From Paris to Provence, writer Jane Sigal explores the incredible diversity of French cooking today.
Food & Wine
1 of 10Jérôme Galland
Clown Bar; Paris
Despite its glass ceiling painted with circus scenes, Clown Bar is a serious small-plates restaurant. In the kitchen, Sota Atsumi (a Japanese native who trained with Joël Robuchon and Michel Troisgros) combines delicacy, mandoline-sharp technique and smart ingredient sourcing to create modern French dishes like haricot verts with strawberries and feta. 114 rue Amelot; clown-bar-paris.fr.
2 of 10Courtesy Tourist Development Agency of Tarn-et-Garonne
Bistrot Constant; Midi-Pyrénées
Paris bistrotier Christian Constant has reinvented a lock-keeper’s house on the Canal du Midi in his native southwest France. Walkers and barge cruisers stop in for some charcuterie at the bar while, in the dining room, Constant re-creates Escoffier cooking in a generous way, with lamb en cocotte and baked potatoes stuffed with pigs’ feet. 25 rue de l’Usine, Montech; maisonconstant.com.
3 of 10Nicolas Mathéus/Courtesy Fontevraud-le Restaurant
Fontevraud; Loire Valley
A Canadian architect and French designer have transformed a medieval priory into a sybaritic hotel and restaurant (the dining room’s in the cloister). Thibaut Ruggeri’s refined menu focuses on local ingredients, like honey from the abbey’s bees and, amazingly, mushrooms grown in the limestone caves that were excavated to build the abbey in the 12th century. Fontevraud-l’Abbaye; fontevraud.fr.
4 of 10Courtesy Villa Marie Jeanne
Villa Marie Jeanne; Marseille
Valeilles de Montmirail buys little rockfish and conger eel directly from night fishermen in the Vieux Port, then transforms them into an epic bouillabaisse—a benchmark for this city’s defining dish. Diners eat family-style at shared tables in the garden of his family’s 18th-century stone manor. 4 rue Chicot; villa-marie-jeanne.com.
5 of 10Anthony Lanneretonne
Le Canon; Nice
You’d expect this excellent new bistro with Formica tables and flea-market chairs to offer Côte d’Azur comfort food. Instead, Moroccan-born, Nice-raised chef Elmahdi Mobarik serves inventions like farro spaghetti and roast rabbit “à la Royal Air Maroc”(with North African spices). 23 rue Meyerbeer; 011-33-4-93-79-09-24.
6 of 10Courtesy restaurant percherons
Mathieu Perez, who ran the kitchenette at the beloved Les Deux Amis wine bar in Paris, decamped to the foothills of the Pyrenees to open this superb bistro. The six-course Catalan market menu is one of the best deals on the Spanish border. 7 rue de la République; 011-33-4-11-64-41-12.
7 of 10Charlotte Bouvet
Café Sillon; Lyon
After a two-year sabbatical cooking in restaurants from Italy to Peru, kitchen auteur Mathieu Rostaing-Tayard is back. In a city full of pork-loving bouchons (bistros), his menu is clever, complex and vegetable-centric. Even desserts verge on the botanical: Scoops of black sesame seed ice cream in cherry soup go surprisingly well with eggplant jam. 46 avenue Jean Jaurès; 011-33-4-78-72-09-73.
8 of 10Courtesy MILES
The Israeli, Japanese, New Caledonian and Vietnamese-French partners at Miles (as in distance traveled) represent what food in France is becoming: nomadic, spicier, more personal. They cook through the prism of their origins in a chef’s-choice format of reimagined French dishes, like crisped pollock with carrots and miso. 33 rue du Cancera; restaurantmiles.com.
9 of 10Deepix
La Grande Maison; Bordeaux
If you never had the chance to eat at Jamin in Paris under Joël Robuchon, his new restaurant in a mansion is a dream haute-cuisine revival. Chef Tomonori Danzaki sends out bountiful cuts of meat—whole racks of lamb, spit-roasted chickens—that servers expertly carve at the table. Guests who stay overnight in one of the Napoleon III–style rooms, each named for a Bordeaux vineyard, get a bottle of the matching wine. 10 rue Labottière; lagrandemaison-bordeaux.com.
10 of 10Courtesy Bloempot
The entrance to this restaurant is through sky-blue double doors, with the only signage a scrawled adhesive label stuck to the letter box. Inside, a brick-walled carpenter’s atelier has been repurposed as a canteen. Befitting the location near the Belgian border, French Top Chef finalist Florent Ladeyn interprets Flemish cuisine in a hyperlocal, naturalist style. Dishes like shaved beets with haddock and nettle cream pair beautifully with one of the rare artisanal beers on the list. 22 rue des Bouchers; bloempot.fr.
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