After a 4 year hiatus we went back to Paris last week. The 11 hour flight was harder then I remember and Paris was just as lovely as I remember. We’ve hunkered down in Santa Barbara and Bay Area for 4 years and being in two big cities was a bit shocking and exciting. My husband worked all week and I wandered through the right bank everyday.
Our eating seems a bit pedestrian compared to the Michelin starred restaurants that are discussed on HO. I’m not a tasting menu or even a prix fixe menu kind of eater so we gravitate towards more casual menus. We spent 3 nights in London and ate Spanish, Middle eastern, Japanese and Peruvian so I like diversity. We arrived in Paris late Sunday afternoon on the Eurostar and checked into our very hip but friendly hotel-Hotel National des Arts et Metiers. I got to celebrate Mother’s Day with a glass of champagne and a view of Paris on their very crowded rooftop bar. Dinner that night was at the hotel where they serve Italian. Delicious asparagus with a poached egg and morels and I then had a very serviceable cacio e Pepe. We sadly had to cancel ChoCho reservation and never did get there. Husband had a very busy work schedule ahead of him and we had to keep it simple the first few days.
Next day I started my wandering and picked up a jambon et fromage on a baguette at Au Petit Versailles du Marais (I told you this was going to be semi boring). For dinner that night we needed simple and a walk-in so I walked over to Ippudo and my husband met me there after a long work day. The ramen was excellent.
Tuesday after an excellent cappuccino and a cortado at Partisans where we went every morning, I stumbled on an old friend, the Institut Suedois in the 3rd. I sat in their lovely courtyard and had delicious vegetable soup with bread and cheese. Dinner was at Bistrot des Tournelles, my first actual reservation that I had made weeks before. It was ok. Starter was asparagus that was too mushy and a mayonnaise sauce that was boring. My steak frites were good, but I still prefer the Bistro Paul Bert version. We had wine all week but I’m a white and rose drinker and not super particular so that’s all I will say. Wednesday was another smoked ham and manchego cheese sandwich at the excellent Caractere de Chochon on Rue Charlot. The owner and I spoke of life during Covid and how his small shop survived and I found these conversations so interesting and poignant. That night after a long work day, we walked down to Breizh cafe and had some excellent crepes. I think we were both still full from the previous night and my husband had had an excellent duck dish for lunch at the conference so this hit the spot.
Thursday night we had dinner in the 11th at the excellent Kubri, a Lebanese restaurant that gets a lot of online love (love that I now share). Started with the labne with feta broccolini and olives, then shrimp in a spicy delicious sauce, half a chicken in a youghurt garlic sauce and a side of roasted potatoes with a sublime whipped garlic concoction. I only regret we didn’t get to taste more starters and that I can’t eat there every week.
Friday night, our last dinner in Paris, was at Parcelles. It was a delicious end to the week. We started with the terrine de cochon/pate with pistachios and a tartare de lieu jaune de ligne which was a citrusy fish ceviche. We had turbot with asparagus and gnocchi and both had delightful sauces and flavor. I’m not a big dessert person, but we did share a chocolate tart with caramelized pecans and with a whipped crème dollop on the side. The very kind sommelier suggested a nice white and subtlety informed us of the superiority of French wines over California wines. Ha!
Back to Santa Barbara the next day and at around 3am our body time versus 6pm California time we had some delicious Mexican food delivered and then collapsed. Thank you to everyone who helped me with this trip especially @sfcarole and @parnparis. I appreciated the new online reservation system that was in place for most of the restaurants we went to and we ended never getting any euros or pounds-everywhere took CC or Apple Pay. Happy eating to everyone .
Great trip report. Paris is best tasted when savoured slowly and this you seem to have been done. All too many visitors treat Paris as a sort of Disneyland, with the major tourist attractions and temples of gastronomy as rides.
So, some non-food questions. How did you like the Arts-et-Métiers neighbourhood in comparison with your usual stomping grounds in the 11th ? And was the hip factor at the Hotel National des Arts-et-Métiers off-putting? Or did it just add another dimension to the adventure ?
BTW, I’m sorry I didn’t warn you about the tendency of your hotel’s very trendy roof bar to be very popular on Sunday night. Unlike suburbanites who migrate into Paris for a night out on Saturday, few of us Parisians have Saturday night fever and Sunday in some respects becomes the preferred day for partying (lots of tea dances) and hanging out with friends.
Back to food. Kubri is indeed a gem. I have now been 4 times and like it more each time. While the cuisine is indeed Lebanese, it’s not hidebound traditional and the remarkable twists (some very French), creativity, ingredients make it, I think, a sort of “bistronomie libanaise”. And yes, I think your approach (starter + main) was somewhat wrong. I usually pig out on the “mezze”/ small plates and sometimes ask for one of the main “plats” like the chicken with yoghurt sauce to be served as part of the mezze and shared (messy but fun).
What was the Parcelles’ clientele like on the night you were there ? I have tried to have a repeat meal there but always booked up. It did get rave reviews in some English-language publications so I suspect it has become a tourist favourite and we locals (who usually don’t book weeks in advance) are elbowed out.
Re Bistrot des Tournelles. Sorry about the mushy asparagus, dull sauce hollandaise, and disappointing steak au poivre. But don’t give up hope… there are still a few hundred bistros serving steak au poivre that you can try on your next trip.
Which Ippudo ? Just a BTW, I’m always amazed how good Japanese chain restos/ ramen joints are and how bad American and European chains can be.
@ParnParis Thanks for your kind words. We liked the hotel and it worked out well. We prefer non stuffy and it’s the kind of place I would always pick over a more traditional hotel. I paid extra for a balcony which I wouldn’t do again. Very very small (more like a nyc fire escape) and it was on an extremely busy noisy street and the week was also kind of chilly. I liked the rooftop terrace and views were great. We went up there twice and enjoyed. We had been renting apts for years and the last one was close to Picasso museum on a quiet street. I did miss that and the location was definitely busier but fun and very lively.
I didn’t do much of anything but walk and eat and shop. Merci, BHV, COS and Monoprix were my tourist destinations this trip. I’ve seen all the sights and for me this trip was about being back in Paris and London and just walking the streets and people watching. I did see a wonderful David Hockney exhibit in London which I highly recommend.
We got two starters and a main at Kubri, I just needed to go back and try more of those starters. It reminded of a great dinner we had at the Barbary in London a few days before-wonderful spices and flavors and lots of yoghurt and garlic! I reserved Parcelles online about 30 days in advance. Not that unusual for popular restaurants here and I was happy I could do it. We went to the Ippudo in the 1st. Been there before and eaten at the London and SF branches. What can I say, I love ramen.
Excellent report, thank you! How great to hear that you didn’t overdo it food-wise, but mixed it up as the situation required, including going with the flow to suit your husband’s busy schedule.
My husband and I also love the courtyard at the Institut Suedois and often stop by there for a light snack. And for sandwiches, the rue Bretagne/rue Charlot area is perfect, as you discovered. Sometimes I walk over to nearby Angela’s Banh Mi at 81 rue Turbigo for one of her banh mi sandwiches, which I might enjoy sitting on a bench in the Square de Temple.
Glad Parcelles worked out for both of you. I hope the Yanks weren’t outnumbering the French.
I’ve wanted to get one of those banh mi for years (remember them from Chowhound days) and still didn’t make it there! Parcelles seemed to be a mixture of people. Always more Americans at 7 but then French and other Europeans arriving by 7:30 or 8.
Adding in response to Parn’s inquiry about Parcelles:
We’ve been going there on a regular basis since shortly after it opened, most recently about six weeks ago at lunch. That day, clientèle was about equally split between French and American – a pleasant surprise, as I figured that the American reviews might turn it into all American during the tourist season. Even from early days, there were always some Americans there, but the place also seems to have a strong local following. Age-wise is all over the place.
It seems equally good for lunch and dinner, but reservations seem to fill up faster for dinner than for lunch. The last time or two there, it seems that the food has amped up a bit in complexity; I once viewed it as a lovely place but no great loss if you can’t book it because there are many other places of similar overall quality, even if not quite as charming overall experience. However the last couple of times, the food seems to have amped up in complexity and ambition and I would now say it is worth an extra effort to go there.
Thanks for reporting back…I also (like @sfcarole) thought of where I go for a sandwich near where I stay, when I need a something, but don’t want to overdo it at lunchtime. My spot: Mmmozza on Rue de Bretagne. (Italian rather than French or Vietnamese–I love mortadella, go figure!) If it’s a nice day, I take it across the street to the same spot on @sfcarole’s trek. Is there a thread on sandwiches and snacks? Maybe useful!
Definitely added Kubri to my list of places I’d like to try!
I also love a good mortadella and will put Mmmozza on the list for light meals. Actually, I think we stopped by there once pre-pandemic for some cheese and charcuterie to add to our ‘grazing’ dinner in the apartment. But then I forgot about it. Thanks Ninkat for reminding me about an awesome place for sandwiches and other treats on rue Bretagne. And open every day!
I’m not really a sandwich person but, to add to the rue de Bretagne bonanza, Maison Verot has some excellent takeout i.e. slices of pâté en croûte, feuilleté au jambon, salades (including tomato & mozzarella), quiches, etc for a light lunch or picnic in the Square du Temple. https://www.maisonverot.fr/