Our sixth (and final) week in Paris: Pianovins, Jeanne-Aimée, Le Clarence, Virtus, L’Assiette, Dilia, Le Maquis

It’s taken a month to finally write up our last week in Paris - we flew back to San Francisco on November 16. But certainly the delay was not due to unmemorable meals. Like the previous weeks there were many lunches and dinners that were exceptional. It’s going to be hard next year to pare down the list to make way for the new places that will inevitably spring up in the coming months. And I certainly hope that those of you lucky enough to live in Paris continue to share your new favorites.

Pianovins - Our lunch at Mokonuts on Wednesday was lighter than expected (light seafood courses, no dessert), and as we were already in the 12th, close to rue Trousseau, we decided to stop by and ask Eric at Pianovins if he could fit us in for dinner. The menu (posted online) had changed since we were last there and it looked very appealing (See Our Second Week in Paris). Well, shortly after we showed up at 8pm every table was taken, including the high tops near the door, so Eric must have given us his very last table. Pianovins is kind of half-way between traditional and modern french cuisine. This night is was slightly more traditional: beautifully browned scallops on a muscade pumpkin purée, saucisse de Morteau on lentils and incredibly tender pork shank on a potato mash. We love the Michel Roncière’s cooking as well as the calm ambiance of the place. I wouldn’t say it’s a young hip crowd, but it’s not a bunch of old fogies either.

Jeanne-Aimée - As soon as we walked in for lunch and saw the large, luminous space we knew we would probably be big fans of Jeanne-Aimée. All that space is broken up by the L-shaped room, simple wood tables and chairs and creative lighting throughout. From what onzième reported to us, the lunch menu is quite different from the options at dinner. At lunch you simply pick one of two choices from each category (entrée, plat, dessert) and all three are 35€, while at dinner you apparently can compose your menu from the entire menu: 4 courses for 59€, 5 courses for 69€. I had also heard from onzième that at dinner they serve wonderful gougères as an amuse, which are not offered at lunch. :scream: I started with a wonderfully light entrée of artichokes, onion ice cream (!) and smoked mussels on a nettle purée which was tied for deliciousness with R’s appealing coco beans and cabbage in a light Tom Kha Kai (a Thai coconut soup), with a grating of boudin noir and chestnuts. Mains and desserts were equally delightful. After dessert I made an inquiry to our lovely and lively server (it never hurts to ask, right?): “I suppose you have to come for dinner to sample some of the gougères I’ve heard so much about”? She indicated with a sly smile that she would see what she could do. A minute later five gougères showed up - hot! They really are divine. Kind of a cross between a gougère and a very buttery scone. A great ending to a lunch that I hope can be repeated next year.

Le Clarence - For the past several years we’ve wanted to visit Le Clarence and this seemed like the best year to do so. The setting is in an old hôtel particulier now owned by Prince Robert of Luxembourg, whose business also owns the Château Haut-Brion. Lunch is a fairly good deal for a two-star restaurant (110€ for a three-course lunch; 150€ for four courses) and we certainly enjoyed our lengthy lunch immensely. It never felt tedious. We could have done with fewer than the twenty-five plates they served us, but that seems to be the current trend at many high end restaurants. Thus, our scallop entrée was four small plates, our quail main about the same number. But we loved getting the breast, leg, liver, heart, tripe and who knows what else from the plump little bird. Sauces were good, but in some cases could have used a little more punch. A couple of our favorite plates were the tiny telline clams presented in a spiced up coquillage broth; and the gyoza filled with a quail liver farci sitting atop the quail breast. I needn’t go into more detail because Andy Gottlieb has already done that splendidly here. I generally don’t include photos in these little write-ups, but since one of the reasons to go to Le Clarence is to enjoy the beauty of the surroundings, I’m including a photo looking out from our table (right before all the other guests arrived).

Virtus - Dinner at Virtus last night was very good, but not “splendid” as I described our lunch there a few weeks ago. When you compare the courses we had for lunch (one superb entrée, a very good fish course, an excellent meat course and really great dessert), with what we had for dinner (two entrées that were small, unimaginative, uninspired, one excellent main, and two small unremarkable desserts), and also take into account that lunch cost 69€ and the dinner 95€ (going up 100€ after Nov. 29), well, it just doesn’t tally out. Cost aside, the new chef at Virtus is supposed to be very accomplished, but the dinner was just not up to par. Only the main - a beautiful rouget - was a standout. I don’t think it was a case of “you can’t go home again” because we thought our second meals at Pianovins, Parcelles and Dilia were as good as the first, if not better. Nevertheless, except for this dinner, our lunches at Virtus have been consistently excellent, so we will probably return to enjoying a better and more relaxed meal at midday after a visit to the Marché Aligre. (For anyone interested in the various markets in Paris, this is the site I use to check out their hours and locations: https://www.paris.fr/lieux/marches-alimentaires/tous-les-horaires )

L’Assiette - It was great to return to L’Assiette after a hiatus of several years. We walked from the apartment near Hôtel de Ville to Luxembourg Gardens and then took the 38 bus from the east side of the gardens to the Mouton-Duvernet stop, a block from the restaurant. This was our first time at L’Assiette for lunch, and even without the soft incandescent lighting of the evening it was still absolutely charming, with David Rathgeber himself welcoming us. Maybe because it was a Sunday lunch everyone seemed in a very relaxed upbeat mood. And it was a very mixed clientele: young couples, old folks, families, friends dining together. Not surprisingly, there were many tempting specialties on the ardoise, but we stuck to our favorites. Thus, although lièvre à la Royale is appearing on many fall menus, and we were sure it would be well-represented here, neither of us care for it a great deal, and it was certainly not enough to sway R away from the cassoulet. I didn’t really care what I had as long as I ended the meal with the crème caramel au beurre salé. But the rest of the lunch was equally as good, starting with a paté en croute and a main of papparadelle carbonara, with calamari subbing for the pasta. And, of course, the cassoulet was pronounced superb, with large chunks of meat, the whole casserole still bubbling away five minutes after it arrived. Somehow the afternoon just whiled away, with Rathgeber’s sommelier keeping all of our wine glasses filled.

Dilia - We loved our lunch at Dilia a couple of weeks ago so much (see Our Third Week in Paris) that we decided to return for dinner. It was well worth the risk of being disappointed. Although there were a couple of repeat dishes, for the most part the five-course menu was new. And the ambiance was completely different. What had been a calm Sunday afternoon, with patrons quietly talking and laughing, was now a lively Monday evening with everyone contributing to the vibrancy. The restaurant was absolutely full, twenty-two at tables and four at the small bar. Dear Fréderico clearly needed assistance so the chef was also busy serving plates and chatting with customers as well. (Fréderico is standing in the middle of the photo below.) The mouth-watering ravioli filled with leeks were now in a gambas broth, instead of the previous smoked sardine. The previous sole with mushrooms was replaced with églefin (a type of haddock) along with endive and the humble topinambour (sunflower root or Jerusalem artichoke) puréed. Everything was superb.

Le Maquis - This was our last lunch in Paris, and, after having trekked all the way out here along with onzième, we all decided that we loved the simple, honest food, but were disappointed that the dishes were not more innovative, although R and I were thrilled to see saucisse de Morteau on the menu. But don’t get me wrong, everything was very very good. And by 1:30 pm the small restaurant was completely full with what appeared to be locals. And who could blame them, an entrée-plat-dessert menu is offered for 23€! The selection was composed of simple basics, but well prepared. From what I’ve read they get more adventuresome in the evening. Service was friendly and efficient, with two young men handling the food and wine. We’ll definitely go back, maybe for dinner the next time. I should add, as a final note, that we had been planning to enjoy our last lunch at Les Climats, one of our long time favorites, but we opted to try Le Maquis instead after reading so many positive reviews. We don’t regret our choice in the least.


Thanks for the report!

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A woman after my own heart! Not only do we share that need for excellent coffee (hard to find in Paris; why is this?), but that crème caramel at L’Assiette is definitely worth crossing the ocean for, IMO. And also the new love of Jeanne-Aimée. However, I have never had gougères there (maybe not reading my H.O. carefully enough). Still the array have amuse-bouches they have served me in the evenings I have been there have been stellar. And I’m not sure I would trade the broccoli (seriously, broccoli) snack preparation from the last time I was there, even for gougéres.

Last time I was at Le Maquis, 'twas for dinner, I also found it ho hum, but it was probably five years ago by now.

Thanks a million for all of your reports. They are definitely informing the choices I have made for my New Year’s trip.


So envious of your New Year’s trip, Ninkat. And look forward to hearing about the highlights. Yes, happiest and merriest - and healthiest - to all of you.


Thanks for the mention of L’Assiette! It fit the bill for my solo Saturday lunch this week. The host and server were very friendly and welcoming, and the ambiance was bustling and relaxed at the same time. I can be endlessly entertained watching the ballet of Parisian food service in a place like this! I had the plat du jour, braised pork ribs with celery root purée, caramelized endive, and mâche. Sounds boring, but the composition and balance of flavors and textures made me a little emotional. For dessert, riz au lait, perhaps a bold choice when there was crème caramel to be had, but it was also delightful: just the right portion instead of a giant vat like at many other restaurants, perfectly cooked rice, and a delicious salted caramel and almond topping. The server pulled out a Morgon that was not on the menu, and it was the perfect accompaniment.
I used to post on the France discussion on CH when I lived in Paris, and it’s delightful to see that you knowledgable folks are still here posting with on-point recommendations! Thank you!