Restaurants

Paris Restaurant Picks: Bones, Walaku, Jeanne B., Septime @ Wanderlust

Dispatches from my favorite Paris restaurants for April.

BONES

My top pick this month! Bones is a bare-bones (ha!) bistro that operates half as a wine bar, with many natural wine choices by the glass and lots of sharable nibbles, and half as a gastronomic restaurant, showcasing Aussie chef James Henry’s inspired cuisine.

The single tasting menu is composed of four courses for 40€ (add 8€ for the cheese course) with a bonus four amuse-bouche, making this an incredibly good deal.

I especially like that the butter, bread, and charcuterie are all homemade (and very good), which shows a rare commitment, and I fell in love with the Dutch ceramics that they use.

The service is bearded, sweet and attentive, the atmosphere vibrates with voices and music in an exhilarating way, and we had an excellent, excellent time.

Smoked mackerel

Smoked mackerel

Grilled shrimp

Grilled shrimp

Housemade black pig saucisson and cured duck magret

Housemade black pig saucisson and cured duck magret

Black pig bouillon with foie gras

Black pig bouillon with foie gras

Housemade butter

Housemade butter

Housemade bread

Housemade bread

Eel / Trout / Beet / Horseradish @ Bones

Eel / Trout / Beet / Horseradish @ Bones

Salt cod / Asparagus / Egg

Salt cod / Asparagus / Egg

Pigeon / Salsify / Cherry from La Guinelle

Pigeon / Salsify / Cherry from La Guinelle

Gariguette strawberries / Goat's milk yogurt

Gariguette strawberries / Goat’s milk yogurt

Bones, 43 rue Godefroy Cavaignac, 75011 Paris, M° Voltaire, 09 80 75 32 08.

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Twelve Hours in Paris

Three and a half years ago, I followed my friend Adam’s lead and imagined what I would do if I was given just Twelve Hours in Paris.

I still stand by the choices I made then — except for the Caramella gelato shop, now sadly defunct. But, prompted by reader Patricia’s recent comment on that post, I thought it would be fun to revisit that theme now, and dream up another ideal Parisian day, featuring shops and restaurants that have opened in the meantime.

My twelve hours in Paris, 2012 edition, would begin in late morning with a croissant from Gontran Cherrier’s bakery: he makes it with feuilletage inversé, the puff pastry that’s typically used for millefeuilles (napoleons), and it is extra flaky and extra good. I would also buy a half loaf of his rye and red miso bread, if I didn’t mind schlepping it around with me all day.

I would then spend a couple of leisurely hours walking up and around the Montmartre hill, which remains full of secrets even when you’ve lived in the neighborhood for (gasp!) nine years. I would climb up staircases and down cobblestoned streets, check out the vineyard, peek into courtyards (and tiptoe in for a closer look if the gate happened to be open), and enjoy the village-y quiet and the greenery.

Hopping onto the metro or catching a Vélib’, I would go and have lunch at Bob’s Kitchen, the vegetarian restaurant where I cooked for a short while last year. I would order the day’s veggie stew, the satisfying mix of grains, legumes, roasted vegetables, and crudités I lunched on day in, day out during my stint there. I might also get one of their irresistible maki (garnished with avocado, mango, and daikon radish) to share.

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Twelve Hours in Paris

Note: For more Paris recommendations, see this follow-up edition.

My friend Adam has just had what I think is a brilliant idea of a meme, named Twelve Hours in Dot Dot Dot: if you had only twelve hours left to spend in your home city/town/village/oasis, what would you do with them?

Because I lived abroad for a while, I have, on several occasions, spent twelve semi-final hours in Paris, and I admit they usually involved a combination of the following activities: 1) buying several months’ worth of my then-favorite face cream, 2) trying to locate my passport, 3) spending time with people I knew I was going to miss, simply enjoying the normalcy of being in the same time zone.

But I posit cosmetics, traveling documents, and companionable silences weren’t what Adam had in mind for this meme, so I came up with a more suitable — and food-oriented — timetable for my hypothetical last twelve hours in Paris.

It goes without saying that difficult choices were made, and that for every item I included, there were about ten more looking at me with a crestfallen expression. Most of these places are included in my Paris book, Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, in which you’ll find many more options to fill however many hours you get to spend in Paris (more info here).

I should also note that I chose to assume these weren’t the last twelve hours before I die, first of all because that would be a little depressing, and also because I worked in a few opportunities to buy things I would want to take with me wherever I was supposed to travel next, and who knows what customs policy they have in the afterlife.

Without further ado, I give you my Twelve Hours in Paris, which I’ve decided would take place on a Thursday, from 12:30pm to 12:30am. And of course, if you want to chime in with your own Twelve Hours in Dot Dot Dot, in the comments section or as a post on your blog, I’ll be curious to read your take!

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Hidden Kitchen

Corn soup with black bean salsa

Late last summer, a young chef from Seattle wrote to tell me about his underground restaurant project: Hidden Kitchen was to be set in an apartment somewhere in Paris, where he and his girlfriend would serve a tasting menu with matching wines to twelve diners each week. The price would be reasonable and chef friends visiting from out of town would be invited to cook there on occasion, too.

He had the vision, the name, the funding, the location, and the nifty cut-out cards, but he wanted to reach out and ask for a local’s thoughts.

And this local’s predominant thought was: yay! (I may have offered a bit more insight — I forget.)

The concept of an underground restaurant is common enough in some countries to be documented on Wikipedia and to have been written up in the press, but I have heard or read very little about similar initiatives in Paris — of course, they may be so underground as to fly below my radar –, so I was excited to learn about this one, and to be in the front row as it made its debut.

It took the team a few months to pull things together, renovate the apartment, set up the kitchen, and decorate the dining room, but the chef wrote again in the spring to announce that things were just about ready: the first official dinner would be held on June 24, but would Maxence and I like to come and lend our taste buds for a proof of concept dinner a couple of weeks before that?

My reply was: see above.

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Saigon Sandwich

Saigon Sandwich

True dining bargains are so few and so far between in Paris that by the time you discover a new one, the previous find has usually turned into an old legend that the Elders like to recount around the fire while the Young sit there and wish they’d brought their iPod.

But when it comes to lunch and fuss-free food, Paris has no shortage of hole-in-the-wall gems: you just need to know where to look. And today, let us look in the general direction of Belleville and, more precisely, a little street off the general hullabaloo of the boulevard.

There hides a Vietnamese sandwich joint called Saigon Sandwich. Barely larger than my kitchen, it is the workshop of one sandwich-making artist, a middle-aged man who takes immense pride in the quality and freshness of his subs, assembled to order throughout the day.

To those unfamiliar with the Vietnamese sandwich, let me introduce the bánh mì, a deceptively simple combination of meat, crudités (cucumbers, carrots, daikon, onions, cilantro, chili), and some sort of dressing (most often mayonnaise, garlic chili sauce, Maggi sauce, or a combination thereof) on a piece of light-textured baguette — a little souvenir of the friendly presence of the French in Vietnam in the 19th and 20th century.

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