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The eleventh arrondissement, which Americans may think of as immensely important historically, is really only significant for having once housed the Bastille prison, whose destruction was the symbol of the French revolution. I recall entering the Place de la Bastille at age 18 and being hugely disappointed that there was no decrepit building, crumbling wall or pile of bricks commemorating the site of the origin of French democracy, as I saw it. Just this rather banal column with an as yet un-reburnished statue of Liberty on top and a supposed vault underneath containing some 500 victims of the event.
In modern times, the Place is better known for the evening balls on or before the 14th of July and the start of the annual gay pride parade and weekly skating tours of the city. Manifs, the modern equivalent of revolutionary uprisings, indeed, are more likely to start or end around the Place de la Republique than the Bastille. And while I love the deep stage and high proscenium arch of the Bastille Opera (as well as the productions held within), its strangely unused grand front steps and Russian facade are off-putting.
The most popular places for walking are the almost 2-kilometer long stretch of the Canal Saint Martin, cleverly covered by the Boulevards Richard Lenoir and Jules Ferry, between the Bastille and the Square Lemaitre and the Pere Lachaise cemetery, whose principal attraction for Americans is the tomb of Jim Morrison, easily located by following the trail of second-hard marijuana smoke.
Way back in January when I began this project, I was mocking the WSJ article of Dec 10-11th, 2005, that said that the “new hot quarters” were the 10th, 11th, 19th and 20th. While true, I felt there was such an explosion of talent spreading throughout the city that no arrondissement could be singled out as “hot.”
But for the past several years, I too have sensed that the 11th really rocked with a whole bunch of new places that were largely inexpensive and inventive. My other reference was Olivier Morteau (the anonymous tweaker of the pooh-bahs of French cuisine) whose formula for success for new restos a Paris was to “go to a culinary wasteland, cook inventively and charge more reasonable prices”.
Perusing a guide like Pudlo or Lebey one is struck that most of the places mentioned are new. If memory serves me only Amogenes, Astier, Villaret and the Le Repaire de Cartouche are “old,” places like the the Bistrot Paul Bert, l’Ecailler du Bistrot, Les Jumeaux, Le Marsagny, Le Muse Vin and Chez Ramulaud have opened in the last decade. And most recently, we’ve seen the appearance of a whole new cast of characters, all interesting, good and reasonable : e.g., Le Chateaubriand, Le Sot l’y laisse, Temps au temps and Le Vieux Chene.
So, if one must pick only one really hot new quarter, the 11th gets my vote.
My current favorites are :
Le Temps au Temps
13, rue Paul Bert, 11th (Metro : Faidherbe-Chaligny or Charonne)
T : 01.43.79.63.40
Closed Sundays and Mondays
Menus at lunch, 11 €, 13 €, 16 €, menu-carte 27 €.
Le Repaire de Cartouche
8 blvd des Filles du Calvaire, 11th (Metro : Filles du Calvaire)
T : 01.47.00.25.86
Closed Sundays and Mondays
Lunch menus 13 & 24 €, a la carte 35-45 €.
l’Ecailler du Bistrot
22, rue Paul-Bert, 11th (Metro : Faidherbe-Chaligny)
T: 01 43 72 76 77
Closed Saturday noon and Sunday
A la carte 25-30 €.
©2006 John A. Talbott