Paris is without any doubts a very special city. Even with a week of crappy weather it can be charming. For food lovers it is totally overwhelming. There is a tonne of French bistros that will serve somewhat ordinary food. But one thing I’ve never been disappointed about in Paris are the sweets. You can get a fantastic croissant or pastries at every corner. It is the sugar lover paradise. Also heaven for bubbly lover than I am. You can get decent champagne by the glass almost everywhere at a fair price. Here are a few of my favourite experiences from my last trip in the “Ville Lumière” (City of Light).
Café Marly at the Louvres (in 1st arrondissement)
Not so much for the food, which is okay and not worth the price, but to sit on that fabulous terrace overlooking the pyramid in the caroussel du Louvres. You can admire the very “chic” crowd, mostly locals, at lunch time. You feel special to be there, and don’t think of going just for drinks – they will turn you down. You must order food.
L’Atelier Maître Albert (in Quartier Latin, 5th)
This place is a rotisserie associated with Guy Savoy (world acclaimed chef). You will find it hiding in a spooky street of the charming neighborhood of the Latin Quarter. It is slick and very contemporarily designed although it is nested in a very old building. I like that mix of modern and old. They serve traditional rotisserie meals like poultry, which was great with a side of velvet mashed potatoes and superb gravy. We also tried the veal shank that had a taste of caramelized meat, served with spinach in cream and mushrooms. The crispy duck appetizer was really worth trying and we had a scrumptious lemon cheesecake and cherry sauce for dessert. This was the best service I experienced in Paris with just the right touch of friendliness without sacrificing efficiency. I find a lot of high end places in France tend to be uptight and even in small corner bistros they give you a certain attitude. Maître Albert was my kind of joint and I liked it so much I almost went back in that same week.
Ze Kitchen Galerie (Quartier St-Germain, 6th)
This place I found through a friend and I am so grateful for that. I just love fusion cuisine and you know immediately that is what you will get when you enter the door. My memories of that dinner is all about freshness and colour. Very far from classic French cuisine all about butter and cream. The use of fruits and veggies is not done in a common way. My mom ordered a cold soup of green apple to start, paired with lobster. It was so good. I had the best marinated Wagyu beef served with sesame sauce. Then a plate of duck that looked totally different from what we are used too and a Turbot, both cooked “a la plancha.” The dessert was following fusion inspiration with white chocolate ice cream, wasabi biscuit and lychee. I strongly recommend that place if you like to experience something different and refreshing. Yes, you are in Paris, but you don’t have to eat French cuisine every day. We had a charming waiter named Christophe who was raising an eyebrow when he saw me taking pictures of every plate. I guess Parisian foodies are more discrete about their obsession.
Hélène Darroze (Quartier St-Germain, 6e)
Here we are starting to go up a notch. 1 Michelin star means usually more structured and conventional service and we’ve seen that here but the cuisine was very modern. No menu – a la carte – so we have to go for 8 course meal totally up to the chef and it was good from start to end. We can sense there is a feminine touch in the plates. Refined and delicate except for the amuse-bouche: a black ham shaved directly at the table from a butcher machine. “Wow!” effect guaranteed, and so tasty, paired with a glass of rosé champagne, we were already delighted. Then there were four appetizers: smoked salmon and caviar, poached foie gras in sweet wine, veal sweetbreads in green pea soup, scallop with parsley sauce and cauliflower mousseline. Mains were blue lobster (amazing) tandoori style and pigeon with chanterelle mushrooms. Both desserts were spectacular, one with strawberries and rose for a not to sweet tooth like me and the chocolate lover’s one. Wine pairing was great and surprisingly priced at 50 euros (about $65, for two glasses of white wine and two reds). This a special occasion meal priced at 125 euros but in Paris, some Michelin star restaurants can triple that number easily. I don’t see how paying more money would get me a better meal. For me that was a top notch evening in every way.
More pics: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjvg84eb
La Tour d’Argent ( Quartier Latin 5th)
This is a magic place that has been around forever. There is nothing modern about it at all. The outside looked very repellent to me with “kitsch” windows showing old stuff and announcing the “little museum of the table.” I almost wanted to turn back when I saw the old maître D wearing a penguin suit. Oh my! The dining room is to the second level so a little elevator will take you there. There is a young guy in there spending his whole time going up and down with people. Ambiance= Uptight! Almost not comfortable but we are impressed and are eyes are wide open. The view of Ile St-Louis and Notre-Dame-de-Paris is amazing from upstairs. Kind of place you would propose to someone or have your last meal.
Speciality is duck so that is what we had. Served for two, for the bargain price of 130 euros (that is a $175 duck). You have three choices of sauce for the breast. We went for green pepper and it was delicious, a cake of caramelized shallot was completing the dish. The duck leg comes in confit, that is part II, with a side of green, a splash of bearnaise and veal glaze. Simple, traditional but I have to admit it is the best duck I’ve ever had. I was really going there almost backwards. The foie gras appetizer was really amazing too but you can feed four people with it so order to share. The wine list is about a foot high if not bigger, with 350,000 bottles. I had the chance to drink a Margaux made the year I was born and they gave me the bottle to take with me. That was very special. A bit crazy? Yes, but I suggest doing once in your life, especially if you are a duck lover. We were served the 1,100,018 th duck at the Tour d’Argent. I have a certificate that proves it.
More pics : http://flic.kr/s/aHsjvg84eb
La Durée -vs- Pierre Hermé
Both places are well know for their macaroons. In both places you will have to wait in line to get them. I had to do the ultimate test side by side to see which was the best so I went rue Bonaparte, in St-Germain Quarter. Hermé and La Durée both have a location a couple of blocks from each other. Three classic flavors were used for the test: caramel, lemon and rose but I ordered a few more for my own pleasure like Vanilla -olive oil (Hermé) and Cassis (La Durée) . It was all delicious but I think Hermé is slightly better because there is more ganache (cream) in between the two biscuits. I ate macaroons everyday for a week and I also ordered an “eclair” at LaDuree…mmm. Hurray for Paris and pastries I am telling you.
Pierre Hermé, 72 rue Bonaparte. Paris (6th) | La Durée, 21 rue Bonaparte, Paris (6th)
Food shopping: La Grande Epicerie de Paris (Au Bon Marché)
This place is truly amazing, jaw breaking, I can’t name all the good stuff that I saw there. It is crazy! Just go see and try, for fun, to not pack your luggage with some goodies.
La Grande Epicerie de Paris, 38 rue de Sèvres, Paris (7th)
Wine Shopping: Lavinia (La Madeleine, 8th)
For wine lovers, here is two floors of happiness for you. The best thing about that store is the tasting station where I had the chance to sip, for 20 euros, a Château Mouton-Rotschild 2004. The bottle is priced at 440 euros (about $600). I would never pay that price for a wine but a taste of a mythical wine for about $25 Oh! yeah. Interesting fact about the labels of Château Mouton, they are designed by a different artist every year and mine was a painting by Prince Charles. You can have some cheese with your tasting if you feel like it and the staff will wrap bottles in bubble paper if you want to take some home. A must stop in Paris.
Lavinia (La Madeleine, 8th)