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December 13, 2012
Bistronomie in Paris
Bistronomie is still a welcome culinary trend in Paris after 10 years.
L’AFFRIOLE, one of my favorite
restaurants in the French capital.
The term, a
contraction of bistrot and gastronomie,
which was invented 9 years ago by Sébastien
Demorand , the restaurant critic for Zurban
, a magazine that was published in Paris between 2000 and 2006, is self-explanatory.
small informal but usually nicely decorated restaurants launched by already
famous chefs, or by their sous-chefs who want to open their own restaurant.
They are usually serious professionals who want to bring back good quality
cuisine, traditional but inventive, at reasonable prices in a simple and unpretentious
environment. Gone are the fancy white table cloth, expensive silver, crystal
chandeliers, pricey art on the walls, and over serious or arrogant waiters.
In Bistronomique restaurants the
creativity of the chef, the attractiveness of the wine list, and a service that
makes the diner feels welcome, even during his first visit, are the key to
success. The location is also important bot not necessarily as it would be in a
they are bistrots offering authentic gastronomy based on good quality products,
and a solid know-how of French traditional cooking techniques.
reflect a sense of the kind of modern,
even trendy, dishes the contemporary customers expect from a well-known chef,
but their menus indicate prices that
remain affordable, thanks to a limited staff and a complete absence of bling
restaurants in Paris offer a 3 course dinner menu under 40 Euros. But of course some bistronomique restaurants
owned bybig name’’stars’’
of the trade charge much more. I will
not mention those here.
You have to
know that nowadays 70% of French restaurants cut their expenses by limiting
their creativity and assembling dishes whose components have been industrially
produced and packaged by huge food plants, from pâtés to desserts.
So it is
comforting to know that most of the well-established “bistronomique” restaurants buy
their products in local stores or directly from French producers, and often
select themselves their fruits and vegetables at the central ‘’halles’’ of
Rungis, South of Paris. Then they prepare them in their own kitchen with the
help of competent professional cooks.
the last 15 years, I derived my most
pleasant memories from restaurants that propose a ‘’cuisine bistrotière’’ or ‘’
cuisine du marché’’ rather than from the famous gastronomic, and often very
impressive, starred restaurants where I
was very often invited by professional
contacts during my many years of frequent traveling to France on
Now that I am retired and traveling on budget,
small neighborhood family-owned bistrots, both traditional French or
‘’ethnic’’, are my favorite eateries.
privilege those that belong to the French
Associations of Maitres Restaurateurs whose
members, all independent restaurateurs, share a commitment to obey the
principles of an audited Chart of
Quality that guarantees that they renew some of their dishes several times a month,
that all their cooking is made on the premises with essentially fresh products purchased from non- industrial sources such as
artisans and family-owned farms.
They also insure that the environment of the
restaurant itself is safe and healthy, that the presentation of both the table
appointments and what is in the plate, respect the traditions, and that the
dining room and management staff welcome
the customers with a pleasant and well-informed behavior. Their menus and
dishes should always be precisely written,
and the prices truthful. All the
restaurants that are present members of that association post a recognizable
logo on the window near the entrance of the restaurant.
the most popular “bistronomique” restaurant is perhaps Le Comptoir du Relais, 9 Carrefour
de l’Odeon, in the 6th arrrondissement in the Hotel Relais Saint
Since its launching in 2005 by
Yves Camdeborde, this very tiny bistrot has been refusing customers every day. Unless they are sent by
the hotel for the dinner service inside. Open for lunch and dinner its outside tables on the minuscule heated sidewalk
terrace are very looked after, even in
grey and cold weather, and very difficult to get.
3 weeks ago
I stopped by at 3:00 PM to have a glass of wine and a plate of cheese and the
waiters were busy folding blankets on the chairs outside for the evening
customers. The waiting lines are long and the waiting staff not always
pleasant. But some of the typically ’’brasserie’’ type dishes such as milk-fed roasted piglet, poule au pot,
or boudin (blood sausage) are made from high quality products and until a
couple of years ago were reliably good. I understand that recently the quality
of some dishes has become inconsistent. But the prices are still relatively
mild for this district.
that La Régalade, the very pleasant
restaurant in the 14th arrondissement, that Camdeborde opened in 1992 and sold in 2004 and made him a celebrity
chef, built his success on very simple ‘’country’’ dishes prepared with a lot
of gastronomic flair.
Like many of
his ‘’bistronomique’’ colleagues, Camdeborde
was trained in the kitchen of the famous LesAmbassadeurs restaurant
in the Hotel Crillon by its former
iconic executive chef Christian Constant.
In 2012 Constant owns 4 restaurants on the same sidewalk of Rue Saint-
Dominique in the 7th arrondissements:
Le Violon d’Ingres, his flagship restaurant which can be considered
in spite of its higher prices, as an ‘’
Upper’’ bistronomique restaurant, Les
Fables de la Fontaine,Les Cocottes.
the delightful Café Constant, one of my favorite mini-restaurants bistronomiques
A few other
celebrated, but still relatively affordable ‘’bistronomique’’ bistrots in Paris are:
Chez l’Ami Jean of Stéphane
Jégo (27 Rue Malar in the 7th arrondissment) who cooked for Camdeborde at la Régalade for many years. Little
B of Dominique Bouchet , an ex-chef at the Tour d’Argent and the Crillon (11 Rue Treihard in the 8th).
Bistronomes of Cyril Aveline and Sylvain
Cravero who worked under Eric Fréchon at the Bristol, (34 Rue Richelieu in the 1st)
Moelle of Thierry Faucher, who also worked under Christian Constant at the Crillon,
(2 rue Vasco de Gama in the 15th).
( 92 Rue Broca in the 13th).
Le Café des Musées
( 49 Rue de Turenne in the 3rd). (I love that lively
bistro where I had a great lunch in November)
I used to
love Le Troquet of Christian
Etchebest, another alumnus of the Constant
‘’school’’, (21 Rue Francois Bonvin in the 15th) But I read that
he sold his restaurant.
For me the
most illustrious veteran of the bistronomie in Paris, and probably one of my favorites
but I have to admit that I have not been there for at least 7 years, is François Pasteau, who launched his L’Epi Dupin (11 Rue Dupin in the 6th)in 1995, long before bistronomie was even
His restaurant, that has been recently
completely redesigned and redecorated, is a model of what a good bistronome
should expect from an authentic ‘’cuisine
du marché’’. His dinner menu at 33 euros is perhaps one of the best deals in
Paris in 2012. But the reason I gave up going there is that it is always too
crowded, for a large part by noisy Americans, and that the waiters always give
you the impression as soon as you have placed your order that they expect you
to eat fast and leave, which diminishes most of the fun of eating Pasteau’s great
My new favorite: L’ AFFRIOLE
I had lunch there
with my sister in November and a month later I still can feel on my taste buds the
aroma and the marvelous blend of gustatory sensations that I loved during this
This is a
small restaurant that can seat a maximum of 45 diners at 17 rue Malar, on the
same sidewalk as Chez L’Ami Jean mentioned earlier.
The décor is very contemporary and simple:
Colorful chairs made of plastic, large ceramic tiles, nice lighting, a large
blackboard where you can read the daily specials.
restaurant used to be a bit more intimate and the décor more traditional when I
ate there for the last time 7 or 8 years ago. I always wanted to come back so
impressed that I was at the time by both the superior quality of the food, and
the charm and total lack of pretension of the place and its reduced staff.
I had reserved 2
days in advance for that Saturday lunch since I had read that this place is so
popular with both local regulars and educated foreign gastronomes, that it is
always packed, even at lunchtime.
by the gracious and multilingual co-owner, Maria
Verola, is as pleasant as I remembered it.
cooking of her husband Thierry Verola,
a very gifted chef who spent some time in the kitchens of Alain Senderens( Lucas
Carton that morphed into Le
Senderens on Place de la Madeleine) and Jean-Paul
Duquesnoy, is more tasty and creative than ever, even though it is
based or often adapted from very traditional French regional
Verola is a native of the region of Auvergne, in South Central France, where there is a long tradition of solid and tasty
fare based on recipes transmitted in families from one generation to the next.
It is also
the region where some of my favorite French cheeses such as Cantal,
Saint-Nectaire, Fourme d’Ambert, and Salers, are produced.
Verola took over this restaurant about 12 years ago. And it did not take long
to attract connoisseurs of “real food” and astute restaurant critics who recognized
the merits of a chef so attached to the importance of good products and how to
treat them well with honesty and technical competence. L'Affriolé as been awarded a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide.
that combines the regular menu and the specials hand written everyday on the
chalkboard, changes every month, according to the seasons, and what he finds at
the market in Rungis. But some perennial signature dishes have been regularly
offered for as long as 10 years.
is simple: you generally can choose from 5 ‘’entrées’’ ( appetizers) , 5 plats principaux
and 5 desserts. (in fact it could be 6, I am not sure anymore).
costs 25 euros at lunch time, and 35 euros for dinner.
lunch the restaurant propose less expensive but equally attractive ‘’Formules’’
where you can choose an appetizer and a main dish, or a main dish and a dessert
But it will
cost you a little ‘’supplément’’ (a few extra euros) if you choose some of the
delicious daily specials that are so appealing that it is tough to make a
Some of the
most popular dishes are fried breaded
eggs, magret de canard (duck breast) aux épices, with mushrooms, daurade
(a kind of bream), lamb roasted with fresh thyme, pressed lamb with foie gras. And several original seafood
When we were
seated, we were quite pleasantly surprised by the beautiful complimentary amuse-bouche that was already waiting
for us on the table: a plate of very
fresh small spring radishes, a tiny bowl of coarse sea salt, and a perfectly
baked ‘’baguette en épis’’ that accompanied a bowl of addictive black
olive-butter. When I was young in the late 50`s we used to call it a ‘’
baguette YéYé’’. This specialty baguette is made by a master pastry chef and
baker , Stéphane Secco, who owns one of the best bakeries in Paris on a nearby
Wow… what a
great tasty start
had a very delicate appetizer of scrambled eggs with truffles, and an
incredibly rich ‘’joue de boeuf braisée au vin rouge’’ (braised beef jowl in red wine) with risotto (or perhaps
the ganiture was instead mashed potatoes… I may be wrong on this).
I had one of
the signature dishes of Thierry Verola, ‘’croquettes de pieds de porc’’ (deboned and chopped pig feet meat, lightly
sauced , shaped in a crumbed cylinder and fried) with an excellent home-made tartar sauce and a
scrumptious Pâté Pantin, consisting of very tender small pieces of deboned quail (or perhaps young poussin) with
foie gras and baked , totally enclosed, in a perfectly flaky light crust .
I think that
we had caramelized poached pear and a sort of dark chocolate cake with praliné
delicious Italian espresso they serve usually miniature pots de crème and tiny
marshmallows scented with with orange flower
. These are complimentary.
With a great
bottle of Chinon 2009 from Domaine de Laroche, an excellent small estate in the
Central part of the Loire Vallley, we paid no more than 85 euros
restaurant is closed on Sunday and Monday. The closest Metro station is La Tour
Maubourg or Pont de l’Alma, but this one is on the other side of Seine River.
It is easier to go there by taxi.