Le Bistrot Paul Bert
18, rue Paul-Bert, in the 11th Arrondissement.
01 43 72 24 01. Lunch and dinner, Tues–Sat.
I first visited Bistrot Paul Bert almost five years ago, and I’m delighted to report that little has changed since then—or even since the Girls’ Guide ran its first ode to this resto two years ago. (Guilty as charged! Just one visit is not enough.) Still packed, and as brash and belly-busting as ever, Paul Bert is one of my favorite Paris bistros. Facing several weeks away, I wanted to go for a last supper of sorts.
This is an address for all-parts eating and big appetites. A few seasonal vegetables might dot the menu, but carnivory is the main thing here (the côte de boeuf for two changed my life a little). I started with sweetbreads served in puff pastry with mushrooms—a golden, flaky box enclosing a creamy, earthy heart attack. Cholesterol ruled across the table, too, with an oeuf-au-plat topped with shaved black truffle that was, sadly, all but flavorless (the tuber, not the egg). After the sweetbreads I dove into a massive pork chop, well seared and served with a grainy mustard sauce and potatoes with perfectly bronzed skins, followed by roasted pheasant with cabbage and bacon, also terrific. The wine list is lengthy, packed with bottles from small producers, mostly natural and biodynamic. The sommelier steered us toward an unusual Corsican white. She knew what we wanted more than we knew ourselves. Listen to her.
There is nothing groundbreaking going on, but the cooking is not exactly old-fashioned, either. Though some dishes have stood out more than others over the years, the food is always alive and robust, a good reminder that working with well-sourced seasonal products is not a new idea. Even though the restaurant has long been on the radar of visiting foodies, few if any capitulations have been made to global standards: the room is wonderfully dated, the tables are close together and the service can be a little harried when they’re busy, which is basically always. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Yes, we had dessert: their famous Paris-Brest, a thick wheel of pâte à choux filled high with praline pastry cream, an absolute classic.
The owner, Bertrand Auboyneau, wrote a cookbook called French Bistro: Seasonal Recipes, which I own. One of these days I’ll take a crack at it, but I don’t have high hopes. Food like this can be imitated but never replicated; it’s all a product of a particular place, of particular people, of particular ingredients.
Of Paris itself, in other words.
In a nutshell: With robust seasonal cooking and a fantastic wine list, Bistrot Paul Bert is the ultimate neighborhood bistro: one that’s worth crossing town for.
Price check: Three courses, 36 euros (some dishes carry supplements). À la carte, starters are 9 euros, mains 23.50 euros and dessert/cheese 9 euros.
If Paul Bert sounds good, you’ll also like Chez Casimir. Read the review.
6, rue de Belzunce, in the 10th. 01 48 78 28 80.
Mon–Tues, 11:45 a.m.–2:30 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.–11:30 p.m.
Wed–Fri, 11:45 a.m.–11:30 p.m. Sat–Sun, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.