In the past few years, a new breed of chef has brought influences from around the world and a hyper-seasonal touch to French cooking with a wave of casual restaurant openings in Paris. In a society with rigid designations for its eating establishment – the bistro, the brasserie, le restaurant – a new category has surged to the fore and caught the fancy of Parisians, the bistronomie.
Often found in the hipper quarters of the city – the 10th or 11th arrondissements and beyond, the bistronomie is more casual than stuffy haute dining palaces of yore and very much market driven – a tasting menu is the norm and often there are few if any choices for the night’s menu. They also tend to be tiny and scruffy, with just enough tables to be manageable for often small staffs. If wine is your thing, here you’ll find a passion for French winemakers making “vins naturels” – wines made with minimal intervention and negligible, if any, sulfur added (to stabilize the wine), the vines typically farmed according to organic and biodynamic principles. It all adds up to a fun, less formal dining experience with the focus on creativity, assuming you can secure a reservation in this food mad town.
Note – Menus change frequently if not daily and are never listed on websites. Due to this fact, we only describe dishes that are often available. Every experience is one-of-a-kind so just sit back and enjoy the cooking.
Frenchie and its wine bar sibling (5 – 6 Rue du Nil, 2nd Arr, website), along with a take out shop, attract bustling crowds to tiny Rue du Nil. While the restaurant is miniscule and a notoriously tough reservation for its dinner slots (Monday-Friday), the Wine Bar is first come first served, open daily from 7pm. Yes, even Sundays. Get there early for a seat and enjoy a stellar list of natural wines. The menu is surprisingly extensive for the wine bar – a pappardelle with lamb ragout was so good we ordered a second round.
To find a restaurant bar in Paris is a rare thing, even more so in the tiny spaces of the city’s hot new trendsetters. Bones (Editors Note: Bones closed in late 2015) attracts plaudits from those in-the-know who snag the hard-to-get table reservations but its secret weapon is the bar, where you can just drop in from 7pm on. You can’t get the entire menu here but there are enough options to make a solid meal. Start with luscious oysters seemingly plucked directly from the Atlantic just hours before, then gorge yourself on the delicious bread and the impossibly fresh butter set out on the bar. If you still have room, try some charcuterie or the cochon (pig) sandwich. But this is one case where man… and woman… can live on bread alone. If you do manage to secure a reservation, Aussie chef James Henry, who made his name at Au Passage, serves a five-course prix fixe menu in the dining room for €55. Starters featuring of-the-moment produce come to the table family style followed by a parade of richly delicious plates – the only choice will be for your main so surrender your palate to the chef and the season.
Septime (80 Rue de Charonne, 11th arr, website) only serves one menu, an ever-changing prix-fixe for €55 in an out-of-the-way location but that doesn’t stop it from being one of Paris’ toughest reservations. How to secure a table at Septime? Tables become available at midnight Paris time exactly three weeks in advance on booking website LaFourchette.com. In the meantime, settle into your seat and watch the action in the open kitchen. The menu is hyper-seasonal and a beautiful backyard garden awaits in summer. Dinner only on Mondays, lunch and dinner Tuesday – Friday, closed Saturday and Sunday.
Le Verre Vole (67 rue de L’ancry, 10th arr, website) packs in an enthusiastic wine-loving crowd into a two-room space near the serene Canal St. Martin, famous for its iconic iron bridges and anchor of a now-trendy neighborhood. Hold out for a seat in the front area near the kitchen rather than downstairs Siberia and peruse the wines on the wall. No, you can’t order from what is in essence a collection of their favorite empty wine bottles, nor is there a winelist. Instead, there is a small by the glass selection or you can just tell the staff the kind of wine you are looking for and they’ll dig up a bottle of something “naturel” for you to enjoy. The menu features a variety of house specialties and seasonal specials – when we visited the specials were the way to go since the stand-by boudin missed the mark. Best of all, they are open daily for lunch and dinner, even Sundays.
Saturne (17 rue Notre-Dame des Victoires, 2nd arr, website) lies outside the hipster zone across from the Paris Bourse (stock exchange). The space is Nordic chic, airy with lots of blond wood, especially the rear dining room which floods with light in the daytime thanks to the large skylight. Drop in for lunch and you’ll be in a sea of international bankers – menus run from €37 for three courses to €55 for five courses and €69 for seven, each with a choice. Dinner brings out the fashionable set for a €60 menu. Don’t forget the wine – Saturne has a deep list of natural winemakers. Lunch and dinner Monday through Friday.
Le Comptoir (9 Carrefour de l’Odeon, 6th arr, website) and its sister counter shop L’Avant Comptoir make great lunch options, but they don’t take reservations so be prepared for lines. But when you do grab a seat outside this repurposed bistro, assuming the day is warm, you will find yourself in prime people watching territory in the Left Bank. The menu is massive and features plenty of seasonal choices such as a velvety mushroom soup or a delicious bone marrow accompanied by a fresh salad. For a more adventurous dining experience, book dinner far in advance for the prix fixe menu. Either way, you are in good hands with Chef Yves Camdeborde’s team. Open daily – Sundays too.
For a great resource on the new Paris restaurant scene, check out Paris By Mouth.
Click here for TheSavvyExplorer’s City Guide to Paris.