As I mentioned in my previous post, Jim and I were rejected from a great many restaurants in Paris. We had neglected to make any dinner reservations before our arrival, and several last-minute phone calls to various bistros from our hotel’s staff didn’t help us either. Every place we wanted to go to was booked. Even after being denied a table over the phone at Le Bistro Paul Bert, a restaurant we had read about as having some of the best steak frites in town, we decided to show up in person and beg. That’s right, we had no shame. But our efforts sadly garnered only a sympathetic head shaking of non instead of a table.
So Jim and I, and our empty stomachs, hit the Parisian pavement. In the end, we had a few very nice meals, the best of which I’ll list below.
Chez Justine: Packed with French speakers, the bistro Chez Justine has a casual French vibe, complete with weathered wooden tables, ornate iron chandeliers, and muted lighting. Jim and I split a flaky tart of mozzarella and tomatoes to start, and then I had a very good lamb dish accompanied by minty fresh herbs, plus a side of frites. I was in Paris, I had to have some frites! The best arrived last, a wonderful apple tart topped with vanilla ice cream (pictured, above). The only complaint lay with the music, as it was all Beatles, all night; I thought Jim was going to lose it when “Yellow Submarine” played for the fifth time. As I sat at our table and looked around, I actually remembered going to Chez Justine during my first trip to Paris six years ago. I had ordered the steak tartare thinking it was steak frites, a mistake I still blame on jetlag, even though I had been working in Italy the week before. (Come on, it’s a good excuse.) Let’s just say I received a quick education in the difference between the two forms of well-(or not-) doneness, but I did think the tartare was delicious! 96, rue Oberkampf, 11th arrondissement (T) 01 43 574403
Le Comptoir: Jim and I had a restorative lunch at Le Comptoir on a day when we needed a break between visiting the Museé National du Moyen Age and the Catacombs. I had read that for the reservation-poor like us, lunch was a good bet at this popular spot. The tip was indeed true, and we waited just 15 minutes before gaining a lovely sidewalk table outside. We ordered a tasting platter of saucisson, happily satisfying Jim’s fondness for processed meats. I awaited my pressé de fois gras and artichoke spread, thinking (because of my interpretation of the word pressé ) I was going to receive a nice little sandwich or panino. Imagine my surprise when the plate of ungarnished fois gras, with alternating layers of different colors contained by a gelée, was placed in front of me. Note to self: next time bring a French-English dictionary; hadn’t I already learned my lesson years ago, during the steak tartare debacle? I don’t think I’m the biggest fan of fois gras, but I definitely went through a rite of passage at Le Comptoir as I gamely ate my way through the very rich, fresh dish. And I would go back again to sample the ample menu of lunch options, which looked fantastic at the surrounding tables. 9, carrefour de l’Odeon, 6th arrondissement, (T) 01 44 27 07 97
Chez Marianne: Jim and I took a night off from his steak frites research at Chez Marianne, a Middle Eastern restaurant in the Marais district. We had just been rejected from a Moroccan restaurant in another neighborhood, and at this point we were desperately searching for a casual, easygoing spot where we could simply relax. And under the outdoor canopy at Chez Marianne, we did. We ordered a tasting platter of ten fresh and tasty items, including humus, silky eggplant “caviar”, crunchy falafel, spicy Turkish salad, and refreshing tzaziki. Mingling with tourists and French locals alike, we greatly enjoyed this break from traditional French bistro fare. Sometimes getting rejected is the best thing that ever happened. 2, rue des l’Hospitalières-Saint Gervais, 4th arrondissement (T) 01 42 72 18 86