This isn’t a “Best of” list. It’s not a “Top 10” list. My pocketbook is too tiny and my tastes perhaps too particular to really dig into places like L’Atelier du Joel Robuchon and L’Arpèrge. And, all things considered, my restaurant expeditions have been limited.
But when someone asks me for a great restaurant recommendation in Paris, my mind goes to several meals that were truly special. Sometimes it was because of the company and energy; sometimes for the staff and service; other times it was just exactly the right atmosphere for the occasion. But always, it was a delicious meal.
Lunch at Le Grand Vefour
What can I say? This was easily my ultimate dining experience in Paris. It just doesn’t get better than Le Grand Vefour: the exquisite, historic interior; the fleet of top-notch servers; the precision of every little detail; the idea of just lingering for hours in such decadence, full of pleasure. The cheese course. It was one of my all-time favorite meals, not just in Paris, but ever.
Dinner at Les Papilles
This one ekes in there for the uber flavorable dishes, the generous portions and the unconventional setting. It was once little more than an epicerie. Then Les Papilles started gathering a following for its great food. At night, it’s a fixed menu, which is tricky for a vegetarian. But they graciously substituted a giant, perfectly cooked tuna steak for me, which was bookended by a divine white bean soup—served in a family-style terrine—and panna cotta with pineapple and caramel.
Dinner at Café Constant
Bennie and I met here at 7:30 on a Wednesday night and snagged the last table (they have a no reservations policy but a highly acclaimed chef so it’s not easy). We were happily tucked between a four visiting Americans and two older French ladies (and I do mean “ladies”—they were beyond charming and civilized, and well beyond their seventh decade) and even happier to see the menu before us. It was an embarrassment of choices, but we both chose well. I had a divine crab salad and some of the best chicken of my life. Accompanied by delicious country bread and wine… life is good.
Dinner at Frenchie
A limited menu, the freshest of ingredients and simplest of concepts: chef-owner Gregory Marchand has it down at his cozy restaurant, tucked on a side street in my neighborhood (lucky me). A beautiful chilled beet, raspberry and creme fraîche soup started my tastebuds singing, followed by a delicious salmon with buttery carrots and shaved fennel and dill. In a word, outstanding.
Dinner at Au Vieux Comptoir
This is just one of those places that is warm and convivial and fun and delicious; that rare and perfect blend of everything that is great about dining out in Paris. If you go here often enough, the staff will remember and befriend you. If you love your meats and traditional French fare, you will be in heaven. Not a meat-eater, I was still okay—more than okay, in fact—with a salmon tartare starter and the richest black truffle risotto. And tarte tatin to end the four-hour, champagne-fueled feast.
Dinner at Café Panique
This 10th arrondisement spot feels very un-Paris to me. It’s located on an innocuous street, in a bright, old fabric warehouse that has a charming mix of art and furniture, with an authentic clientele (cultivated not a little bit by proprietor, Odile Guyader). And somewhere between the lobster tartare amuse-bouche; goat cheese, cherry tomatoes and arugula sablé; magret de canard and caramel crème brulee, I fell in love.
Lunch at Ladurée
A bit cheesy and touristy, oui. But it’s also so sweet and special, and perfect. Whether you have a prim and proper salad, or a club sandwich with deliciously fat fries, or a classic omelet, you’ll enjoy china and silver and the decadent but comfy atmosphere. And, of course, there is dessert to look forward to throughout the whole meal.
Brunch at SuperNature
Oh, how I love a good, healthy breakfast—even if it comes in quantities so delicious that you consume your day’s calories in one seating and thereby destroy the healthy concept. This is one of those places: house-made muesli; a generous bread basket accompanied by chocolate spread, marmalade, jam, honey and butter; smoked salmon and lentils and salad and a gratin of cheesy veggies; pain perdu (!) and green tea and fresh juice. Oui, oui.
Lobster Saturdays at Spring
Last summer, Spring hosted special lobster roll Saturdays. I’m still talking about them nearly a year later. The lobster rolls were perfectly studied versions of those from New England: meaty, lightly dressed—perfectly paired with a nice rosé. But it was the goose fat French fries dusted with orange and lime zest that stole the show and have since been ingrained in my memory banks.