Courtesy of Aleksandra Crapanzano.
Paris is a reassuringly constant city. The good restaurants tend to stick and stay, or even get better; when new ones appear—and please the palate—chances are they’ll be around for at least a decade, if not two or three. But after 18 months of pandemic and many months of closures, curfews, and lockdowns, I worried I’d find my favorite haunts gone or somehow muted, chefs out of form and practice. (I partially grew up in Paris, and for the last 11 years have been a food columnist for the Wall Street Journal.) A little gastronomic investigation seemed de rigueur, and off I went in mid-July to Paris. I’m happy to report that my worries proved absolutely unfounded. Paris restaurants are bursting with energy, their chefs serving up the fruits of months of musing about, re-inventing, and perfecting their dishes and honing their craft. It is an exciting time to eat in Paris. Here are my suggestions for a wide range of eating occasions, my choices skewed somewhat in favor of outdoor dining and/or well-spaced tables. Note: Reservations are definitely needed, as many restaurants are operating under limited capacity or solely outdoors.
For a special occasion at the most romantic garden restaurant in Paris: Apicius.
Apicius is fine dining at its most opulent, yet without the formality that sometimes makes such indoor multi-course feasts a bit oppressive. The key is its masterful new garden design—which manages to at once create private, intimate nooks in what is, in fact, a very large and grand space. (In this photo, it’s not yet set up for dinner, but trust us—it’s magical.) One can easily imagine a scene from Bridgerton being filmed here—maybe a stolen kiss behind an orange blossom tree. Michelin-starred, and under the helm of brilliant chef Mathieu Pacaud, Apicius is housed in a small, tucked-away, 1860 urban château at 20, Rue D’Artois, off the Champs-Elysées. Try the langoustines, and don’t forget to order the chocolate soufflé at the start of the meal, so it’s ready when you are.
For when you want a taste of fusion extraordinaire: Yam ‘Tcha.
Yam ‘Tcha is a masterful and innovative fusion of French and Hong Kong cuisines, cooked at the highest level of craft and with great imagination by chef and proprietor Adeline Grattard. She calls it her Paris-Hong Kong love story, but that doesn’t begin to explain the cult-worthy bao buns filled with molten British Stilton and Amarena cherries from Modena. Grattard’s husband, Chi Wah Chan, curates a pairing list of rare teas for anyone not drinking alcohol or curious to experience the subtle nuances of his teas. Michelin-starred, Yam ‘Tcha has tasting menus that change weekly, if not daily. For a casual and more affordable meal, try also Grattard’s recently opened Chinese bistro Lai ‘Tcha, conveniently located steps from La Bourse de Commerce-Pinault Collection.
For pre- or post-Pinault Collection sustenance: The Halle au Grains.
La Halle aux Grains, on the third floor of the newly opened museum in La Bourse de Commerce, is the perfect place for sustenance during or after viewing Pinault’s contemporary art collection. Father and son chefs Michel and Sebastian Bras, known the world-over for their eponymous restaurant in Laguiole, in Southwestern France, looked to La Bourse’s early history—as a marketplace for grains, particularly wheat, rye, and oats—for their inspiration. Grains infuse nearly every dish and drink here, offering unexpected earthy notes and surprising layers of texture, and the eating experience is notable as well for architect Tadeo Ando’s remarkable, light-filled interior. If possible, book the table d’hôte, which has an unparalleled view of the Gothic church of Saint Eustache, pictured. For an afternoon snack (you can also have lunch, tea, or dinner here), I recommend the croque-moelleux de céréales au jambon blanc et au fromage Laguiole, made with barley bread and accompanied by a green salad topped with sprouted grains.
When you’re in the mood for a tartine for lunch: The Comptoir Poilâne.
There’s no better place in Paris for a tartine, or open-faced sandwich, than Comptoir Poilâne in the heart of the 6th arrondissment and housed in an annex to the world-renowned bakery Poilâne. Here, you can lunch on a long slab of miche (the sourdough precursor to the French baguette) with a classic topping of smoked salmon and dill—or an utterly contemporary version, with lacto-fermented vegetables and Roquefort (perhaps with a side of miso soup dotted with grains), or, a favorite of mine, thinly sliced Wagyu beef with honey mustard. Apollonia Poilâne’s menu couldn’t be more of-the-moment, but the extraordinary bread is still made downstairs in the wood-fired oven that her father and grandfather used long before she was born.
For apres-Marais-shopping hunger: Chez Janou.
Chez Janou is a much loved and very chic bistro around the corner from the Marais’s picturesque Place des Vosges. I’ve always gone to Chez Janou for its liveliness and location, as well as for the food, especially the great mousse au chocolat, which comes in a vast terrine and is doled out generously at your table. But this time, I was struck by a new freshness to the old classics. The richness of the magret de canard was cut with fresh rosemary; the gambas flambées au Pastis was accompanied by anise-scented basmati; and the crème brulée carried notes of orange blossom.
For the ultimate gourmet food-hall crawl: The Beau Passage
The name Beau Passage—as in alley—does not begin to do justice to this gourmet mecca that is also a brilliant example of urban planning: a series of connecting courtyards and outdoor and indoor spaces that link the rue du Bac with the rue du Grenelle and the Boulevard Raspail (in the 7th arrondissment). It’s chic, it’s fun, and it has a little bit of everything—well, high-end-foodie everything. It’s open throughout the day, making it an easy option for, say, a late lunch after spending the morning at the nearby Musée D’Orsay or the Invalides. What’s there? In addition to probably the best cheese shop in the world, Barthélémy, pictured here, there’s Chef Yannick Alléno’s hip, laidback restaurant L’Allénothèque; a lovely café and pâtiserrie from Pierre Hermé; a bakery from Thierry Marx; % Arabica coffee bar for those in need of a brew that skews more Italian than French; and, for carnivores, there’s the venerable Polmard, possibly the most expensive butcher shop in the city, which also houses a restaurant where you can lunch or snack on an exceptional charcuterie board, excellent bread, and a smart wine list—or indulge in sixth-generation butcher Alexandre Polmard’s exquisite steak. The indoor-outdoor design of Beau Passage was not, of course, conceived with Covid in mind, but it provides the spacious, outdoor options we need right now with food that makes it a destination in its own right. There are three possible entrances: 53, rue de Grenelle; 83, rue du Bac; and 14, Boulevard Raspail.
For When Nothing But a View of the Louvre Will Do: Loulou.
With less tourists in Paris this summer, areas that normally might fill with crowds are dotted only with a scattering of Parisians. This is the moment to go to Loulou. Situated on the ground floor of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs on the rue de Rivoli, and opening onto one of the large outdoor terraces of the Palais du Louvre, Loulou couldn’t be more perfectly located, but the light Mediterranean menu is what draws in the locals. Try the salade de haricots verts, pistaches de Sicile, Pecorino fumé and—this is a must—the truffled pizza. The team behind Loulou previously opened Monsieur Bleu in the Palais de Tokyo.
For when the mood is “most exciting new restaurant in Paris”: Liquid.
Mattias Marc (pictured) of the restaurant Substance just opened what is perhaps the most exciting new place in Paris: Liquide. Jarvis Scott, formerly at Arpége, helms the kitchen, producing bold, vibrant fare that may have its origins in France but clearly has a global pantry and a well-traveled team of cooks. Timut pepper gives pickled cucumbers an astringent sharpness, while elderberry blossoms perfume a plate of fresh peas, and wood sorrel enlivens the rice pudding. Liquide will, I believe, have the sort of culinary impact of Semilla, Septime, and the much-missed Spring, and this is the chance to try it before it is discovered. It is too new to have its own website, so try its older sibling for details.
For when a literary amuse-bouche is in order: “My Place at the Table: A Recipe for a Delicious Life in Paris.”
Paris-based food writer Alec Lobrano’s beautiful memoir, My Place at the Table, contains some of the most sensual descriptions I know of great Parisian meals, juxtaposed with an honest and, at times, hauntingly poignant narrative. It’s just the book to start on the plane to Paris and finish at the Café de Flore.
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