FAQ: The Hottest/Best Bistrot in Paris? After That, What?

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FAQ: The Hottest/Best Bistrot in Paris?  After That, What?
Not too long ago I got another request to give the writer a list of the “hottest places” in Paris and without much of a thought reeled off: Spring, Frenchie, Le Régalade St-Honoré, Ze Kitchen Galerie and if one believes the blogosphere: Chez l’Ami Jean, le Cinq, l’Arpège and l’Ami Louis. Now I understand that some American visitors only want to eat at the “hot” places but there’s something almost obscene about a list like this; it implies that the other 2390 places listed in, say, Pudlo aren’t worth a detour, far less a visit. And nothing could be further from the truth. Even Figaroscope got into this gutter, publishing an article entitled “What to do when the place you call is fully booked”, listing “hot” places and an acceptable alternative. In running competitions—for example, the Boston Marathon—only one person can “win” but the other thousands of runners are pushing to their personal best whether they finish 2nd or last. So, in this, my practically last essay on my blog for 2010, I want to give you the unSprings or antiFrenchies, places that do their personal bests every meal and go largely unsung and tell you why they deserve our attention. 6.2 Chez Georges, 1 rue du Mail in the 2nd, (Metro: Sentier), 01.42.60.07.11, closed weekends and holidays, has had a totally new team in charge since July 1st. It’s all à la carte on a mimeographed-looking almost illegible menu and has all the bistro classics one craves or at least we did: oeufs mayo, salade frisée with lardons, a fricasée of rabbit with girolles and potatoes, sweetbreads in a creamy sauce with morels, baba au rhum and a tarte tatin and crème fraîche. On Colette’s and my latest meal there October 27th our bill was 134 E.  (NB: All prices given here, unless otherwise stated, are for lunch and include one bottle of wine, no bottled water and coffees). 6.2 Casse Noix, 56, rue de la Fédération in the 15th, (Metro: Bir-Hakeim or Dupleix), 01.45.66.09.01, closed weekends, has a variety of formulas, menu-cartes and specials that run one anywhere from 16 to 35 € for a meal and has as its chef Pierre-Olivier Lenormand who has been through the kitchens of La Régalade, Camelot, Jamin & the Crillon. Grégoire Maurel of Le Fooding noted that UNESCO in declaring French food part of its patrimony was surely referring to the type of dishes served here: a pâté of chicken liver, two types of superb bread, sautéed foie gras with wonderful salad and quince slices, line-caught bar with a sautéed, chopped endive base, sautéed scallops and a floating island. On our last and only meal here (though we’ll return in a fortnight), December 2nd, our bill was 84 E. 6.0 Les Fines Gueules, 43, rue Croix des Petits Champs in the 1st, (Metro: Les Halles), 01.42.61.35.41, is open every day (including in July and August) and has recently undergone a change in chefs to a Japanese guy but it seems totally unchanged, featuring as always the best products from the best growers or distributors, e.g., first-class butter and bread. They serve dishes such as a ceviche of sardines with chopped tomatoes and lovely greens, heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella salad, cold lisettes with a gelée of coriander and veal carpaccio with the lightest of nutty Italian olive oils and 36-month-old parmesan; a chunk of cochon, crisp on the fatty outside and tender and tasty on the lean inside with a huge amount of sautéed girolles, a charcuterie-cheese platter, huge leeks with Iberico ham, free-range pintade and pot of chocolate. My bills have run the gamut from 87 to 121 E depending on how much food and what level of wine was ordered (the last meal was August 27th). 6.0 Villa Victoria, (ex-Velly), 52, Rue Lamartine in the 9th (Metro: ND de Lorette), 01.48.78.60.05, closed Saturdays and Sundays in July and August, has had a most unusual thing happen to it and/or its chef since it opened and closed as Velly, a place I thought was horrid—it got vastly better. Dishes include such items as foie gras wrapped around ham with salad, de-shelled snails with the usual parsley/butter sauce, undercooked bar on a bed of petits pois and an overcooked (my fault—I forget to specify) double Iberian pork chop with red peppers, a moelleux of chocolate, kiwi sorbet and cactus. My last meal here was July 23rd and ran 98 E for two. 6.0 L’Agapé Bistrot, 75 Ave Niel in the 17th (Metro: Péreire), 01.42.27.88.44, closed weekends, is an off-shoot of L’Agapé where I’ve eaten three times in recent years, the last time June 25th with Colette. It has a forced-choice 2 courses for 30 E, 3 for 35 E, and other menus at 55 and 77 E. The sorts of things they had my first and only visit July 21st included the mackerel with a “suprême” of grapefruit, a rollatine of chicken with foie gras, lieu jaune = pollack, which was served with perfectly cooked, almost raw veggies, a bavette with Noirmoutier potatoes and a vanilla crème brûlée.  The bill here, as opposed to the Mother House L’Agapé which is a bit more reasonable, was 146 E. 6.0 Le Pavillon du Lac, Parc des Buttes Chaumont in the 19th, (Metro: Buttes-Chaumont), 01.42.00.07.21, closed Mondays, is a place that looks like it’s been there forever but that was just its restoration. On a warm sunny day, this is an ideal spot for a great lunch with a salad of mâche, tomatoes, baby corn, artichokes, leeks and ham, salmon with a toasty skin and beautiful vegetables and two types of French beef (Charolais and Salers) with a mâche salad.  Our bill at the last and only meal I’ve had here on July 18th was 77E. 6.0 Le Philou, 12, ave Richerand in the 10th, (Metro: Republique) 01.42.38.00.13, closed Sundays and Mondays, is a good place near the terribly branché Canal St Martin and thus a real find. Plus the prices are “right:” one course is 15 E,…
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