Paris is indisputably one of the best food cities in the world. Its marvelous markets and shops touting eye-popping drool-inducing produce, pastries, chocolates and more, are fodder for thousands of food blogs, and there are enough neo bistros and restaurants to keep food reviewers busy for a lifetime just revisiting old chomping grounds.
Writer, foodie and long time American expat in Paris Barbara Pasquet-James reviews 4 of the most sought after restaurants in Paris….
Alain Passard alum David Toutain reboots a conceptual menu daily. Labor intensive and well-thought out, Toutain’s inventive menus induce reverie in his faithful, many of whom migrated with him from Agapé Substance in Saint-Germain. Give him a root vegetable and he’s a magician. Sweet potato gnocchi and celeriac tagliatelle with white alba truffle – yum! Toutain’s signature smoked eel with black sesame and green apple left me speechless. Throughout, the term “neo-Nordic” kept springing to mind. Many of the courses would have been just as much at home in a forest as on the plates. Dessert of cauliflower coconut vanilla cream with a chef’s surprise of quince chips and white chocolate ice cream by Jacques Genin was followed by fire-roasted figs with mascarpone and root vegetables “churros” with chocolate and smoked salt. Stunning.
David Toutain (multi-course tasting menu); 29 Rue Surcouf 75007 Paris
Under the Les Halles canopy a modern Michelin-starred French bistro-brasserie signed Alain Ducasse is open every day of the week. A view of the ancient Church of Saint-Eustache and modern graffiti-covered walls are a backdrop to French classics. Think boudins, oysters, foie gras, beef tartare, duck and snails. They share a simple carte alongside ricotta-spinach ravioli, smoked salmon, salads and oven-fresh soufflés, a specialty. Kicking off with a coupe de champagne we tried two raw fish starters. Sea bream in citrus fruit shavings, black pepper and basil, and sea bass with carrot, fresh lime and ginger. Spectacular. This was followed by the copious house salad (romaine, shaved radish, fennel, carrot, beets. cucumber dressed in a tart yogurt mint vinaigrette). Then two sky-high soufflés – one cheese, the other in-season asparagus – both exploding with flavor and obscenely generous.
Wines were expertly paired with each course. By the time dessert arrived – pistachio-laced salted butter caramel soufflé, we almost stood up to applaud. But we were too full. Outstanding.
Champeaux Brasserie Bar & Lounge; Forum des Halles La Canopée 75001 Paris
Since the opening of this superstar starred neo-bistro on a street behind Bastille, chef Bertrand Grébaut has never looked back. A relaxed decor belies top talent in the kitchen. Grébaut’s menu of pure seasonal ingredients complements a wine list of carefully selected small producers who avoid additives. All of the dishes were beautifully presented. Synergies of flavors and textures were showcased. White asparagus with an oyster sauce gribiche; pork tenderloin with slivered radishes. Steamed cod with pickled turnips and yuzu sauce. A dessert, every French schoolchild’s fave, riz au lait vanille, creamy rice pudding tanged up with a passion fruit coulis, arrived with an old favorite, a deconstructed Mont Blanc of sweetened feta with its familiar chestnut cream “spaghetti.” Knockout.
Septime (multi-course tasting menu);80 Rue de Charonne 75011 Paris
Being escorted through the opulent Hotel Peninsula then seated in LiLi’s spacious dining room felt like we’d arrived on a Hollywood film set. This gastro Chinese temple isn’t about French cuisine. We went for the Menu Dim Sum. Steamed lobster dumplings with asparagus, Shanghai-style steamed pork raviolis, chicken and eggplant dumplings with XO sauce. Plus pan-fried minced pork dumplings with bok choy, each deliciously succulent and elegantly presented. We also tried Peking-style duck, wok-fried Brittany blue lobster with ginger and spring onions, braised French beef with fried ginger. And, to wash it down, martinis with lemon twists which, beautifully cleansed our palates between courses. Authentic and delicious.
LiLi at the Hotel Peninsula; 19 Avenue Kléber 75016 Paris;
Barbara Pasquet James is a U.S. lifestyle editor, speaker, and urban explorer who writes about food fashion and culture, from Paris. Find out more on her blog FocusOnParis.com
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