After the closing of his eponymous fish restaurant in 2002, Paul Minchelli has made a quiet comeback at 21 in Saint-Germain. There is no sign or menu in the window, just the number 21 on a black awning. Inside, opposite the black leather booths and wooden café tables, are shelves of goods you can’t buy: jars of Marmite, cans of Heinz baked beans. But what you can order from the blackboard menu is extraordinary: fresh herring sprinkled with spring onions, or seared pollack served with crispy potatoes and soppressata. Details 21 rue Mazarine, 6th Arr.; 011-33- 1-46-33-76-90.
Le Saut du Loup
The Musée des Arts Décoratifs, which recently reopened after a 10-year renovation, now serves lunch and dinner in this groovy new restaurant. The place to sit is by the window, with a view of the Tuileries Gardens. The dish to order is the homage to the Big Mac—three mini burgers layered between toasted sandwich bread with melted Cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes and sweet Russian dressing. The wonderful desserts include a faux tiramisu with rhubarb and crumbled butter cookies, served in a mason jar. Details 107 rue de Rivoli, 1st Arr.; 011-33- 1-42-25-49-55.
Unlike many young French chefs who trained in Michelin-starred restaurants and then opened casual bistros, Georges Blanc-mentored Samuel Cavagnis chose to open an elegant place with fine china and a salon for drinking Champagne before dinner. The well-traveled Cavagnis likes to use spices and herbs (there are potted herbs on every table); for instance, he uses dill and pink peppercorns to flavor his salmon rillettes spooned into large pasta shells. Even dessert has a nice bite: Cavagnis adds pink almond praline, the French equivalent of Cracker Jacks, to his île flottante, a meringue in licorice-spiked custard sauce. Details 16 rue Feydeau, 2nd Arr.; 011-33-1-45-08-00-08.
It’s worth a trip to the 17th arrondissement to try the daring cooking of self-taught chef Claude Colliot (formerly of Le Bamboche). The dining room, decorated with elephant carvings, needs updating, but Colliot’s multicomponent dishes are genius: grilled duck breast with Sichuan peppercorn syrup, coconut, Thai basil and shredded celery root. Colliot’s love of vegetables and herbs inspires radical desserts, like minced beet cooked with vanilla to the texture of semolina and served with a ginger-infused beet syrup and beet-and-bay leaf pâte de fruits (fruit jelly). Details Le Méridien Etoile, 81 blvd. Gouvion-Saint-Cyr, 17th Arr.; 011-33-1-40-68-30-40.
After taking over the bistro Benoît, star chef Alain Ducasse waited almost two years to broker a deal on his next historic acquisition, the 1925 fish brasserie Rech. He kept the house specialties: a sparklingly fresh shellfish platter (and the shellfish shucker); perfectly aged Camembert, served whole; and the foot-long chocolate and coffee éclairs. But he’s added velvety New England clam chowder (one of his favorite American dishes) and, for dessert, pillowy brioche French toast with caramel ice cream. Details 62 av. des Ternes, 17th Arr.; 011-33-1-45-72-29-47.
When the beloved 50-year-year-old institution Astier went up for sale last year, Frédéric Hubig, who co-owns the popular Café Moderne, scooped it up. The legendary all-you-can-eat cheese platter is still in place on the $40 prix fixe dinner menu, along with new dishes like merlan "Marie-Antoinette," a whole whiting—minus the head-dusted with flour and sautéed. Hubig loves wine, especially Côtes du Rhône, as evidenced by the eight Côte Rôties on the wine list, priced from $54 to $270. Details 44 rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 11th Arr.; 011-33- 1-43-57-16-35.
Louis-Jacques Vannucci, famous for running the one good place to eat in the Clignancourt flea market, has opened a second Soleil in central Paris. Waiters set out hot, golden zucchini fries while diners peruse chef François Lomet’s fiercely southern French menu. One standout dish: his fat, thyme-crusted lamb chops served with petite artichokes that are so tender, you can eat the leaves. Details 153 rue de Grenelle, 7th Arr.; 011-33- 1-45-51-54-12.
At Spring, 30- year-old Chicago-born chef Daniel Rose cooks four nights a week for a maximum of 16 people. There are no choices on his $50 four-course menu, though if you get him on the phone, he’ll ask if there’s anything you don’t eat. On a recent evening, in his tiny kitchen one step up from the Zenlike dining room, he prepared delicate potato soup garnished with snails and tissue-thin fried potatoes, and rosy duck breast with a silky carrot puree. Dessert, an orange salad with sliced almonds and basil, came with a dollop of vanilla cream and dense chocolate ganache sprinkled with fleur de sel. Details 28 rue de la Tour d’Auvergne, 9th Arr.; 011-33-1-45-96-05-72.
Guy Martin’s modern new restaurant is a design shock for those who know the 18th-century, painted-silk interior of his Michelin three-star, Le Grand Véfour. Videos are projected on the main dining room’s walls, and spotlighted wine carafes look like they’re floating. Martin’s exquisite seasonal recipes, in the capable hands of Rémi Van Peteghem, include poached skate and peas with celestial blue borage flowers, which taste like cucumber, and steak with three gnocchi: potato, raisin and grape essence. Details 19 rue Bréa, 6th Arr.; 011-33-1-43-27-08-80.