January 27, 2006

My favorite movies of 2005

Stéphane, 2005 was not one of the best vintage years in my long career of moviegoer. Relatively few films that I screened in the Chicago area theaters were outstanding masterpieces. And when I traveled to Paris, I did not get my usual fix of exciting new European films. Fortunately, NETFLIX was called to the rescue and I rented a few stimulating movies from that source. Here is the list of my 10 favorite 2005 films. Some of them were screened in theaters in the Chicago area and I saw the others in their DVD rental version. In that case the film title will be followed by an * 1. The World by Jia Shang-Ke (you can also rent in DVD his very interesting epic about young people during the cultural revolution , ''Platform'', but I would recommend starting with his most beautiful early film and easier to watch: ''Unknown Pleasures'') ''The World'' was one of the most innovative and dreamily beautiful feature film from China I've seen in a long time. This director, who for many years was prohibited by his government to export and sometimes shoot his films on location, is truly the best and most creative film maker of the non-official ''Chinese New Wave''. This very realistic and at the same time ''romantic'' tale about the effects of the new capitalist evolution in the major cities of China on various types of working people, takes place in a huge amusement park outside of Beijing. Its a pure visual feast and the soundtrack is also exciting. Not to be missed. 2. A history of violence by David Cronenberg I always considered this Canadian director (''Crash'', ''Spider'', ''Naked Lunch'',and others..) as one of the most original North-American filmmakers. This very powerful drama with Vigo Mortensen and the beautiful Maria Bello, and very strong performances by William Hurt and Ed Harris, takes place in a typically ''bushian'' small American town were the secret past of the main character is progressively discovered by his wife and the local sheriff. And the violence of this dark story of revenge, lie and deception, is much more than a depiction of the actual ''physical'' violence practiced by some of the characters. It is a reflexion on one of the most serious diseases of contemporary American society. As usual with Cronenberg the directing is very precise and efficient, and each shot is masterfully controlled. No need for useless artsy framing. Every technical aspect of the film, script, editing, cinematography, sound, acting, is perfectly integrated in a real artistic way of filming. 3. Good Bye Dragon Inn by Tsai Ming Liang * This Taiwanese director born in Malaysia is one my favorite Asian film makers. He was clearly influenced by some of the film-makers of the French New Wave, and even partially shot one his film, '' What time is it over there?'' in Paris with a few French actors. If you have an opportunity to see some of his earlier and most recent film like ''Rebels of Neon God'', ''The Hole'', ''The River'' or ''Vive L'amour'', do not hesitate and see them or rent them on Netflix. They are all available in DVD. As it is often the case in this director's films , the rhythm of this one is very slow, there is not much apparent action taking place, and the mood of most of the characters is very subjective and reflective. But the beauty and the architecture of the shots is totally out of the ordinary. The (limited in scope) story revolves around the interaction between the few remaining employees and some isolated patrons during the last show of an old movie theater about to go out of business. It is, to me, a quite moving and fascinating film. 4. 2046 by Wong Kar Wai. * Another of my favorite Asian directors, this very talented man from Hong-Konk, but born in Shanghai, had probably, so far, the most successful commercial career of the non-chinese Asian directors along with the Japanese T. Kitano, that I like a lot too. He made the very stylish ''Chungking Express'', many years back, but some of his most beautiful features are'' Happy Together'', ''Fallen Angels'' and especially ''In the Mood for Love'', with Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung, who are among the best Hong Kong-based actors. Maggie Cheung is married to the very good French film director, Olivier Assayas, and was the star of his beautiful ''Irma Vep'' some years back . Hong Kar Wai has been lucky to benefit since Chungking Express, from the collaboration of a very gifted Australian cinematographer from Hong Kong, Christopher Doyle, who developed for him an incredibly lyric but contemporary visual style. 2046 in some way is a sequel to ''In the mood for love'' and is played by the same two actors who try to communicate and give a sense to their life. It is stunningly beautiful and full of enigmatic metaphors, the meaning of the number itself remaining a semi-mystery. Many scenes were shot on location in China and Macao. 5. Saraband by Ingmar Bergman * This is the painful story of a long-time ago divorced and now aging couple, that already was the subject of Bergman's made- for- T.V hit '' Scenes from a Marriage''. The two main characters are played by the same two great actors, Liv Ulmann, who was the leading lady in many Bergman's films and was his partner in life for many years, and Erland Josephson, also a Bergman veteran. They reunite in the old man's country house for a short time many years later. He is a wealthy retired author and she is a still active lawyer. They try to reconnect and she shares the problems of the daughter of the widowed and depressed adult son of her former husband who live with her dad in a small guest house on the property. The daughter is a talented young cellist whose life and playing style is totally controlled by her father. All this is shot masterfully in digital video by the old 85 years old Swedish master, who is far from senile. It is a pure cinematic and emotional trip. An uneasy but most satisfying film. The cello-based soundtrack is quite atmospheric too. 6. Kings and Queen, by Arnaud Desplechin A. Desplechin is one of the most gifted members of the new generation of French film makers. This film was very controversial in France since he obviously used some episodes of his own private life with a relatively famous French actresss to create the character of a woman(the very talented Emanuelle Devos) who has some problems to adjust to the demands of her entourage and the psychological peculiarities of her ex-lover (funny Mathieu Amalric) who is probably less lunatic that he seems but is nevertheless subjected to all kinds of psychiatric treatments. Some scenes with his parents, and his hospital psychiatrist (stunning Catherine Deneuve) are hilarious. But it is far from being a comedy... and when you leave the theater, you keep asking yourself lots of questions about this film... and about yourself too. 7. Tropical Malady, by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. This strangely passionate but serene and very ''different'' film was one of the few real revelations at the Cannes film festival last year. It is the third film by this, until now, relatively unknown Thai author-director who received part of his artistic education at the School of the art Institute in Chicago. The film in fact contains two distinct parts and tells the story of a Thai soldier who becomes enamoured with a simple but seductive village boy. In the second part, full of ritualistic and mystic allegories, local legends, talking monkeys and a mysterious tiger that is in fact the spirit of his young lover, the soldier tracks the boy (or the tiger) in a jungle-type forest full of fascinating lights and sounds. But sometimes the hunter is in fact, without realizing it, tracked by his prey. Totally fascinating and very creative cinematically speaking. The soundtrack is superb. 8. Capote, by Bennett Miller If you want at the same time a very good narrative process, a stunning actor's performance, and a no-nonsense film direction, this is your film. Phillip Seymour Hoffman (already so good in ''Magnolia'' some years ago) literally inhabits the famous self-destructive, very conflicted, super-bright, but manipulative American author. It is even scary that he can be so good at recreating a believable physical reality (voice and mannerisms included) for Truman Capote, that we totally forget that he is only an actor doing a superb creation and not the real person. My only regret is that the film is almost entirely devoted to the story behind ''In cold blood'' and neglects so many other fascinating aspects and complexities of Capote's persona. 9. The beat that my heart skipped, By Jacques Audiard You should try and rent two of the earlier films (only 5 features so far) made by this talented French director, who himself is the son of a famous script and dialogs writer: The very entertaining ''A self-made hero' and the atmospheric and thrilling ''Read my lips''. This film, brillantly adapted from James Toback's ''Fingers'' tells the story of a small-time gangster (played intelligently by the seductive Romain Duris that you might have seen in ''l'auberge espagnole'') , the son of a criminal real-estate whealer dealer, who decides to get back to the piano playing that his mother, a former concert pianist, had taught him and to become a concert pianist himself. He partially succeeds to redeem his life with the help of a beautiful and mysterious chinese pianist who does not speak a word of French but manages to transform him in many ways. But his past eventually gets back to him. Very efficient directing. Great sense of rhythm, very elegant cinematography and great acting, with interesting supporting actors. Even though it doesn't try to be a cinematic masterpiece, this film shows a very precise knowledge of cinematic craft. 10. (tie) Mondovino, by Jonathan Nossiter To fully appreciate the intricacies and socio-political meanings of this stimulating documentary on, as the title implies, the world of wine, you better know a little something about the different types of wine, how they are produced, and have a vague idea of what coutries are the main sources of this precious liquid. Nossiter, a Canadian journalist living in France, has put together a hugely entertaining investigation about the evolution of wine making and wine selling in various parts of the world. He interviewed, on location in Italy, France, California, Chile, etc. various actors of this not so ''clean'' business: Traditional small growers, big multinational corporations executives, influential consultants, a famous wine writer (Parker), wholesalers and merchants, etc. The result is a often hilarious, but in the end very serious, analysis of the trends, fortunes and misfortunes, lots of B.S., and nostalgias of lost traditions, found in that strange world. No fancy camera movements or soundtracks. But a very efficient and entertaining way of telling a story The last days, by Gus Van Sant To me, along Abel Ferrara, Gus van Sant is one of the most original American directors. If you never had a chance of seing '' Elephant'' (which won the ''Palme d'or'' top prize at the Cannes Festival in 2003), and '' Gerry'', you should rent these vey important films some day. Even though this film, depicting in a very eerie and hauntingly beautiful way the last lonely and very depressing moments of the life of a very successful but unconventional rock star, whom everybody guessed was based on Kurt Cobain's own tragic end, is not as impressive as his two above mentioned great pieces, it is indeed a very interesting exercise in filming style. Good viewings... Alain

January 17, 2006

Could you give me your list of the best Films of the Year?

Bonjour Papa, With the Oscars being just around the corner I'm curious to get a list of your choices for the 10 best films of 2005. Since we have your grandson with us we no longer are able to get to the movies and are out of touch with what good films we have missed. With your annual 10 best list we can begin to queue up the rental list to catch up before the Oscars. I'd imagine your list will be much more diverse and interesting that the Oscar nominations anyway. Stephane

January 07, 2006

Paris restaurants: Some of my favorite good and decently priced restaurants in Paris

Stephane, Even though I do not travel to Paris on business as often as I used to, I still have a good stock of nice addresses. Nowadays I privilege bistrots- type restaurants that specialize in traditional French cuisine, but with a flair for creativity, and above all, whose chefs use good products. I attach of course a great importance to what Americans call ''value'' which for me is a good price-quality ratio, especially when restaurants offer '' menu-cartes''. Also I would never consider a restaurant with an overpriced wine list, which I found out during my last trip to Paris in October, is more and more frequent there, especially since many restaurateurs felt obliged to lift their prices when the Franc was replaced by the Euro. Let me know if some of your contacts try some establishments listed below. I am always interested to learn from recent end-users whether or not I should keep or remove an address from the list. Note of Caution: I cannot guarantee that all these resataurants are still owned by the same persons in 2007, therefore I decline any responsability for meals that might not fit your expectations after reading this guide. March 2007 A word of caution: Mots prices are probably inacurate in july 2007 ALAIN MAES’s FAVORITE RESTAURANTS AND BISTROTS IN PARIS Places where you can eat for less than 50 Euros Restaurants where you can have a good 3 course meal, for under 50 Euros (about 68 U.S dollars in July 2007) per person, including a glass of wine,coffee and tip, which is always included anyways. These prices date back to January, 2005 When a restaurant offers a ‘’menu-carte’’ (fixed price menu offering several options for each course) do not hesitate to choose it. It will allow you to taste a wider selection of dishes and creations from the chef for a substantially cheaper price than when you order ‘’à la carte’’ Note: The asterisk indicates one of my favorite eateries where I return quite often. From Sèvres-Babylone to Saint-Germain des Prés, the Seine River and the Latin Quarter (6 ème, 5 ème arrondissements) L’EPI DUPIN * 11 Rue Dupin PARIS 6 Tel : 01-42-22-6456 Closed on Monday for lunch, all day Saturday and Sunday, and the first three weeks of August Métro station : Sèvres-Babylone Average price per person: 35 Euros It is imperative to reserve a couple of days in advance, since this bistrot is very popular and has a limited number of tables, relatively close to each other. Very creative cooking based on intelligent mixes of flavors. Always try the new “plats du jour” especially those based on fish, great variations on interesting vegetables, and fowl. They change quite often in one of the most sophisticated and inventive but fair-priced (around 32 euros) « menus-cartes » in Paris, according to whatever the chef-owner (François Pasteau) found that morning at the market or based on his mood that day. Nice, and unpretentious environment. Sometimes you will be greeted in English and the service is most of the time very pleasant. Delicious homemade deserts based on chocolate and fresh fruits. Luscious sorbets. LES BOUQUINISTES 53 Quai des Grands Augustins PARIS 6 Tel : 01-43-25-45-94 Closed for lunch on Saturday and all day Sunday. Open in August. Métro Station : Saint-Michel Average price per person: 50 Euros This elegant ‘’design’’ bistrot, next to the Seine River, belongs to Guy Savoy, who owns one of the most famous and innovative 3 stars restaurants of Paris in the 17 ème arrondissement. The fare is half way between traditional ‘’cuisine du marché’’ based on simple but beautiful products and a trendy way of cooking. It is a safe bet but the place can be sometimes noisy, since too many foreign tourists sent by concierges visit it. But is a restaurant where the serious eater is well treated by a competent staff. If you are not too hungry, try the less expensive ‘’menu-carte’’’ LA ROTISSERIE D’EN FACE 2 rue Christine PARIS 6 Tel : 01-43-26-40-98 Closed for lunch on Saturday and Sunday all day. Open in August. Métro station : Odéon ou St Michel Average price per person: 49 Euros. This is the second restaurant of Jacques Cagna, whose eponymous, very good but much more expensive restaurant (that I love) is across the street. On the plus side you can eat there, until late at might, well prepared traditional French dish in the “ modernized cuisine bourgeoise » category. Especially good quality roasted duck, guinea hen, chicken lamb etc. with very decent and well-seasoned vegetables. Good selection of lesser-known regional wines. On the negative side this place is always packed, often with American tourists, noisy, and recently some dishes have become overpriced. Go there on a Monday or Tuesday night, either early or late. Relatively fairly priced ‘’menu-carte’’ (around 42 euros). Even better try a late lunch (around 28 euros) FISH (LA BOISSONERIE) 69 rue de Seine Paris 6 Tel : 01-43-54-34-69 Closed on Monday. Métro station : Saint-Germain des Prés Average price per person: 32 Euros Amusing and simple but cozy bistro owned by an American expatriate who has also a good wine shop nearby and a sandwich shop across the street. Therefore do not be surprised if you are seating next to English speaking guests. Very tasty Mediterranean dishes and a good selection of good wines from the Languedoc area. A good choice for lunch when you shop for cool clothes or visit the many antique shop of this beautiful and history rich neighborhood in the St. Germain Des Prés district. . Relatively cheaper lunch and dinner menus around 22 euros to 30 euros. For a substantial snack and to drink a couple of glasses of good regional wines: AU SAUVIGNON 80 Rue des Saints-Pères PARIS 7 Closed on Sunday and in August. Métro: Sèvres-Babylone Average price per person with a couple of glasses of wine: 20 Euros Very good ‘’ tartines’’ made with Pain Poilane, a well known baker located one block away, and very tasty Cantal cheese, dry cured or raw ham, mountain air cured dry sausage, rillettes, country pâtés, etc. Excellent selection of white wines from the Loire Valley (Quincy, Sancerre), and reds from Bourgueil or Mennetou-Salon. CHEZ MAITRE PAUL 12 Rue Monsieur Le Prince Paris 6 01-43-54-74-59 Open every day Metro station: ODEON Average price per person: 38 to 40 euros Once you are sitting comfortably and look at the immaculate white tablecloth, you could bet that you have been transported back to the late forties or fifties in an auberge in some distant province. There you can completely forget that you are still at the heart of the Latin Quarter and its vibrant environment. This is one of the last restaurants in Paris still attached to very traditional methods of cooking and serving food of yesteryear. The recipes are essentially the same since the restaurant opened more than 60 years ago and they focus entirely on hearty, but flavorful, dishes from the mountainous area of the Jura and Franche-Comté areas, near the Swiss border. Superb and rare vintages of wines from the Jura, including Vin de paille and Vin jaune, or Vin d’Arbois. Reserve a couple days before. A couple of miles away between the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, the Pantheon, and Jussieu: LE BUISSON ARDENT * 25 Rue de Jussieu PARIS 5 Tel: 01-43-54.93.02 Closed on Saturday for lunch, Sunday and in August Metro: Jussieu Average price: 35 euros Owned and managed by two brothers (one of them is the chef), this delightful but small old-style bistrot offers a very astute, always original, ‘’cuisine of the market’’ and very attractive menus at decent prices (29 euros for dinner) .You may think that you are dining in a small provincial village café. Close to the Jussieu University it is always packed with college professors for lunch so it is better to go there at night, on a Tuesday or Wednesday for example. Call ahead. Very good nicely priced small Bordeaux. WARNING: I returned there in July of 2007 and it had changed ownership. The menu was much less interesting. I intend to drop it from my list. CHANT AIRELLE 17 Rue Laplace Paris 5 Tel : 01-46-33-18-59 Closed on Saturday for lunch and Sunday. Metro station: Cardinal Lemoine or Luxembourg Average price : 30 euros An oddity: The owner recreated the ambiance and ‘’sounds’’ of a village in his native Auvergne Mountains: Including a nice summer patio. You can enjoy simply but authentically prepared copious rustic dishes from that area, like stuffed cabbage, delicious country hams, pates, and cheeses, trout, beautiful blueberry tarts, etc. The wine list of inexpensive but exciting regional wines and spirits is worth mentioning. And you will relax while listening to the ‘’sound track’’ of birds, frogs, and river waterfalls. Their breads are pretty good too. A little shop at the entrance sells some local food specialties. It is far from being classy and airy cuisine, but it is worth checking for lunch. LES VIGNES DU PANTHEON * 4 rue des Fossés Sant Jacques Paris 5 01-43-54-80-81 Closed Saturday and Sunday and in August Metro station: Luxembourg Average price 37 euros A delightful charmer of a bistro, with its nice old zinc bar and booths in the first room and more sedate and comfortable settings in the backroom. The owner is a perfect and charming hostess. And the quality of the traditional food, marked by a subtle Southwestern accent, is very consistent. Beautiful terrines and flavorful duck. Great desserts. A very astute but limited wine list offers some interesting regional wines at decent prices. From the Pont Neuf to the old district of Les Halles, and past the Pompidou Center. (1er and 3eme arrondissements) AU CHIEN QUI FUME 33 Rue du Pont Neuf PARIS 1 Tel: 01-42-36-07-42 Open on Sunday and in August. Métro station : Châtelet- Les Halles Average price per person: 40 Euros I found this place, in business since 1740, in 1963 when I was a student at the Sorbonne and continued to go there from time to time with the same renewed pleasure. This is one of the last remaining charmingly old-fashioned bistrots in the old Halles district, which was a typical good all-night eating place 50 years ago. Old customers as well as tourists are still decently treated there. The famous “smoking dog” is all over the place in warm and comfortable settings, but not in the chow, which is very traditional “old Parisian”. Very nice home-made foie gras for a very fair price. Good quality comfort food. Very nice wine list. Try the very attractive 3 course menus (around 32 euros) A good lunch stop after shopping. LA POULE AU POT 9 Rue Vauvilliers PARIS 1 01-462-36-32-96 Closed on Monday Metro station: Louvre or Les Halles Average price per person: 42 euros In the same area, a few blocks away from Le Chien qui fume, this old-fashioned long an narrow bistro with nice vintage posters on the walls welcomes, since 1935, eaters with a sturdy appetite for traditional comfort food: Its deliciously fragrant signature dish: chicken in the pot, traditional stews, Normandy style tripes, eggs cocotte with foie gras,) until 5 AM. It is a fine place to rediscover on a gray rainy winter day… Or after a mid-day visit of Le Louver or an early concert at St. Eustace. Good 30 euros menu. For a quick snack and a couple of glasses of good wine LA TAVERNE HENRI IV 13 place du Pont Neuf (on the Pont Neuf) PARIS 1 Tel: 01-43-54-27-90 Closed Sunday and in August Métro station : Pont-Neuf Average price per person with a couple of glasses of wine: 20 Euros Try some ‘’tartines’’ (super open-face sandwiches) and plates of good quality country and artisan hams, dry sausage, cheese etc. Also simple lunch dishes such as ‘’Croque-monsieur’’ But you go there for fantastic regional wines from the Beaujolais or Loire Valley that you drink by the glass or in small carafes. L’AMBASSADE D’AUVERGNE 22 Rue du grenier Sant-Lazare Paris 3 01-42-72-31-22 Open every day Metro station : Rambuteau Average price per person: 32 euros If you feel really hungry, depressed by the rainy and cold weather, and you never had a chance to eat a superb ‘’aligot’’ once in your life, then, after calling to reserve, rush there and enjoy the best that the volcanic area of the Auvergne has to offer in terms of gastronomy. Start by ordering a bottle of Saint-Pourçain, a marvelously easy to drink regional wine, and start with a few samples of local hams, terrines and other local amuse-bouches, and then be ready for an order of saucisse-aligot. This specialty is made of fresh cantal cheese curds heated in mashed potatoes with cream, butter and crushed coarse garlic until it produces unctuous stringy ribbons which are served directly from the pot into you plate at the table. The juicy and well seasoned ‘’saucisse auvergnate’’, or even a piece of roasted duck and a piece of rustic bread to accompany this incredibly rich dish are a must. Polish it down with a glass of another wine from this beautiful area. No need to plan for dinner if you go there for lunch. But you will not forget it. Besides the décor and the service are also very…comforting. From the Montparnasse area to the Ecole Militaire (14 ème and 7 ème arrondissements) LE BISTROT DU DOME 1 Rue Delambre PARIS 14 Tel : 01-43-35-32-00 Open on Sunday and in August Métro: Vavin Average price per person: 39 Euros The ideal spot to eat super-fresh and well prepared fish, shellfish and crustaceans in contemporary but comfortable settings, without losing your shirt. But never go there on a Saturday night when service can be hurried and the noise level quite high. The client base is rather cool and the décor, modernist in the ‘’early seventies’’ style does not excite me too much anymore. But altogether it is a relatively relaxed type of place where ‘’value’’ is the key word. L’AMUSE BOUCHE * 186 Rue du Château (at the corner with Avenue du Maine) PARIS 14 Tel : 01-43-35-31-61 Closed on Sunday and Monday and in August Métro: Gaîté or Mouton-Duvernet (easier to go there by cab) Average price per person: 35 Euros Minuscule but nicely appointed and very cozy restaurant of about ten tables very well managed for many years by a very nice, discrete, but very professional husband and wife team: Mr. And Mrs.Lambert. The prix-fixe ‘’ Menu-carte” (30 euros) which is limited but changes very often is very attractive and includes many creative and lovely dishes. Portions might prove to be a little too small for a solid American appetite, but the cuisine is so refined and well prepared that you do not leave the place with a feeling of frustration. Nice limited but well priced wine-list. Note of caution: L' Amuse bouche was sold to new owners in 2006 and I did not go there since that change occured LA FONTAINE DE MARS 129 Rue Saint Dominique Paris 7 Tel : 01-47-05-46-44 Open on Sunday. Closed in August. Métro : Ecole Militaire Average price per person: 40 Euros One of the most pleasant and relaxing old-fashioned bistrots in Paris. The warm decor is very comforting in rainy cold days and in the summer it is particularly enjoyable to be able to eat lunch outside when tables are set on the sidewalk next to the fountain. Problem is: There are a lot of tourists, American in particular, who are also fond of that place… The cooking is ultra provincial and traditional with a tendency to propose hearty dishes from the Southwest. Very good grilled duck filets and duck confit. The “petits pâtés chauds’’ are a very tasty appetizer. Good gigot d'agneau. But you can always rely on the ‘’plat du jour’’. Good selection of wines from the Southwest like a very good Madiran and a decent and reasonably priced ‘’Réserve F de M’’. I prefer the room downstairs. Prices have a tendency to get a little bit too high. IT IS IN THIS RESTAURANT THAT PRESIDENT OBAMA, FAMILY AND A COUPLE OF FRIENDS ATE ON JUNE 6 2009 DURING THEIR VISIT TO PARIS. From La Motte-Piquet-Grenelle to the Pont Mirabeau (15 ème arrondissement) LE TROQUET 21 Rue François Bonvin Paris 15 Tel : 01-45-66-89-00 Closed on Sunday and Monday and in August. Métro Sèvres-Lecourbe (its easier to go to this restaurant by taxi ) Average price per person: 37 euros An attractive different type of restaurant with a high price-quality ratio that offers a perfect mix of regional traditional Basque cuisine and creative contemporary cooking. There is only one ‘’prix-fixe’’ menu-carte that changes every day according to what the chef finds at the market. But nobody complains about the very limited choice of dishes since each of them is perfectly prepared, including the very creative and incredibly tasty soups that start each meal. Wonderful, nicely priced wines from the Southwest, particularly the Bearn and Basque country. It is imperative to reserve a couple days in advance if you plan to go from Thursday to Saturday. Only two seatings for the second at 9 PM to be less hurried. With vintage cartoons prints on the walls, the room is rather simple and rustic and the décor unpretentious. FONTANAROSA 28 Boulevard Garibaldi Paris 15 Tel : 01-45-66-97-84 Open on Sunday Métro : Cambronne Average price per person: 42 euros Go there for lunch in the summer to eat outside on a very enjoyable small terrace. Otherwise during the week have dinner in the very cozy and comfortable room of this reliable Italian restaurant offering pleasant service and flavorful food based on good quality products. The marvelous Italian appetizers buffet table where the grilled vegetable shine is a must. Very good pasta. But a bit too expensive… Good Italian wine list, but once again overpriced. STEPHANE MARTIN 67 Rue des Entrepreneurs Paris 15 Tel: 01-45-79-03-31 Closed Sunday and Monday and 3 weeks in August Metro: Felix Faure or Commerce Average price per person: 32 euros Several rather trendy dishes can be tasted in the very good and fair priced ‘’menu-carte’’ (32 euros). But the inventive chef-owner also offers a lot of creativity in several ever changing ‘’cuisine du marché’’ dishes that you can choose from a very attractive lunch prix-fixe (27 euros with wine), along with their delicious home-made breads, like thin sliced raw duck foie gras with wild grasses. Very peaceful book club ambiance when the level of conversations is not too high. From Gare de Lyon to the République and Oberkampf districts (12ème and 11 ème arrondissements) LA BICHE AU BOIS * 45 avenue Ledru-Rollin Paris 12 Tel : 01-43-43-34-38 Closed on Sunday, Saturday and Monday for Lunch, and in August Métro : Gare de Lyon Average price per person: 28 to 30 euros Forget about trends and Paris: In this noisy, smoky, sometimes overcrowded but authentically French provincial bistrot in business at the same spot since the nineteen twenties, you are back at the heart of old fashioned ‘’cuisine bourgeoise’’. But what a pleasure to taste savory rabbit, pheasant or duck pâtés and terrines, tender fillets of doe or young wild boar in properly reduced sauces, roasted wild duck or partridge… And never bypass some of the best French fries in Paris, made the old way in two separate frying baths. Some of their marvelous and very moderately priced small Bordeaux are by themselves worth the trip to this boring avenue near the Gare de Lyon train station. Service is simple but considerate. Expect to wait for your table to be free. The perfect place for a ‘’buddies’’ dinner on a Thursday night. At lunch, service can be hurried. LES ZYGOMATES 7 rue de Capri Paris 12 Tel : 01-40-19-93-04 Closed Sunday and Monday and in August Métro : Daumesnil Prix moyen : 30 euros The charming decor of this former butcher shop from the turn of the 19th century is a perfect spot for a tasty lunch with friends. The chef who trained with some of the best in Paris prepares very astute dishes halfway between creative modern cuisine and traditional French comfort food. Great regional wine list which includes some very good burgundies at reasonable prices. LES AMOGNES * 243 Rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine PARIS 11 Tel : 01-43-72-73-05 Closed on Sunday and Monday, and 3 weeks in August. Métro : Faidherbe-Chaligny. Average price per person: 35 euros The chef-owner, who was at one point the sous-chef at ‘’l’Archestrate’’, has been offering for more than 12 years, in a pseudo country inn décor which could be more exciting, one of the most innovative and reasonably-priced ‘’menu-cartes’’ ( 33 euros), for such a level of quality, in Paris. Without pretense but with a very precise cooking technique, he works tasty marvels with good quality simple products, especially great vegetables, which creatively offer unusual combinations of aromas. The wine list is full of small regional little known gems. WARNING: New Ownership. But I understand that it is still very good according to recent reviews. Le C’ AMELOT 50 Rue Amelot Paris 11 Tel : 01-43-55-54-04 Closed on Sunday, Saturday and Monday for lunch and in August Avoid Saturday nights which are too crowded and affected by a slow service. Métro : Chemin Vert Prix moyen : 35 euros Even though the decor, plates, and silver, seem to have been assembled from bits and pieces found in a flea market, and chances are that your table will be too close for comfort to the next one, you will enjoy a clever and very tasty ‘’cuisine de marché” in this establishment. The chef composes daily a short menu made of only a few inventive specials according to the season and what is best at the farmer’s market. The consistent quality of the ingredients and the imaginative precision of the cooking let you forget about the short list of options on the menu that is written daily on a blackboard. Good bargain lunches. Some attractive wines. ASTIER 44 Rue Jean Pierre Timbaud * Paris 11 Tel : 01-43-57-16-35 Closed (unfortunately) on Saturday and Sunday and in August. Métro : Parmentier or Oberkampf Prix moyen : 35 euros When I need to boost my morale and crave for authentic provincial cooking of bygone times, I call a couple of old friends and we rush to this amazingly austere bistro which has been my favorite for years. You will feast on simple but so tasty classics as ‘’ lapin à la moutarde’’ (rabbit in mustard sauce), navarin d’agneau (young lamb stew with spring vegetables), veal blanquette, roasted guinea hen, incredibly savory terrines, marinated herrings in white wine, and the most spectacular cheese tray which can be chosen from an amazing daily changing ‘’menu-carte’ for the incredibly low price of 27 euros, including dessert. Astier has one of the best collections of small ‘’crus bourgeois’’ of Bordeaux at lovingly soft prices. Reserve and stay in the room downstairs. Finish with a marvelous ‘’prune de Souillac’’. Note of caution: ASTIER has new owners since 2006 and I did not return there since management changed. But reviews are still very positive. For a substantial snack and to drink a couple of glasses of good regional wines: LE CLOWN BAR 114 Rue Amelot Tel: 01-43-55-87-35 Closed For lunch on Sunday Métro : Filles du Calvaire Average price per per person with 2 glasses of wine : 25 euros This incredible bar next to the ‘’Cirque d’Hiver’’ has only a few tables but whether you sit down or you stand at the old ‘’zinc’’ counter to eat the ‘’ Plat du Jour’’ (special of the day which could turn out to be a very tasty like daube of beef or lamb with beans) or limit yourself to a plate of sausage, rabbit rillettes, or smoked ham, you will appreciate the special ambience and admire the very old art deco frescoes on the them of the circus which decorate the walls. Meanwhile enjoy a glass or two of very decent Beaujolais or Fitou and have a chat with other patrons. Very ‘’sympathique’’… Between the Champs-Elysées, Porte Maillot and the Gare de l’EST ( 8ème 9ème, 17ème CHEZ ANDRE 12 rue Marbeuf Paris 8 Tel : 01-47-20-59-57 Open every day. Métro : Franklin-Roosevelt Average price per person: 40 euros This old (since 1937) typical traditional Parisian bistro has remained faithful to its culinary traditions of yesteryear and has a solid following of ‘’regulars’’ who are not necessarily young or trendy. But it makes this ‘’antique’’ and warm place even more attractive and different in that ‘’hyper’’ and slightly depressing business and touristy district. It offers old style appetizers like ‘terrine de canard’’ or ‘’poireaux vinaigrette’’ (warm boiled leeks in a vinaigrette and parsley dressing), for the typical single male workers of the quartier who come here for lunch, and very honorable ‘’bourgeois’’ dishes like frog legs, leg of lamb with beans, veal normande, or bouillabaisse. Desserts like Baba au rhum and Clafoutis are deliciously obsolete. The few old waitresses still working there seem to be extras from a film shot in the late thirties. A comforting lunch stop in winter after shopping on the Champs Elysées which are 200 yards away. Le BALLON DES TERNES 103 Avenue des Ternes Paris 17 Tel : 01-45-74-17-98 Closed in August Metro : Porte Maillot Average price : 48 euros A typical old style (beautiful 1900 décor) Parisian ‘’brasserie’’ which has the advantage of serving pristinely fresh oysters and many other sea delicacies, traditional bistrot-style dishes like grilled andouillette with frites, or brandade with salad of greens, and nice pieces of tender beef anytime, even late at night. Very professional service and good regional wines. Problem is: its always very busy, so go late or early or call. It also has become a bit pricey… CAVES PETRISSANS 30 Bis avenue Niel Paris 17 Tel : 01-42-27-52-03 Closed Saturday, Sunday and in August Metro: Charles De Gaulle Etoile Average price: 43 euros Incredibly versatile wine bistro for those who love a very large choice of regional and traditional good quality wines. Very good, but relatively small selection of traditional ‘’cuisine bourgeoise’’ and country dishes including very fine pâtés and terrines LE CAFÉ d’ANGEL 16 rue Brey Paris 17 01-47-54-03-33 Closed Saturday, Sunday, holidays, and August Metro: Charles de Gaulle-Etoile Average price : 38 to 40 euros In this not too exciting ‘’hyper bourgeois’’ area, populated during the day by office workers, executives, and business people, and at night by older people and lost tourists, it is refreshing to be able to rely on such a well managed and satisfying bistrot a few blocks fron the Arc de Triomphe. The room is nicely appointed with non-aggressive contemporary touches like decorative tiles on the walls and confortable banquettes, with an open kitchen at the end. The food is a well balanced mix of modern classics, including good ‘’fish du jour’’ and traditional more ‘’country’’ type of dishes like kidneys or braised fowl. Good desserts based on chocolate and fruits. The best deal is the lunch menu (22 euros). L’ALSACO * 10 Rue Condorcet Paris 9 Tel : 01-45-26-44-31 Closed for lunch on Saturday and Monday, all day Sunday, and in August Métro : Poissonnière, or Anvers. Average price per person: 35 euros (for a ‘’serious’’ meal and a couple of glasses of first rate Alsatian wine) As far as I am concerned, this typical small ‘’winstube’’, in spite of a very modest and serves the most authentic and satisfying Alsatian food and wines in the French capital. During the long and cold winter days of Chicago dreaming of its ‘’ Choucroute garnie’’ warms me up. The owner, who can be either charming and talkative or aloof and cold according to his moods, buys its ingredients, especially its sublime cabbage in the small village of Krautergersheim, et its artisan sausages hams and other high quality pork delicacies from another village well known for its ‘’charcuterie’’. The flaming tart, the pear sorbet with ‘’williamine’’ brandy, and the fantastic selection of wines from Lorentz and other reputable growers are worth the detour. It can be noisy and very busy. Go there for a late lunch in the middle of the week just before a walk to Montmartre. Bon Appétit. Alain Maes October 2005

January 02, 2006

What are some of your favorite bistrots and restaurants in Paris?

Papa, Many of my firends often ask me where they should eat while visiting Paris. I know you have an intimate knowledge of the best places and decent prices. Can you share your resto wisdom with everyone so they too can be well fed while in Paris? Stephane