Le Restaurant des Poètes
12, passage Molière, in the 3rd Arrondissement.
01 42 71 07 36. Open Tues–Sat, 4 p.m.–11 p.m.
Paris restaurants, while revered the world over for their distinctive deliciousness whether traditional or modern, are not typically known for warm and welcoming service. Though I’ve rarely had a rude waiter in Paris, the usual style of service is one of polite courtesy. But both the food and service at one cozy spot in the Marais, le Restaurant des Poètes, is sure to make you feel right at home.
Tucked into the unbearably charming Passage Molière, a cleverly hidden and quiet street near the Centre Pompidou, le Restaurant des Poètes gets its name from the nearby Maison de la Poésie. This tiny street, which houses only a handful of establishments, is sweetly adorned with fairy lights all year round, creating a romantic atmosphere no matter the occasion. A few tables and chairs set up outside the restaurant are tough to snag but worth the wait on a warm summer’s night.
Inside, the establishment is stripped down, homey and unpretentious to the core. One can see into the busy and lively kitchen from any seat in the house, and a single large handwritten menu is moved from table to table as patrons are seated. The servers are more than happy to give advice on dishes and with which wine to pair them, and treat each guest as though he or she were family, laughing and joking around with both regulars and newcomers.
The menu is rooted in French traditionalism with flairs of African and Mediterranean influences. When I visited, a bitingly cold evening, I had the African chicken with vegetables. The chicken, roasted to perfection, was tender and flavorfully juicy. Set alongside fresh steamed veggies, it was an appropriately comforting dish for the season. A separate cup of ultraspicy sauce for the adventurous eater boosted this dish from delicious to daring.
My dining companion selected the magret de canard, the ubiquitous French plate, and it arrived sanguine and savory atop a bed of dense and richly nutty risotto, decorated by a peanut sauce that both balanced and complemented the duck’s natural flavor.
But the gem of this restaurant, above even its hearty plates, exceptional service and prime location, was our dessert: moelleux au chocolat. Though each selection on the dessert menu sounded yummy, my dining companion is something of a fondant au chocolat connoisseur, so we couldn’t resist splitting this dark and gooey dish.
At first bite, the moelleux seemed easily like a standard if well-done French classic, a kind of warm chocolate cake with an oozing liquid filling, resting in a pool of crème anglaise. But with every bite, the dessert seemed to grow more and more delectable. The key was in the liquid chocolate interior, which had a slightly salty edge to it. As with caramel beurre salé, adding salt to chocolate transforms the already-delicious ingredient into an addictive indulgence. My friend was reduced to obscenities as we made the dessert quickly disappear, and as he declared it the best he’s tried in his hometown of Paris, he noted, “Yes, this is pretty much the meaning of life.” A satisfying, affordable dinner on one of the loveliest streets of Paris, topped off with one of the best desserts in town? I’d say I have to agree.
In a nutshell: Le Restaurant des Poètes serves homemade specialties in a friendly, unpretentious environment guaranteed to make you feel right at home.
Price check: Starters, €5–8; mains, €11–18; desserts, €6–8.
If you like the sound of le Restaurant des Poètes, you might also like les Saisons. Read the review.
52, rue Lamartine, in the 9th Arrondissement.
01 48 78 15 18. Tues–Sat, noon–2:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.–10:45 p.m.