Restaurants, Bakeries, Food Shops, Passes Sanitaires and Other "Choses" from A Recent Trip
There was so much interest in the newsletters I sent from Paris during our trip in December that I thought my paid subscribers might welcome a few more notes about the restaurants and other food venues we visited. Though Omicron has put a damper on travel, it doesn’t hurt to dream. And the nice thing about the places we liked best was that most of them have been around for a wile. Chances are they will be there when you arrive à Paris.
As I said before in Issue #31, it was nice to be in a place where despite multiple lockdowns and the arrival of a fourth wave, morale still seemed better than at home in New York, especially in restaurants.
Our focus was on small, unpretentious places. I’m indebted to my friend and colleague Nicolas Chatenier, Academy Chair for France for the World’s 50 Best and director of Les Grandes Tables du Monde, for his advice and help setting up our dining itinerary. I hope you enjoy these places as much as we did.
Le Comptoir du Relais
A perennial favorite. We always go the day we arrive in Paris. We drop our bags walk over to get on line around 11:45 am (they open at noon) so we can make it in for the first seating. This time there was no line because we learned too late that they now take reservations for lunch and the dining room was full booked. Yikes. Luckily, it was cold and rainy so there were seats available outside. We sat near a heater with a blanket they provided on our laps. And it was worth it. Everything is comme il faut. We always order oeufs mayonnaise and the pâté de campagne Régalade to start. We’ve never had a bad meal. Of note, they usually have a few large salads on the menu, which isn’t as common as you think it would be in Paris. Eat your fiber while you can. We usually skip dessert. See next.
Boutique Pierre Hermé
After lunch at le Comptoir on arrival day, we always walk over to rue Bonaparte to Pierre Hermé to pick up a few macarons (still our favorite of the lot) and some other pastries, especially anything from the Infinement Vanille collection and a deux-mille-feuille or two. Once we stumbled on a Gâteau St. Honoré festival (my kind of holiday). Noticed this time they have stopped selling their viennoiserie, which is a shame because it was so good. Note that there are several other Hermé locations around town, but most of them only sell chocolates and macarons, not pastires.
A small, very fine Breton crêperie, this outpost of Breizh (rhymes with “says) is part of a growing chain, that offers excellent galettes bretonnes (savory buckwheat crêpes) filled with eggs and ham and cheese and such, and a good selection of cidres to drink with them. They have a lovely green side salad, too, made with a cider vinaigrette. Sweet crêpes are also available, though we’ve never had them. They use the finest ingredients, including Bordier butter and organic buckwheat, many of which you can buy next door in their little Breton épicerie. Although there is often a line, you can book in advance, and they serve continuously all day long, so if you come at an off hour you don’t usually have to wait.
This charming restaurant in a space perennial occupied by new restaurants in the Marais was opened by Sarah Michielsen and Bastien Fidelin during the pandemic, no small feat. The short menu has global influences and affords a thoroughly pleasurable Parisian dining experience. We loved the pumpkin fritters, scallops with guanciale, tête de veau, and beef cheek with celery root. Also, an impressive wine list for such a small space with a very knowledgable sommelier.
1 place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre, 75016 Paris
Phone: +33 01 40 62 70 61
We couldn’t get a reservation in advance at this elegant brasserie in the Palace de Chaillot before a dance performance we were attending there on a Saturday night, but when we showed up at the door at opening time (7 pm), and asked if they could seat us, they said yes (!). The host led us through a beautiful but empty dining room, around a corner to a secluded banquette and sat us in front of the most spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower we had ever seen, all lit up for the holidays. Wouldn’t have mattered what they served us, but the seafood-centric menu was simple and lovely. We began with a fine plateau de fruits de mer, followed by their signature lobster linguine with cherry tomatoes, and finished with a perfectly prepared whole fish. By the time we left for our show, the place had filled with a handsome crowd.
It was late on a Saturday night. We had eaten early and quickly at Girafe because we had to go to our dance performance and that meant we didn’t have time for dessert. To correct this injustice, Nicolas sent us to Folderol, a small wine bar and ice cream shop run by Jessica Yang and Robert Campagnon. It was perfect. A quirky curated list of bottles and glasses of wine, plus a good selection of digestifs, and wonderful ice cream made by Jennifer. The flavors change daily and seasonally. Kakis & Cream (persimmon) and Huile d’Olive (olive oil) were standouts for me, but they were all delicious.
In 2019, French Argentinian chef Mauro Colagreco’s Michelin three-star restaurant Mirazur in the south of France was named the number one restaurant in the world by World’s 50 Best. Drawing on the Argentinian part of his heritage, Anahi is something else entirely. A charming little bistro located in a marble-lined former butcher shop, Anahi’s menu celebrates the meat culture of Argentina (though the meat itself comes from France, America, and Japan). Perfectly grilled cuts with bright sauces and simple sides made for a great evening. We loved it and would come back often.
I’ve been coming to Aux Lyonnais for years, even before Alain Ducasse took ownership in 2002. (It opened in 1890. I haven’t been coming that long.) It’s always been a solid bouchon. But now under Lyonnaise chef Marie-Victorine Manoa, the kitchen is really running in top form. There are classic dishes, such as quenelles de sandre and tablier de sapeurs (made from beef tripe), which wre great. And now also a focus on whole pig butchery, the various cuts of which are cooked different ways for daily specials. Highly recommend.
Caractère de Cochon
42 Rue Charlot, 75003 Paris
Phone: +33 1 42 74 79 45
You are coming to this tiny shop for an exemplary jambon-beurre sandwich on a fresh baguette (choose your ham, raw or cooked). You can add cheese, if you’d like. In December you might also pick up some choucroute garni from the tub that is simmering by the door. Maybe a few sausages, too.
Fromagerie Laurent Dubois
We stumbled into the Marais outpost of this small chainlet of cheese shops by affineur Laurent Dubois, who has achieved Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) status. While I would normally not pay much attention to a cheese shop in which almost everything is already precut and wrapped, it was convenient to where were staying. And I’m so glad I went in. Every cheese we bought was in perfect form.
La Maison d’Isabelle
47ter Bd Saint-Germain, 75005 Paris
Phone: +33 1 43 54 04 14
In 2018 this busy bakery won the award for the best butter croissant in Paris. So we had to try it. Our friend Perri, who is a fan, notes that they have a consistency problem, and sometimes it is the best croissant in Paris, but sometimes it’s just another good one. The day we were there, the croissant was pretty damn good. So was the brioche feuilleté (which seemed to be a trend in pastry shops we visited) and everything else we tried. The baguette wasn’t half bad, either. Whey don’t we live in Paris?
This perhaps the only discovery Nate and I can take credit for during this trip. While looking for someplace for coffee on our first morning, we spotted this tiny, white, minimalist jewel-shop of a bakery on a street corner in the Marais and it seemed worth exploring. We had a one-of-everything breakfast of viennoiserie and it was all very good. Came back a few days later to try the bread, which they seemed particularly proud of, made exclusively from flours from a particular, whole-grain organic mill. It was all great. I chatted briefly with the baker who was busy running up and down stairs from the kitchen with fresh goods for display. Of particular deliciousness was a tourte de seigle (rye loaf) with chunks of candied lemon zest in the crust.
Yann Couvreur Pâtisserie
Every time we stumble into Yann Couvreur’s pastry shop on rue des Rosiers, it comes as a bit of a surprise. Amidst the fashion stores, falafel shops and Jewish bakeries, this it’s just unexpected to find an exquisite pastry shop tucked into an awkward space. But everything we’ve had is prepared with finesse. A very fine pâtissier and somehow more approachable than many other named places (certainly less intimidating than Hermé).
Oops, Didn’t Make It
We had reservations at a few more places for our final weekend in Paris that we had to cancel, both because we were full and because Omicron was gaining ground. If you manage to get to Bruto’s for a Sunday lunch of roast chicken and frites, the boisterous brasserie Bouillon République, or Le Tagine for organic Moroccan food, let me know what you think of them.
A Word About COVID Protocols
And a final word on COVID protocols and the Passe Sanitaire. As soon as we arrived in Paris, we went to a neighborhood pharmacy (look for the green neon cross) to get our Passes Sanitaires, the EU app that stores your vaccination data and your test results, and provides a QR code you must show upon entering any restaurant, museum, public venue, or mode of transportation. It was no hassle at all and cost us 36€. While there was some relief to know that the passes were checked in just about every place we dined, once inside there was no attempt at social distancing whatsoever. The restaurants were as packed as they always are, with waiters needing to move tables so we could shimmy into banquettes to sit shoulder to shoulder with others diners. This gave us some pause, I’ll be honest. We ended up keeping our masks on as long as possible.