Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Paris -- Bobby Jay's Restaurant List

People are always asking me for special restaurant recommendations in Paris, so I will share my list.

But first, a number of important disclaimers:

-- I have not listed places I don't like.

-- I have not necessarily eaten at the places on the list in the last couple of years, so the food may have declined (or improved).

-- There are many many more restaurants in every category; these are ones that I and my wife have gotten to and liked, and we are just two people. I have not included any restaurant based solely on others' opinions.

-- The restaurants are listed in random order. I don't think that the list is long enough to require categorization.

Still interested? Click more below.


Granterroirs: centrally located in the Eighth on rue de Miromesnil, a wonderful place for lunch. Their open sandwiches and salads are superb. Try the Landais if you like foie gras (the cold, not the hot, variety). If you don’t like foie gras, think again: maybe you haven’t had the good French stuff. The daily specials are excellent if a bit pricey for lunch. Try to leave room for the dessert of the day. 30, rue de Miromesnil (Métro Miromesnil), 75008, Tel 0147 42 18 18.

Rotisserie du Beaujolais: a very pure restaurant, with really great confit de canard and rotisseried (à la broche) duck (canard or caneton), chicken (poulet) and meat (they make a magnificent piece of rotisseried beef (boeuf) for 2). Make sure you get the sauteed potatoes (pommes sarladaises) if they don’t come with your dish. The people are nice and English is OK. One of the great experiences is to take the Métro to Pont-Marie, on the right bank, and walk across the Ile St-Louis to the restaurant (two bridges: note the truly magnificent view of Notre-Dame). 19, quai de la Tournelle (Métro Pont-Marie), 75005, Tel 01 43 54 17 47.

Sardegna à Tavola: out of the way place with really interesting Sardinian food (it is not the same as Italian). Great pasta and fish (they are across the street from one of Paris’ better fish markets). A little expensive for what we think of as Italian food, but constant crowds show that it's worth it. 1, rue de Cotte (Métro Gare de Lyon or Lédru-Rollin), 75012. Tel 01 44 75 03 28.

Timgad: excellent Moroccan in fancy (and expensive) surroundings. Try the bastilla (somewhat sweet pigeon pie with raisins, cinnamon & powdered sugar) as an appetizer. 21, rue Brunel (Métro Argentine), 75017, Tel 01 45 74 23 70).

Etoile Morocaine: Very good North African cuisine in a nice setting. Despite proximity to the Arc de Triomphe, the clientele is not touristy; mostly locals who appear to be regulars. It is not very expensive. 56, rue de Galilée (Métro Georges V), 75008, Tel 01 47 20 44 43.

Mansouria: very nice classic Moroccan in plain surroundings, in a somewhat inconvenient location. The owner is like a Moroccan Madhur Jaffray, and the place is chic. 11, rue Faidherbe (Métro Faidherbe-Chaligny), 75011, Tel 01 43 71 00 16.

Noura: really good Lebanese food. The Pavillon is fancier (and better), the regular place is less formal (no reservations, come as you are) but still good, especially for lunch. The best tabouleh salad I've ever had. For the brasserie, 27, avenue Marceau (Métro Alma-Marceau or Georges V), 75016, Tel 01 47 03 02 20; and for Noura Pavillon, 21, avenue Marceau, Tel 01 47 20 33 33.

Ladurée, rue Royale: famous for its tea (and lunch) room upstairs and for its macarons (almond cookies, but not to be confused with our macaroons of the Passover variety). The rich ladies who lunch go there. Probably English is OK, but menu is easy to follow. Superb breakfast; the best scrambled eggs (oeuf brouillés) I have ever eaten. 16, rue Royale (Métro Madeleine or Concorde), 75008. Tel 01 42 60 21 79. (There are now Ladurées on the Champs-Elysées and rue Bonaparte, too, but we have not been to them.)

Violon d’Ingres: This is the flagship restaurant of Christian Constant, who has a number in the same neighborhood in the 7th. It was a chic and expensive fancy place, but bistro-ized a couple of years ago, with a 60 euro menu that I find a steal. Imaginative food, good but not officious service. NOTE: my wife disagrees and did not like the scaled-down version. 135, rue St-Dominique (Métro Ecole-Militaire or Pont de l'Alma), Tel 01 45 55 15 05.

Diep: good Chinese-Vietnamese, about 10 minutes on foot. The best spring rolls anywhere. Breathtakingly expensive for Americans, who are used to moderate prices at Chinese restaurants. No reason to go unless you really miss Chinese food. 55, rue Pierre Charon (Métro Franklin-D.-Roosevelt), 75008, Tel 01 45 63 52 76.

Le Rubis: the best wine bar anywhere. Especially for wine in the Beaujolais family, including Julienas, Morgon (***), Fleurie, Chiroubles, etc. The food is simple, traditional, excellent, like jarret de porc (pig's knuckle), petit salé (salt pork) aux lentilles, etc. Also excellent cheese, especially the brie. For lunch only, but try to avoid 1-2 pm. Probably English is OK, but menu is easy to follow (except that you won’t know what the stuff is: andouillette is a flavorful tripe sausage that is not for the faint of heart, petit salé is a kind of ham on the bone, jarret is also ham, coq au vin you know). 10, rue du Marché St-Honoré (Métro Tuileries), 75001, Tel 01 42 61 03 34.

Relais d’Auteuil: one of our favorites. Excellent food, at a “neighborhood” place near the Bois de Boulogne. They are just lovely people there, who are out to make you comfortable, not to show off. Lots of ½ bottles of wine from all regions and at all reasonable prices. This is a big splurge but worth it. 31, boulevard Murat (Métro Michel-Ange-Auteuil), 75016, Tel 01 46 51 09 54.

Apicius: one of our favorites. Very sophisticated food (** from Michelin), beautifully presented without a trace of snobbery. The chef and the help couldn’t be nicer. Try the hot foie gras with unsweetened chocolate sauce – really – or whatever is the hot foie gras of the day. This place recently moved a fancy chateau (yes, a chateau in the middle of Paris), increased its prices and become a huge power place; it is great. The best hot foie gras we have ever tasted. 20, rue d'Artois (Métro St-Philippe-du-Roule or Franklin-D.-Roosevelt), Tel 01 43 80 19 66.

Restaurant le Bristol. Just around the corner at the Bristol Hotel. Dinner is an enormous splurge, really expensive but worth it at this three-star restaurant. Several of the best meals we have ever eaten, period. Thet 85-euro lunch is a fantastic bargain. 112 rue du faubourg St.-Honoré (Métro Champs-Elysées-Clemenceau or Miromesnil), 75008, Tel 01 53 43 43 00.

Ze Kitchen: Elegant modern food served in small portions. Pretty informal, Asian-influenced design, but chic. 4, rue des Grands-Augustins (Métro St-Michel), 75006. Tel 01 44 32 00 32.

Mon Vieil Ami: an excellent new (2 years old) bistro on the Ile St-Louis. Really good food in a fashionably modern décor inside an ancient building. Chef is from Alsace, but the food is not particularly. Very popular among Americans, so be prepared to see lots of tourists. 69, rue St-Louis-en-l'Ile (Métro Pont-Marie), 75004, Tel 01 40 46 01 35.

Le Troquet: a really good family-run bistro deep in the 15th arrondissement, said to be Basque but a bit more general. Wonderful 30 Euro menu and warm welcome. Just what you want a bistro to be. 21, rue François Bonvin (Métro Volontaire or Sèvres-Lecourbe), 75015, Tel 01 45 66 89 00.

Astier: another excellent bistro, with very traditional food and a 30 Euro menu that includes an all-you-can-eat cheeseboard of very high quality. Even red checked table cloths. I have to say that my last meal there was not as good as earlier meals. 44, rue J.P. Timbaud (Métro Oberkampf or Parmentier), 75011, Tel 01 43 57 16 35.

Dominique Bouchet: an excellent upscale restaurant with a nice welcome and delightful ambience. M Bouchet is an up-and-coming chef who trained with some of the best. Not inexpensive -- dinner will likely be more than $100 per person -- but worth it. The place has been discovered: last time we were there the restaurant was full of Americans, a worrying trend. 11, rue Treilhard (Métro Miromesnil), 75008, Tel 01 45 61 09 46.

Chapeau Melon: a quirky organic wine shop in the 19th that also serves dinner based on a fixed menu that changes once a month. The food is interesting, well-prepared and a real steal at 30 euros or so for four courses. 92, rue Rébéval (Métro Pyrenées or Belleville), 75019, Tel 01 42 02 68 60.

L'Accolade: a wonderful little bistro in a far-flung part of the 17th arrondissement. The food - fish and meat - is very good, and the value (rapport qualité-prix) is extraordinary: a three-course menu for 32 euros, two courses for 28 euros. 23, rue Guillaume-Tell (Métro Porte-de-Champerret or Pereire), Tel 01 42 67 12 67.

Les Fougères: upscale bistro with excellent food. They have a very good menu for 35 euros, but there are only two appetizers and two mains to choose from. This is often fine, but if not, you can choose from the very nice à la carte selection. 10, rue Villebois-Mareuil(Métro Ternes), Tel 01 40 68 78 66.

Beaujolais d'Auteil: a recent great find. Non-touristy neighborhood bistro near the Bois de Boulogne, serving excellent food at very reasonable prices. 99, boulevard de Montmorency (Métro Porte d'Auteuil or Michel-Ange Auteuil), 75016, Tel 01 47 43 03 56.

Caméléon: traditional bistro dishes prepared with imagination with high quality ingredients and presented with style. A bit expensive for dinner, but a great buy for lunch (30-euro menu, 25-euro formule) 6 rue de Chevreuse, 75006 Paris (Métro Vavin), Tel 01 43 27 43 27.

Kunitoraya: The best udon noodles I have found outside Japan are at Kunitoraya, and I try to get there at least once each time I am in Paris to enjoy the totally authentic kitsune udon. There is nearly always a line, but if you go after 1:45 you probably won't wait more than a couple of minutes. 39 rue Ste-Anne, 75001 Paris.

Le Hide: excellent, somewhat modernized classics at incredibly low prices. Winner of Pudlo's meilleur rapport qualité-prix for 2009. 10, rue du Général Lanrezac, 75017 Paris (Métro Etoile), Tel 01 45 74 15 81.

L'Ecailler du Bistrot: great shellfish, especially oysters, and classic French fish dishes, extremely well-prepared, at this restaurant in the now-burgeoning 11th. Prices are not low, but fair for ingredients of such high quality. 20-22 rue Paul Bert, 75011 Paris, Tel 01 43 72 76 77.

Bobby Jay

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Caroline's question (see post "Paris -- Images of Holiday Food") has prompted me to make a first post on the subject of chocolate. This is certainly a huge topic; after all, who doesn't love it and have an opinion on which is best? It is also one of the most subjective topics I can think of, and I hope my readers will share their thoughts in order to start a debate that could continue forever. My thoughts below only scratch the surface, to be sure.

I divide the area into 4 topics: chocolate candies, chocolate bars, cooking chocolate and drinking chocolate. I will not comment on the fourth topic because I virtually never drink the stuff (you just have to draw a line somewhere, and that's it for me). I will only deal with first-class chocolates, not commercial products like Hershey's, Nestle's and Baker's or their much better French equivalents.

Chocolate Candies

There are many great stores, but for me the best in New York is Maison de Chocolat. Of course, they are in Paris, too, but there is so much competition that they are just one of many fine players. Also in New York are Teuscher (justly famous for their champagne truffles), Pierre Marcolini (never tried), Richart (I don't love these), Vosges (made in the USA and really excellent), Godiva (seemed great in the 80s before the fantastic explosion of great chocolates), all the famous European houses and lots of small makers whose wares I have not sampled.

In Paris, I just love La Petite Rose, which also happens to make the best lemon tart in the world. (See my post "Paris -- Best Lemon Tart in the World.") But more famous (and 50% more expensive) are Michel Cluizel, Jean-Paul Hévin, Richart and the famous pâtissiers: Lenôtre, Dalloyau, Pierre Hermé, Christian Constant, Gérard Mulot, etc. And there are dozens, if not hundreds, of other chocolatiers and pâtissiers who make their own. And don't forget the great traiteurs, like the Grande Epicerie at Bon Marché, Hédiard and Lafayette Gourmet at Galeries Lafayette.

It is not really possible to reach a conclusion as to which of these is the best, or even which are the top two or three. You just have to try them all. For more information, an article on "The Hundred Best Chocolatiers in France" can be found at http://www.lexpress.fr/styles/les-100-meilleures-adresses-de-chocolatiers-en-france_474932.html.

Chocolate Bars

Again, there's no clear choice. There are hundreds to choose from, with a variety of intensities (I like 60-70% cacao; more than that and I find the bar too dry), origins (one-plantation varieties are becoming ever more popular) and fillings or flavor additions (I like these; I guess I am not a purist).

When all is said and done, I love Lindt Excellence in its many manifestations: Intense Dark, Intense Pear, Intense Orange, Intense Mint, Intense Red Pepper, and the various filled bars (praline, mint, etc). Lindt is Swiss and the French are pretty snobby about non-French chocolate, but there it is.

I generally am not a huge fan of Michel Cluizel, but they have a great Dark Chocolate with Chocolate Nibs (grués) that I am working on at present, and it is super. Their one-plantation chocolates leave me a bit cold. I like some of Bonnat's one-plantation bars, especially "Madagascar" and "Trinité."

I don't like Valrona, finding it too sweet even when dark. Also, it's way too expensive, nearly double the price of Lindt.

I have not tried Green & Black, which is all over New York these days.

Cook's Illustrated did a survey of dark chocolate bars in January/February 2008 and reached entirely different conclusions. Their winners: Callebaut (which I've never seen), Ghirardelli, Dagoba, Michel Cluizel and Valrhona. Their "recommended with reservations" included my beloved Lindt along with Hersheys', Guittard, El Rey Mijao (Venezuela), Scharffen Berger, Nestle and Baker's. Go figure; this proves my point on how subjective this area is.

Cooking Chocolate

I use Callebaut (from Belgium) when I can find it, which is nearly always. It is delicious and reasonable (about $7 per pound) and comes in chocolate chips, which I prefer because I don't like chopping chocolate. I use the bittersweet, but the semi-sweet is good, too. I haven't tried the milk chocolate because I never use this.

If Callebaut is not available, gourmet stores (e.g. Fairway) will often have excellent South American varieties in various strengths. In a pinch, Ghirardelli dark chocolate bits are fine.

Again, I don't use Valrhona, which I find a bit too sweet and more than double the price of Callebaut.

And I never really seem to use baking chocolate (0% sugar) either.


As I mentioned earlier, this just barely scratches the surface of the subject of chocolate. I look forward to hearing from you. To comment, you don't need a gmail account. Just click on "Comment" below and check the third box (Name/URL) and put in your real name or nom de plume or internet address. If you are really shy, check Anonymous and submit your comment.

Bobby Jay

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I can usually tell when a veal chop or burger is done by poking it with a spatula or my hand, but I have no clue when a roast is done without using a thermometer. Here there are three distinctly different approaches: (i) use a meat thermometer that you stick in the roast and check it from time to time; (ii) periodically take the roast out of the oven and insert a good digital thermometer to find out the temperature (see above at right); or (iii) use a digital electronic probe that connects to a device that sits on your counter and notifies you when the desired temperature is reached (at left above).

I strongly recommend the digital probe method for a roast, cross-checked if you are nervous with pokes in multiple locations with a sensitive digital thermometer. The probes are accurate and it is great to be able to walk away from your roast for long periods of time. If you get curious, you can always check the probe to find out the current taste of your roast. Digital probes are cheap, starting at about $20. Make sure you buy one that turns off when you aren't using it; the others waste the battery and, as a result, may not be there when you need them. They almost always come with a time incorporated, which in some cases has its own battery.

The Thermapen pictured above is the consensus choice for a digital thermometer. It is accurate and takes only 3 seconds to give you a reading rather than 30 seconds or so. It can be used to measure the temperatures of candy and oil, too. The one problem is that it is very expensive, listed at $89 and virtually impossible to find at a discount.

Bobby Jay

Friday, March 20, 2009

Easiest Fish Recipes

Two unbelievably easy, delicious and healthy fish recipes:

Black Cod Fillets with Prosciutto

Just season 5-oz black cod fillets with salt and pepper, wrap them with thinly sliced prosciutto, and saute in a little butter for 3 minutes a side, preferably in a non-stick pan. Prosciutto will be crispy and the fish moist and delicious. Any other mild white relatively flaky fish may be substituted, for example regular cod or daurade (sea bream).

Sole or Flounder Sandwiches

Season a 3-4 oz. sole fillets with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with a light coating of flour (I recommend Wondra because you can get a very thin layer). Saute in a non-stick pan with a little butter for about 2 minutes on one side and a minute more on the other. Place on a warm roll (I prefer ciabatta but a kaiser, a slice baguette or anything else will do), sprinkle with a few drops of lemon juice and, if you like (I do), a few drops of tabasco sauce. Delicious and amazingly sweet. I love this with lemon sole because the fillets are so thin, but any sole, or even fluke or flounder, will do nicely. You could put mayo or tartar sauce on the roll if you want, but I find it moist enough without.

Bobby Jay

Monday, March 2, 2009

Paris - Salon d'Agriculture

I recently went to the annual Salon International de l'Agriculture at the Porte de Versailles in Paris, where I spent 3 1/2 hours (about triple what I had expected). What a great time I had!

First, there are the animals: more than 4500 of the best sheep, goats, cows, pigs, horses, donkeys and mules that France has to offer; an amazing variety of breeds that are carefully preserved and cared for. Truly the best of the best. Some are for sale, but most are there as advertisements for the farmers that breed and raise them. The animals are amazingly well groomed and tended.

Then, there is the food. One pavilion contains international food, with lots of samples and also sandwiches and restaurants. I stupidly wasted some of my appetite on samples of delicious Swiss cheeses and Italian and Spanish hams and sausages, a porchetta sandwich, some gelato and a really bad mojito (I am not sure what possessed me).

The really great pavilion, though, is the one that displays (and offers) food from small artisanal producers from all over France, arranged by region. The quality is amazing, and the pride that the producers have in what they are growing and/or making is inspiring. I sampled an amazing array of foods, in no logical sequence, including a foie gras sandwich with a glass of Jurançon, a genuine cannelé de Bordeaux that I have to admit was better than my own, a fantastic looking andouillette sandwich (I just can't make myself like this stuff), a spoonful of caviar with vodka, innumerable samples of cheese and sausages, lavender and buckwheat honey (which I bought) and a small snifter of cognac as a digestif.

If you are in Paris in the last week of February, I can't recommend the Salon de l'Agriculture highly enough.

For some more pictures, click below.

Bobby Jay

Another Excellent Paris Bistro

Just back from a really good meal at Beaujolais d'Auteuil, which just won the 2009 Prix Staub-Lebey for Best Traditional Bistro. Started with the best oeuf dur mayonnaise of all time, followed by an incredibly tender côte de cochon (very meaty spare ribs) that were braised and then roasted and served with sweet potatoes mixed with diced chorizo. For dessert I chose a creme d'amande aux fruit secs (almond cream with dried fruits): light and delicious. Service was competent and pleasant.

This is a local restaurant, off the beaten tourist track at the far end of the 16th arrondissement. I heard no English spoken, although that should not deter anyone from going there. For the quality, the place is a screaming bargain: 30 euros for the meal I described (but a good number of choices are available) plus coffee and a half-litre bottle of St. Amour for a total of 52.80 euros. It was Monday night so not crowded, but I recommend calling ahead. Beaujolais d'Auteuil, 99, boulevard de Montmorency, Métro Porte d'Auteuil or Michel-Ange Auteuil, 01 47 43 03 56.

Bobby Jay