129, ave Parmentier, in the 11th Arrondissement.
01 43 57 45 95. Tues–Sat, 7:30–11:00 p.m.
This much-lauded restaurant is on every visiting foodie’s to-do list. It was recently named the 11th-best restaurant in the world by the UK’s Restaurant Magazine, in fact, though these kinds of proclamations are best taken with a large grain of fleur du sel.
The jury is divided on Basque chef Iñaki Aizpitarte’s singular, modern food. Many people love it, and others are left displeased, but everyone who has eaten it has an opinion.
The first seating is by reservation, but for a later dinner show up around 9:00 or 9:30 and sip natural wine at the bar while you wait for the tables to start turning.
As is the trend these days, the names of the producers who furnish the restaurant with its vegetables, meats and wines are written on a large board on the wall. The old bar makes a cool centerpiece in the glowing room, but there’s not much else to speak of in the way of decor. Still, this space always appeals to me, thanks in part to the attractive crowd (and waiters), hip and happy faces reflected in the mirrors.
When you sit you’ll be asked if you are allergic to anything. This is because Le Chateaubriand serves a unique 45 euro menu. Everyone gets the same series of five or six dishes.
The plates brim with color and feature vegetables prepared in unusual ways. Many are pickled, some aren’t cooked at all and some are smoked. A charred eggplant puree has made an appearance in every meal I’ve had here, once with some very rare beef and most recently with a fillet of mackerel, strewn with leaves and corn shaved from the cob.
On this visit that rare beef was found under a thin sheet of radish, along with carrots, summer truffle and beets, the vegetables sharp and crisp with brine. When a dish works, like this one did, it’s fresh and fantastic. But it’s precisely this style of noncooking that leaves some diners feeling raw.
Dessert was a tangy ice cream of lait ribot—sort of like buttermilk—crowned with a leafy garland of sweet and tender herbs, a refreshing end to the meal. I loved it, particularly after having suffered through a concoction of Pop Rocks on previous visits.
In a nutshell: My opinion of Le Chateaubriand? Eat here once or twice and form your own.
Price check: Unique five-course dinner menu for 45 euros. Natural wines run the gamut.
If you like the sound of Le Chateaubriand but want to try another Basque chef with an independent streak, visit Stéphane Jego at Chez l’Ami Jean:
Chez l’Ami Jean
27, rue Malar, in the 7th. 01 47 05 86 89.
Tues–Sat, noon to 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. to midnight.