For the best bistros and brasseries in the world, plus spectacular haute cuisine, F&W names the essential Paris restaurants to visit now. Here, provocative ventures from “It” chefs like Inaki Aizpitarte, superindulgent meals fit for Parisian aristocrats and everything in between.
Paris Restaurants: Where to Go Next 2013
Through mid- 2013, pastry wizard Philippe Conticini of La Pâtisserie des Rêves shows his savory skills during his guest-chef turn at classical-music hall Salle Pleyel. He cooks Asian-inflected dishes like salmon with curry jus.
Italian fashion designer Carmen Ragosta grew up with an acclaimed Neapolitan pastry-chef father and a mother who was an exquisite cook. She has carried on the legacy by installing tables right next to the racks of handmade clothing at her boutique. In a tiny kitchen at the back, she creates vegetarian dishes for lunch and the occasional dinner (call ahead), like risotto with strawberries, spinach or mushrooms, and tiramisu flavored with lemon or roses. “I feel the moment and make a dish, never the same twice,” she says.
Like their mentors Inaki Aizpitarte (Le Chateaubriand) and Giovanni Passerini (Rino), who installed their bistros in the outer arrondissements, chefs Michael Greenwold and Simone Tondo opened this ambitious spot in working-class Ménilmontant. Each dish on their prix fixe menu reads like a shopping list—potatoes, clams, onions, bread crumbs—but is fully realized: Clams are served with smoky potatoes and buttery bread crumbs.
New York City-born Juan Sanchez owns four wildly popular businesses in Saint-Germain, including this bright new bistro. From the stainless steel open kitchen, chef Eric Trochon sends out grilled shiitake with sesame oil, skate and creamy veal stew.
American-born owners Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian used to run the popular underground supper club Hidden Kitchen, which they have now turned into a legitimate restaurant. Upstairs, Perkins cooks market-driven dishes like duck with orange, rye and mustard greens, and downstairs there is a tiny vaulted bar.
For her first restaurant in Paris (its name is a play on the Queen of Spades), Anne-Sophie Pic, France’s only female three-Michelin-starred chef, worked with perfumer Philippe Bousseton of Takasago to compose scent-inspired menus: The sea-and-flowers menu includes oysters with jasmine.
The noise and crowds at Stéphane Jégo’s trendy restaurant L’Ami Jean often overwhelmed his genius cooking. Now, the chef creates a more tranquil space at dinnertime by removing some of the tables and setting those that remain with linens. He serves suave dishes like line-caught tuna with daikon.
One of Paris’s most famous chefs, Yannick Alléno, is now cooking at this casual locavore bistro in the Latin Quarter.
Chef Akihiro Horikoshi, of the Michelin-three-starred L’Ambroisie, cooks simple but transcendent seafood at his new spot. 49 rue Vaneau, 7th arrondissement; 011-33-1-45-44-43-48.
Young Basque chef Inaki Aizpitarte is the current “It” chef in Paris, serving food in provocative combinations, like the surprising tabbouleh of black radish with sardines. Because Aizpitarte champions natural winemaking, pairings might include bottles by Agnès and René Mosse of Domaine Mosse in Anjou. Despite the cutting-edge food emerging from the kitchen, the restaurant is a 1930s-style bistro with tile floors and wood paneling. Next door, star architect Rem Koolhaus designed Aizparte’s new tapas bar, Le Dauphin, a good place to wait (or just eat) while trying to get into the flagship.
Yves and Claudine Camdeborde’s enormously popular Le Comptoir is really two restaurants. By day, it’s a first-come, first-serve bistro serving delicious classics like a succulent roast rack of lamb with thyme jus. In the evening, it transforms into a more ambitious spot that serves wildly innovative prix fixe menus (roasted Normandy scallops with algae butter, for instance) and is booked some six months in. In 2009, the Camdebordes opened the adjacent L’Avant Comptoir, their standing-room hors d’oeuvres bar, to handle the overflow. hotel-paris-relais-saint-germain.com
In a tiny space in the Sentier, Paris’s old Garment District, chef-owner Grégory Marchand mixes American-style informality with French market dishes (for instance, smoked mackerel with two kinds of asparagus). Now that he’s added a 7 p.m. seating, reservations are (just ever so slightly) easier to come by, but it’s still one of Paris’s toughest. Marchand also runs Bar à Vins across the street, which operates on a first-come, first-serve basis and features small plates, a knockout charcuterie board and a moderately priced wine list. frenchie-restaurant.com
In 2010, the Chicago-born chef Daniel Rose moved his hit market-driven restaurant to the historic Les Halles. Out of an open kitchen, he cooks always-changing, highly inventive prix fixe menus with dishes like smoked eel with pickled baby eggplant. Wine tasting at the nearby Spring Boutique is a terrific way to pass the time—right before a last attempt to grab a no-show’s spot at Spring. springparis.fr
Now that L’Astrance alum Adeline Grattard has won her first Michelin star, getting a reservation at her zen-inspired dining room with dark-wood tables and ancient stone walls will be even tougher. For those who get a table, the reward is an impeccable daily-changing French-Asian tasting menu that might include omble chevalier (a lake fish), beautifully cooked with bok choy and ginger, or sweet and sour soup with tofu and scallops. Grattard’s husband, Chi Wah Chan, creates incredible tea pairings for each course. yamtcha.com
Paul Minchelli first impressed Parisians with his seafood-cooking skills at the iconic Le Duc and then at his eponymous restaurant, which shuttered in 2002. In 2006, he opened this inconspicuous Saint-Germain spot, recognizable only by the number 21 on its black awning. Inside is a black-and-white dining room and a blackboard menu of simple and elegant fish and seafood-centric dishes like the terrific squid risotto.
Just about everything at this Michelin three-star restaurant is a surprise. Diners choose the number of courses they prefer, and chef Pascal Berbot prepares a series of ethereal, architectural dishes—like a multilayered galette of thinly sliced raw mushrooms and verjus-marinated foie gras. The restaurant’s unassuming glass façade reveals a modern gray and white dining room, with well-spaced tables and gilt-framed mirrors. Securing a table can be very difficult; call two months in advance or ask your hotel concierge to help.
Le Meurice is a quintessential Michelin three star restaurant, with a palatial dining room (the grand windows overlook the Tuileries Garden), formal service and a wildly talented chef, Yannick Alléno. His progressive dishes, like mackerel served with flower of hibiscus jelly, are full of fascinating flavor combinations. Also in the hotel is Le Dali, where Alléno serves an exceptional burger in a setting inspired by the Surrealist painter (the legs of chairs have high heels). lemeurice.com
At this loftlike restaurant-gallery near the Seine, Guy Savoy protégé William Ledeuil weaves Asian ingredients from Thailand, Vietnam and Japan into an haute market menu with dishes like marinated sardines with a tomato-ginger marmalade. On the walls, Ledeuil displays pieces by the contemporary artists he collects. zekitchengalerie.fr
It’s been a decade since French superstar chef Alain Ducasse entered the Plaza Athénée, and to celebrate that milestone, he and new head chef Christophe Saintagne have revamped the menu. Now the chefs are embracing a stripped-down, one-ingredient, one-garnish approach to cooking—serving lobster, for instance, only with sweet, nutty Noirmoutier potatoes seasoned with shellfish jus. plaza-athenee-paris.fr
The cramped, lovable Le Bistrot Paul Bert is the quintessential Paris bistro, with a flea market aesthetic and a broad menu that highlights seasonal produce as well as classic dishes like steak frites—served very rare and topped with bone marrow. The best way to end a meal here is with the Paris-Brest, a ring of puff pastry filled with chocolate-hazelnut cream. lebristolparis.com
At the Michelin three star Epicure at Le Bristol hotel, chef Eric Frechon cooks luxurious French dishes—he’s famous for a superindulgent black truffle, artichoke and foie gras-stuffed pasta—for Parisian aristocrats in two separate dining rooms, one for winter and one for summer. If the flagship is too grand for your taste, at the spinoff 114 Faubourg, Frechon protégé Eric Desbordes offers a brasserie menu with dishes such as entrecôte with a traditional Béarnaise sauce.
Steps from the Place Vendôme and trendy fashion boutique Colette in the 1st Arrondissement, this no-frills 60-year-old institution serves daily specials like duck confit and braised pork with lentils, but only at lunch. If the weather permits, owner Albert Prat pours Beaujolais, Loire Valley and Côtes-du-Rhône wines for Parisians standing elbow-to-elbow around the wine barrels outside.
Chef Stephane Jego holds court at this tiny, tightly packed gastro-bistro decorated with strings of garlic and piment d’Espelette. Every night there’s a different 42 euro prix fixe menu featuring hearty nose-to-tail dishes like veal kidneys in salted butter and a pigeon terrine. Charming old-fashioned touches include cornichons and pickled onions that come in a large pot, and Jego’s ultracreamy riz au lait (rice pudding). lamijean.fr
L’Ardoise is one of the city’s few small restaurants open on Sunday. But chef Pierre Jay’s traditional bistro dishes, including the pressed duck confit and squab with black truffles, would be worth searching out any day of the week, especially given the three-course 35 euro prix fixe. While blackboard menus are ubiquitous around Paris, at L’Ardoise (“the blackboard”) the walls are actually blackboards. lardoise-paris.com
A standing-room-only spot in the 6th Arrondissement, L’Avant Comptoir was built by chef Yves Camdeborde to handle the crowds who couldn’t get into his legendary brasserie Le Comptoir next door. Now L’Avant Comptoir has turned into a destination of its own, serving French-style tapas (brochettes of foie gras and piquillo peppers), an incredible panko-crusted fried chicken and charcuterie. hotel-paris-relais-saint-germain.com
The coziest restaurant in Christian Constant’s mini empire—which also includes the high-end Violon d’Ingres, the all-day Les Cocottes and the elegant brasserie Le Bibent—is simple and old-fashioned, with red banquettes and unadorned wooden tables. Recipes inspired by his mother’s cooking (creamy pumpkin soup sprinkled with chestnuts, roast chicken with herb butter and tarragon potatoes) are consistently superb. cafeconstant.com
Café Moderne owner Frédéric Hubig-Schall recently brought in talented chef Jean-Luc Lefrançois to run the kitchen at his flagship restaurant. Near the old Bourse (stock exchange), the café draws a finance crowd during the day for the 30 euro two-course lunches. At night, it’s quieter, and there are 39 euro five-course dinners—stellar value, considering LeFrançois’s first-rate dishes, like roasted pigeon with chestnuts and Chioggia beets. The wine bar in front—decorated to resemble a wine cave—has a great selection and sells bottles at cost on Monday nights.
This tiny, two-story breakfast and lunch spot is in a centuries-old building in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés. On the menu: egg-centric dishes, including quiches, omelets and eggs au plat (fried), brouillés (scrambled) and the house specialty, en cocotte (baked), which can be customized with bacon, truffles and salmon. eggsandco.fr
It’s worth the trek to the 17th arrondissement for Philippe and Pénélope Tredgeu’s snug Béarnaise bistro, with its lace curtains, banquettes of red moleskin and seasonal menus. (Pierre Hermé is a fan as well.) The sensational three-course, 32-euro dinner offers hearty modern dishes like foie gras-stuffed quail and caramelized pork belly.
This softly lit bistro near Notre Dame serves modern French food that’s a good value considering the quality of chef Sylvain Sendra. There’s a touch of the East (like the cod poached in tea broth) in his dishes, but French classics appear as well, just in ingenious new ways; foie gras, for instance, appears in a vinaigrette for raw white and green asparagus, and as a granita topping for Jerusalem artichoke soup. restaurantitineraires.com
Guy Savoy disciple William Ledeuil has served beautiful Asian-accented dishes at his flagship, Ze Kitchen Galerie, for over a decade. In 2009, he opened this tiny, lower-price outpost a few doors down, serving Asian-French fusion "zors d’oeuvres" as well as meats, fish and poultry a la plancha, such as guinea hen with chorizo and miso. kitchengaleriebis.com
A market-restaurant located near the Luxembourg Gardens overseen by veterans of Taillevent and L’Ami Jean. The creative bistro dishes—including beet gazpacho and lamb shoulder with Provençal vegetables—are an exceptional value, with prix fixe menus starting at 22 euros for two courses. Terrific French wines, including bottles from leading Rhône producer Alain Graillot, can be bought at retail and poured with dinner for a 7 euro corkage fee. lespapillesparis.fr
Chef Bruno Doucet purchased one of the city’s most beloved bistros, La Régalade, from pioneering chef Yves Camdeborde in 2004, and soon after opened a second, more central location, near the Louvre. The Saint-Honoré outpost is a modern, minimally decorated room—cement floors, white walls—and the food is an incredible value for the glamorous Right Bank address. The 33 euro menu often starts with a pork terrine, served all-you-can-eat style from a casserole, while starters and mains upgrade rustic comfort food, like an extra-smoky boeuf bourguignon and pork belly with lentils.
Paris’s hottest names in food and wine are opening grocery stores that double as takeout lunch spots, restaurants or wine hangouts.—JS
Delphine Zampetti was a chef at popular bistro Le Verre Volé, and she brings her knack for impeccably sourced creations to her new deli and lunch spot, including her lovely beet-raspberry salad.
Natural-wine evangelist Cyril Bordarier’s new spot sells sandwiches and the artisanal ingredients that go into them, like fantastic Bordier butter, tuna rillettes and Comté cheese.
Le Concervatoire de Cédric Casanova
Cédric Casanova set up an eight-person table in a space next to his market La Tête dans les Olives—and every seat was booked for a month before opening. He cooks family-style dishes, like oranges with anchovies. Heirloom fruits are also for sale. 14 rue Sainte Marthe, 10th arrondissement; firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Pierre Jancou’s wine bar-cum-food emporium, customers can select natural wines to go with chicken en cocotte and pick up perfumey black Maricha peppercorns.
This Breton food market next to a crêperie stocks the ingredients to make crêpes (buckwheat flour and artisanal butters). There are also crêpes to go, stuffed with cured ham.
In 2007, Romee De Goriainoff left a career in finance to open this lounge, often credited with reviving the city’s cocktail scene with its ingenious drinks in a gorgeous neo-Baroque setting. Its take on the old-fashioned, for instance, uses grapefruit zest in place of traditional orange bitters. The original Right Bank bar has since spawned a mini empire, including three more spots in Paris, and exports in London and New York.
Paris Restaurants: The Hottest Spots in Town
Certain Paris restaurants are impossible to get into, no matter who you know. Here, our tips for scoring a table at these usually tiny, always packed bistros.—Jane Sigal
Why Bother: On weeknights, Yves Camdeborde serves an ambitious prix fixe of Béarnaise-style dishes.
The Tip: Call five months ahead or reserve a room at the attached Hôtel Relais Saint Germain, which guarantees a table.
Plan B: Camdeborde’s place next door, the standing-room-only, small-plates spot L’Avant Comptoir.
Why Bother: Inaki Aizpitarte is the current “It” chef in Paris, serving cutting-edge food in provocative combinations of raw and cooked ingredients.
The Tip: Call two weeks ahead between 3 and 7 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday.
Plan B: Le Dauphin, Aizpitarte’s Rem Koolhaas–designed tapas bar next door.
Why Bother: Chicago-born chef Daniel Rose serves an always-changing, highly inventive prix fixe menu.
The Tip: Call one calendar month ahead between 3 to 10 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday.
Plan B: Wine tasting at nearby Spring Boutique, then a last attempt to grab a no-show’s spot at Spring.
Why Bother: Grégory Marchand weaves American-style informality into French market cooking in a tiny space.
The Tip: Call two months ahead between 3 and 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.
Plan B: Head across the street to Frenchie’s new Bar á Vins, which doesn’t require a reservation.
More Table Tips
- With notice, top hotel concierges can work miracles. That’s one reason rooms at the Four Seasons George V start at four figures.
- Call only during the restaurant’s specific reservation hours. If no one picks up the phone, keep trying.
- Go in person during the day or at around 7 p.m. to check on cancellations. Many bistros have a late-night seating that’s less full.
- Once you’ve got that hard-earned slot, make sure you confirm it on the day you’re going—through your hotel, by phone or in person.
Great French Recipes:
Last updated August 2012.