I have just returned from two weeks in France, traveling solo and focusing on the wine regions in Bordeaux and Burgundy, as well as some time spent in the Dordogne. Since I had just a few days in Paris I wanted to share my experiences as this board was very helpful in making my choices.
On this particular visit I decided to forgo tasting menus and Michelin star restaurants in Paris, since I would be doing quite a few elsewhere in France. What I was specifically looking for were neighborhood places with good food, an interesting clientele (some locals but tourist friendly) and good value. So I am acknowledging the below list might be less than exciting to many, but might still be helpful to others.
Between many days in the SW gorging myself on wine and very rich food I had one day in Paris before continuing to Burgundy. I wanted something pretty reasonable and with non-meat options as I was in danger of turning into a large piece of foie gras at that point. I chose Brasserie Martin in the 11th. It is truly hard to find fault with such a winning formula; the atmosphere was young and very fun (tons of locals celebrating various things) and I love the concept of charging you for only the wine you drink from the bottle brought to your table. The menu was a hodgepodge of fairly traditional dishes, and I opted for a starter of the vinaigrette leeks followed by their veggie dish which was soft pillowy gnocchi served in a creamy cheese sauce dotted with broccoli, mushrooms and hazelnuts. The food was not earth shattering but it was flavorful and prepared well and I so wish I had a neighborhood restaurant like this close. It would be a fine fit for date nights, groups, families, etc.
After time in Burgundy I had just a few days in Paris before heading home. I booked Tekes in advance as I knew I really wanted to try one of the well regarded Levantine restaurants, and the menu was the most appealing to me. It is the vegetarian companion from the Shabour team and as a solo diner was looking forward to sitting at the counter and watching the chefs in action. Wow- this was an amazing meal! The name of the restaurant means “ceremony” in Hebrew and it really feels like you are at a party. I talked through the courses and options with the chef so I knew exactly what to order and I settled on small plates including the laffa bread course, the aija (zucchini with potato cakes and tzatziki) as well as the very famous gnocchi with a quite sophisticated curry sauce and yogurt. As she was preparing dishes for other tables she also sent over servings of the fatoush and later the chocolate mousse on the house. The wine list was incredibly small and thoughtful and I tried a delicious red from Armenia.
I wanted to dine at a good local bistro and L’Apibo was close and had just posted their autumn carte. When I arrived at 8:30 there were two tables of tourists finishing up, but the rest of the clientele seemed local and the place stayed completely full. I was seated next to a group of co-workers who it turned out work in the Paris branch of the same firm I work for in the US; a happy coincidence. My starter was a rich pumpkin veloute with a chicken confit ravioli and toasted chestnuts, and for the main I had the slow cooked pork with sweet potato mousseline. It is neighborhood restaurants like this that Paris does better than just about any other city; places where the food is fresh and creative at very reasonable price points. Again, this was not a bistronomic meal, but well prepared and highlighting the bounty of the season.
Finally for my last meal in France I decided I wanted one very traditional meal of steak au poivre and frites. Based on recommendations from this board I booked at Aux Crus de Bourgogne and it was very nice. The setting was perfect and the clientele was a mix of tourists and locals. I got so chummy with the table next to me that they bought me a Calvados with their digestif. The frisee salad with poached egg was yummy and the steak of poivre perfectly rare and tender. I confess I haven’t had the Paul Bert version but I’m not sure why people would go out of their way for just one famous place when delicious steaks are being served elsewhere. On special that night were lots of interesting game dishes as well. The staff was also fun and flirty, and it was definitely an upbeat room, obviously not at all stuffy or pretentious.