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WHERE TO EAT
The French set the standard for transforming food into an art form, from taste to presentation, dabbling in all cuisines and price ranges. Grab a street crepe for 3 euros, a café omelet for 8 euros or spend 250 euros under some Michelin stars! Save money by ordering prix-fixe menus (a three-course meal, drinks not included).
Etiquette alerts: Dogs are acceptable at restaurants but not doggie bags. It’s best not to ask for separate checks; instead divide the bill on two separate credit cards. It’s unacceptable for two people to order one dish to split. And don’t be shy about dining solo; singles are welcomed wholeheartedly. Best tip: You can bet the chef put his heart and soul into the specialty, so order it without hesitation.
An unforgettable splurge — If a dining experience could be compared to jazz, the three-star Michelin restaurant Pierre Gagnaire would be as cool as Miles Davis. Modern décor, dove grey walls, honeyed wood set the tone for the tasting menus, consisting of 6 mini-plates, such as: a salad of artichokes with white mushrooms, mini-rolls of veal stuffed with liver and a paté of Japanese Wagyu beef and leeks. Grand Dessert de Pierre Gagnaire is wild fruit, chocolate creations and chestnut cake that keep arriving until you can take no more. Pull in with a stockpile of cash. You’ll pay 225 euros per person for the prix-fixe dinner and 90 euros for the prix-fixe market lunch menu (not including wine). Reservations are required for this Right Bank extravagance. Lunch: noon-1:30 p.m. Dinner: 7 p.m.-10 p.m. 6 rue Balzac, 75008; métro: George V; 33 1 58 36 12 50; www.pierre-gagnaire.com.
In the dark — Dans le Noir offers a cool, Zen lunch and festive dinner, including relaxing scents, neck rubs, and guided kindness from the all-blind waiters, in total darkness. (You can also enjoy meals in the lighted lounge, but then you miss the incredible sensory experience.) French Provencale chef Anne Marie di Lorenzo serves regional dishes that are a treasure to the tongue. Try shrimp and octopus served on polenta with tomatoes and garlic. The chocolate-caramel dessert with vanilla-pepper ice cream is so good you’ll close your eyes and won’t notice the lights are out. Once guided in by your blind escort, people begin speaking to each other from across different tables, so expect to make new friends. Located in the ancient eastern area of Beaubourg near the Marais. Open daily, reservations are required. Lunch: 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.; Dinner: 8 p.m.-midnight (with two services: 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.). Expected to pay 29 to 35 euros per person, without drinks. 51 rue Quincampoix, 75004; métro: Rambuteau; 33 1 42 77 98 04; www.danslenoir.fr.
Culinary poetry — Dominique Bouchet’s Right Bank restaurant (named after the owner and former Crillon chef-extraordinaire) offers Escoffier-based food with a light spin. Among the starters, the cream of chestnut soup with slivered truffles is delectable. Recommended are the main course scallops, taken from their shell and seared with butter. There’s a big dessert decision between the Grand Marnier Soufflé and the assortment of homemade sorbets (cassis, lemon, mandarin). The contemporary white, red and Wenge wood décor is complemented by tableware made exclusively for (and by) Bouchet. His open kitchen welcomes clients who may want to watch how perfect skate with capers is prepared. Pay 40-45 euros per person for food that is presented simply, versus pretentious over-the-top crazy. Don’t be surprised to find this becomes your favorite restaurant in town. Open Monday-Friday. Lunch: noon to 2 p.m. Dinner: 7:30 p.m. -10:30 p.m. Closed August. 11 rue Treihard, 75008; métro: Miromesnil; 33 1 45 61 09 46; www.dominique-bouchet.com.
Breaking news — Actors (and romantic partners) Carol Bouquet and Gerard Depardieu have opened another Right Bank restaurant, L’Ecaille de la Fontaine (located opposite La Fontaine Gaillon, the duo’s first venture). Innovative chef Laurent Audiot presents freshly cooked seafood, a favorite being Special No. 5: delicate little oysters from the white sandy beaches of Arcachon. The tourtaux (giant crabs) and gambas (giant shrimp) are incredible. A glass of fragrant Sicilian Passito or the Chateau de Tigné from Depardieu’s distinguished vineyard is highly recommended. The lavish desserts come from La Fontaine Gaillon; this might just be the best creme brulée in town. The menu, displayed on a blackboard, changes daily. The Italian-inspired atmosphere of reds and woods, with soft low-lighting make you feel relaxed in this 22-seat table d’hôte (long, communal table). Open Monday- Friday. Lunch: noon to 2:30 p.m. Dinner: 7 p.m.-11 p.m. Expect to pay 30-50 euros per person (wine included). Opened in January 2005, you already need reservations to dine. (Don’t be surprised to see Depardieu there.) 15 rue Gaillon, 75001; métro: Opéra; 33 1 47 42 02 99.
Ultra-sexy gourmet — Charismatic super chef Guy Savoy and his equally appealing son Frank invite you to Chiberta. This sexy Right Bank restaurant has softly lit black walls and individually lighted tables. For starters, the cream of bay prawns with lemongrass and ginger sauce is astonishing. If you’re in love with seafood, segue into mouthwatering John Dory served with pumpkin and leek gratin. For non-seafood lovers, try the côte de boeuf simmenthal for two with a bernaise sauce. The baba au rhum dessert topped with homemade pineapple sorbet finishes the meal perfectly. Average meal per person is 70 euros (without drinks). Reservations are required. Lunch: noon-2:30 p.m., Monday-Friday. Dinner: 7 p.m.-11 p.m., Monday-Thursday and 7 p.m.-11:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday. 3 rue Arsène-Houssaye, 75008; métro: Charles de Gaulle Etoile; 33 1 53 53 42 00; www.lechiberta.com.
Breathtaking cuisine — Owners Herve de Libouton and Christophe Courgeau serve flawless meals at Au Gourmand. This small Left Bank restaurant next to the Luxembourg Gardens (Les Jardins Du Luxembourg) is a favorite with politicians devoted to the menu of traditional French cuisine, such as tarragon-infused, pan-fried Brittany scallops and crayfish risotto. The thin tart with vegetables and winter fruits simmered in white truffle oil and topped with pumpkin sorbet is dessert paradise. Offering 11 whiskeys (including Japanese and French) and 85 wines. Best buy: the Discovery Menu (45 euros per person) — includes (in half portions) two starters, two main courses and a dessert. Even though this restaurant opened in 2003, you still need a reservation a week in advance. Lunch: 12:30 p.m.-1:45 p.m., Tuesday-Friday. Dinner: 8 p.m.-10 p.m., Monday-Saturday. Closed Sunday. 22 rue de Vaugirard, 75006; métro: Luxembourg; 33 1 43 26 26 45.
A taste of Southern France — Alain Dutournier (of restaurant Carré des Feuillants) and his happy staff recently opened Pinxo at the Plaza Paris Vendôme Hotel in central Paris. A granite table serving as a bar, an open kitchen, and black, white and red color scheme make this a visually distinctive dining spot. Foie gras with Burgundy truffles served tartare style is an excellent starter. For a main course, order the crispy-gingered baby squid or tuna fillet with sesame seeds and fennel. Everything is served in little brioches or cut-up portions, in keeping with the spirit of “pinxo,” which, loosely translated, means “sample what’s on your friend’s plate.” Average cost is about 55 euros per person. Breakfast: 7 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Lunch: 12:15 p.m.-2:30 p.m. Dinner: 7:15 p.m.-11:30 p.m. Open every day. Reservations required. 9 rue d’Alger, 75001; métro: Tuileries; 33 1 40 20 72 00.
When France meets Asia — This historic address where General Lafayette lived, George Washington visited and Madame Pompidou rented now houses a fabulous restaurant, 1728. Sculptures, 17th- and 18th-century paintings and rare books surround you while you feast on Beijing-born chef Gao Lin’s French cooking with an Asian twist. Try the crispy canard de sauvage (wild duck), wrapped in a variety of Chinese rice papers and covered in a ginger-mace sauce. Highly acclaimed patisserie Hermé creates the melt-in-your-mouth tarte au café; famous fromagerie Alleosse provides exceptional cheeses; and 142 original wines are available. Lunch costs 40-70 euros per person; dinner, 60-80 euros — making 1728 an affordable luxury. Reservations are a must. Lunch: noon-3 p.m. Tea and pastries: 3 p.m.-7 p.m. Dinner: 8 p.m.-1 a.m.; Closed Sundays. 8 rue du Anjou, 75008; métro: George V; 33 1 40 17 04 77; www.galerie-1728.com.
Authentic country à la Française — A 90-year-old woman who goes only by her first name, Louise runs the very rustic Georget Louise, located in the Right Bank Marais. Chunky wooden tables, old hanging pots and a butchering chef (not a place for vegetarians!) are in sync with the French country food prepared over an open fire. Côté de boeuf, haricots verts and fried potatoes are the specialty. The homemade desserts of chocolate and fruit tarts and a wonderful selection of cheeses, provide wonderful end notes. Top this off with a liquer de poire (pear liquor) or Calvados, and your stomach is set. Come alone or with friends, but make reservations. Average meal is 30 euros per person (without wine). Dinner: 7:30 p.m.-midnight-ish (Monday-Saturday). 64 rue Vieille du Temple, 75003; métro: Hôtel de Ville; 33 1 42 78 55 89.
Dine and dream — One doesn’t come to Les Elysées du Vernet on the Right Bank two blocks from the Arc de Triomphe to see the glass ceiling made by Gustave Eiffel, although the site is worth the visit. One comes for chef Eric Briffard’s exquisite French fare, such as the steamed foie gras cooked with candied ginger, pear and crispy thin leaves of smoked eel on gingerbread millefeuille. And that’s just a starter. For the main course try a pithivier (puff pastry) with wild duck, pheasant and partridge meat swallowed in chestnut honey and finished with a woodsy Armagnac. End with the soft candied lemon biscuit topped with mascarpone ice cream. Reservations are a must. Lunch starts at 60 euros per person. The dinner Tasting Menu (recommended — as are reservations) is 130 euros per person (without wine). Lunch: 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m., Tuesday-Friday. Dinner: 7:30 p.m.-10 p.m., Monday-Friday. 25 rue Vernet, 75008; métro: George V; 33 1 44 31 98 98. www.hotelvernet.com.
The new France — At contemporary l’Angle du Faubourg on the Right Bank, chef Stéphane Cosnier (from restaurant Taillevent) delivers inventive French. And sommelier Marianne Delhomme will help you choose the best complement to your meal from 200 wines. Favorites include shoulder of lamb (cooked for five hours and presented on baby carrots with cumin) or sea brim (served with an artichoke-mushroom sauce). Finish with the lush gâteau de grand-mère (grandmother’s cake) made with cinnamon-roasted apples and served with a salty caramel ice cream. Gorgeous terra cotta walls and a mural of a vineyard help create an ambiance inspired by the earthy grape fields of France. Reservations are required. At lunch, expect to pay 60-65 euros per person (or ask for the 35 euro Special Menu); dinner will run about 80 euros per person (or try the Tasting Menu for 60 euros). Lunch: noon-2:30 p.m. Dinner: 7 p.m.-10:30 p.m. 195 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008; métro: Charles de Gaulle-Etoile; 33 1 40 74 20 20; www.taillevent.com.
The sophisticated life — Setting the standard for elegance is the Crillon restaurant (Hôtel de Crillon) in all its mythical, mirrored and marbled glory. The restaurant is located in the celebrated spot where Louis XVI wed Marie Antoinette, at the landmark Place de la Concorde in central Paris. Executive chef Jean-Francois Piege offers up “Histoire de Cuisine” (the story of fine cooking, and in this case, he means fine French food), including fried prawns served with spicy caviar for starters, a young pigeon stuffed with foie gras and black olives for a main meal and a scrumptious vacherin meringue dessert topped with banana and coconut sorbet (made fresh every day but changing regularly with the chef’s mood and season). Lunch costs about 70 euros per person (without wine); dinner 250 euros (with wine). But any money spent here is a dream realized. Reservations are required. Lunch: noon-2 p.m., Tuesday-Friday. Dinner: 7:30 p.m.-10 p.m. nightly. 10 place de la Concorde, 75006; métro: Concorde; 33 1 44 71 16 16; www.crillon.com.
Café society — Right Bank Coffee & Friends might be the only place in Paris where you’ll really feel comfortable asking for a caféà apporter (coffee to go). But you won’t want to leave this mocha-colored, easygoing place. They serve original coffees from European countries (expresso, macchiato, cappuccino, viennois, schuemmli, etc.), along with the counterpart pastries (Austrian, Italian, German, etc.) shipped in fresh daily from those countries. The cost is a non-Starbucks 1.50-2.50 euros (espresso) or 2.50-3.50 euros (the other coffees). They also offer BLTs and a soup of the day (3.30 euros). There’s a jukebox upstairs, the place is Wi-Fi loaded, and there’s no smoking downstairs. Open weekdays 10 a.m.-7 p.m., and weekends until 8 p.m. 23 boulevard Beaumarchais, 75004; métro: Bastille; 33 1 42 71 07 77; www.coffee-and-friends.com.
Cactus palate — Whoever said you can’t get authentic Mexican food in Paris will have to eat his mole — and we aren’t talking Tex-Mex. If thinking about salsa made with fresh tomatilla verde keeps you awake, Anahuacalli on the Left Bank (the name means “a house near the river” in Aztec) is for you. Its sinful margarita mousse and poulet mestizo with cactus sauce, not to mention low-key décor, smiling chef Tony Espinosa and the cordial staff, are sure to cheer the spirit. Lunch: noon-2:30 p.m., Sunday. Dinner: 7 p.m.-11 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday. Closed Monday, Tuesday. Expect to pay 30 euros per person, and reservations are a good idea. 30 rue des Bernardins, 75005; métro: Maubert-Mutualité; 33 1 43 26 10 20.
Pizza Paris — In the Left Bank neighborhood of Saint Germain des Prés, the always buzzing Mezza Luna Ristorante has warm terra cotta to go along with the welcoming staff, and its brick-oven pizzas will turn you into a regular. For starters try the Napoli mozzarella that’s been marinating for three days in lemon and olive oil with a dash of nutmeg. Highly recommended are the Regina pizza (ham, mushrooms, mozzarella and tomatoes) and the Gorgonzola rucola pizza (a Margarita-style pizza cooked with Gorgonzola cheese and, once out of the oven, topped with rucola (the Italian name for arugula). For dessert, the homemade tiramisu, of course, is just the right finish. Lunch runs 18-20 euros per person; dinner 25-27 euros. Lunch: Monday-Friday noon-3 p.m. Dinner: 7 p.m.-midnight; Saturday and Sunday noon-midnight. No reservations needed. 38 rue du Buci, 75006; métro: Mabillon; 33 1 46 33 91 15.