A few days ago, I introduced the subject of last week’s trip to Paris by giving you a photographic review of the macaron-baking class that daughter Anne, wife Jan and I took at La Cuisine Paris (“Macaron Daze in Paris,” November 24). In this posting I’ll finish describing our trip by offering brief reviews of the several restaurants we tried — some of them new, and some old favourites.
Of course, our life is not always about food and restaurants. For example, here’s an actual “sightseeing” photo — taken by Jan in the Galeries Lafayette store on Boulevard Haussmann, as she and Anne shopped for perfume. (Hey, it’s Paris!) It’s a huge Christmas tree, rising over a sea of perfume counters:
Merry Christmas from Galeries Lafayette.
This particular Galeries Lafayette store (there are many in France) happens to be in the 9th arrondissement, which proves that we did get around the city a little bit during our stay. However, most of our activities (dining and otherwise) were concentrated in the 7th, which happens to be the area of Paris that Jan and I love the most. Here’s how I described our love affair with the 7th this past summer (my posting of July 19), after we visited Paris for the weekend of Bastille Day:
Over the years as we visited Paris, my wife Jan and I developed a special affinity for the 7th arrondissement — the district below the Seine and to the west of the busier 5th and 6th. The 7th is home to the Eiffel Tower, the Hotel des Invalides (the building with the huge gold dome that houses Napoleon’s tomb) and the Rodin Museum.
For our most recent visit, Jan and I had rented an apartment in the 7th, and arrived there just after noon, having taken an early train from Gourdon (about 30 minutes from Daglan). Daughter Anne had flown overnight from Toronto, and was travelling to Paris via the high-speed train from Amsterdam. Since she wouldn’t be arriving at the apartment until mid-afternoon, Jan and I headed out for lunch.
On this culinary journey, I’m providing not only the address of each restaurant (all but one of which is in the 7th) but also the percentage of “recommends” from TripAdvisor reviews of each place. The summary is the total of “Excellent” and “Very Good” ratings for each restaurant. Now here we go:
Monday, November 18
La Mère Michèle, 26 rue Sourcouf, 75007 Paris. TripAdvisor summary: 92% recommend. This is a tiny place, quite cute, and obviously a favourite of locals. We were served by a charming waitress, and enjoyed a plat principal of tender pork shoulder with polenta and strips of red pepper. Because the emblem of the restaurant is a cat, the outline of a cat was stenciled in powdered sugar onto the plate holding Jan’s dessert, like this:
A cat wearing a chef’s hat is stenciled onto the platter.
Unfortunately, we were surprised when we received the bill, as our “cheap and cheerful” lunch turned out to be not so cheap. We had been charged the full à la carte prices for our main courses and desserts, rather than the much-lower lunchtime special price. When we asked our waitress about this, she pointed to some very small print on the menu which showed which (few) items were eligible for the lunchtime special. Fair enough, but we still left with a bit of sour taste in our mouths. Lesson: Read the fine print. Otherwise, worth a return visit.
Le Petit Cler, 29 rue Cler, 75007 Paris. TripAdvisor summary: 82% recommend. By dinnertime on Monday night, Anne had joined us, and we decided to walk along to the rue Cler, the charming street I described in my posting of July 19, “A short stroll up a favourite Paris street.” Le Petit Cler is comfortable and feels authentically Parisian, so I’d recommend it if you’re in the area and want something simple for lunch or dinner. But don’t expect gourmet dining: My boeuf bourguignon was a bit chewy, and so was Jan’s steak.
Tuesday, November 19
Juveniles, 47 rue de Richelieu, 75001 Paris. TripAdvisor summary: 90% recommend. For lunch at Juveniles, we ventured across the Seine from the Left Bank 7th to the Right Bank 1st, and it’s a trip we’d gladly make each time we’re in Paris. Juveniles is one of the original wine bars of Paris, and it’s run by a true original — Tim Johnston, who was born in Scotland but knows Paris like the back of his hand. We first met Tim in 1998 (when we were headed down to the Greater Daglan Area on our life-changing bicycle trip), and had a blast. We’ve been back many times, and with Toronto friends Keith and Kathy we even spent a New Year’s Eve at Juveniles a few years ago. Tim is witty and wry, a true expert on French wines, and a gracious host. The place itself is tiny and informal, and the food is more comfort food than gourmet. But we enjoyed every minute of our stay, and I got to have haggis as my main course (delicious, of course) .
Le Petit Niçois, 10 rue Amélie, 75007 Paris. TripAdvisor summary: 60% recommend. Jan and I had eaten lunch here a few times over the years, and remembered it as a comfortable spot with a tasty provençal menu. But for dinner on this trip, we were more than disappointed: the squid risotto that both Jan and I ordered was seriously under-done. Although the strips of squid were nicely cooked and tasty, the so-called risotto was more like a bowl of nearly raw rice floating in some stock. Our server gave the three of us a complimentary eau de vie to make up for the risotto, but we won’t be rushing back. (Note the low TripAdvisor score.)
Wednesday, November 20
Le Bistro du 7ème, 56 Boulevard de Latour Maubourg, 75007 Paris. TripAdvisor summary: 77% recommend. This is a bistro we had seen many times over the years, but never tried. This time, our lunch time experience was quite good — the place has a true Parisian bistro ambience that attracts a somewhat older, established crowd. Jan and I each had a cheeseburger for our main course, with crispy frites, and thought everything was quite good. I would return.
Thursday, November 21
Le 7ème Vin, 68 avenue Bosquet, 75007 Paris. TripAdvisor summary: 89% recommend. This is another of our favourites in the 7th, and you can tell from its name that it might be confused with the bistro I described above. But this place is much smaller, and really feels like a labour of love. I had the kidneys in mustard sauce as my plat principal, and thought they were terrific. There’s no question we will go back, again.
Chez Raja, 28 rue Sourcouf, 75007 Paris. TripAdvisor summary: 100% recommend. It’s not often you see a “100% recommend” review on TripAdvisor, but this Indian restaurant is one place that’s earned it. The restaurant is quite small, but maintains a touch of elegance not always found in Paris’s “ethnic” restaurants. All three of us really enjoyed our meals, and would certainly recommend the place to anyone who likes authentic Indian cuisine. In Paris, that’s not always easy to find.
And that was it for Parisian restaurants this year. On Friday morning, Jan and I caught an early train back to Gourdon, while Anne returned to Amsterdam. But that was just for one night, because on Saturday afternoon she left for New Delhi.
We do manage to get around.