Thursday, December 15, 2011

Top 10 Restaurants in Paris

After a year of enjoying some fabulous meals in Paris, I thought I would share a list of our top ten favorite French restaurants.  Our style of dining is to eat as well as we can for the best value.  Would I take a lunch at Hotel Costes and a dinner at Taillevent? Absolutely. But one of the best things about Paris is that you do not have to spend your life savings to enjoy incredible food.  (We did a Michelin starred restaurant for the Mr.'s birthday last year, and it didn't make this list!).  At the end, I will also include some restaurants that have come highly recommended but which we haven't had a chance to try yet.  Finally, and what I think can be the most informative list of all, I have included a top 10 list of disappointing restaurants.  (Because along with every fabulous meal we've had, we've probably had a disappointing one to match). Hopefully this list will be helpful for your next visit to Paris.  Bon appetite!

Top 10 Restaurants We Love in Paris

10.  Cafe Constant.  7th arrondisment.  A lovely classic French restaurant near the Eiffel Tower.  We had a great lunch here and would definitely recommend for reliable classic French fare and fantastic service.  The sister restaurant Les Cocottes is down the street and we can't wait to try it as well.

9.  La Maison du Jardin.  5th arrondisment.  Cozy little restaurant near Luxembourg gardens serving great French cuisine.  We took our friend Pat here and had a wonderful dinner. Everything I ate was outstanding.  (Notably nice servers, as well).

8.  Le Timbre.  5th arrondisment.  This restaurant is called Le Timbre (The Postage Stamp) because it is literally the size of a postage stamp.  (It probably has 4 tables so reservations are a must).  The chef cooks in a teeny tiny open kitchen and prepares inventive French food with seasonal ingredients.  The only reason it is not in the top five is because we didn't love the choices that happened to be on the menu the time we dined there.  (There are generally only 3 to 4 choices for each course, changes weekly).  However, everything was prepared excellently and overall it is a fabulous experience for any foodie.  A big thanks to the Grands for treating us to a delicious dinner here!

7.  Le Berkeley.  8th arrondisment.  This is the only real upscale restaurant on the list (probably because we haven't tested too many of these). A beautiful French cafe near Rue du Faubourg-St.-Honoré and a great place to have a nice lunch or dinner if you are in the neighborhood.  The presentation is beautiful and the quality of ingredients is top notch. (They also do a 44 Euro American style Sunday brunch, a rarity in Paris!)
*see number 8...merci beaucoup, again!!

6. Auberge Lembert.  16th arrondisment.  This is our neighborhood restaurant and it serves fabulous French-Southwestern cuisine.  It is actually a small restaurant inside a foie gras speciality market whipping out Southwestern staples using the ingredients they sell.  (Try the goose foie gras and cassoulet).  We saw the original in the Dordogne-Périgord town of Beynac, so it is as real as they come.

5.  Joséphine Chez Dumonet.  6th arrondisment.  Old school Parisian bistro serving up the classics. Touted as having the best duck confit in Paris (and we definitely agree).  Also try the millefeuille and grand marnier souffle for dessert.  We were offered a complimentary aperitif upon entry, which is always a nice bonus as well.  (Note that is is closed on Saturdays.... only in Paris).
*A big thanks to our friend Bruce for treating us to a lovely meal here!

4.  KGB (Kitchen Galerie Bis).  6th arrondisment.  A true foodie find serving inventive French fusion.  (Foie gras ravioli, for example).  Trendy restaurant in St. Germain des Pres with a minimalist decor and a big focus on inventive cuisine.  For the starters, you choose the price range and the chef chooses the rest.   I like that it forces you to try things you may not otherwise ever order.  (Service could be a little friendlier, but cest la France).  We had a fabulous meal here with the Reynolds on their honeymoon!

3.  L'Ardoise.  1st arrondisment.   Fabulous French bistro between Place de la Concorde and the Louvre.  We went with a big group and everyone raved about their choices.  If you want a reliable French dinner in the middle of Paris without a huge price tag, this is your best bet.  (Fantastic wine list, as well).

2.  Le Casse Noix.  15th arrondisment.  For an unforgettable classic French meal, Le Casse Noix is one of the best we've had.  It's a little off the beaten path in the dreary section of the 15th, but that probably helps keep prices down.  Other than that, home runs all around.  From the complimentary pâte upon arrival to the insanely delicious ile flottante for dessert, it is one meal I will never forget.

1.  Les Papilles.   5th arrondisment.  Where to begin...the five-course meal for under forty euro, the exceptional ingredients or the cozy French market setting, it's hard to choose.  Les Papilles is by far our favorite restaurant in Paris.  To truly enjoy French cuisine, you just have to let the French cook for you.  And that is what you get at Les Papilles.  There is no menu.  The chef changes it daily and serves you like he would his family.  In the winter, it usually begins with the best soup you will ever have in your life, followed by some sort of meat main that has been cooking for two days, washed down with cheese and topped off with dessert.  This is another restaurant that is also a market, so you choose your wine off of the wall and pay an extra corking fee to drink it with your meal.  It's tiny, so make a reservation.  If you come to Paris for one night only, eat at Les Papilles.

Others that we can't wait to try:

Chez L'amie Jean.  Basque cuisine focusing on game.  We've tried to get a Friday night reservation twice and failed.  Hopefully we will get in after the new year.

Le Bistro Paul Bert.  A French institution where you go for the côte de boeuf.

Le Relais de l'Entrecôte.   A one stop shop for steak frites (and supposedly the best in Paris.... sorry M. and Mme. Grand, we didn't know about this one until recently!). It is the kind of place where you have to wait in line to get in because it is so popular (which already gives it minus two in my book, because I hate restaurants with lines... join the 21st century and invest in some beepers!)

Frenchie.  The hardest reservation to score in Paris, right now.  Foodie haven for haute cuisine at bistro prices.  No real menu.  (I'm hoping to score a reservation when my girlfriends come to visit).

Market.  In the Le Berkeley realm.  A Jean-Georges restaurant that serves up American style Brunch.  BLT Market is one of my favorite stops in NYC so I have high expectations for this Parisian version.

There are also some amazing wine bars out there with good food as well, but I didn't include these because I think they are in a category of their own.  (Another list coming soon!)

And last, but no least....

Restaurants That Disappoint

Le Coupe-Chou. What started out as an amazing experience next to an open fire place at a cozy old French home turned into cold food.  No excuse for that!

Le Pré Verre.  I have to apologize to Margaret for taking her here! It gets lots of buzz but my meal was unmemorable and the basement ambiance felt like the Camino Real Mexican restaurant in our hometown.

Au Bon Accueil.  Ina Garten talks about loving this restaurant but we do not share her sentiment.  The meat was inedible and the fish was cold.  Again, cold food?? No excuse!

Les Deux Magots.  I know I am probably annoying some people with this one, but come on! The food is not good.  I guess I just don't get it.  Why go to a touristy restaurant when you could enjoy a really great meal at the same to lower price?  Maybe this one is just to each his own... not our style.

HAND.  Food poisoning.  I think that's all I need to say on this one.

Ralph's.  The food is overpriced and nothing to write home about; go for a drink if you want to experience the great ambiance.

I hate to end on a bitter note! So if anyone has some fabulous restaurants that we need to try, send them my way.


Images:  1) via pinterest; 2) via Do it in Paris

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