The Paris restaurant scene is changing rapidly. Many French haute cuisine chefs are looking for ways to make their Michelin two- or three-star restaurants more affordable and less formal in response to changing tastes and times. Two examples of such innovation are Stéphanie Le Quellec’s La Scène and Yannick Alléno’s new, mostly counter-service table, Pavyllon.
Paris gastronomy is also more cosmopolitan than ever before. Shabour, a modern Israeli table in the Sentier — Paris’ old garment district — is one of the most popular new addresses in the city, and Maison, the new home of Japanese chef Sota Atsumi, is the hottest reservation in town.
Here are some of the places that we most enjoyed on our recent trip.
This bistro near the Palais Bourbon was recently taken over by a charming young couple, Jean and Roxane Sevegnes. She runs the dining room with efficiency and warmth, and he is in the kitchen creating wonderful contemporary and traditional French dishes, like oysters in their shells with chopped Granny Smith apple, and a signature vol-au-vent, the contents of which change according to the season. The night we dined there, this classic was filled with veal sweetbreads, ceps and spinach in a cream sauce, a succulent and satisfying combination. Other dishes may include pan-roasted wild salmon with baby vegetables, pork steak with new potatoes and wild mushrooms, and an outstanding steak tartare. The wine list is well-chosen and varied. This is a perfect address for a relaxed, good-quality meal in a neighborhood just a few minutes walk from the J.K. Place Paris hotel. Closed Saturday and Sunday.
Café des Ministères
83 Rue de l’Université, 7th arrondissement. Tel. (33) 1-47-05-43-62
“For haute cuisine to remain relevant, it must evolve,” says Michelin three-star chef Yannick Alléno, explaining why he’s just opened a third restaurant at the Pavillon Ledoyen in the gardens of the Champs-Élysées. He also has a Michelin three-star restaurant (open only at dinner) and an outstanding sushi bar, L’Abysse, at the same address. Pavyllon is intended to shake up the format of formal meals, since most diners sit on seafoam velvet upholstered stools at the pink-marble counter that surrounds the open kitchen. There, a brigade of talented young cooks trained by Alléno execute an eclectic menu of light and original dishes. The menu evolves regularly but may feature wild-spinach soup with scamorza cheese, nutmeg and roasted mushrooms; sole cooked with vin jaune, Comté and cabbage; and wagyu beef stroganoff. The dessert not to miss is the salted-caramel ice cream with double cream, Amarena cherries and candied hazelnuts.
8 Avenue Dutuit, 8th arrondissement. Tel. (33) 1-53-05-10-00
Occupying a former Belle Epoque residence near the Musée d’Orsay, Les Climats has always had abundant charm and an excellent wine list, notably a superb selection of Burgundies. With the arrival of new chef Emmanuel Kouri, it’s become one of the best restaurants on the Left Bank. Kouri, who previously worked with Alléno, Pierre Gagnaire and Eric Frechon, does a menu that changes seasonally but runs to dishes like ceps with gnocchi and Beaufort cheese; line-caught wild sea bass with shellfish and leek garnished with poutargue (fish roe) and pickled lemon; rack of veal with Parmesan-garnished spelt; and passion fruit sorbet. Closed Sunday and Monday.
41 Rue de Lille, 7th arrondissement. Tel. (33) 1-58-62-10-08
Japanese-born chef Sota Atsumi’s new restaurant is one of the most original addresses to open in Paris in years. After winning a vaunted reputation as chef at Clown Bar, a bistro with an interior of art nouveau tiles near the Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione in the 11th arrondissement, he decided to go out on his own and asked Japanese architect Tsuyoshi Tane to renovate an old factory building. Tane covered the walls with tomettes (traditional French terra-cotta tiles usually used on floors), which create a refined, Zen-like ambiance. Most guests are seated at long bare-wood tables in front of the open kitchen. The prix fixe menus evolve constantly but include light, healthy, inventive dishes like veal tartare with ceps and haddock; roasted monkfish with squid ink; and golden pithiviers (a short-crust pastry pie) filled with duck, foie gras and spinach and garnished with quince purée. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
3 Rue Saint-Hubert, 11th arrondissement. Tel. (33) 1-43-38-61-95
For all its popularity, the Latin Quarter, the location of the Sorbonne, has few good restaurants. This new, modern bistro is such a welcome and much-needed addition to the neighborhood. The dining room is overlit, but the service is excellent and the contemporary French cooking is outstanding. The menu changes regularly, but look for the homemade pork terrine, or turbans of roasted celeriac to start, and then tuck into the veal steak with carrot purée and sautéed mushrooms, or flamed mackerel with an inventive dish of chickpeas. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
75 Rue Mouffetard, 5th arrondissement. Tel. (33) 1-47-07-19-29
Sometimes, even in Paris, you don’t want a long sit-down meal, which is why these two storefront dining rooms specializing in lobster rolls can be a very welcome alternative. It may sound surprising, but this homey New England specialty of lobster meat in a toasted roll has taken Paris by storm, and chef Moïse Sfez, who fell in love with lobster rolls while on holiday in the United States, won first prize at a recent lobster roll competition in Portland, Maine. He offers up four versions, including the Connecticut, which comes with lemon butter and herbs, and the spicy Amarillo, which uses Peruvian pepper, Old Bay seasoning and green onions. The spot also serves crab and shrimp rolls, with cookies for dessert.
21 Rue Rambuteau, 4th arrondissement; 15 Rue de l’Ancienne-Comédie, 6th arrondissement
Japanese gourmet and entrepreneur Shinichiro Ogata has caused a sensation in Paris with his new combination of restaurant, tearoom and boutique in a beautiful 17th-century mansion in the Marais. The restaurant serves a variety of impeccably cooked Japanese dishes, including starters like sake soup with oysters and daikon radish, salad of duck and pear in black vinegar, and grilled scallops with marinated vegetables. Main courses include fried monkfish and artichokes, Japanese-style stuffed cabbage, and chicken wings with lotus roots. The service is flawless. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
16 Rue Debelleyme, 3rd arrondissement. Tel. (33) 1-80-97-76-80
This stylish new restaurant in the northeast corner of the Marché Saint-Germain in Saint-Germain-des-Prés was designed by interior designer Elodie Tornare, who gave it an appealing décor of leather-upholstered banquettes, wooden tables and a large brass chandelier. Chef Baptiste Trudel serves an imaginative, contemporary French small-plates menu designed to pair with a selection of some 130 wines. Start with fried eggplant with ponzu sauce, Tahitian-style red tuna, or some beef ceviche in beet juice and wild mulberry, and then try the chicken with baby artichokes, grilled octopus with kimchi, or the grilled veal rib steak for two. The standout dessert is the chocolate ganache with chile, hazelnut crumble and salted-butter caramel sauce. Closed Sunday.
2 Rue Félibien, 6th arrondissement. Tel. (33) 1-42-39-89-27
This unexpectedly glamorous and intimate subterranean dining room in the 8th arrondissement is the new project of the exceptionally talented Stéphanie Le Quellec, previously a Michelin two-star chef at the Prince de Galles hotel. A technically impeccable chef, her culinary imagination is best seen in dishes like poached langoustines with buckwheat and a quenelle made with the claw meat of the crustaceans, Scottish grouse with morels cooked with smoked tea, veal sweetbreads with roasted cauliflower and harissa, and a ganache of Criollo chocolate from Venezuela made with olive oil. Closed Saturday and Sunday.
32 Avenue Matignon, 8th arrondissement. Tel. (33) 1-42-65-05-61