40, rue Notre Dame des Victoires, in the 2nd Arrondissement.
01 42 36 45 38. 7 a.m.–4 a.m. daily.
No one could accuse the French food scene of being boring or resistant to change—it seems a new experimental-gastronomy hot spot opens every other week—but there is something to be said for traditionalism. After all, French food is world renowned for a reason. On an accidental trip to Brasserie Gallopin I rediscovered the culinary beauty of French classics, via one of the better brasseries in Paris.
Facing the neoclassical Palais Brongniart on rue Notre Dame des Victoires, Brasserie Gallopin was founded in 1876 by Gustave Gallopin. A renovation in August 2011 restored the oak walls, zinc bar and gilded ceilings of the Belle Epoque dining room and the Philosophers’ Room. Though the first room may appear small, the brasserie stretches into room after room of elegant, postured dining areas lit by ornate chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling mirrors. For a special birthday dinner for a visiting friend, I had planned for us to try the Top Chef treatment at the similarly named Galopin in the 10th, but after some confused Googling we ended up here at Brasserie Gallopin, and we got more than our share of authentic, well-made French dishes.
To open the meal, I had my first taste of escargots, a dish it has taken my entire life to work up the guts (so to speak) to try. After a few moments of Pretty Woman–esque fumbling with snail tongs, I dug the tasty morsels of garlicky goodness out from their shells and discovered a new favorite food. But my companion’s duck foie gras was the star of the table. Light and fresh, the spread on toast was simple, rich and layered in rounds of flavor that ranged from savory to a hint of fruity (I joked that I guessed they’d fed the ducks strawberries).
Our mains were good but not remarkably so. My steak was well prepared but not especially bursting with flavor, and my companion noted that his chicken leaned on the salty side—but our desserts were out of this world. My gianduja chocolate cake was densely rich and melt-in-your-mouth sweet, surrounded by a delicate white chocolate sauce. My friend’s trio of sorbets was light and powerfully fruity—the perfect end to such a rich meal—but the true surprise was the giant sparkler candle that arrived atop the dessert in honor of my companion’s birthday. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a French restaurant acknowledge a patron’s birthday, ever. Four of the traditional white-suited waiters, who had been courteous and welcoming throughout the meal, brought over the flaming dessert together and awkwardly put the candled dish before him, smiled and walked away. There was no singing “Joyeux Anniversaire” in loud, attention-garnering rounds, but baby steps—this is still Paris, after all. They have to maintain their dignity somehow.
In a nutshell: For well-made, traditional French food served in a spectacularly elegant setting by almost comically stereotypical waiters, head to Brasserie Gallopin.
Price check: Starters, 12–19 euros; mains, 15–38 euros; desserts, 8.50–9.50 euros; Menu des Victoires: three courses for 32 euros.
If you like the sound of Brasserie Gallopin, you might also enjoy a smaller but oh-so-worthy brasserie in the 15th, La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix. Read the review.
La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix
53, boulevard de Grenelle, in the 15th Arrondissement.
01 45 75 98 00. No reservations.
Open daily, 7 a.m.–11:30 p.m.
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