8, rue Volney, in the 2nd Arrondissement.
01 42 61 06 65.
Mon–Fri, noon–1 a.m.
“Oh, it’s fancy,” I said to my friends as we entered Bistro Volnay. Suits populated the cushioned seats, elbows rested on white linens, the clinking of heavy silver was muffled by thick carpeting. A gorgeous art deco bar lined one wall, and a waitress was skillfully plating a beautiful dish of buttery sole.
Situated smack in the middle of the triangle formed by Opéra, place Vendôme and the Madeleine, this bistro has an elegance that should come as no surprise. The good news is that such a tastefully decorated place serves food that tastes very good.
I started with an unusual salad of ris d’agneau—sweetbreads of lamb—in an iceberg salad “à la Grenobloise,” the cruchy lettuce tossed and wilting under the hot, crisp bits of offal and a pungent dressing of capers, parsley and lemon. A silky slice of foie gras confit with fig chutney and toast fit the bill for a former Parisian who was passing through. The chicken and chestnut soup was both humble and elegant (and tasty, once a bit of salt was added), and the lentils with pig’s feet and poached egg disappeared quickly from my friend’s plate.
For main courses, two of us had the filet de bar (bass) with clams, herb butter, peppery watercress sauce and special white beans from Brittany called coco de Paimpol. The faux filet was beautifully pink, served with black trumpet mushrooms and a rich jus. My scallops, cooked in their shells and topped with potatoes, leeks and truffles, had fine flavor but were texturally uninteresting; something crispy would have been welcome.
To straddle the meat and fish divide we drank a juicy Morgon, on the low end of the price range at 24 euros. Burgundy is well represented (as the name Volnay would imply) among both whites and reds, and there are several glass pours available.
I loved the unabashed classicism of the dessert menu: crèpes suzette, riz au lait, poached pears, a Grand Marnier soufflé and a chocolate quenelle, plus a cheese plate from Marie Quatrehomme, one of the city’s best affineurs. I only wished the flambéed crèpes came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and the rice pudding with a bit more blueberry compote.
Next time (and there will be a next time) I’ll sit at the bar; Bistro Volnay is one of the few places in Paris that offers dining au comptoir.
In a nutshell: Bistro Volnay is good enough to visit regularly and elegant enough for a special occasion.
Price check: Entrée, plat and dessert for 36 euros, not including supplements, some of which are hefty (a sole for two for 23 euros more, sweetbreads for an additional 15), some less so (a 4 euro bonus for a foie gras starter, 5.50 for scallops).
If Bistro Volnay sounds good, you’ll also like:
La Régalade Saint-Honoré
123, rue St.-Honoré, in the 1st.
01 42 21 92 40.
Lunch and dinner, Mon–Fri.
Read the full review.
Editor’s note: For a gourmet walking tour, check out our DIY downloadable tours.