It’s easy to work up an appetite in Paris, with all the long days wandering from monument to museum. What a delight to indulge, then, whether it’s a cup of steaming café au lait and a macaron in the afternoon or a decadent steak tartare for a stylish late dinner. When I travel to the City of Light, I make sure to consult with my colleagues at Découvertes for their suggestions on the latest and greatest among Paris’ restaurant options. There’s been a bit of a foodie boom here lately, attracting talented young chefs and widening the array of cuisines offered, from brasseries to bistros. Rest assured, it’s quite possible that you’ll never have a bad meal when dining in Paris … to get you started, we offer these tempting recommendations:
Dans le Noir?
Like nothing you’ve ever experienced, Dans le Noir? serves its patrons in total darkness. The waitstaff is visually impaired and trained to provide a sensory experience that will awake your senses of taste and smell. Inhibitions freed, diners are treated to a two- or three-course surprise menu by Chef Thi Muller and accompanying wines selected by oenology expert Jérôme Barret. Gastronomic five-course menus with appetizers and a cheese plate are also available. You may not know quite what you are eating – the very definition of “blind-tasting” – because you cannot see it on your plate, and yet it may be the most enjoyable meal you’ve ever had thanks to your heightened awareness of flavor, texture and seasoning. Intriguing, completely devoid of any vanity, Dans le Noir is a must the next time I’m in Paris.
À la Pomponnette
One must make time for Montmartre, with its far-reaching views and tucked-away squares and cafes, and of course, the Sacré-Coeur basilica. Stroll the steep streets, then slip into À la Pomponnette, a family-run restaurant for more than a century, where the conviviality of a shared meal is as important as the cuisine itself. Both traditional and creative, the menu might have everything from mackerel with white-wine Muscadet to Millefeuille Pomponnette-style. And having inspired so many artists over the years, it’s only fitting that this Montmartre favorite has also been influenced by famous painters, including Poulbot and Gen Paul.
Le Train Bleu
In an unexpected, yet atmospheric spot – the Gare de Lyon train station, Le Train Bleu is a culinary gem. A hearty menu, genuine, personalized service, a rich selection of wines – it’s the epitome of the French gastronomic tradition. Leg of lamb is carved on the trolley before your eyes, the tartar seasoned at your table. Both the à la carte and set menus change throughout the year and feature the freshest and most in-season ingredients. Whether for lunch or dinner, this is a wonderful spot for a refined break in a majestic setting.
Baccarat Cristal Room
Take a break from your starstruck gazing in the extravagant Baccarat Museum and indulge in a meal at the design-conscious Cristal Room, set in the former dining room of Vicomtesse Marie-Laure de Noailles. Philippe Starck is to be credited with adding lovely new touches to the historic room, including original wood paneling and bare brickwork with mirrors, gilding and a fresh pink color scheme. Lunch is a choice time to dine here, as the light allows for the best appreciation of the beautiful Baccarat crystal chandeliers and other decorative ornaments.
Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole
If it’s a glimpse of old Paris you seek, head to Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole restaurant, inspired by the southwest of the country and offering a simple, yet tasty cuisine complemented by unique décor and an absolutely charming wait staff. The restaurant is located on the Ile de la Cité, near Notre Dame de Paris and dates back to 1512, making it one of the city’s oldest restaurants. Odette and Georges, the delightful owners, welcome you to indulge on set menus that focus on the Aveyron region – perhaps a foie gras seared with cherries or a Coufidou Aubrac washed down with a fine Marcillac wine.
Comfortable and casually chic, Les Affamés is set in the Palais Royal/Bourse neighborhood and will check off all the boxes you might have for a quintessential Parisian bistro. Marinated beef cheeks, creamy polenta, unstructured lemon pie, grilled and smoked tuna – here’s a place worth overindulging. This is your best bet in a seemingly pretentious neighborhood for a real slice-of-life eatery. Locals and tourists alike flock here for the seasonal menu – the chef himself can never know in advance what will be on the menu as he maintains a hyperlocal focus on ingredients.
Dine at the chef’s table on the top floor of Pierre Sang on Gambey and take a culinary journey to his French-Korean roots. Six to ten guests will indulge in the Origin menu, an eight-course experience that might feature anything from tête de veau fritters with caper mayonnaise, zucchini blossoms stuffed with mushrooms or lemon-verbena cream with slices of watermelon. A rich wine list complements the commendable menu – perhaps Crozes-Hermitage from Cuilleron or Saint-Joseph from Villard. Head to the other side of the table and sign up for a cooking class for a further understanding of Sang’s talents.
Another museum eatery, Loulou is the new restaurant at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs at the heart of the Palais du Louvre. The dining room itself is an experience, adorned with collected pieces from a lifetime of voyages and put together by the masterful Joseph Dirand. Whether to snack, lunch, take high tea or dine heartily, Loulou delivers with French and Italian Riviera classics – think beef tagliata with black pepper infusion, tuna with pistachio nut breading and to-die-for chocolate and caramel pie.