I know Paris is the home of Michelin stars, but the pomp and pageantry around fine dining really isn’t our thing. Some may consider it sacrilegious that we didn't pay homage to temples of 3-starred fine dining like Joel Robuchon and Guy Savoy, but we were happy going with the “bistronomy” movement that’s now sweeping Paris – top chefs opening casual bistros in a bid to make fine dining more accessible.
One such bistronomy place is Spring, which was arguably the best meal of our entire trip. Everything from the food to the attentive but not overly obsequious service was stellar. If we’re ever in Paris again, this is a definite revisit.
Two dishes in particular deserve special mention – the best dish by far was the langoustine with foie gras and fall vegetables. Fresh langoustine with a cube of seared foie gras is a surf and turf made in heaven.
The poached John Dory in a cepes and chicken broth with eggplant and buckwheat was also delicious, with perfectly cooked fish and an amazing broth.
What we loved so much about Spring was how they managed to get their flavours so perfectly balanced. Everything was light and fresh, with just the right amount of flavour and tartness to brighten and not overwhelm the palate. I honestly can’t rave about them enough.
It’s standing room only at this tiny bar adjacent to the famous Le Comptoir du Relais, and there’s no English menu; or any menu, for that matter. Dish names and photos hang from the ceiling, so knowing some French would definitely be useful. We came here twice – once at dinner time and the second time at an odd hour (around 3pm), and the second visit was less crowded and frenzied, and definitely much more enjoyable.
Almost everything here was delicious. There was a boudin noir macaron, sautéed chicken hearts, artichoke and parma ham waffle, and an amazing pork belly panini. There are also communal crocks of butter and cornichons on the bar counter, with free flow slices of bread for you to help yourselves.
Even 2 visits wasn’t enough to try everything that we wanted. Next time, we’re staying in the Saint Germain de Pres area, and coming here for every meal. Well, almost.
Another bistronomie place, though not quite in the same league as Spring. Our experience may have been marred by the table of Asians next door, whose comments like “can you heat up the gazpacho” and “the meat is too pink” completely threw us off.
Still, the food was good, particularly the said pigeon, which was cooked perfectly rare, but the overall experience wasn’t as good as Spring.
Bistro Paul Bert
Due to a mess up on the part of our hotel concierge (grrr…), we ended up here instead of its more modern sibling, Le 6 Paul Bert. Bistro Paul Bert is a more traditional French bistro, whereas Le 6 has more inventive fare. Slightly disappointing, but we still had a pretty good meal at Bistro Paul Bert.
The seared tuna salad was really good, the steak au poivre was tasty, and we had a very good soufflé for dessert.
We had crepes and galettes aplenty, but out of all that we tried, including supposedly famous ones in the Montparnasse area, the best ones were at an unassuming place called Le Ble Noir, outside Versailles.
The galettes there are paper thin and super crisp, with just enough filling not to weigh it down.
Leon de Bruxelles
This is a bit of a wild card entry. It’s a touristy chain, and the one we went to is along the Champs-Elysees, but I have to give them credit for some pretty darn good mussels. They have Bouchot mussels here, which are smaller and sweeter than regular mussels, which make all the difference. I don’t like the typical large mussels because I find them a bit overpowering and sometimes rubbery, but the tiny Bouchot ones are very easy to eat.
As if the quality of the mussels wasn’t surprising enough, we also had really good, light and fluffy waffles here. Old school, nothing fancy, but really satisfying.
Marche Richard Lenoir
There are lots of markets in Paris, but Marche Richard Lenoir, which runs on Sundays and Thursdays, is a foodie heaven. The makeshift market is set up along a street and runs for a few blocks, which makes for a very easy stroll up and down as you gawk at all the produce on sale. This is what I remember Borough Market being like…
Besides fresh meats and produce, there are cheese and charcuterie stalls aplenty, as well as crepe stalls and some selling roast chickens. We bought a slab of duck and goose rillette, 2 cheeses (an Epoisses and a to-die-for Brie de Melun) and some bread, and had a thoroughly enjoyable picnic nearby.
Crepes! Crepes!! Crepes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I love crepes! And after a few bad experiences elsewhere, this trip made me like galettes too.
The surprise of the trip was actually Leon de Bruxelles. This tourist trap actually had amazingly good food and waffles. We went back for more so that should be proof enough.