Paris Restaurant Roundup for Fall
This past month I had the great pleasure to try three completely different Parisian restos (the French abbreviation for restaurants) on several consecutive evenings. One classic & historic, one trendy and innovative and one whose sole focus is on an ingredient everyone loves, (except vegans) steak. In the case of the latter, the Paris restaurant owners actually raise their own beef, now that’s serious dedication to sourcing.
Le Procope – Historic/Classic
One of the oldest, if not the oldest restaurant in Paris from 1686 has long been on my “too touristy” list. Yet it was our first night in Paris, I was looking for a nearby brasserie that served oysters as well the classics and Le Procope fit the bill. The place was packed on a Monday night, which is always a good sign but as it is in the sixth arrondissement it was, as I had guessed, mostly tourists.
The interior is one of the reasons to go, its beautiful and cozy, art abounds that shows off its famed history as a literary and theatrical haunt as well as an important café where both Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson dined.
According to Wikipedia; Robespierre, Danton and Marat all used Le Procope as a meeting place. Victor Hugo, George Sand, Napoleon, Moliere and Voltaire all once took a seat at the same place we were now enjoying a huge fruit de mer platter overflowing with oysters, French clams, bulots, periwinkles, shrimp, langostines and lobster. Those who didn’t like shellfish tucked into a homey beef cheek stew, which was washed down with a decent Sancerre, and voilà our date with Parisian history was complete. Read more about the legends of Le Procope here.
Braisenville – Trendy/Innovative
Chef’s Josper de Romuald Sanfouche’s neo-bistro, which opened in 2011 in the 9th arrondissement, specializes in French tapas aka small plates. Hubby and I ordered three savory plates each and shared them all, which is perhaps my favorite way to eat. This is an adventurers’ restaurant, perfect for trying a lot of different unique and compelling dishes that the chef prepares mostly using hot coals, hence the name.
The gin cucumber cocktail to start, wet my palate and prepared me for white Parisian ham with truffles as well as grilled vegetables, beginning our adventure. The vegetables were superb, grilling is one of my favorite ways to eating summer & fall veg, and this plate was loaded with a variety, each perfectly charred.
At Braisenville you can request a different glass of wine to go with each plate, which we did. The white burgundy that was offered by producer Lucien Le Moine was absolutely unique, different than any other white burgundy I’ve tried and a nice accompaniment to the vegetables.
Stone bass also known as Atlantic wreckfish was served as ceviche with a sweet potato puree and sweet potato chips and separately we enjoyed an emulsion of potatoes, mushrooms and watercress for our second course paired a natural light red wine. I would have never imagined that sweet potatoes would taste delicious with raw cured fish but they did, especially the homemade sweet potato chips. However the fish should have been cut a little thinner for my taste. The potato purée with watercress was nothing short of divine packed full of meaty mushrooms – baby food all grown up.
Hake with plums, eggplant and a sesame seed crunch plus marinated veal with zucchini, cherry tomatoes, anchovies and currants were our last and final mall plates and unlike some adventures this one improved as it went along. Both of these dishes were complex and interesting yet completely delectable. The final wine we drank which contrary to suggestion was a Pommerol (my fave) was unctuous and married well with these richer more full flavored dishes.
I’d suggest trying to get a seat in the front room, as the back is alarmingly orange which casts a pallor of neon tangerine onto your food and dining partners. Service was a bit strained because they were busy and one young lady was trying to juggle most of the work, but she did her best under the circumstances. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this cute creative spot in the ever-trendy 9th.
We were searching for an appropriate place to bring our friends in Paris, a lovely gentleman that Robert has done business with and his wife, someone it is impossible not to adore. She’s a lawyer and he’s a tech entrepreneur and they seem to enjoy so many of the same things we do…namely France, wine and food in that order. Not to mention travel, charity work, innovation, the countryside and luckily great meat.
I’m surprised that this superb steak spot has escaped me all these years, but it was a pleasure to discover the Maison L’Aubrac in the 8th near the Champs, a true meat lover’s paradise.
Owner Christian Valette comes from a family of farmers in Laguiole, France who organically raise the famed Aubrac beef that they serve. The area that is quite familiar to me, as my sister has a house nearby. Alongside the chef, his wife Elizabeth has transformed her family restaurant into a showcase for their own aged French beef.
If one could come here on an expense account that would be ideal as the prices are not at all cheap. The place was packed on the Thursday night with only French speakers ready to spend their wads on what is some of the very best steak you can get in Paris. While the décor feels a bit too corporate for my taste, there is no lack of elegance and panache when it comes to the food here. We ordered a 120 euro. 1 kilo steak, bone in and it was plenty for 3 people. It might have fed 4 light eaters but with my husband and his friend there wasn’t a morsel left. Our friend’s wife likes her steak well done so she was on her own.
As you’ll find in most steak restaurants the wine list is epic sporting 880 wines, nearly all French and not a Bordeaux on the list. Nevertheless we managed to find a superb St. Joseph from the Rhone followed by a Faugères from the southwest of France. We started with two appetizers, a dry small sausage from the region and beef cheeks in gelée with foie gras served cold. The later might not appeal via words, but the taste on the tongue was perfection and well worth the risk of ordering something slightly beyond the norm.
Our steak came perfectly cooked, nicely pink inside, a special salt was served alongside as well as a Béarnaise style sauce. Our sides of Aligot (the region potato and cheese speciality) green beans and salad rounded out the meal.
If you are a steak lover, run do not walk to Maison L’Aubrac for fine service and the best French homegrown steak around.