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The Wall Street Journal said December 10-11th, 2005, that the “Trendy….New ‘Hood” was to be found in the 10th, 11th, 19th and 20th. As with their editorial pages, they’re a bit out of date. In a series beginning this month, I will cover the nouveauties in every arrondissement correlating with the month (e.g., January = the 1st, February the 2nd, etc) and attempt to demonstrate with a few exceptions, that the explosion in new cuisine is happening all over Paris.
Oh, for those of us who pretend to be historians of restaurants, we’ve certainly seen hot areas come and not go, but be supplanted by other areas. In the 1950’s, for those of us lucky enough to have considered ourselves students, the area on the Left Bank around the Sorbonne and the Pantheon (the 5th and 6th) was our cuisine-epicenter, since at that point any Vietnamese restaurant or places like Balzar were the pinnacle of our knowledge of French cooking, or if splurging we went for the pressed duck at the Tour d’Argent, for the philosophers and intellectuals to Lipp, in order to sit at Hemingway’s table to the Closerie des Lilas and only very reluctantly went to the right bank for the ambiance, champagne and history at Maxim’s; in the 1960’s, things shifted steadily towards the Right Bank, and Americans, at least, discovered treasures such as Chez Pauline, Prunier, Aux Lyonnais, L’Ami Louis and Benoit in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th; in the 1970’s there was some reshuffling, with a move to the shell outside the center of the snail (Paris’s 20 arrondissements resemble an escargot to some), in the 7th and 8th, with the fantastic cooking to be found at Chez les Anges, Alain Senderens’ Archestrate, Chiberta, Lasserre, Laurent, Lucas-Carton, La Marée and (who can forget it) Taillevent; in the 1980’s, the map began to fill out even more, with trips to the 16th and 17th, to feast at Pre Catalan, La Grande Cascade, Joel Robuchon’s Jamin, Michel Rostang’s Bistrot d’a Coté and Le Petit Colombier; and then in the 1990’s, the flowering of the chefs setting up shop (and/or our finding them) in the undiscovered quartiers – 16 Haussman in the 9th, Thierry Breton at Chez Michel in the 10th, Le Repaire de Cartouche in the 11th, A la Biche Au Bois in the 12th, Beauvilliers in the 18th, Eric Frechon at Le Restaurant in the 19th and Les Allobroges in the 20th.
Not so long ago, in February 2004, in a book entitled “Food Business: La face cachée de la gastronomie française,” (translation: The Hidden side of French cuisine) by the pseudonymous Olivier Morteau, the author(s) state(s) that the new, successful, neo-bistrots follow a predictable, new set of rules: find a reasonably priced building in a gastronomically underserved area, be nice and friendly, and get a chef who is talented and can prepare dishes that are reasonably priced – summary: find a talented chef and plunk him in a culinary desert in Paris and let him thrive. And while the WSJ may think that only the 10th, 11th, 19th and 20th qualify, I think that in the ensuing months we’ll see that all of Paris is subject to the phenomenon of new restos setting up and succeeding in strange out-of-the-tourist-lane areas. So on with it; next week: January and the 1st arrondissement.
My favorites from the above that are still alive and well are:
10 rue de Belzunce, 10th (Metro : Gare du Nord)
T : 01 44 53 06 20
Closed Sunday, Monday and all of August.
About 30 € a la carte
Le Repaire de Cartouche
99, rue Amelot / 8 b des Filles de Calvaire, 11th (Metro : Filles de Calvaire)
T : 01 47 00 25 86.
Closed Sundays and Mondays
23 € menu at lunch, a la carte, 30 to 45 €