Bonjour again from the city of light (and foie gras) and welcome back to our Best Restaurants in Paris blog! As we mentioned in part I (“An Appetite for Paris”), we can’t claim to know all the best restaurants in Paris (there are plenty of guidebooks and Michelin stars that have that ground covered); so we’re just providing an edited version of our top 10 “Huffington” personal faves. This top-ten list is a lot about variety as well as quality, and yes, because we always stay in the 7th, it is a little 7th-centric. But that’s just our little bias.
#3: Pottoka: This one falls into the surprise category, as in, “wow, I never expected this to be so good!” Other than its unfortunate name and a cumbersome on-line reservation system, this place is a little gem where the food packs a big punch! My friend Maddy (who owns the fabulous rental agency,Paris Perfect and knows Parisian restaurants like the back of her metro map), took me there for the first time, and I was just “epoustoufleed” at how good it was.
The menu is a little complicated for non-French speakers, so trust me on this: Just close your eyes and point to anything on the menu, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the powerful punch of flavors and the gorgeous presentation on your plate. As with the two others that share our top 3 spots on the list, this restaurant plays on complimentary and unexpected flavors, using very seasonal ingredients. The place is tiny and the atmosphere falls into the non-descript “French modern” category, so the experience here really is about the food. Go there quickly before it gets discovered, and let us know what you think!
#2: David Toutain: Is it all that it’s cracked up to be? This is the new rising star in Paris, the eponymous restaurant of a former 3 star chef who has branched off on his own. Definitely the most expensive in the group, and the hardest to get a reservation, and the only one on the list that I’ve only been to once ( for the reasons listed above!).
I’ll say this: I’m happy I didn’t pick this one for my birthday celebration last year with my family, because it’s a little serious and not what you’d call fun. The atmosphere is a combination of cold modern and farmhouse organic, with lots of things presented on square trays with stones and straw. The tables are spaced far apart, so that you’re definitely not rubbing elbows with your neighbors (something we actually enjoy doing at l’Ami Jean, where we’ve always ended each meal with a few new BFF’s!).
Having said all that, the food is terrific and the combination of flavors is overpowering. My absolute favorite was the pre-appetitzer appetizer, a perfectly cooked piece of salsify, with a salty, crispy exterior and soft interior, dipped in chocolate flavored whipped cream! What about the combination of cauliflower, white chocolate and coconut? Or for dessert, a banana flavored French toast served in a parsley sauce? It’s a bit over the top but it’s a definite treat, and when in Paris, you should have at least one meal that pushes the envelope of every sense. Or so we think.
#1. Verjus. OK, here’s the problem with my first choice: It’s an American restaurant!! (But then again, my favorite restaurant in N.Y. is French, so is this a problem?) And I have a slight bias because the owner is a friend of a friend, so the first time we went, we were treated like royalty (which, I understand they get plenty of – the Hollywood variety). The last time, the owner wasn’t even there and we still enjoyed it immensely, so I think it’s safe to say that no matter who you are or who you know, as long as you can a get a reservation (book it now!), you’ll love Verjus.
The food is exquisite, and the atmosphere has that nice, friendly, cozy feeling of being eclectic and comfortable, where nothing quite matches but everything works. On top of that, all the wait staff are terribly nice and helpful and wonderfully earnest, like they love their jobs and want you to love their food.
Much like Toutain, this is a small plates, surprise me kind of menu, so you never quite know what’s coming next and you will certainly not get the same food we did, which may be a pity because our pasta course, with its cauliflower, harissa sausage, “burnt lemon” (?) and parmesan sauce was just about to die for. As was the squid, served with gnocchi, salsify, garlic butter and pimento.
I’m not a huge duck fan, but this one, combined with orange and smoked celery root, won me over. As did the pigeon in the next course, served with apples and chestnut chips. Since we were doing the wine tasting menu at the same time (highly recommended and so fun), please forgive my slight memory lapse for the last three courses! I loved them all, although I’m not a huge fan of pannacotta. But luckily the coffee came with the best salted caramel I’ve ever tasted, so we went home happy happy happy!
So here’s our final “Huffington” disclaimer of the day: Is this the definitive best restaurant list of Paris? NO! But did we have so much putting together our own personal collection of fab finds? YES! And will this list change, from time to time, as we discover new and different places (thanks to you, dear readers) and on trips with our clients? Bien sur! We’re here for you, but our job is never done … to find the kinds of restaurants in Paris that we know will knock your socks off every day!
Oh gosh … little update. Have you been to Frenchie? Move over, David Toutain and Pottoka! After months of trying to get in to this tiny and elusive restaurant, we finally got in, and well … it’s time for another blog! It was heavenly. Ask for the Chef’s table. And stay tuned!
PS: We’re heading back to Paris next week with our annual shopping trip. And we’ll be back in the fall for our September buying trip and have already booked the creme de la creme apartment, with its 300 degree wrap around balcony and its sparkling view of the Eiffel Tower. There’s room! Won’t you join us?