My restaurant adventures have been pretty modest lately, and I feel like a lot of my meals have been mediocre. I hate this. Food in Paris is too good not to be bowled over, or at least totally satiated. Lesson learned? Always make reservations, always carry a list of go-to restaurants by arrondisement and never go by the restaurant’s name or image.
H.A.N.D.: 39, rue de Richelieu, 1eme
Went with: Sarah and Jo on a Thursday night
Had: Veggie burger & fries and a few bites of cheesecake
Impressions: In a word, disappointing. I had walked by this restaurant a couple months ago, located between Palais Royal and Japantown, and was stopped in my tracks by the cool design. With an American-inspired menu (eggs, pancakes and cornflakes for breakfast; every kind of burger imaginable the rest of the day), I figured it would be a fun place to eat and a cool crowd too boot. There wasn’t much of a crowd when we went (I suspect the restaurant does better at lunch), and the service was nice but horrendously slow and inattentive. Jo and I both had veggie burgers and wine; Sarah had the fried chicken. We all split a slice of cheesecake, and none of us were all too impressed. Oh well.
Breizh Café: 109 rue de veielle temple, 3eme
Went with: Connie and Nina on a Thursday night
Had: Small salad with a wonderfully original wasabi vinaigrette, veggie and egg galette and cider.
Impressions: We tried going here without a reservation the first night the girls were in town. No go. So we made plans to return and were happy we did. The concept and crepes are incredibly simple—which is why everything is so delicious. Pure ingredients, including authentic French butter (and lots of it), organic veg and eggs, fresh buckwheat batter, ensure dishes are top-quality and full of flavor. It’s a nice and casual spot for lunch or dinner.
Pramil: 9, rue du Vertbois, 3eme
Went with: A friend on a Wednesday night
Had: Two entrées for a meal: a cherry tomato and zucchini tart and shredded chunks of crab served with potatoes.
Impressions: This place had been recommended to me and a cross-reference of web sites confirmed that it’s a neighborhood gem. But, I don’t know… I wasn’t especially feeling it. The servers were nice and the chef made his appearance from the kitchen. But the space felt a little sparse and hollow, not particularly warm, which is how the food “felt” as well. Good, but not great. But maybe it was an off night.
Café Germain: 25 & 27, rue de Buci, 6eme
Went with: A friend on a Sunday night
Had: Fish and chips! Ice cream!
Impressions: I’m not a big Costes whore. Indeed, in this town where there are so many small and precious, refined and delicious spots to eat, why patronize the city’s kings of mediocrity? But I was invited, and, I must say, I did enjoy my meal. I can’t even remember the last time I had fish and chips, and the coating on the two pieces of cod was thick and crunchy and the fries were skinny and greasy (all good things in my book). We had to wait about an hour for our two scoops of ice cream and then about another hour for the check, the whole time watching our server bounce around like a headless chicken, but the DJ and Eurotrash kept us relatively entertained while doing so.
Café Constant: 139, rue Saint-Dominique, 7eme
Went with: After gushing about my first trip here with Bennie, I wanted to share it with Lionel and Sylvia, who seriously love their food.
Had: Started with a shrimp tart, but that sounds underwhelming if you could see the magnificence of the generous appetizer: Three succulent shrimp on a buttery pastry tart, covered in sauce and foam. For le plat, I had poached cod and buttery veggies. And dessert was the richest, stick-to-your-teeth chocolate quenelles. Mon dieu.
Impressions: True love. We sat upstairs, whereas Bennie and I sat downstairs the first time. I think I prefer downstairs, but overall the place has good energy—casual, friendly, always busy with a mélange of French and English, tourists and locals.