By Kristen Oliveri
For consumers Paris’ moniker as the city of lights and the city of love is quite true. But, ask a person who normally spends his or her waking hours in a kitchen, serving guests or standing behind a bar what they think of when you say “Paris” and “love” and they’ll surely respond that Paris is the city for food. In Paris the love affair is immediate with the city that sheds an exciting light on the career they’ve chosen.
And no wonder. With a seemingly unending range of places to eat, from the basic patisseries and cafes for people watching, espresso and nibbles, to high-end Michelin starred restaurants with three-hour long dining experiences; Paris has it all for those who truly appreciate an outstanding meal.
Here one can plan to try all types of food: high-end, low-end and everything in between. People watching and sipping on a French Rose outside on a street corner, might be an activity of choice for visitors and in Paris no less, steps away from iconic landmarks like the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe.
One quintessential Parisian staple, The Café de la Paix, is located outside of the Opera House and a short walk from the famous tea and macaron salon, Ladurée. The inside of the restaurant is classic with high ceilings and opulent pillars. The service is elegant and as spectacular as one would imagine. The menu is filled with French dishes like beef tartare, a signature dish of the restaurant, complete with frites. Try washing it down with a Cote de Provence Rose, or feast on the rabbit with stewed tomatoes and pommes de terres.
One of the most exquisite fine dining experiences in the world can be had in Paris, if the budget allows. The prices may be eye-popping, but another option would be sampling the lunch tasting menu at the Michelin star restaurant of Alain Passard, L’Arpege. For those who have read columnist’s Adam Gopnik’s tome From Paris to the Moon, it may solidify a visit to the mainly vegetable restaurant.
Course after course (seven in total for lunch), vegetarian dishes like a mock-sushi roll consisting of sushi-style rice and a perfectly sliced beet which laid ever so gently over the rice, masquerading as raw fish, come out. One of their meat-filled courses is often the grilled veal paired with a cauliflower styled liked a risotto. Chef Passard himself is often found strolling through his restaurant, talking to patrons about his multiple gardens and his passion for cooking with vegetables. He’s often said, “This is not a restaurant. It’s a home.”
In terms of local, organic and gluten-free fare, Bio Sphere Café is a must-try spot. Chef/owner Sylvie Do is creating traditional French desserts like macarons, éclairs, tarts and the like, without using flour and using organic ingredients when possible. Some of her savory dishes include buckwheat crepes (also known as galettes) stuffed with ingredients like ham, Gruyere and topped with a fried egg. She also serves tastings of quiche filled with tuna and tomatoes and a gluten-free pizza with mushrooms. To wash down these guiltless pleasures, Do offers digestive juices—most notably, one with apples, carrots and fennel.
After indulging on treats from high-end, to low-end, from organic to alcoholic, the first or last stop should be to the simply wonderful,Ladurée. While this is not something new in the city of lights, “La Ville-Lumière”, the beautifully handcrafted macarons paired with a piping hot cup of tea in the Laduree’s Tea Salon is not to be missed.
We asked a few industry people about their favorite places in Paris and this is where they are eating and drinking when they’re not toiling behind their own bars or stoves:
CHEF- Sylvie Do, owner of Biosphere Café
47 RUE DE LABORDE 75008 PARIS
Best Pastry: Angelina’s
226 Rue de Rivoli, Paris
I like pastries when they are not too sweet. At Angelina’s, it’s the case contrary to Laduree, in my opinion. I loved their croissants, so soft, ethereal and buttery and tasty! I ate the best galette des rois over there. It’s a pastry that we eat only in January, which translates to the king’s galette because inside you have a lucky charm. The story goes that whoever finds it in his portion of the cake is the king and would have the golden pâper crown. It’s puff dough with almonds and butter cream inside.
Dinner that won’t break the bank: Café Le Moderne
40, rue Notre-Dame-des-Victoire, Paris
The restaurant is in front of the Bourse (stock exchange) and is popular with French businessmen and women. The decoration and menus are nice with good vines and cost effective prices.
Best pub: Sir Winston
5 Rue de Presbourg
Sir Winston is well known pub near the Champs-Elysées. It has the particularity of having an English colonial decoration and is great for an after work cocktail.
HOTELIER- Stephanie Gravier, Hôtel Jardin Le Bréa
Date night restaurant: Les Ombres
27 Quai Branly, Paris
This restaurant has a glass roof and is located near the Eiffel Tower. With the lights of the Eiffel Tower by night, it is the ideal place for a romantic date. The restaurant is located near the museum Quai Branly and the food is quite international. It is possible to eat Asian or African dishes, as well as French.
Favorite café: Le café des petits frères des pauvres
47 Rue Batignolle, Paris
This special cafe is managed by an association I volunteer for (les petits frères des pauvres). This association works with elderly people who live in the 17th Arrondissement. To have a coffee there costs less than 1 Euro and you can leave more to support the association. There is a very family-oriented atmosphere. There are books, games and even computers with free Wifi.
Best quick pastry: Gerard Mulot
76 Rue de Seine, Paris
I worked several years ago at this famous chocolate maker and pastry chef. The pastries crafted here are outstanding. You can find a very big variety of macarons (just as good as the famous macarons of Ladurée). My favorites are chocolate & hazelnut and banana & basil. Every year for the Epiphany, people crowd into the bakery to come to buy a pancake. You can’t find another like it anywhere in Paris.
Best spot for a creative cocktail: Mojito Lab
28 Rue Keller, Paris
I love Mojitos, so I had to try this bar out. You can find a very big variety of mojito cocktails with different flavors. My favorites are strawberry, watermelon and ginger. The mint is directly cultivated in the bar. The concept is innovated and original.
Best crepe in town: Marche ou Crêpe
88 Rue Oberkampft, Paris
To begin with, the name of this restaurant is so funny. It’s a joke in reference of the famous sentence “marche ou creve”, meaning walk or die. It’s so small and there are so many customers that you often can’t find a seat to sit down. Everybody grabs their food and eats outside on the pavement. A single crepe is enough for a meal. I know a friend who can eat two; he is especially crazy and too greedy! The best sweet crepe is with white chocolate cream and strawberries.
Best cheap restaurant: Basilicata
36 Avenue Jean Moulin, Paris
I discovered this place while working in the 14th.This small Italian restaurant is excellent. You should not be discouraged by the very basic decoration because the dishes are delicious, made with fresh vegetables. It is the best pastas and pizza in Paris that I know of. And don’t forget to sample one of their Italian wines.
Chef Philippe Renard and Chef Barman Gilles Guyomarch, Hotel Lutetia (www.lutetia-paris.com)
45, boulevard Raspail
Le Père Claude – 51 Avenue de la Motte-Picquet, 75015 Paris.
It serves good traditional French cuisine, is mostly tourist-free, and a favorite of former President Jacques Chirac.
La Poule au pot – 9 Rue Vauvilliers, 75001 Paris.
A great night owl spot (open until 5 AM), this bistro serves delicious old-fashioned French food.