The “Zagat Master”

The “Zagat Master”
by Anne Benveniste


Paris: city of light, capital of haute couture, and birthplace of fine dining.  But “fine dining” as an adjective definitely does not give French cuisine the justice it deserves.  How do you describe the flaky croissants, the freshly-baked baguettes, the picture-perfect raspberry tarts, or the burnt sugar on top of a vanilla crème brulée? Delectable? Extraordinary? …and those are just desserts.  What about the “entre-cote de boeuf” with béarnaise sauce and French fries, or the soupe à l’oignon loaded with salty Gruyere, or the poulet roti you know they’ve been basting for hours?



Basically, I’d been dreaming of eating in Paris since I signed my name at the bottom of my semester abroad application form.  But seeing as any dinner out in the French capital will put you back more than a couple euros, I set aside funds from my summer job in an envelope labeled “Donations for My Taste Buds”…



So, with all these high expectations and my mounting anticipation, there was no way I was getting ripped off.  I marched myself into Barnes & Noble and bought a Zagat Paris.  Good ol’ Zagat, the Bible of restaurant reviews, it has actually become an extension of my body… a sort of fifth limb if you will.  My friends no longer bother offering restaurant suggestions as there is a 110% chance I’ve read the review and discerningly either added or dropped it from my “Must Eat Here Before I Die” list.  You might say I take my meals seriously.



Well, after a month and a half, we’ve definitely made headway, and the binding of my Zagat is already showing signs of love.  I’m no food critic, but I know a good time when I find one.  So, if you enjoy the universally popular social event we call “eating”, then you need a base restaurant repertoire: a couple key places for different moods.  Here are my recommendations, straight from the horse’s mouth… or the “Zagat Master” as they like to call me.



  • Bring a growling stomach to Le Crêperie Josselin located off Boulevard Montparnasse in the 14th.  Some call these the best crepes in Paris, and I’d have to agree.  The restaurant is nosily filled with all types of people spanning all ages who are all trying, just like you, to finish their larger than life crepes. Be sure and order pitchers of the cider – the cardinal rule in crepe accompaniment – and polish off your meal with a dessert crêpe.  My personal recommendation would be apples topped with that oh-so-sinful crème fraishe whipped cream that only the French can seem to get right.  Then pay the bill and waddle home.


  • How romantic! You’ll fall in love with the décor, the staff, the food, and the prices at Le Petit Prince de Paris, a lovely restaurant near the Pantheon.  When we arrived for our 10:00 p.m. reservation, we had to wait about 30 minutes until we were finally seated.  But this usually vexing episode was transformed into a delightful half hour where we chatted with the hostess and sipped “forgive us” bellinis.  The menu offered awesome prix-fixed options of creatively delicious old-French cuisine (goat cheese with fig chutney, duck with apple-cinnamon sauce, fresh strawberry mille-feuille) and was served by joking, friendly staff.   Cloaked in candlelight, the restaurant was filled mostly with couples, but even if you’re just with friends this restaurant and its pleasantly fine food is a must.


  • Groove to the Arabic beats, take in the Moroccan décor, and try and sit down at the impossibly low tables at Le 404.  Despite reservations it took a while to be seated and the menu was slightly overwhelming but it turned out we could have just closed our eyes and pointed; everything from the couscous to the tagines to the fresh fish was amazing!  If your taste buds are becoming bored of bread and cheese then give them a treat by coming here – end your night dancing on the tables with the stylish clientele.



If, like me, you’re serious about eating well, buy yourself a Zagat and flip through it for more ideas.  However, if you’re more low-key, just keep your eye out for busy restaurants filled with Parisians – be sure and stay away from touristy locations by the Opera, Notre Dame or the Champs-Elysees.  For those wanting to watch their euros, I would always recommend the Latin Quarter (5th and 6th) and Le Marais (3rd and 4th) for a wide range of choices populated by younger crowds.  And if all else fails remember you’re in France, you can never go wrong with a baguette.



Alors, Bon Appétit!




Le Crêperie Josselin


67, rue du Montparnasse, 75014


Open: until and beyond 11:00 p.m., seven days a week


Price: approximately 20€ per person for dinner crepe, dessert crepe, cider


Credit Cards not accepted


Métro: Edgar Quinet or Montparnasse Bienvenue




Le Petit Prince de Paris


12, rue Lanneau, 75005


Open: until and beyond 11:00 p.m., seven days a week


Price: approximately 35€ for three courses, wine


Métro: Maubert-Mutualité



Le 404
69, rue des Gravilliers, 75003

Open: until and beyond 11:00 p.m., seven days a week


Price: approximately 30€ for three courses, wine


Métro: Arts et Métiers
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