Our first week in Paris: Bistrot Instinct, Granite, Les Canailles, Sourire, Automne, Pierre Sang

Bistrot Instinct - HO gave us the idea to try this place for our first night while dealing with a 9-hour jet lag from SF. Usually we have oysters the first night but I was drawn by Instinct’s nice looking veggie option with black rice Venere which I love. Here it was combined with melty spinach, not quite a purée which is a brilliant concept. R went straight to the quasi de veau. We dined upstairs - here the exception to rule #27 perhaps - and loved the bird’s eye view of the kitchen below. Great staff and vibe. 9:30 pm res which suited us fine but as I recall this was the only time slot available - on a Wednesday night no less - when making the res two weeks prior!

Granite - Well, we had to try this place right away since there have been so many raves. We were given a superb table tucked in by a window and the opening to the kitchen. Lots to watch. We chose the 3-course lunch menu and each course was exceptional with complex flavors, justifying those seven cooks in the kitchen. Because we knew Granite is a hard res to get, we booked far ahead for dinner as well (assuming we would like the lunch, which we unquestionably did). The service was friendly, hospitable and efficient. Before we left we were asked where we wanted to sit when we came back.

Les Canailles de Ménilmontant - Onzième has been telling me for ages to try this place, so we hiked up there for lunch (and also did one of our Paris ‘walks’ in the area). I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun laughing and sparring with the staff of a restaurant before we had even sat down. The main FOH guy is completely infectious. Emmanuel Chaignon I think his name is. Just look at his picture on the resto website and you’ll see what I mean. It would be impossible to walk out of there in a bad mood. And we were served the most wonderful almost charred roasted cèpes that I’ve ever had.

Sourire - This is one place I am almost reluctant to share. Hidden away in the 13th, we’ve been the only anglophones here almost every time we’ve come for lunch or dinner the last few years. We prefer lunch because dinner is packed and delirious. We had a four-course lunch, plus, plus for, I believe 52€, and every single bite was superb. The main meat course was venison, only very slightly gamey and extremely tender. It was served with a mushroom I am not familiar with: sparassis. Sauce was a cerf and grape jus.

Automne - We always love Automne and our 5-course Saturday lunch (they count the amuse as a course, so really only 4) was delicious as always. But every dish seemed to be lacking something. Just a little dull. And the tarragon infused blanc mange with lemon was the exact same dessert we were served last year. Even the mignardises looked like something left over from someone else’s party. We thought the 85€ price for four courses was a serious blow to the “rapport qualité prix”.

Pierre Sang in Oberkampf - Another HO idea. We hadn’t been back since 2014. :scream: But in the interim we tried PS in Gambey several times which we loved and his restaurant Signature which we didn’t. We loved just about every dish, many of which contained intriguing uses of kimchi and sambal (which was served with a very tender duck breast). Lentils were mixed with beef chorizo and a cilantro (coriander) kimchi called gosu kimchi. I had never heard of it before. We sat at the bar and had delightful conversations with those on either side of us.


Yeah, ever since CH is gone and John Tablott stopped posting, more people are reading here. I remember going to Jeanne Aimée after a rave review, in June, the restaurant told me that they were opened since 2-3 months, clients were mainly locals, but they were puzzling why since a week, there were a lot of anglophones flooding the restaurant.


I figure the somewhat bland no-man’s land of the 13th is going to stop a lot of people. (Evil grin emoji)





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“I figure the somewhat bland no-man’s land of the 13th is going to stop a lot of people. (Evil grin emoji)”

To be fair, Sourire is just a few steps from the 5th and a few more from the boulevard Montparnasse strip, and not exactly in the depths of the 13th. But yes, far fewer tourists wandering about.

There are other gems in the 13th/5th borders that offer a similar cuisine and a similarly enjoyable experience. . While I like Sourire a lot, Agrume and especially Sellae (a part of my chef crush Thibaut Sombardier’s mini-empire) offer stiff competition. However, for me, it’s usually dinner rather than lunch in this area.

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We used to go to Sellae a lot and loved it. Until one absolutely abysmal meal. Overcooked shrimp in a thick and tasteless sauce. Both of our meals were terrible, even his usually wonderful hot chocolate mousse with ice cream was not good. We never went back. On the other hand we recently had a great lunch at Les Parisiens so maybe the love affair is back on???

We’ve never been to Agrume but will check it out, hopefully on this trip.

I have never had a bad meal at Sellae but I vaguely remember my sister (who works nearby and goes to Sellae far more frequently than I) complaining about a less than good lunch in pre-Covid days. It seems that turnover in the kitchen staff at a time when Sombardier was far more focused on his then flagship resto Antoine (RIP) was the main problem but quickly resolved. These things happen. La vie n’est pas toujours rose.

I’m not sure if he was there pre-Covid but the current chef-de-cuisine Matteo is a delight. Maybe the beginnings of another chef crush for me. In some ways he reminds me of Giovanni Passerini (my first ever chef crush when the long-departed Rino in the 11th was #1 on my resto list). But my interactions are in French and Italian. Have no idea how he comes off in English

What are his other restaurants? I think I might try them all next trip…


The great thing about ‘stiff competition’ is that everyone wins, especially the customers. So I’m looking forward to returning to Sellae and enjoying Matteo’s offerings. Thank you for mentioning it. But I have to say I’m smitten with Justin Brohm’s cooking at Sourire and, for me, my best meal at Sellae wasn’t as magical as at Sourire. But, as is always the case, YMMV.

Thx. I did know at one point that Mensae and Sellae were related, but didn’t know until today they were his.

And Sellae is some Latin form of chair…

Mensae are tables in latin.

sfcarole, always liked your reports on CH, and now the same on HO. Merci.


Hi Paula - thank you! Very mutual feelings about your comments on CH and HO.

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And I agree with VaPaula! Excellent report, Carole.

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Thanks Jake. It was really your suggestion that spurred me forward.

Parn, looks like the chef-de-cuisine you mentioned at Sellae has moved on. Any word on how it is with the latest chef? Or to where chef Matteo has moved on?

@andygottlieb42. Matteo moved to Bretagne to set up his own restaurant (and to make babies). New chef is very good but less Italianate. Thibaut Sombardier really has a knack for finding other talented chefs to run his mini-empire. I don’t quite have the same immediate connection with the new chef as I had with the very personable Matteo but Sellae is still a very enjoyable experience.

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A message board person who has worked in prestigious kitchens had a horrible meal in the downstairs section of Granite. Food was off and service was incredibly poor.

Anyone been there recently? Reports?

I have a reservation for my next trip how can we ensure that we are seated upstairs for dinner?