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Ten of the Best Restaurants in Paris
Anyone wanting a grand-slam experience of Gallic gastronomic grandeur won't do better than the glamorous dining room at the Hotel Meurice in the heart of the city. Though it was redecorated by Philippe Starck several years ago, it's good French bones survived intact - mosaic floor, crystal chandeliers, heavy damask curtains at the windows overlooking the Tuileries Gardens across the street - and the magnificent space is animated by old-school but friendly service that's as precise as a minuette. Chef Yannick Alléno bagged a third Michelin star in 2007, and his brilliantly inventive cooking is based on a deep knowledge of classical Escoffier vintage culinary technique. In addition to such recent creations as crispy green ravioli with a fricassee of snails and wild garlic, a starter, and spit-roasted red-wine marinated pigeon with red cabbage and apple juice, Alléno has become a dedicated locavore by occasionally featuring rare produce from the Ile de France - cabbage from Pontoise, honey from hives on the roof of Paris's Opéra Garnier - on his regularly evolving menu.
Despite the vertiginous prices of Paris haute cuisine, a meal at one of these nec plus ultra tables is an investment that just can't disappoint, and snagging a sought-after table at chef Pascal Barbot's three-star restaurant on a cobbled side street in the 16th arrondissement is well worth persistence. The smallest and most casual table at the top of the Parisian food chain, this high-ceilinged dining room with mirrored walls, widely spaced tables and friendly service offers a decidedly 21st-century take on French haute cuisine. Barbot, who trained with Alain Passard and once served as chef to the admiral of the French Pacific fleet, loves vegetables, fruit and fresh herbs, and his style is brilliantly witty and deeply imaginative, as seen in signature dishes such as his galette of finely sliced button mushrooms and verjus marinated foie gras dressed with hazelnut oil, or turbot with baby spinach and sea urchins, both of which are part of his regularly changing tasting menus.
Tucked away in the heart of Saint Germain des Pres, this snug shop-front table with a white facade and interior is the best place in Paris for a fix of impeccably fresh oysters, which are delivered directly from France's Marennes-Oléron region on the Atlantic coast. Depending upon availability, prawns, clams and sea urchins can also be added to your plateau de fruits de mer, which will be served with bread and butter. A nice selection of mostly Loire valley white wines complements the bivalve-centric menu, and a convivial atmosphere is created by the jovial oyster shuckers and many local regulars.
Run by Englishman Mark Williamson - whose Willi's Wine Bar around the corner is a favourite local bolthole for Parisian oenophiles - this handsome restaurant with oxblood walls, wedding cake mouldings and parquet floors overlooks the Palais Royal in the heart of Paris. Chef Thierry Bourbonnais not only includes many vegetable dishes on his menu - making this a good choice for vegetarians - but features regularly changing tasting menus themed around a single vegetable, such as asparagus or tomatoes. Dishes like scallops marinated in sea weed oil on a bed of quinoa and wild sea bass with baby carrots and mange toute on a bed of cumin-scented bulghur show off his cosmopolitan style. Excellent wine list.
Ever since Chicago-born chef Daniel Rose moved from the 9th arrondissement to a renovated 17th-century house in Les Halles in July 2010, he's been playing to a packed house with his inventivecuisine du marche menu. This talented American shows off just how cosmopolitan the city's culinary talent pool has become, and Parisians have been swooning over dishes such as Basque country trout with avocado and coriander flowers and grilled New Caledonian prawns on a bed of shaved baby fennel. There's also Buvette (wine bar) in the basement, with a selection of charcuterie, cheese and several plats du jour; and with reservations tough to land for a table upstairs, it's a good bet for anyone who wants to taste Rose's wares without going through the reservation wringer.
Signalling a revival of the serious, dressed-up restaurant in Paris (which had lost out as a vehicle for young chefs going out on their own in favour of the bistro) chef Jean-Louis Nomicos's new table in the swanky 16th arrondissement has a dramatic modern basket-weave interior by French interior designer Anne-Cécile Comar and a dog's leg banquette upholstered in apricot velvet. Nomicos, who most recently cooked at long-running society restaurant Lasserre, trained with Alain Ducasse and is originally from Marseille - which explains the produce-centric nature of his excellent contemporary French cooking and its Provencal accent with a starter such as squid and artichokes barigoule (cooked with white wine, lemon and herbs) and veal sweetbreads with a confetti of lemon pulp offering good examples of his style.
Since most of Paris's storied brasseries are now owned by corporate chains and serve wiltingly mediocre food, it's a pleasure to head to one of the last remaining independent ones in a quiet corner of the silk-stocking 16th arrondissement for a fine feed of such well-prepared French classics as onion soup, escargots, sole meunière, steak tartare, roast lamb and other Gallic standards. The people-watching here might be subtitled "the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie", service is efficient and this place has what the French call du gueule, or real character.
Previously head chef at the glamorous Les Ambassadeurs at the Hotel de Crillon, chef Jean-Francois Piège went out on his own two years ago when he rebooted Thoumieux, a long-running Left Bank brasserie known for its cassoulet and huge resident cat. While the new menu and slick Manhattan supper club décor at this address created a lot of buzz, this gastronomically witty young chef's talent was never really on display here until he opened an intimate first-floor restaurant with a Las Vegas, rat-pack decor by Parisian interior designer India Mahdavi at the same address last autumn. A veteran of several Alain Ducasse kitchens, the very shrewd Piège understood that the traditional French restaurant experience needed tweaking - people go out now to have a good time, eschew formatted formality, and don't always want the three-step performance of starter, main and pudding. So here you can order a single dish, maybe a delicious riff on paella comprised of lobster, langoustines, squid, baby clams and cockles in a saffron-spiked shellfish fumet, and still get a suite of hors d'oeuvres to start, a cheese course and dessert. Not surprisingly, this restaurant just won two Michelin stars in one fell swoop.
After training with chef Pascal Barbot at the three-star L'Astrance, young Burgundy-born cook Adeline Grattard - one of the still rare female chefs in Paris - did a stint in Hong Kong during which she fell in love with Asian produce and cooking techniques and met her husband Chiwah, who works as the tea steward (as an alternative to wine, you can be served a different tea with every course of your meal here). At their small charming restaurant near Les Halles, with a beamed ceiling and ancient stone walls, Grattard's tasting menus change according to her daily shop, but dishes such as grilled scallops on a bed of bean sprouts in bright green wild-garlic sauce and a superb dessert of homemade ginger ice-cream with avocado slices and passion fruit deliciously display the finely honed culinary technique and imagination that won her a Michelin star.
Ze Kitchen Galerie
Styled like the neighbouring art galleries on this Saint Germain des Pres side street, this loft-like white space with parquet floors is furnished with steel tables and chairs and decorated with contemporary art. Chef William Ledeuil's popular restaurant offers an intriguing experience of contemporary French cooking. Ledeuil, who trained with Guy Savoy, is fascinated by Asia and makes imaginative use of oriental herbs and ingredients in original dishes like Sardinian malloreddus pasta with a pesto of Thai herbs, parmesan cream and green olive condiment, or grilled monkfish with an aubergine marmelade and Thai-seasoned sauce vierge.
Average prices are per person without wine
Source: The Guardian
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