And it just so happens I do, I do. Here are several that I highly recommend.
1) L’affriolé is located near the Eiffel Tower in Paris’ 7ème arrondissement. Owned by couple Maria and Thierry Verola, both of whom speak perfect English, this restaurant offers a fixed menu: entrée (appetizer), plat (main dish) and dessert for 35€ not including beverages. I happened upon this quaint restaurant of about 15 tables totally by accident and was totally blown away by the quality/price value. You are in for a gourmet, Michelin star meal elegantly plated with a flourish, for a fraction of the price. (Note: the food and owners are great, but the decor reminds me of a cafeteria. The atmosphere is the only draw back for a romantic dinner.)
The set three-course formula has a twist at L’affriolé. You cannot order à la carte so go hungry! You choose each course from a menu of the various selections including an array of fresh daily specials. The wine list is correct for France and the first price for a bottle of Red is 30€.
So what was so special, you might ask. It was the flawless serve and little extras the owners showered upon us. We began with a plate of fresh radishes with homemade olive butter (to die for!), fresh baked baguette flutes and sea salt. This amuse-bouche, which is French for “amuse the mouth”, or hors d’oeurve was brought to us on the house. After dinner, as we were enjoying a café noisette Theirry brought over a plate of flavored mousse cups as a digestif, also on the house.
Our amuse-bouche of radishes with butter and baguette is a traditional French appetizer. The first time I tried it was the very first time I went to my then-boyfriend’s parents’ country house for the weekend. I watched silently as my future mother-in-law took a piece of baguette, spread a healthy layer of butter over top (very un-French as the French hardly ever eat butter with their baguette except at breakfast), cut her radish into lengthwise strips and placed them atop the buttered baguette, sprinkling sea salt over the whole. I’d never really liked radishes before, but this procedure would make anything look good. I’ve since changed my mind about radishes.
My meal at L’affriolé was truly exceptional, without a tent of what my husband calls my American exaggeration. The stuffed pequin peppers served to look like a Mexican sombrero were followed by lightly crisped, battered sole fingers on a bed of fresh French beans. The chocolate ice cream and pastry dessert that rounded out my meal can only be described as an explosion of Ferrero Rocher. Simply divine.
I can honestly tell you that of all the restaurants I’ve been to in Paris so far, this is one of the best both for the quality of the food, its presentation, the top-notch service, the hospitality and the value.
- L’affriolé, 17 rue Malar, 75007. Open Monday through Saturday from 19h30.
- I’d make a reservation if your planning on going on Thursday – Saturday.
- 01 44 18 31 33
2) Au Fil des Saisons offers a different sort of atmosphere although an equally pleasant one. Perhaps slightly less impressive in terms of food quality/price value and presentation, the food is delicious traditional French fare. More casual, this tiny spot of only about 10 tables off the beaten path of the Republique area of Paris’ 3ème arrondissement boasts one of the best servers I’ve had the pleasure of encountering in a long while. He’s got capital P personality. Menus range from the typical entrée + plat or plat + dessert for 24€ or all three courses for 28€. This is average for Paris. The wine list is rather extensive for such a petite place. When we were there on a Thursday evening, it was full by 9pm so reservations never hurt.
I chose the three-course menu: beginning with stuffed ravioli, followed by grilled Dover served with a mushroom risotto and ending off with profiteroles (pastry and vanilla ice cream smothered in hot chocolate sauce – the French answer to a brownie sundae), my meal was all around delectable. My husband ordered the foie gras en entrée and tartar as his main course; both won his approval with a “c’est très bien.” The French are notorious for their lack of enthusiasm, almost as much as we Americans are infamously overly animated, so ‘it’s really good’ means something coming from a Frenchman.
- Au Fil des Saisons, 6 rue des Fontaines du Temple, 75003. Open Tuesday-Saturday for dinner and Monday – Friday for lunch.
- Reservations 01 42 74 16 60 (They speak English too.)
3) Matsuri – This restaurant takes us in a totally different direction from the first two. If you have a hankering for sushi in Paris and you like the conveyor belt atmosphere, Matsuri is your best bet. Begun as a French – Japanese partnership, the restaurant has now expanded to 15 locations in France. A touch pricey, I must admit, as sushi in France is not considered corner-shop fast food like back home, Matsuri offers credible sushi, sake and Japanese beer. The conveyor belt atmosphere is fun and relaxed.
- Matsuri, 74, rue du Bac, 75007. Open everyday from 12-3 and from 7pm-11pm.
- Reservations 01 45 49 19 92
4) Shu – For those of you who are looking for a Japanese restaurant a little less industrial, with a real traditional flair, I have to recommend a little place where a Japanese friend of mine recently took me for dinner. As you arrive at Shu, you wouldn’t be the first to mistake it as a false address. The restaurant is literally through a half door in what appears to be a hole in the wall. The reality is anything but. Elegant, traditional, sophisticated and expensive, this is Japanese cuisine in Paris at its finest. The service is completely authentic and first-class as it the food. I’d recommend going with someone who understands the food choices or who has experience with non-Americanized sushi and Japanese food, because this is the real deal. So much so that I can’t even tell you what I ate that night. I just know I loved it. And the experience of being in this cave carved out of an ancient stone building in Saint Germain, well that’s matchless. But be careful not to hit your head on the way through the tiny half door when you do find it!
- Shu, 8, rue Suger 75006. Open 6:30-11 Monday- Saturday and Thursday-Saturday for lunch.
- Reservations 01 46 34 25 88
5) Pain Vin Fromage, 3 rue Geoffroy l’Avgevin, 75004 near the Pompidou Center (need reservations)
The place in Paris for raclettes and fondus – melted cheese! Traditional mountain French food. A great little place with friendly service. Seating is limited so I recommend reservations.
6) L’homme Tranquille, 81 rue des Martyrs, 75018. Open Tuesday to Saturday.
This is one of my favorite restaurants in Paris. A small candle-lit place at the foot of Montmartre, this family run restaurant serves delicious traditional French family-recipe food. Antonie is the patron and he’s good fun. You can’t go wrong with this place.
7) Au Pieds de Fouet, 3 rue Saint Benoit, 75006 (St Germain des Pres). Open everyday except Sunday.
This is another of my favorites. It has been in the same family for 150 years. It’s traditional French cuisine, small, quaint. I love it. I actually spent my birthday there in September. Note: it’s busy and they don’t take reservations for small groups so go there around 7:30pm (which is early for dinner in France). And sadly, it has become a little touristy in recent years. But it’s still a great choice.
8) Le Chalet des Iles, Porte de la Muette, Lac du Bois de Boulogne, 75016. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations are a good idea for dinner or on weekends.
This restaurant is on an island in the Bois Boulogne and you have to take a little river boat to get to it. Being a touch outside the downtown touristy area of Paris, you might want to take a taxi to get there. But it’s an experience. I took my parents there when they met my fiancé before I was married. Good food, and a little something different.