The 5th is one of those strange mixtures of old and new, water and earth, park and packed old housing. Best known to Americans are probably the Pantheon, Sorbonne and Cluny Museum.
Walking through the Latin Quarter one senses the educational, scientific and medical history of Paris as one encounters streets named Montaigne, Descartes, Curie, Gay Lussac, Broca and Claude Bernard. Far to the East is a walk in and of itself, through the Jardin des Plantes with its mini-zoo, History Museum and gardens themselves. The center of Parisian Muslimism, the great Mosquee, as well as the Val de Grace Military Hospital and Museum are in the 5th as well.
But it’s restaurants were looking for after all. The grand classic of them all, recently downgraded much to many people’s disappointment, is the numbered-duck place – Le Tour d’Argent with its spectacular view of the Seine from the upstairs dining area. Two old favorites of mine – L’Equitable and Le Reminet serve up both great food and are open on weekends. Threre’s also the classic brasserie – Marty – a cut above the others in town. I also like Atlas for pigeon pastilla and tagines as well as Chez Rene’s fabulous coq au vin.
But here’s where the hot new quarters part comes in, there are plenty of new or relatively new places. Louis Vins offers good food and a terrific assortment of wines, Le Pre Verre is a place with perhaps the best price-quality ration in town, Les Papilles makes you feel like you’re eating in a wine shop (which of course you are) and Christophe, the newest kid in town, offers solid eating amidst a sea of exotic ethnic places and tourist traps.
The 17th is a whole other ball of wax. Largely residential, it houses the Palais des Congres and was to be home to the Olympic Village if Paris’s bid had won for the 2012 Olympics.
There are not a lot of fascinating walks, save through the Poncelet market, where one does more anticipatory eating than burning off of calories. And the architecture cannot be described as fascinating either. So it’s to eat you come.
When I think of old, classical places, it’s not to the 17th thoughts turn. Indeed, while Joel Robuchon opened here a few decades ago and l’Huitrier has been around a few decades, it’s really the young upstarts who have found the 17th welcoming. Just think of the burst of energy in the area, with within a few years the following opening: the Table de Lucullus (now gone), Goupil le Bistrot, le Bistral, Ripaille, Meating and Abadache. Talk about realizing Olivier Morteau’s dream in Food Business, find a culinary desert, pop in a hard-working inventive chef and voila! Except for Meating which has a glossy sheen to it, the others are down-home and dirty bistrots serving up good grub at decent prices. And more power to them.
My very favorities among the new places are:
Le Pre Verre
8 rue Thenard, 5th (Metro: Cluny La Sorbonne)
Closed Sunday and Monday lunch
Lunch menu 13 €, dinner 26 €.
30 rue Gay Lussac, 5th (RER: Luxembourg)
Closed Sunday and Tuesday and Thursday nights
Menu 28.50 €.
8 rue Descartes, 5th, (Metro: Mauberg Mutualite
Open lunch and dinner 7/7
Formulas at 12, 16 and 19 €, a la carte about 33 €.
80, rue Lemercier, 17th (Metro : La Fourche)
T : 01.42.63.59.61
Closed Sundays and Mondays
Formula at lunch 27 €, menu 30 € (but many 3 € supplements)
122 avenue de Villiers, 17th (Metro: Pereire)
T : 01 43 80 10 10
Closed Sundays and Mondays
Menus 50-60 € for lunch, 60-89 € for dinner
4 rue Clause Debussy, 17th (Metro : Porte de Champarret)
T : 01.45.74.83.25
Closed Saturdays and Sundays
A la carte 40 €.
©2006 John A. Talbott