For Paris Photo Diary #3, I thought I’d go a few of the culinary highlights of our trip. This list is a snapshot of our time in Paris, not necessarily a ‘best of’ list with the most storied cafes and bistros. Neither can I claim that this is a list of ‘best kept secrets’ by any stretch of the imagination. Still, if you’re anything like me, this list will help guide you on where to eat in Paris.
Oh and I’ve weaved in a few random shots, because quite frankly, I have more photos of Paris than I can possibly ever post.
Where To Eat in Paris:
BEST SCENE: Brasserie Barbès
We came across Brasserie Barbès on our way to the flea market in Saint-Ouen, just outside of Paris. Situated on a very busy corner in the 18th arrondissement’s Barbès neighborhood, the atmosphere in and around Brasserie Barbès has all the hallmarks of gentrification. The population out on the streets is working class and mostly people of color. The patrons inside typify the bohemian bourgeoisie. It made for the best people watching and the multi-level space felt more like an Art Deco social club than a traditional brasserie. I’d be regular here, easily.
BEST BREAKFAST/BEST COFFEE: Holybelly
We loved this place, just like everyone else who mentions it. We even dealt with the inevitable wait to get a table. Holybelly offers a solid, simple, American breakfast, executed with great detail. I had fried eggs, with bacon and a hash brown. I could not find fault. They source the best products and don’t fuss with them much before they get to your table. Even the sourdough bread, from neighboring boulangerie, Du Pain et Des Idees, was exquisite on its own. They also served the best coffee we had on the trip, from local roastery, Belleville Brulerie. The coffee was so good, in fact, we had breakfast at Holybelly twice during our week in Paris. People have complained that they turn over tables too quickly and this is true. However, that expediency will be welcomed once you are waiting in a long line.
BEST INTERIOR: Les Chouettes
It was a “tale of two meals” at Les Chouettes in the Marais. My husband loved everything he ordered. My dishes, on the other hand, were bland and mild to the point of complete frustration. I had a sauceless (I thought there would be a sauce of some kind) white asparagus appetizer that tasted like water. Just water. Then I had a reinterpreted sole meunière (beautifully plated), which also kind of tasted like lukewarm water. Still the dining room in this restaurant, with its three-story atrium and Art Deco-inspired interior, is spectacular and once the dinner service is full, it feels like the place to be. Even the restrooms are so well-appointed, they feel like another venue. Despite my critique of the food, I’d visited Les Chouettes again and stick to the heartier, more colorful dishes.
BEST MEAL: Le Chateaubriand
Our meal at Le Chateabriand was the cornerstone of our trip. When we were deciding where to eat in Paris, this was definitely our most heavily anticipated reservation and it did not let us down. Headed by chef Iñaki Aizpitarte, Le Chateaubriand has no a la carte menu. Instead you’ll have the prix fixe menu that changes nightly. We opted to be surprised and forgo being told ahead of time what we’d be served. Doesn’t that already sound fun? This is a kitchen staff that is philosophically wedded to the idea of change. So, I wasn’t surprised that they adapted to my gluten allergy and my husband’s nut allergy with ease. The interior is understated, with no fuss or filigree, and the vibe is modern and laid-back.
Several of the dishes blew my mind and those that did not, certainly shifted it in new directions. A shot of strawberry ceviche. A celery broth with passion fruits seeds and a rim of sesame seeds. Brown butter sweetbreads with carrots and broccoli. The food was so soulful and boundless, I struggle to find the words and reach for a musical parallel. It was like listening to a RZA track for the first time. And like music, I want to play it back and take note.
MOST BROOKLYNESQUE VIBE: Clamato
We ate at Clamato, the seafood bar from chef Bertrand Grébaut, on our first evening in Paris. It was a compromise, since after weeks of trying we were unable to get a table at Grébaut’s acclaimed restaurant, Septime next door. Also, we wanted oysters badly. Everything was great, but nothing knocked me off of my barstool. I think my favorite dish was the tuna ceviche, which made great use of crisp bites of fresh radishes. Most striking to us was the degree to which it felt like we’d walked into a place in Prospect Heights or Park Slope in Brooklyn, right down to the 90s hip-hop that played all night.