Paris is known as one of the world’s best food cities for good reason. It has over 400 restaurants listed in the Michelin Guide, and 20 of those have two or more stars. Of course, some require reservations six months in advance and you might have to sell a kidney to afford the bill. But many Paris restaurants offer three-course set menus for a reasonably low price, making it possible to eat well without breaking the bank. With so many great options, how do you choose, especially when in town for a few short days? If you’re like me, you do a ton of research before you travel. That’s probably why you are reading this. So without further ado, here is my list of the best places to eat in Paris.
Tucked in a former butcher’s shop, Les Canailles is a star of the Pigalle food scene. The restaurant’s name translates to “the scoundrels” and is a play on the space’s origins; plats canailles are typically made with offal. But there was nothing awful about my meal here! The owners hail from France’s Brittany coast and the head chef is Japanese, so I figured seafood was the way to go. I started with a lovely, frothy fish soup that was almost as light as air. Next came a tender piece of sea bass, the skin perfectly crisp, atop an array of vegetables and a luscious sweet potato puree. Both dishes paired perfectly with a citrusy Jean Reverdy Sancerre.
I went for the chocolate fondant for dessert and it was one of the best things I’ve tasted in a while. If a chocolate lava cake and a Beard Papa’s cream puff met and had a baby, this would be it. A crunchy cake filled with rich creamy chocolate and a perfect quenelle of vanilla bean ice cream is my idea of heaven.
This chic eatery has been delighting diners since opening its doors in 2012. Bistrotters specializes in modern French cuisine with an international flair. My meal began with a complimentary cup of an exquisite foie gras mousse that I wanted more of. This was followed with two plump Fin de Claire oysters swimming in a smoky Bloody Mary foam. The grapefruit notes of a Clarendelle Bordeaux blanc made a nice pairing.
My main course was surprising in that it reminded me of a classic Chinese dish called Dong Po Rou. The pork belly confit was well caramelized and so tender my fork fell straight through it. This was accompanied by earth root vegetables and a cider sauce with hints of soy and Chinese five-spice. The dish paired well with the robust fruity flavor of a Les Lanes Corbieres. I enjoyed a whimsical taco for dessert. A crispy thin waffle formed the shell, which was filled with creamy cheese and juicy bits of tart green apple. It was a refreshing end to the night.
Itacoa is named for a beach in Brazil, and its food is infused with all the sunshine you’d expect. Impossibly light pork croquettes make me think of tossing a ball around in the sand. A chilled salad of tender octopus and charred corn brings the bright acidity of the sea to the table. Swordfish was the catch of the day, and it came BBQ-style with carrots two ways and a zingy ginger jelly.
I didn’t take a picture of dessert because it didn’t look like much when it came to the table. But appearances are definitely deceiving! In the chef’s signature dessert, tart passionfruit sorbet tops a pillow of Greek yogurt blended with decadent white chocolate. This dish helped him win MasterChef Brazil, so don’t even think about ending the meal with something else.
Open since 1961, Le Soufflé is the place to go if you want good soufflés in Paris. And the set menu is a really great value. I started with escargot, another French classic. The buttery snails came with a savory soufflé stuffed with cheese, spinach, garlic, and herbs. I wasn’t sure I could handle soufflés for every course, so opted for seared scallops as the main. The accompanying beurre blanc sauce was so yummy I mopped it up with the crispy shoestring fries.
Dessert was the pièce de résistance. I skipped over the traditional versions with chocolate and Grand Marnier in favor of the apple and Calvados soufflé. The pleasantly surprised waiter told me I’d made an excellent choice. How right he was! The towering soufflé was light as air with a golden crust and packed full of jammy apples. It came with a bottle of apple brandy that I poured over the top. I can see why this place has been in business so long.
Hardware Société Paris
If you are looking for one of the best places to have brunch in Paris, head directly to the Hardware Société. Originally hailing from the laneways of Melbourne, this hip eatery sets a new standard for breakfast fare. Everything on the menu sounded so good I had a hard time deciding what to order. Then the waitress walked by with this gorgeous plate of pancakes and my mind was made up. A stack of tender buckwheat blinis come topped with gin-cured salmon, caviar, and two perfect poached eggs. Cucumber labneh and beet jelly round out the flavors. The serving size seemed overly generous at first glance, but my plate was clean when the table was cleared. I plan to go back and eat my way through the entire menu.
Another great choice for brunch in Paris in Holybelly. You can go full English with scrambled eggs, mushrooms, and baked beans in tomato sauce. Or maybe you’re in the mood for American-style pancakes with maple syrup, bacon, and eggs sunny-side up. Either way, you are sure to leave happy and full. Holybelly is so popular, it has two locations on the same street about two blocks apart. On weekends, you can scan the QR code outside the restaurant to join a virtual queue. I really appreciated this system, which gave me the freedom to wander around the neighborhood while waiting for my table.
Vins des Pyrenees
My meal at Vins des Pyrenees was so good I would have it again from start to finish without changing a single thing. The foie gras appetizer was perfection on a plate, its earthiness offset with sea salt, balsamic vinegar and caramelized onion jam. Next came a scrumptious cod fillet roasted with a breadcrumb-and-mustard crust, served atop butter-braised cabbage. Both dishes were complemented with a dry Cotes de Gascogne, a wine from the French Pyrenees after which the restaurant is named. I ended with refreshing scoops of chocolate and caramel ice cream.
Le Pantruche is an old slang term for Paris, and you’ll certainly feel like you’ve stepped back in time at this retro bistro. My meal was as old school as the atmosphere. Foie gras to start and a Grand Marnier soufflé with salted butter caramel sauce to finish. Good as they both were, the main course was the star of the show. The succulent lamb was fall-apart tender and served with wonderfully cheesy potatoes and a spinach puree. This was successfully paired with a full-bodied Minevois from southern France.
No trip to Paris would be complete without crepes, and I savored mine Breton-style at Breizh Cafe. These crepes, also known as galettes, are made from organic buckwheat flower. Mine featured the standard cream and cheese along with a sunny-side up egg, smoked duck breast and white asparagus, which was in season. Washed down with a cup of hard apple cider, it was a true regional treat. I ended on a sweet note with a traditional wheat crepe topped with pear slices, whipped cream and 70% dark Valrhona chocolate. It was so delicious I seriously considered ordering a second!
Terra Corsa is a deli and wine bar specializing in products from Corsica, an island I now plan to visit. I stumbled upon this charming spot while waiting for dinner reservations elsewhere, and thought I’d kill an hour with a glass of wine. Much to my delight, a free plate of cured meat magically appeared on the table.
I returned a few nights later to fully indulge with the full charcuterie plate. It featured a variety of meats and cheeses along with bread and fig jam. My favorite cheese had a wonderfully aromatic herb crust and I regret not buying a wheel to take home.
Are you ready to try some of the best places to eat in Paris?
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*The following restaurants were in my original list of the best places to eat in Paris, but have sadly closed since my visits to them. I am keeping them here for my own memories.*
Le Zinc des Cavistes
The duck confit with mashed potatoes at Le Zinc des Cavistes is the standard by which all duck confit should be judged. It featured juicy meat encased in perfectly-rendered fat and crispy golden-brown skin. I started off with a salty-sweet pear and goat cheese tart, and finished with a tiramisu made with Nutella and Specaloos.
What I most remember about Cafe Constant was its unpretentious manner. The servers were relaxed and friendly, the food simple and delicious. I enjoyed a creamy pumpkin soup, beef stew with carrots and potatoes, and profiteroles drenched in chocolate. This is French comfort food at its finest!
What do you think are the best places to eat in Paris?