Over the years, I’ve taken a special interest in articles and sites on the web that feature reasonably-priced meals in Paris. One of the problems comparing them, however, is they use different standards; some just quote dishes of the day, 2-course “formulas” or 3-course “menus;” some include a glass or wine or small bottled water; some give lunch prices and others a la carte at night (always more).
In this essay, I will give prices at lunch for 3-course “menus,” i.e., prix fixe meals, without wine, water or coffee. One should recall that the commonly accepted price for a reasonably-priced meal is 30 Euros or less and that a check of 100 Euros for a couple at lunch that includes wine and coffee remains a terrific buy. (Try to achieve this in New York at non-ethnic restaurants).
I will also concentrate on places serving French food that have opened or reopened after a renovation, new owner, new chef or other change. Thus Shan Gout in the 12th, where one can eat superb and innovative Chinese food, with wine and coffee for under 30 Euros, is not included, even though it would be an ideal stop on alighting from the TGV at the Gare de Lyon.
The critics’ hit of the Spring semester is clearly the quirkily named but wonderfully executed Frenchie in the 2nd, chef’d by a young genius, Gregory Marchand, whose apprentice tour of restaurants took him through Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen and Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern. Marchand has a 19 Euro three-course “menu” (16 Euros for two courses) that has only two dishes each for each course, but all are market-driven and beautifully prepared.
The bargain of the year, however, has got to be found at the recently resuscitated Le Reminet in the 5th. Long a favorite of ours, especially on weekends, it fell on hard times a few years ago but with the takeover by a new crew, has landed on its feet successfully. Upon reopening, they charged 14 Euros for (again a 2/2/2) “menu” which they cut 50 cents off when the TVA was reduced in July. Everything here too looks fresh and inventive, but one should be warned that straying from the weekday lunch “menu” can easily result in three courses running 50 Euros, before wine and coffee or bottled water.
Another resuscitation occurred at Le Marcab in the 15th, where the chef Yann Le Port has a team that puts out a 3-course “menu” 7 days a week for 16 Euros that is just great. Like the above, he uses fresh products, serves good soups and cheaper types of fish (arctic char, salmon, cod, rougets) as well as crumbles and fruit salads. But despite the snooty crowd and intimidating décor and furniture, put on a clean shirt and you’ll fit in.
Finally, the return of one of France’s most creative chefs, Gilles Choukroun, he of the Café des Delices, who more recently diverted himself by the Angl’Opera, Café Very + MiniPalais with mixed results, has opened MBC in the 17th. I realize 29 euros is a stretch for backpackers on the strict budget, although one can have two very filling courses for 19 Euros. Choukroun is known for his love of “exotic”, read Asian, spices and herbs, fresh products and interesting combinations – MBC stands for mint, basil and coriander.
I suppose I should end with one recommendation that will equally well push your budget but also your palate – a lunch at the strangely named Ze Kitchen Galerie, in the 6th, run by another inventive, Asian and market-influenced chef William Ledeuil. While 35 Euros does cover three courses and some of his “menus” used to have a glass of wine included, I’ve always found that the best way to order is to ignore whether things are marked entrée, plat a la plancha, etc., and just order and let them figure out how it fits on the bill. (Disclaimer: I come here so often, every time Colette is in town, in fact, and write so much about it, one might think I’m on his payroll, but while he does treat me to an extra something each time, I’d like to think it in no way influences my opinion, certainly it didn’t the first two times when I was not recognized).
Places to consider are:
5, rue du Nil, 2nd, (Metro: Sentier)
T:01 40 39 96 19
Closed Sundays, Mondays and Tuesday lunch
Menus: lunch 16 for 2 dishes and 19 € for three – dinner 27 or 33 €.
3, rue des Grands-Degres, 5th (Metro : St Michel, Maubert-Mutualite)
T : 01.44.07.04.24
Lunch menu 13.50 €, dinner a la carte 40-60 €.
225, rue de Vaugirard, 15th, (Metro: Volontaires)
Menus for 16, 25 and 35 €
4, rue du Debarcadere, 17th (Metro: Porte Maillot)
Closed Saturday noon and Sundays
Lunch menu 20, dinner 45, 65 and 80 €
Ze Kitchen Galerie
4, rue des Grands Augustins, 6th (Metro: Saint Michel)
T: 01 44 32 00 32
A la carte 30-50 €.
22, rue Hector Malo, 12th (Metro: Gare de Lyon)
Menus: 27, 30 and 35, a la carte about 30 €.
Blog: John Talbott’s Paris 
©by John Talbott 2009
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