Friday, August 24, 2012

Bon Appetite (& Santé!) Paris, Part Une

Last year was the first time I ever visited Paris in August. It's really a completely different city during this month. With most residents out of town on vacances the city is calmly quiet, the streets have barely a car on them, the metros are all but empty.

And the Parisians who are still in town flock to the many gardens and terraces around the city. I followed their lead one afternoon and spent a very relaxing day at the Jardin du Luxembourg, where I hadn't been since 2001, watching children push little sailboats with poles around in the pond while I caught up on my reading.

The only downfall to the peace and tranquility of August in Paris is that many of the city's best chefs also leave town. Forest and I had our work cut out for us as we looked to make reservations for the week. But even with a lot of the kitchens shuttered we had some really wonderful meals and fantastic cocktails that I would highly recommend.


Up in the 18th you'll find many bistros, cafes and restaurants. Many are touristy, grabbing the visitors coming and going from Sacré Coeur. But tucked a bit out of the way is a neighborhood favorite, Le Square Marcadet. The restaurant not only has an extremely well priced menu but you can get a table outside on the terrace in the back.

Another nice find in the 18th is Le Chamarre, which also has a covered outside terrace. The food here is very pretty with little touches that give it that wow factor, but (at least as four of us ladies were on the patio) it didn't feel like a big, dressy restaurant.

If you are looking for lunch while sightseeing in the 18th then grab a table like the locals do and dine on HUGE salads at the Relais du Gasçon. If you're thinking "Salad? Yawn!" you should think again as these seemingly bottomless bowls are filed with an assortment of delicious ingredients (my choice was lardon and chèvre) and then topped with a heaping pile of house made garlic potato chips. Hell yes! Note- I am only recommending the salads here, just pick one and ignore the other menu options. Really.

If you are looking for a bargain (& who isn't) then get yourself over to the 11th (1bis passage de Saint-Sebastien, 75011) and have a wonderful, casual lunch at Au Passage (not to be confused with Passage 53). For 11€ you get a 2 course "farmers market" menu. I had a wonderful cod with heirloom tomatoes, radishes and purslane and then a chèvre panna cotta with a variety of beautiful berries. Wine by the pichet or demi is also very inexpensive. In the evening they specialize in a tapas style menu.

Paris always has a handful of "darlings" at any given moment. Spurred on by bloggers, magazines and newspaper articles these restaurants are sometimes impossible to get into, expensive and often they over deliver in attitude while under delivering in cuisine.

One of these darlings is Septime also in the 11th. Mel, Forest and I were hot to try the "carte blanche" testing menu at 55€ while Thibault opted for just an entree and plat (don't try this at home, generally tasting menus are only for the whole table but as Thibault is native French he has powers us mere mortals do not). The service was superb and the food...well lets just say that every plate was cleaned. I've recommended it to others and would happily go again. Anyone else with a recent experience here?

Another darling is Le Chateaubriand and since it was closed for the month a few of us went to his next door tapas style restaurant Le Dauphine. This is a great spot if you are interested in Spanish cuisine done with a bit of French style. The space itself is loud and bustling, perfect for a fun night out.

Sometimes it is a gloriously sunny day and you feel like not only sitting on a terrace but you also want to be surrounded by all the treasures that Paris has to offer. And that was exactly the scenario when Jodie and I decided to have lunch at Le Saut du Loup which is right in the Tuilleries, awarding us with views of the Louvre, Concorde and Eiffel Tower. We dined elegantly on sautéed artichoke hearts served with a soft boiled egg, plates of almost transparent carpaccio and chilled rosé. A table here, surrounded by so much eye candy, isn't cheap but it is a nice little treat for when you've been good, or if you are just being bad.

(Additionally you can work off your lunch by doing a bit of window licking on Rue St Honore as we did afterwards.)

One of my favorite meals in Paris over the last few years was at Agape Substance. At lunch, the carte Blanche menu was already 65€ but by the time we ordered champagne and wine pairings it turned into a bit of an extravagant splurge. And oh so worth it. The food is haute cuisine with a Japanese influence (& flair), the space is outfitted with modern glass, wood and stainless steel. And after you've had all that wine there is an incredible small and over the top, high tech bathroom complete with Japanese toilet. I really can't say enough except I'd love to go back for an even more over the top dinner.


La Conserverie, in the 2nd, impressed me so much we went twice. They make in-house tinctures, infusions, jams, etc. and create really gorgeous cocktails. The bartenders were friendly, enthusiastic and easy on the eyes. The space has multiple sets of couches and chairs around small tables, perfect for groups, and also has a very comfortable bar to perch at. Additionally they have a small menu of conserved (potted) dishes like rillettes and cured meats for snacking. I just loved this bar.

Le Forvm is a classic spot right in the pretty 8th and perfect for a well made martini. This is a tried and true, always reliable, place for a great drink and great service. I love grabbing a nightcap here.

Over in the 11th is the bar Barbershop, another fun stop when you need to hydrate. The menu has both classics as well as quirky originals, it is well priced and had no problem accommodating our group of 7.

On the pedestrian only Rue Montorgueil is the premier craft cocktail bar in Paris, Experimental Cocktail Club. I've been before but if I'm in this area I'm always up for a revisit. A few blocks away you can also find very good drinks at Why Bar, complete with a small sidewalk seating section.

If you are looking for a nice glass of vin vs a cocktail you should check out O Chateau, just down the street. It's a bit hip and trendy but they have a fantastic 3€ a glass happy hour and also some interesting wine flights so you can explore wines from the different regions of France.

By the way, if you'd rather shop for booze to mix on your own, make your way to La Maison du Whiskey for an amazing selection of liquors from around the world.

Someplace for both...

Obviously many places are going to be good for food and drinks. But I'm a bit fussy about both and these two stuck out as being good if you really want dinner (vs just some bar food) and something nice in your glass.

On Rue du Nil, a few blocks off Rue Montorgueil, is the 1 year old Frenchie Wine Bar. It's tiny and packed but but if you can time it right and squeeze in, the wine selection is excellent and the small plates of food are delicious. And it is right across from Frenchie (in case you are trying to get in on a cancellation).

Grazie in the 3rd is an Italian pizzeria with some really well made cocktails in an industrial and chic atmosphere. Forest and I had a few rounds of icy cold libations one evening while on a small crawl. Dayne and his colleagues stopped in on our suggestion later in the week and also had the wood fired pizzas which he proclaimed delicious.

All photos here

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
Location:Paris, France

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