Fine eating in Paris

My husband, Ward Hoffman, and I have been to Paris more than 20 times and, we confess, we go there these days primarily to eat and take walks, often covering eight or nine miles a day. Before we leave, we do a lot of research on where we want to eat. Once we arrive in Paris, one of our activities is to walk by the restaurants and “put our noses to the window” to check them out.

Following a week’s vacation in Paris in March ’05, we put together some notes on favorite restaurants, which we pass along in the hope that other readers might enjoy some of our “finds.” Most of these restaurants are small — and popular. If you want to eat at any of them, I recommend booking in advance.

La Maree Verte (9, rue de Pontoise, 5th Arrondissement; tel. 01 43 25 89 41 or visit — Métro: Maubert Mutualite or Cardinal Lemoine. Closed Sundays and for Monday lunch.

Excellent seafood and meat dishes. Three courses plus wine for €37 ($50 at the March ’05 exchange rate of €1 = $1.35).

I’ve eaten here half a dozen times (most recent meal, January ’02). The people who run it are very friendly and helpful. Whereas all of the other restaurants on this list are in various guidebooks, this restaurant is in no guidebook I’ve ever seen. I can’t imagine why. Maybe they don’t need the publicity.

Astier (44, rue JP Timbaud, 11th Arr.; tel. 01 43 57 16 35) — Metro: Oberkampf or Parmentier. Open only Monday-Friday.

VERY reasonable (€27) 4-course prix fixe which includes a fantastic cheese course. Crowded and noisy. Not touristy. In an undistinguished neighborhood. They open at 8 p.m.

Since we discovered Astier in December ’00, we have eaten here every time we’ve visited Paris. (Most recent meal, March ’05.)

L’Avant Gout (26 rue Bobillot, 13th Arr.; tel. 01 53 80 24 00) — Metro: Place d’Italie. Open Tuesday through Friday. Small, trendy, sleek place.

Prix fixe three courses about €32. Wonderful fish (I had rascasse, or scorpion fish, served on a bed of braised vegetables — delicious!). Desserts were decadent. Reasonably priced house wine (€17 for a Côtes du Rhone).

Book early. It’s small and very popular. (Most recent meal, March ’05.)

L’Ardoise (28, rue du Mont-Thabor, 1st Arr.; phone 01 42 96 28 18) — Metro: Concorde/Tuileries. Another good prix fixe menu. Very creative. Young chef. Zero décor. Rather crowded.

Open on Sunday evenings, which is handy because many of the small, good restaurants are closed Sundays. (Most recent meal, December ’00.)

Bofinger (5, rue de la Bastille, 4th Arr.; tel. 01 42 72 87 82) — Metro: Bastille.

This is the sort of place I normally wouldn’t go to (concerns about being pricey, touristy, etc.), BUT a friend recommended we go for Sunday brunch and it turned out to be great! They do a prix fixe that’s reasonable, the art deco décor is gorgeous and the service was elegant. I’d do brunch there again. (Most recent meal, December ’01.)

Here are a few helpful notes.

• Cheeks (beef, lamb, pork, fish) are very popular these days in Paris. You might not be familiar with the French word; it’s “joue.” Pigs’ ears and tails are also popular. I had pig tail (pieces) braised with vegetable for a starter at one restaurant. It was very good.

• In order to eat at all these fine restaurants, we spend most days walking a lot, eight or nine miles. We never tire of all the interesting parts of Paris. A walk which we have NOT taken, but which looks like fun, is described in a review of Les Zygomates that I found on the Web at

• A special place I always visit, very close to Cosi (see above), is Huilerie Artisanale J. Leblanc et fils (6 rue Jacob, 6th Arr.; tel. 01 46 34 61 55 or visit to buy nut oils. They’re expensive (€12 and up for a small bottle, the price dependent on the type of nut), but these are the most aromatic, rich-tasting nut oils I ever have had. Just a tablespoon or so with a splash of sherry vinegar or lemon makes a salad come alive.

Palo Alto, CA