Sloppy Hot Dogs to Three-Star Meals: Paris Dine & Deal

Pierre Koffmann
London-based chef Pierre Koffmann at Chez Georges, a traditional brasserie in Paris. Photographer: Richard Vines/Bloomberg

You can dine out well or badly in many capitals. Paris is the same, only the highs are higher and the lows are more disappointing.

The city is home to some of the world’s finest restaurants and, if you can afford them, you are lucky. Drop into an inexpensive place at random and you are going to need luck.

Here are some establishments to try across the price range.

1: Agape Substance: 66 Rue Mazarine, 75006. Information: or +33-1-4329-3383.

What: A casual restaurant where 18 diners share a long counter and eat small seasonal dishes. There are three tables for two.

Why: Agape Substance is unusual for Paris, both in the modern approach to gastronomy and in the seating. Vegetables and fish are to the fore, rather than meat, and the cooking can be accomplished and original. If you are having a private meeting or wish to avoid interruption, it may not be for you.

Metro: Odeon.

When: Good for lunch. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Bar: No.

Private room: No.

Sound level: Buzzy. The proximity of other diners pushes the decibel rating up to 77.

2: Albion: 80 Rue du Faubourg Poissonniere, 75010. Information: or +33-1-4246-0244.

What: It’s a neighborhood bistro with a British chef, Matthew Ong, whose business partner is a New Zealander, Hayden Clout.

Why: For visitors to Paris who don’t know French, it can be comforting to go somewhere where people speak English so well. Fortunately, that’s not the main attraction at Albion: Ong produces very good, unfussy food in his tiny kitchen, while Clout’s wine list is affordable and accessible.

Metro: Poissonniere.

When: Good for lunch, when it is popular with office workers.

Bar: There’s a small bar but you have to eat there.

Private room: No.

Sound level: Not noisy, 70-75 decibels.

3: L’Arpege, 84 Rue de Varenne, 75007. Information: or +33-1-4705-0906.

What: Chef Alain Passard’s three-Michelin-star restaurant.

Why: Passard is an influential chef who has pioneered the use of vegetables, generally from his own garden. The seasonal dishes are light and the garden menu served at lunchtime is an introduction to the kind of cooking that has made Passard famous in the food world. The dining room is charming.

Metro: Rue du Bac.

When: L’Arpege is open from Monday to Friday. Lunchtimes are best if you are on a budget.

Bar: No.

Private room: Salon for as many as 15.

Sound level: Quiet: 70 decibels.

4: L’Astrance: 4 Rue Beethoven, 75016. Information: +33-1-4050-8440. (No website.)

What: Intimate three-Michelin-star restaurant of chef Pascal Barbot.

Why: This discreet restaurant is a destination for food lovers from around the world. Barbot goes to the market each morning and cooks dishes whose purity and simplicity are reminiscent of Japanese cuisine.

Metro: Passy.

When: There are three menus at lunchtime, with the cheapest at 70 euros ($93), or 120 euros with matching wines. In the evening, the only option is the 210 euro menu, which is seven courses plus dessert. Whenever you want to go, it’s worth booking early: There are only 25 seats.

Bar: No.

Private room: No.

Sound level: Hushed: 65-70 decibels.

5: Auguste: 54 Rue de Bourgogne, 75007. Information: +33-1-4551-6109.

What: Gastronomic restaurant of Breton chef and scuba diver Gael Orieux, a champion of sustainability.

Why: This restaurant is popular with politicians. An expense account helps. Orieux formerly worked under Yannick Alleno at Le Meurice. While the service was curiously detached when I visited, the food was fine.

Metro: Varenne.

When: Late evening.

Bar: No.

Private room: No.

Sound level: Hushed: 65 decibels.

6: Le Chateaubriand: 129 Avenue Parmentier, 75001. Information: or +33-1-4357-4595.

What: It’s a bistro that has caught the attention of the food crowd. To the surprise of some French gastronomes, it’s a regular on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. (I spotted macaroon maker Pierre Herme there.)

Why: It’s a hip and informal venue that has gained international attention. The standards are high and the prices are low, at least compared with other fashionable establishments in Paris. The tasting menu is 60 euros.

Metro: Goncourt.

When: Evenings. You can book for between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Be prepared to stand in line for the second service, from 9:30 p.m., when reservations aren’t accepted.

Bar: The owners have a wine bar next door, Le Dauphin.

Private room: No.

Sound level: Can get noisy: 80 decibels.

7: Chez Georges: 1 Rue du Mail, 75001. Information: +33-1-4260-0711. (No website).

What: It’s an old-fashioned bistro with dishes (like steak frites) and staff that have stood the test of time. Don’t expect modern cooking or an eclectic wine list. Chez Georges is old school.

Why: You might spend weeks eating in Paris before receiving a warmer welcome. Chez Georges is about hospitality, sharing and enjoyment. You’ll be jammed in so close with your neighbors, you might as well chat with them. While everyone is welcome, including tourists, this is not just a tourist joint.

Metro: Bourse.

When: It’s particularly convivial at night.

Bar: No.

Private room: No.

Sound level: Loud enough to know you are having a good time: 75-80 decibels.

8: Le Coq Rico: 98 Rue Lepic, 75018. Information: or +33-1-4259-8289.

What: It’s a venue serving chicken in the heart of the tourist area of Montmartre. It also happens to be one of the most enjoyable restaurants in Paris. Le Coq Rico is the brainchild of three-Michelin-star chef Antoine Westermann.

Why: The menu is simple and enticing; the service is friendly and efficient; the decor is original and appealing. And the food? It’s delicious. The chicken is poached in stock then roasted for 45 minutes to order, the skin crispy, the flesh dense. (I ate here with Pierre Koffmann, another three-star chef, and he is still talking about it.) The wine list is eclectic and ungreedy.

Metro: Blanche.

When: It’s open seven days a week, so particularly good for Mondays, when many restaurants are closed in Paris.

Bar: There’s a kitchen bar.

Private room: The Host’s Table seats 16 in the wine cellar.

Sound level: You could hear a cock crow: 72 decibels.

9: La Dame de Pic: 20 Rue du Louvre, 75001. Information: or +33-1-4260-4040.

What: This is the new Paris restaurant of Anne-Sophie Pic, who was named the world’s best woman chef in 2011. It won a Michelin star this year.

Why: First, it’s a chance to sample the cuisine of Pic, whose main restaurant is in southeast France. Second, it’s a beautiful, feminine dining room that is pretty and pink. Whether you will like the scratch-and-sniff menus, themed by fragrance, is a matter of taste. The bread that kicks off the meal isn’t good and the restaurant could use more substance along with the style. Still, the style alone would get me back at least once.

Metro: Louvre-Rivoli.

When: Good for lunch.

Bar: No.

Private room: Yes, for 12 people.

Sound level: You can hear the rustle of petticoats: 68 decibels.

10: Frenchie: 5-6 Rue du Nil, 75002. Information: or +33-1-4039-9619.

What: Chef Greg Marchand learned his craft at Gramercy Tavern in New York and picked up his nickname Frenchie at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in London. This is his first restaurant.

Why: He understands hospitality and he can cook very well. It’s worth trying for a reservation in this tiny restaurant. The dishes are unfussy, with no shortage of flavor. (The menu costs 45 euros.) Marchand also owns the wine bar across the street. That’s always packed, too.

Metro: Sentier.

When: It’s open Monday to Friday evenings.

Bar: Only the Bar a Vins over the street.

Private room: No.

Sound level: About 75 decibels in the restaurant. The wine bar can be louder. Do you hear me?

11: Pierre Gagnaire, 6 Rue Balzac, 75008. Information: or +33-1-5836-1250.

What: Three-Michelin-star restaurant of Pierre Gagnaire, a chef known for his innovative style and adventurous dishes.

Why: The dining room is dark and serious, the food colorful and flamboyant. Three-star restaurants in Paris tend to be expensive. The Pierre Gagnaire tasting menu is 280 euros per person ($366 in plain terms). If you’re celebrating a business success, you might enjoy it.

Metro: George V.

When: The lunch menu is 115 euros; you can pay three times as much going a la carte for dinner. I’d settle for lunch.

Bar: No.

Private room: No.

Sound level: Hushed. Below 70 decibels.

12: Rino: 46 Rue Trousseau, 75011. Information: or +33-1-4806-9585.

What: A tiny bistro near the Bastille that is home to chef Giovanni Passerini, an Italian.

Why: Passerini is respected for his creativity, coming up with dishes such as red mullet with burnt heart of artichoke, bitter orange and shellfish jus. There are menus at 41 euros and 58 euros. Rino is cramped and can be noisy, so deal first and dine after.

Metro: Ledru-Rollin.

When: Dinner; it’s only open for lunch on Fridays and Saturdays.

Bar: No.

Private room: No.

Sound level: Noisy: 89 decibels.

13: Septime, 80 Rue De Charonne, 75001. Information: or +33-1-4367-3829.

What: Casual restaurant where chef Bertrand Grebaut serves dishes that are light and uncluttered. It’s inexpensive and you may be seated at a long table with fellow guests.

Why: It’s all about the food, which is exceptional. (Having said that, the ambience is good, too.) The cooking is modern, without resorting to gimmicks or gastronomic trickery.

Metro: Charonne.

When: Closed at weekends and Monday lunchtime. Book early.

Bar: Yes. There’s also Septime Cave nearby.

Private room: No.

Sound level: A buzzy 75 decibels.

14: Le Sergent Recruteur, 41 Rue Saint-Louis en L’ile, 75004. Information: or +33-1-4354-7542.

What: The attractive new restaurant of chef Antonin Bonnet, who held a Michelin star at the Greenhouse in London.

Why: The food is outstanding. Bonnet focuses on finding the best produce and he doesn’t let his fine cooking get between you and the flavors of the main ingredients. On a recent dining trip to Paris, this was the most enjoyable of 10 restaurants.

Metro: Pont Marie.

When: Fine for lunch or dinner.

Bar: Yes.

Private room: Yes, for 10-15 guests.

Sound level: Buzzy: 75 decibels.

15: Sur Mesure par Thierry Marx: Mandarin Oriental, 251 Rue Saint-Honore, 75001. Information: or +33-1-7098-7300.

What: A modern restaurant where chef Thierry Marx pushes culinary boundaries with dishes such as structured and deconstructed asparagus.

Why: Marx, a former paratrooper, is an individual voice in French gastronomy. While he cites Pierre Gagnaire as an inspiration, the influence of his friend the Catalan chef Ferran Adria is also in the mix, as is the time he has spent in Japan.

Metro: Concorde.

When: Best for dinner as there are multiple courses. The nine-course tasting menu costs 195 euros.

Bar: Yes.

Private room: Yes, there are four.

Sound level: Shhhh! Below 70 decibels.

16: Terroir Parisien 20 Rue Saint Victor, 75005. Information: or +33-1-4431-5454.

What: Brasserie of chef Yannick Alleno, who held three Michelin stars at Le Meurice before quitting in February to focus on his restaurant at Cheval Blanc in Courchevel.

Why: Alleno has a philosophy of food based on celebrating the produce of the terroir. This brasserie is a homage to the Paris area and has a standout dish: Tete de veau hotdog with sauce grebiche.

Metro: Cardinal Lemoine.

When: It’s open every day. Many Paris restaurants are closed on Sundays and Mondays, so the start of the week is good.

Bar: Yes.

Private room: No.

Sound level: Not noisy: 70-75 decibels.

17: Thoumieux: 79 Rue Saint Dominique, 75007. Information: or +33-1-4705-4975.

What: This is the brasserie of Jean-Francois Piege (of Le Crillon) and his business partner Thierry Costes.

Why: Thoumieux is of interest because it belongs to a famous chef and restaurateur. It’s an authentic Paris brasserie, right down to the harried service. If you are looking for fine food, better go to the restaurant upstairs.

Metro: La Tour-Maubourg.

When: Good for dinner.

Bar: There’s a bar in the hotel.

Private room: The hotel may accommodate you.

Sound level: Can get a bit noisy, around 80 decibels.

18: Ze Kitchen Galerie, 4 Rue Grands Augustins, 75006. or +33-1-4432 0032.

What: This is a real rarity in Paris: An Asian fusion restaurant.

Why: William Ledeuil is a respected chef and his unusual restaurant has won numerous plaudits. I guess I visited on an off night: The food wasn’t good and the service was far from charming. I’m including the place here because others may recommend it if you want food that isn’t French.

Metro: Saint Michel Notre Dame.

When: It’s open on Mondays when many other Paris restaurants are closed, so this is a good day to visit.

Bar: No.

Private room: No.

Sound level: Acceptable: 75 decibels.

(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)

(This report is the second of the 2013 series of Bloomberg Dine & Deal. The articles survey top cities and offer informed tips on good restaurants for business and pleasure. For more Dine & Deal reviews, click here.)

Muse highlights include Warwick Thompson on London theater, Hephzibah Anderson on books and John Mariani on wine.

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