Creature of habit that I am, when I’m in Paris, I usually stick to my favorite places. Visiting the same spots is comforting, the owners know me (or I recognize them), and that makes me feel like a local. But when I was recently gifted with almost six weeks in the City of Light, I knew I had to “profiter” (as they say in French), or seize the opportunity (as we say in English) and try a few new Paris restaurants. Here are three of my favorites:
Opened by critic’s darling, Bertrand Grébaut of Septime, this is a seafood-centric spot, with a lot of counter seating and a no-reservations policy. Consider yourself forewarned — the voices you hear here will not be French, neither the customers, nor the staff. If this doesn’t bother you — and why would it? Paris is an international city, after all — you’ll be charmed by the pretty plates and their fresh combinations. A friend and I popped in here for a late Sunday lunch, lingering over the paper menu of small shared dishes. I won’t bury the lede — my favorite was the fried “merlan colbert,” a whole whiting, butterfly fileted, breaded, and deep fried, served with its teeth bared (€21). The flesh, flaky and fine underneath crisp coating, was lifted by the bright punch of a cornichon-studded tartar sauce. I also liked a first course of raw tuna slices, elegantly entwined with roasted red peppers, basil, dill, and soft nuggets of faisselle, or fresh, milky cheese (€14). The marinated mackerel with mirabelle plums, pumpkin seeds, and sarriette, or summer savory, was less successful for my palate, with the oily power of the fish overwhelming the delicate fruit (€12). But if (like my friend, Anna), you like mackerel, you may love this dish (she did!). The bread here deserves special mention — crusty, with a satisfying crumb, and earthy buckwheat chew.
Clamato is a fresh, festive spot, perfect for a date à deux — preferably with someone who likes to share plates and trade tastes.
My friend, Erin, discovered this new restaurant on her way to work and though we have a tradition of crêperie dates (or maybe I made that up?), she convinced me to meet her here for lunch. Salt opened this summer, with the kitchen run by Daniel Morgon, a British chef who has spent time in Japan, Sweden, Denmark, and Italy. The €19 lunch formule (entrée + plat, or plat + dessert) allowed us to sample most of the menu. For a first course, we ordered pigeon, speared with a bay leaf stem, grilled rare, and draped over a giblet sauce, the type of rich, deeply flavored emulsion that reaches into your heart and tugs a little. The other first course (no photo) was a light and sparkly hand-cut mackerel tartar mixed with avocado and ginger vinaigrette. Main courses also bridged late summer and early fall. Autumn beckoned from a dish of tender pork shoulder, poached and then roasted succulent, paired with celery root puree and girolle mushrooms. Meanwhile, summer lingered in the lightly smoked filet of haddock, floating in a verdant pool of chive dashi broth, delicate and deceptively deep flavored.
Bright flavors, clever combinations, beautiful plates, an honest expression of craftsmanship and care. What a lovely, unexpected discovery!
Before the photo above was taken, I — along with friends Camille and Nick — had consumed one bottle of red wine, one bottle of Champagne, and one small jar of goose pâté. So, yes, the photo is blurry and our spirits were high at this jolly microbrasserie/gastropub, one of Camille and Nick’s favorite spots in Paris. The team behind this spot has roots in Québec, Vietnam, and a few haute kitchens of Paris. They brew their own beers in this very spot (!) — I liked the IPA, as well as the Stout — and have created a menu of small plates with attitude (in a good way). We shared housemade thick-cut potato chips dipped in chive crème fraîche, and then tucked into a plate of teriyaki pork, sautéed at high heat until the edges caramelized. We also shared pigeon, some other savory dishes, and — at some point — tiramisu… but, folks, it was, er, late, and my memory is weak. We had fun, though!
Details of this evening are hazy but the feelings surrounding them gleam with crystal clear positivity. This is a jolly spot with terrific beer and good food that hits the magic balance of bon rapport qualité prix.
80 rue de Charonne
01 43 72 74 53
6 rue Rochebrune
01 73 71 56 98
13 rue Jacques Louvel Tessier
01 71 39 58 02