Les Top CinqJune 6, 2007 at 4:11 pm | Posted in food | 8 Comments
JChevais asked, and I shall oblige: my five favorite restaurants in Paris.
This was actually a pretty tough list to put together, since I have as many different favorites as I have moods, and of course I’m sure to forget some. Worse yet, many of my old haunts aren’t worth mentioning since they reside only in my memory these days — they’ve long since disappeared or developed new chefs. So don’t think this list is set in stone — I’m just going to do my best to name five Paris restaurants that I have enjoyed recently, because who knows? I may well have a new favorite by tomorrow.
1. Le Vieux Moulin
I’m mentioning this first because it’s fresh in my mind — I tried it for the first time a couple of nights ago. And what endeared it to me? An unbeatable combo: good food, cheap prices, a fabulously kitschy decor, plus it’s right around the corner from my house.
I was a particular fan of the fried quail eggs and their army of tiny yolks. But we also had some very accomplished magret d’oie, venison, and rabbit — pretty elaborate dishes for such tiny prices. And although the meal sounds fairly traditional French, everything was dressed up with very subtle asian touches — a creme d’asperges made with sesame and water chestnuts, for example. See more of the meal (and the whimsical decor) here.
2. Le Pré Catelan
Number two has no pictures, I’m sorry to say, as my last meal there predates my digcam by about a year. Nevertheless, it was a terrific and deeply memorable experience that I’d recommend to anyone who has the means and opportunity.
A highlight from my notes: Pigeoneau in a sort of faux-couscous. It was amazing, because they had elegantly dashed just the tiniest bit of harissa along the side of the plate, and it was like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. I mean, I love harissa, and I have it all the time, but it is very spicy with a powerful earthy flavor. This harissa really wasn’t spicy at all, yet even a tiny amount flavoured the rest of the bite with an intense and yet familiar earthy aroma, which nevertheless did not overpower the other flavors at all. I can only describe it as like a dream of harissa – like somehow they managed to distill the essence of harissa and then inject it directly into your soul.
Unfortunately, now that the Pré Catelan has earned its third Michelin star, all hopes of obtaining a reservation sometime this decade have been dashed. Feel free to live vicariously through this blog, though.
4. Now I’m going to have to give a shout-out to another local favorite, which I don’t think I’ve mentioned here before: Bistrot le Vauquelin, on the corner of Vauquelin and Claude Bernard. I consider this place a real treasure, because I don’t know of many places like it left in Paris. It’s only open for lunch, and only weekdays, but it serves an ever-changing menu of French standards for extremely reasonable prices. Eleven Euro get you an appetizer or dessert, plus a hearty main course… and a quarter liter of wine! That’s hard to beat, even if it means you’ll wind up dozing away the afternoon.
Plus, they get extra credit for combining two of my favorite foods: chocolate and banana.
5. Okay, don’t hate me — but the fifth slot is going to have to go to a big guilty pleasure of mine. No real Parisian would ever admit that he eats here, but the place is always full so… Yes, I’m talking about Hippopotamus Grill. It’s the place I go when I’m too cranky or distressed to be bothered picking one sauce to top my steak — at Hippo Grill, you can demand them all, like the little piggy (hippo?) you know you are!
It’s not the best deal in town, but it’s nice to know that for a reasonable price, you can get a juicy steak, a heaping pile of fries (they’ll bring more if you run out), and five decadent sauces to smear all over everything. It may not be glamorous, but it’s a little piece of heaven.
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