Monday, April 10, 2023

Eating BIG in Paris (Pt. 2)

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
- Return to the City of Lights 

Paris is a city I’ll never get sick of visiting. Living there might be a different story but it’s one of my favorite places to visit. It’s full of energy in a way few places are. Part of that can attributed to the fact Paris has roughly the same population as Chicago but Chicago is six times larger in size. Paris is one of the worlds most densest cities, more-so than even New York City so one thing you can count on is lots of action. This trip that action came in the form of attending a Paris St. Germain soccer game which was the first game back for World Cup Champion Leo Messi, a player many consider to be the greatest footballer of all time, and I got to see him score a goal. Very cool. The rest of the action mostly came from the food and wine and just wandering around town. Paris is one of the worlds most visited cities and many like myself come especially for that food and wine. It’s probably the best dining city in Europe due to its depth, only London can compare. Food is very subjective so some people might like eating Italian food in Rome or Spanish food in Madrid better than French food in Paris but Paris has better non native options than the rest of Europe as well as all of the wonderful French food. The other reason the food scene in Paris is so sensational is that there’s a respect for ingredients in France that few other places seem to match. I’m not just talking about the Michelin starred spots either but the local type places too including the bakeries of course. France is rather small in size but it offers a large bounty of locally produced ingredients and a lot of those end up at Paris’ specialty food mongers and the city’s many markets. It’s one of the top five food cities in the world as far as I’m concerned and I’ll mention many of the reasons within each description. Let’s eat!

Pics from Paris

Terroirs D’Avenir

We'll start out by addressing a question people traveling to Paris often ask - where can the best croissant be found? The answer to which is the nearest bakery to wherever you're at. While the answer is cliché the bakeries in Paris are pretty much unprecedented. Though it should be pointed out that the croissant is in fact traced back to Austria where they were called kipferl (German for crescent). When a Viennese baker introduced them to Paris it spawned many copycats and the French version of the kipferl was named after the shape it was given: a crescent – French for crescent is croissant. So while it is Viennese in origin the French have adopted it as their own. I ate a croissant every morning and they were all good but it was the first one I had that ended up being my favorite. It came from a place called Terroirs D’Avenir which I read has supplied many of Paris' best restaurants over the years. They served up what was the warmest, softest and flakiest of the bunch.  

Croissant at Terroirs D’Avenir


It's always a good idea to get reservations for lunch and or dinner before going to Paris. Most places wont let you reserve to far in advance but each restaurant has their own policy. Reservations are especially important for Michelin starred spots which typically do one service for lunch and then one for dinner. My wife enjoyed a visit to Granite on a previous trip and so did my aunt and uncle on her recommendation. So I made a lunch reservation a couple weeks before flying out. Granite is a one star Michelin spot which I honestly don't care that much about but it looked good and people I trust liked it so that was moreso the reason that I wanted to go, not bc some people who I don't know gave it an  imaginary star. Actually I find the Michelin guide useful as just that, a guide to use as far as researching restaurants. I see what places Michelin likes and then I do my own research on them and if the food looks good and the menu reads favorable to me I go there. Such was the case with Granite - a not so a hidden gem in the 1st Arrondissement, just a short walk from the Louvre Museum.

Amuse Bouche at Granite (click pics to enhance)

I'm not the biggest fan of tasting menus but they're one of the many food things that Paris does well. I usually go to a restaurant and pretty much already know what I'm going to get to eat but that’s not always the case with a tasting. But I’m also cool putting my trust in a place like Granite which serves Haute French cuisine in a very relaxed atmosphere with an open kitchen setup. The lunch service consists of three courses but there's much more than those three main plates. Our meal was really nice with the standout for me being “The Beet” which is described as “Iodine flavors, pomegranate and nasturtium.” But as soon as the plate was placed in front of me I smelled what seemed to be sushi. Just an incredible dish that had me wondering why it smelled like sushi, hand grated wasabi from Japan mixed in was the reason why. Next up was the skate wing with “exotic chutney and iodized marigold foam.” This one smelled like champagne and came with some delicious caviar on top. What’s not to like? For dessert we had “The Pear” which lists “toasted notes and soft cream” as ingredients but it was deeper than that, this dish had hints of coffee and came with chocolate crisps to shatter on top. All in all this was a very good lunch and pretty reasonable all things considered. 

Three Course Lunch at Granite 

French Paradox (Canard & Champagne)

We were saddened to learn that our go-to spot for duck in Paris had closed due to a retiring owner. But it looks like we found a valid replacement with the French Paradox aka Canard & Champagne. All they do is duck which is offered a few ways in both appetizers and entrees. Breast for me and confit for she plus a terrine of foie gras to start and some champagne to finish it all off. Each entrée comes with a side of your choice (fresh cut fries or mashed potatoes or vegetable of the day) and as many orders of it as you want. We randomly found this place when searching for where to get duck in Paris, the answer to which is lots of spots but a true specialist like this was the right pick. Perfectly cooked breast and juicy (not dry) confit with some well done sides in a very Parisian setting. We'll be back. 

Dinner at Canard & Champagne 


I walked by Trantranzai upon my arrival in Paris on the walk from the train to the hotel. The place was packed to the point there was a line around the restaurant. I think that's something worth taking note of in a city with so many dining options. So I made a mental note and eventually returned for what I had read online was a good version of dan dan mian. There was no line when I visited but the place was packed to the point I felt like a sardine stuffed into the tin in the corner spot where they placed me. A bit of a wait was followed up with a bit of a mixup as they brought me the soup version instead of the dry that I ordered. Eventually the dry version arrived and I was quite pleased with the product. 

Dan Dan Noodles at Trantranzai 

Bo & Mie

Here's another beloved boulangerie that was within walking distance one morning. Bo & Mie has several locations which is a common trait among Paris' most popular bakeries. This is another one of those spots that you'll see all over Paris food instagram feeds. I went with my three favorites as far as Paris pastries go - a Croissant, a Kouign-amann, and a Madeline. Worth a stop but aren't they all?

Pastries from Bo & Mie


Over the last decade or so in Paris, Japanese chefs have put their stamp on the city’s dining scene. I’ve been following the Tokyo born Sota Atsumi since his days at Le Clown Bar which was the hottest spot in town the last time we were here (he trained under Joël Robuchon before that). He has since left Clown Bar to open his own place - Maison Sota. I made sure to book a reservation as soon as I knew I was headed to Paris. This was the meal I was most looking forward to and I’m happy to report it lived up to the expectations and then some. Lunch is a five course set that revolves around the wood fired oven that’s part of the open kitchen setup in what used to be a house - his dream was always owning his own house in Paris - check my instagram stories for shots from the sleek and modern and extra spacious inside. The food at Maison is by no means fusion, just honest to goodness plates made with seasonal ingredients and pure respect for the product. I have a feeling that this meal will be at the top of the scoreboard at years end. Here's how it all went down... 

Pre-Meal Amuse Bouche at Maison Soto (click pics to enhance)






Every dish was as good as the last so it was hard to pick a favorite but that salt baked Guinea fowl with a pepper and foie gras sauce was just insane. For some reason it reminded me of yakitori and that’s one of my favorite things to eat so I know I’ll be thinking about that one for a while. Served up with an incredible ravioli stuffed with foie gras, potato and Guineafowl feet. But the rest was just as good. Even the amuse bouche was memorable, in particular a couple pieces of hearth baked brioche with a soft cheese. You should definitely book reservations here if headed to Paris anytime soon.

Post Meal Amuse Bouche at Maison by Sota 

Kodawari Ramen Tsukiji

The Japanese food in Paris is legit. You’ll find Japanese spots throughout the city but the highest concentration can be found in the Japanese Quarter which runs through 1st and 2nd arrondissements by the Opera. It seems like both cultures (French and Japanese) have a mutual respect for each other and it starts with food. As I just said there’s a ton of Japanese chefs helming French restaurants in Paris so it’s only fitting that a Frenchman runs a ramen spot. But this isn’t just any ramenya. It’s ran by an ex pilot that wanted to make a ramen that pays respect to France and the land where it comes from originally. The result? Sardine Shoyu Ramen! Where to begin with this one? Let’s start with the broth, made with Sardines from Brittany and Niboshi Dashi, Shoyu Tare with a 3 Japanese Soy sauce blend. The noodles are made with their own special wheat that’s as close to the Japanese way as possible. Toppings include pork from the Basque region, sardines crisped up with a kitchen torch and for a little extra you can also add Tuscany Pork Cheek Chasu and 48 hour Ajitsuke Tamago (do it). End result? It’s the best ramen I’ve had outside of Japan. Or at the very least the most interesting, where in the U.S can you find a sardine based ramen like this? They say it’s not for everyone but I knew it was for me as this is a highly talked up bowl in the online ramen community. Bonus points for the setup inside which is meant to mimic the old Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo and also the setup of the quo which is a QR code used to put yourself in a virtual line. You can then do whatever like go drink wine while waiting for a text that it’s time to start slurping. If this isn't Europe's best ramen what is?

Sardine Shoyu Ramen at Kodawari Ramen Tsukiji

Chez Gabrielle 

We got our foie gras fix at this cute little spot that’s been serving it up since 1908. It’s not as easy to find the French specialty in Paris as one might think. I’m not talking about the Pate but what will typically be referred to as 'Escalopes de Foie Gras' when it's on a menu. The Pate version is all good and fine but pan seared foie gras is truly a food gift from the Gods. Chez Gabrielle serves theirs with a Gaillac jam, ginger bread and a red wine reduction and it was so good we ordered a second round. If we weren’t requred to get entrees (it’s a very small spot that has limited seating for lunch / dinner so I understand) we might’ve just gone all in for thirds. But the main plates were also on point.  A panful of scallops flambe with Noilly Prat, mushrooms and creamy sauce for me and the Sea Bream catch of the day for she. One thing to keep in mind if planning a trip to Paris is you need reservations if you want to eat at spots like this as there’s no such thing as the offseason here. Paris is a world class city that in my opinion is best visited in Fall / Winter as the food and wine and walking suits the weather better. It doesn’t get all that cold during the winter but it does get pretty damn hot in the summer.

Lunch at Chez Gabrielle (click pics to enhance) 

Bistrot des Tournelles

Typically I wouldn't even post about a spot that was a letdown in the way this place was but there's too many great restaurants to eat at in Paris. So as a tip to my readers don't waste your time or your stomach space at Bistrot des Tournelles. It was one of a few spots suggested by my Parisian friend who knows what's up but as we learned while eating this place had recently been sold and there's no way it's still the same place based on the previous reviews from those in the know. I ordered the beef bourguignon and it wasn't half as good as a version my brother made back home a couple weeks prior. My friend had the same luck with his duck. Not good. We should've done Bistrot Paul Bert. 

Beef Bourguignon at Bistrot des Tournelles

Urfa Durum

I was very much looking forward to my return to Urfa Durum. I consider it a must stop spot in Paris. Actually there's a ton of interesting international options found all along Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis but you must go to Urfa Durum if you can only do one of them. This Kurdish run sandwich stand was once visited by Anthony Bourdain who sang the praises of their freshly baked flatbread stuffed with charcoal grilled meats. The original location is a small takeout only space that will have your clothes smelling like smoke after you step out but it's so worth it for one of their smoky lamb kebab sandwiches. They offer a variety of meats but none of them pair with live fire better than the lamb. 

Lamb Sandwich at Urfa Durum 

Bontemps Patisserie 

Here's another spot I'll probably always return to when I visit Paris. Bontemps makes some absolutely divine shortbread biscuits that are seasonal as far as flavor goes which meant they didn't have the strawberry ones this time but they did have a delicious winter citrus variety. I can never get enough.

Seasonal (citrus fruits) Shortbread Biscuits at Bontemps Patisserie 

Cafe du Coin 

My wife was in Paris for a little while before my arrival so she had a few spots that had become some of her favorites. Cafe du Coin being her most favorite of them all. It's a bit off the typical tourist path but Paris isn't all that big and the train system is one of the best so you're never far from any of these spots as long as you stay near a busy station like we did. I wouldn't call Cafe du Coin a hidden gem but it is a real locals type of spot that does not take reservations for dinner, just lunch which is probably the better the way to go. You can get a three course lunch for around $23. The menu changes every day and there's always a couple of options as far as the entrees. The appetizer is always their signature pizzette which is a baked to order miniature puffy pizza that they dress differently by the day. On our visit it came out as cacio e pepe and I easily understood why these have become their signature item of sorts - so good. Moving onto the main courses she went with the trout and I had chicken, both came with some insanely good pomme puree. My chicken was the best piece of breast I can ever remember having. Dessert was just as awesome - fried apple bread, ice cream and fennel. If going for lunch make sure to reserve your spot. You likely wont get in otherwise. 

Lunch at Cafe du Coin 


Pretty much every time we walked by this Berlin style donor shop it was packed with a line out the door during both lunch and dinner. So that tickled my interest in it. The large well pedicured cones of meat looked like the real deal and so did the fries so I decided to stop by one day and try the sandwich that Turkish immigrants in Berlin first started making before the style spread like wildfire across the rest of Europe. But Sürpriz isn't like most European donor spots in that this isn't a place that serves the overserved. It's a high quality operation ran by two Berliners who have a connection to the famous Mustapha Gemüse Kebab back in Berlin. Both the bread and flatbread is baked on-site and the spits of meat are 100% chicken, the sauces are also made in-house. The pro move is to go with the kebab with everything including spicy sauce plus an order of their fantastic fresh cut fries. 

Donor Kebab at Sürpriz 

L'Envers - Cave et Bar à Vin - Wine bar and Wine Shop

We were in town just long enough on this trip that we established a go-to bar. We ended up eating and drinking at L'Envers - Cave et Bar à Vin on three separate occasions. One of those nights was with my wife and my friend who lives in Paris plus his girlfriend and we hit the wine hard. We became friendly with one of the owners and his nephew and will always make a point to return for the cordial hospitality, the mostly local vibes, and both of their expertly curated cheese and wine selections. 

Cheese Plate at L'Envers - Cave et Bar à Vin 


The Asian noodle options in Paris are a plenty. I passed by La Taverne de Zhao while walking around the Japanese District or "Little Tokyo" as the area between the Louvre and Opera is called. Zhao had a line out the door like pretty much every other restaurant in the area. Most of them were a steady mix of locals and tourists. We returned to Zhao closer to closing time and were able to grab seats at the bar which is also where the noodles are made to order. The menu features Biang Biang noodles among other Xi'an classics. I always stop for Biang Biang and I'm pretty much always satisfied. 

Biang Biang Noodles (with beef) at La Taverne de Zhao 


There's so many beloved bakeries in Paris and you're never going to be far from one. Mamiche is from the new school and is known for their babka, cinnamon rolls, and even beignets. I got to try the babka via the sample plate they had out but it was too big otherwise to get for just the two us. But I did leave with one of their cinnamon rolls which is commonly mentioned among the best in town. 

Cinnamon Roll at Mamiche


We ended up at this Southern French bistro just 20 minutes from the Eiffel Tower at the suggestion of my friend who we met for lunch. The dining room inside is long and narrow and very modern and welcoming. L'Escudella is helmed by a chef who competed on 'Top Chef: France' and he hails from the south of France as does the food at his restaurant. Since we were there for lunch they had a few sets which could be two courses or three with both options revolving around an entrée and your choice of an appetizer or a dessert or both. The menu is small but there should be something for everyone in terms of meat and seafood anyway. All of four of us enjoyed our meal for what it was - a very nice lunch at a very nice price point. This place could and would easily be considered fine dining in the States and the price would very much reflect that. If you're looking for somewhere to eat around the Eiffel Tower this is your spot and even if you're not planning on visiting the Eiffel Tower it should still be considered for it's beautiful plates of seasonally inspired French and Mediterranean food. 

Salmon Tataki, sesame, beet, ponzy, dill oil, lemon gel 

Gnocchi, roast juice, trumpet of the moors, comté cheese, hazelnuts

Cod, hollandaise sauce, roasted cauliflower, blood orange

Ibérique Pork rib steak, mashed potatoes

Roasted pineapple, caramel, crisp, coconut sorbet

Baba Louni

You can get some great African food in Paris. North African food is common with large groups from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia calling Paris home. I stopped in at this totally Kosher Tunisian deli in the Marais for a Casse-Croûte sandwich. The Tunisian take on the French pan bagnat. It's a tuna salad of sorts which commonly includes olives, capers, potato, hard boiled egg and a relish made of peppers, onion, cucumber and pepperoncini plus a nice helping of harissa sauce to top it all off. 

Casse-Croûte at Baba Louni


Folderol just might be my favorite wine bar in Paris but that has nothing to do with the wine. It's also an ice cream shop. You can find good wine all over town but you will not find their famous olive oil ice cream anywhere else. My mind was blown with how good it was and then they also had some amazing sheep's cheese and top shelf olives to pair with all the wonderful wines and lively vibes. 

Snacks at Folderol 

Biyo Durum

I noticed more spots in the model of Urfa Durum are opening up shop. You can probably contribute that to the fact there's a sizable Kurdish population in Paris and also the success that Urfa Durum has had. Biyo Durum is very similar to Urfa Durum in both menu and setup. It's ran by a friendly Kurdish man who was very happy to have a visitor from Chicago. I decided to try their ground beef charcoal grilled kebab and it was almost as good as Urfa Durum. I'd be happy to have access to either spot. 

Durum at Biyo Durum

Breizh Cafe 

I just so happened to be passing by one of Paris’ most famous crêperies one morning so I decided to stop in for one (I was a bit hungover). I never made it to Breizh Cafe on my previous visits but I see this place all the time on social media and such. But it wasn't until I saw the plates of galettes in the window that I really wanted to go. I got the Bretonne which comes with bacon, pan fried mushrooms, organic scrambled eggs, raw milk comté cheese, crème fraîche and espelette pepper wrapped up in their signature crispy edged galettes made of buckwheat. You can also find these beauties in Tokyo. 

Galettes at Breizh Cafe

Kisin Udon 

Ramen is all the rage right now but if Paris and other popular food cities are any indication, udon is starting to catch some steam. I wont go as far as to say I like udon better than ramen but I will say I absolutely loved all the udon I ate in Japan and I've been hoping ever since then that udon can latch on like ramen has. I found Kisin Udon when searching google for Japanese food in Paris and I really liked what I both read and saw. The restaurant and chef come from Tokyo where Kisin had already won a Bib Gourmand. The udon noodles are made with flour imported from Kyushu and dashi broth made with seaweed from Hokkaido. I tried to walk in for lunch but was told they were full but I went back about 15 minutes after that and was sat. I got a shrimp tempura set which comes with udon in dashi plus a plate of pristinely fried shrimp and seasonal vegetables. Reservations recommended. 

Udon Tempura at Kisin Udon 

La Maison du Mochi 

We were walking around the Marais when we passed this Japanese Mochi shop and decided to stop in and warm up with some tea. I love Japanese Mochi which for those that have never had one is a treat that can be eaten pretty much whenever but is commonly enjoyed with green tea. Mochi is made from glutinous rice and filled with all sorts of different flavors. La Maison du Mochi's were on point. 

Mochi and Tea at La Maison du Mochi

Momo House 

Every time I walked by this little Nepali / Tibetan dumpling shop it was bumping. Actually I took the picture up above right when they opened for evening service so I decided to stop in for a quick snack before dinner. I was greeted by four ladies who were making momo by hand and right then and there I knew I made the right call. I decided to get the Momo Jhol since it was a bit nippily outside. Jhol refers to the dumplings being drowned in a hot and steaming tomato based chutney sauce. It was so f'ing good. I always get beef momo when they're an option as it just seems to work best with the typical seasonings used to make these South Asian dumplings. Beef also seems to be standard in places like NYC and Toronto where you'll find handfuls of momo shops but for whatever reason it's hard to find beef momo back home in Chicago (most spots do chicken, pork, or vegetable). In Nepal momo are most commonly filled with yak which is also a red meat thus beef is closest in taste and texture. 

Momo Jhol at Momo House 

Big Falafel

I've mentioned before how the falafel in Europe is so much better than it is in the States. I'm not exactly sure why but one reason I would guess is there's just more spots that specialize in it over there compared to here. Paris isn't a big late night city like other European cities like Berlin. Most of the bars and restaurants close by 12a if not earlier. Most of your food options after that will be Middle Eastern owned spots like Big Falafel. This Lebanese falafel stand is open into the wee hours of the morning which is when I stopped by after a few bottles of wine and damn did it hit the spot. 

Falafel at Big Falafel 

Maison Bayat 

I walked over to this bakery near our hotel the morning I was flying back to Chicago. The pro move in Paris is to make sure you visit a boulangerie before leaving as opposed to eating whatever junk they're serving at the airport or on the plane. Well I got a sandwich and it was heated so I said fuck it and ate it for breakfast instead. This was just some chopped chicken and a few other things in some warm and perfect bread which is really what made it. I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did but I probably should've known with the bakeries in Paris being as good as they are. Good croissants too which is what I ended up taking on the plane with me with only two of the half dozen making it home. 

Breakfast at Maison Bayat 

Eating BIG in Paris (Part One)

Click HERE for my Google maps guide to Paris

See ya next time @chibbqking 

1 comment:

Steve D. said...

It is amazing I read this blog post while in Tokyo for a week after the FlyerTalk forum's Japan Do 2023 Tokyo.
I "get" Tokyo in the same way you get Paris.
Perhaps maybe I could live here, but I would not be in metropolitan Tokyo as much as Yokohama.
I looked at your map of venues you hit in Tokyo in 2019{?}. Some of them are under consideration, but there are a clutch of places where I have to revisit after 5½ years away.
It is pretty obvious that Japanese chefs and restaurants are taking their cues from their French counterparts.
Thank you again for the detail of your blog posts.
The big chunk of bad news? My Panasonic DMC-LX3 camera got wet Friday night (the 7th), and is out of service. Argh.
So if people desire images from me about my jaunt - it is not going to happen. |,=(


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