In principle, it seems so simple: A visit to Paris = eating great crêpes. But after one too many disappointing, pre-made, desultory, floppy and/or overly buttery pancakes, I began to despair of ever finding a good, nay great, nay excellent, crêpe in Paris.
Good thing I read Chowhound. Posters there tipped me off to Breizh Café, a small and sleek crêperie in the Marais whose Breton authenticity and superior ingredients sent me reeling, head over heels. I thought it was my secret, but when Le Figaroscope named Breizh Cafe’s galette complète (ham + cheese + egg) the best in the city, I knew the jig was up: I would never again be able to get a table there without a reservation.
So, what to eat there? Ah, let me count the crêpes. There is the ham + cheese + egg (photo above, 5.80€) which nestles a tender slice of ham in melty Gruyère cheese, topped with a fluffy scrambled egg. The crêpe, or galette, is crisp and chewy with the rough texture of buckwheat flour — following Breton tradition, all savory crepes are made of this humble grain, called sarrasin in French, while the sweet are made of white flour.
My friend Anna likes the ham + egg + cheese + mushroom, a mixture of finely sliced button and shiitake, though she usually subtracts the egg and ham (photo above, far crêpe, 6.80€).
A leafy, tangy side salad (3.80€) is the perfect crêpe accompaniment. You can order it with regular vinaigrette, but I prefer it with the extra snappy addition of wasabi.
Wait a second! you’re thinking. Wasabi?! That’s not from Brittany!
You’re right, wasabi is strictly Japanese. Yet it fits into Breizh Café as snugly as the bottles of hard cider, or iced oysters on offer. Breizh may be a Paris hotspot, but it seems that their first location was in Tokyo. This explains the restaurant’s sleek blond fixtures and tatami mat floors, and also the dabs of wasabi and green tea ice cream on the menu, and the special buckwheat tea that’s poured from tiny, metal pots, just like in Japan (photo above, 4.50€). Buckwheat tea may be a Japanese beverage, but at Breizh Café it provides a sort of continuity with the Breton buckwheat galette — two cultures using the grain in very different ways. Also, a number of Breizh’s staff is Japanese — we’ve heard they organize work exchanges between the Tokyo and Paris branches.
Of course, there are more Breton touches than Japanese, like this Breizh diet cola, produced in the region, its label in the local language.
I’m not sure if dessert crêpes are traditional, but they are certainly delicious. Here’s a frilly, spring special, filled with rhubarb compote, topped with vanilla ice cream, strawberries and caramel sauce. (Sorry, I forgot to write down the price.)
And then there is my number one favorite thing on the menu, the crêpe caramel au buerre salé, a tender crêpe drizzled with a sweet-salty-bitter-buttery house-made caramel sauce reminiscent of liquid gold (4.50€). Breizh offers many variations of the caramel crêpe — including some with poached pears, whipped cream or ice cream — but I like it best plain, which offers more opportunity to savor each sticky, golden droplet.
If you’re going to eat at Breizh Café — and I really hope you do — here are two important things to know:
1) “Breizh” is pronounced brehzh — like the first part of the word “bread” but ending with a “j” sound. I mention this because I only recently discovered how to say it. Breizh is the Breton word for Brittany.
2) Be sure to make a reservation, especially for lunch.
109 rue Vieille du Temple, 3ème
Tel: 01 42 72 13 77
Closed: Mondays, Tuesdays