy skin and red flesh of a magret, this was a good dish. There were some not-quite baby yellow turnips, which had that bitterness I’m not a fan of. But the dates, chestnut and pistachios provided a good pairing with the duck, which was seasoned right. For dessert I had to get the Paris Brest since it’s a classic and I never had it before. Very good, with a surprise of chocolate in the middle of the cream.

Best classic French food I’ve had in Paris at a very reasonable price. You get to dine in a really refined environment as a surprise plus. This is a no-brainer for Sunday dinner.

Clamato, Paris, France

Open 12pm-11pm on the weekend, no reservations. I arrived early before noon on Sunday to make sure I got a seat. It only gets fully packed around 1pm, so any time before that should be no problem. This is a seafood small plates restaurant, same owner as Septime.

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Unfortunately their razor clams, scallops, and calamari (which were on the menu posted in the window-front) were not on today’s menu. I got marinated sardines with fresh parsley and raw cream; warm mussels with citron confit, sea astereggplant, soup of seaweed, onion. The sardines were very good — I usually find parsley bitter but this was fresh enough that it was acceptable. The raw cream went really well with the parsley and fish. The mussels were in shell in a bowl with the soup, which was seasoned very well. Good food, but I would have preferred something less “hands on”. The eggplant was pretty good, with both solid and “caviar”-style eggplant.

I prefer their cold seafood. The other warm dishes were a croquette (fried breaded) black cod and a whole fish also fried. These are less appealing to me than the cold dishes. Their oysters looked really good but expensive for one person to eat 4-6. I also got a really crisp natural Chardonnay. The difference between this and yesterday’s dry Sauvignon was noticeable. 2015-09-27 12.20.58

KB CaféShop, Paris, France

I came here for coffee (and they have a very good espresso: Five Elephants). Read about the café here. I saw a granola with fromage blanc on their breakfast menu and a few people were eating it. I was curious what fromage blanc tasted like so I also got one. It’s very similar to greek yogurt but a little lighter — I prefer it. Granola came with bananas. I wish there were some berries but it was good. If the supermarket has fromage blanc I will buy some next time and try this for breakfast.

It’s also located on a nice little corner of Rue de Martyrs, and on Sunday morning there was a small market outside. The produce looked really impressive and fresh, and there were chefs cooking little recipes that could be bought to taste for a nominal fee.

Do your tomatoes look this good?

Do your tomatoes look this good?

Le 6 Paul Bert, Paris, France

Excellent coverage of Le 6 Paul Bert by David Lebovitz here. I made a reservation at the bar a few days beforehand. The menu of 4 courses at the chef’s whim cost 44€. I got a dry white Sauvignon (Touraine, Le Brin de Chèvre) to pair with the seafood.

  • Charcuterie, cheese puff
  • Marinated mackerel (cold) with salad, artichoke(?), green sauce
  • Brill with bamboo slice, zucchini, yellow squash, green apple purée, foam
  • Lamb chops with fig, beetroot, burnt leaves, a really good sauce that I couldn’t identify
  • Peach slices, beer sorbet, thin candied film that also tasted like beer

The quality of the wine really is the most outstanding thing about dining in France. The wine was quite dry, very good. I really like pairing a glass of (good) wine with a meal now.

Everything tasted clean, light, delicious. This is quintessential “simple” French cooking. The ingredients do all the talking and the result is phenomenal. An instant favorite, highly recommended.

Yam’Tcha, Paris, France

I called Yam’Tcha three weeks ago on a whim, not expecting to get a reservation because it is extremely difficult to book. The Saturday hours were also unclear from the Internet, so I was surprised when I managed to get a table for lunch on Saturday (opens at noon). I am particular interested in Yam’Tcha because it serves Franco-Chinois cuisine. These are my two favorite cuisines overall, so I was very interested to see how Chef Adeline Grattard combined them.

Arriving, I was seated comfortably on a “couch” of sorts: a bench that ran along the wall comfortably padded with cushions. The decor perfectly managed the elegant sophistication of a Michelin starred restaurant with the calming simplicity of a teahouse. I was informed that the 60€ lunch menu was not available on Saturday, so I had to get the 120€ full tasting menu (changes daily). I also elected to get the 40€ tea pairing because it’s highly recommended on the internet. The chef’s husband Chiwah is the tea expert.

Starter of light oolong from Taiwan

Sichuanese cucumber salad (tofu, sesame, Sichuan chili flakes) — Flavors were very Asian and familiar, a nice starter.

Sea bream tartare with citrus sauce Green tea from Jiangxi — The fish was fresh and texture was good, but something about the sauce wasn’t quite right for me.

Lobster soup, scallions Oolong from Taiwan — Very generous with lobster meat, kind of an upgrade of egg drop soup. I did not feel like the lobster was used to it’s full potential here.

Steamed turbot, squid, mussels, emulsion ‘fu yu’ (fermented bean curd), Chinese spinach Pu’er from Yunnan — The turbot was cooked nicely and the texture was good, but somehow the ‘fu yu’ or some unlisted ingredient didn’t pair well with the fish. However the ‘fu yu’ emulsion combined with the squid and mussels worked extremely well; that was the best bite of seafood I’ve had in Paris.

Scottish langoustine with coconut Marsala sauce, purple basil — Very reminiscent of Thai curry, it was tasty.

Fillet of veal with Shiitake mushrooms, cream of Shaoxing wine, black vinegar Oolong “rock” tea from Fujian — The sauce is apparently a favorite specialty of the chef, used in various dishes on the rotating menu. But I found it very familiar! The entire dish tasted quite similar to some pork dishes I make (e.g., Richard Olney’s pork chops with mustard cream and apples): the cream sauce traditionally calls for red wine but I usually use Shaoxing instead because I don’t have red wine on hand in the kitchen. This dish really gave me more confidence to go ahead with substitutions in the kitchen when I’m cooking French recipes. Experiment!

Bao (bun/brioche) with Stilton blue cheese filling and cherry Lighter Pu’er from Yunnan — The waiter asked if I wanted cheese before dessert and I was hesitating because I wasn’t sure if it was included in the menu (it is). But he said if I like cheese, this “cheese” is highly recommended. So I got the cheese, and a few minutes later, a bao is presented in front of me! When it was revealed that the inside of the bao contains cheese, I could not stop smiling. This is really what it means to combine French and Chinese cuisine! Before the meal had been “good food” but I wasn’t blown away, but this dish just elevated the entire meal to the ‘amazing’ category.

Two desserts side by side: Hazelnut ice cream over thin wafers sandwiching Physalis fruit / mirabelles with wine-flavored cubes Oolong from Guangzhou — The first dessert was the best I’ve had in Paris. The hazelnut paired very well with the Physalis, which I’m not sure I’ve eaten before but has an “Asian taste” to it. The tea was also my favorite, very fruity and with honey notes. The only tea in the pairing I wasn’t familiar with.

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Firstly, I do not think the tea pairing is worth it. It did not enhance the flavors of the food for me. I have also drunk all of the teas besides the last dessert tea in copious amounts at home, so the flavors were nothing new. I’d recommend it only if you haven’t tried a lot of Chinese teas before and want a guided tour of the most common types.

The food was very good. It is still primarily French in style (as it should be), using fresh French ingredients with a lean towards seafood. The Chinese influence was more clearly present in later dishes, but I would say there are clear Japanese and Thai components (e.g., the tartare and langoustine). The cooking was all done expertly and tasted great. However, aside from the bao, which I am in love with, the rest of the food did not bring the new dimension of taste that I was hoping to experience in a Franco-Chinois combination. The meal did give me the push to try to find these new combinations in my own kitchen.

It was a very pleasant meal in a uniquely designed restaurant. Before I decide whether it’s worth coming back though, I’m going to stuff my face with baos at boutique Yam’Tcha first.

Juveniles, Paris, France

Made a dinner reservation for a table at Juveniles by email a few days in advance to get some classic French food (taking a break from the modern French scene).

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There were a few classic dishes I had yet to try on my trip this time so I ordered this: starter of œuf mollet (soft boiled egg) with caramelized onion, French beans and beet purée followed by my favorite meat: duck breast with pumpkin puree, sliced almonds, Brussels sprouts. I also got a 4€ glass of red wine, which was okay but nothing special compared to the wines I previously had. This is indeed a nice casual spot for classic dishes at an affordable price. Unfortunately I must say I was not impressed by the dishes. The egg was cold, onion too salty, beans and beet purée were fine. The more expensive mushrooms with poached egg looked like a much better option. I would have preferred the duck breast cooked rarer; the skin was however nice and crispy, but it could have been seasoned more. There needed to be some more sweetness and acidity to pair with the duck. The pumpkin purée was good but a little salty, as were the Brussels sprouts. The sliced almonds added a really nice touch when eaten with the duck. Not quite the high I associate with magret de canard (I think I can cook a better one myself). I’ve been feeling fat so I skipped cheese and dessert (none of the cheeses interested me). My tastes are probably quite biased — it seems I strongly prefer the modern French cooking in neo-bistros to the classic fare?