Dining in Paris

Karlette and her husband, Ward, shared a number of restaurant recommendations last month (page 42), gleaned from more than 20 trips to Paris. Here are a few more. (Reservations are advised.)

Le Bistro des Deux Theatres (18 rue Blanche, 9th Arr.; tel. 01 45 26 41 43. Website for the chain is www.bistro-et-cie.fr) — Metro: Trinite.

This is one of six Willy Dorr restaurants. Each follows the same formula of serving a complete meal (Kir Royale, three courses, coffee and wine) for €32, and they are open every day.

You have a large choice for each of the three courses. The food is good — perhaps not excellent, but it’s great value for the money. Service is not as genteel as the one-of-a-kind bistros in this list, but for this price that’s just a little quibble. (Most recent meal, March ’05.)

Les Allobroges (71, rue des Grand-Champs, 20th Arr.; tel. 01 43 73 40 00) — Metro: Maraichers or
Nation. Closed Sunday and Monday.

I understand that this place, out in the sticks of the 20th, has been there for 20 years. Still, the food is fresh and creative. The décor is simple and elegant. The welcome and service are warm and gracious.

Interesting and delicious menu items, e.g., first course of beef cheeks in vinaigrette (delicious), and chunks of raies (skate) pressed into a cylinder and served on basil sauce.

Dinners came with not one amuse bouche but two (!): some carrots with an herby sauce and a small cup of (to die for) artichoke soup. A cheese course followed the main course. After dessert, coffee was served with delicious caramels. Four courses for €32. (Most recent meal, March ’05.)

La Cave Gourmande (10 rue du General Brunet, 19th Arr.; tel. 01 40 40 03 30) — Métro: Botzaris. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

This is another one “out in the boondocks” — not a place you’d happen upon. In fact, when we went to “check it out,” it was closed and completely shut with one of those rolling metal doors and we couldn’t even tell it was a restaurant. However, a warm welcome awaited us when we returned on a Monday evening. This is a small, cozy place with lots of wood and wine bottles around.

The hostess/waitress (the chef’s wife) is very pleasant and helpful. When we couldn’t understand something on the menu (it’s in French and English), she called out the chef (who is originally from the U.S.) to explain.

They offer only a fixed-price menu (three courses plus amuse bouche for €32), but it has plenty of choices. For my main course, I had delicious rouget (red mullet, a dish I try to have at least once each time I’m in Paris) served on broad beans with a meaty sauce. Heavenly! My husband had pork cheeks with a buckwheat risotto. Yum! His starter was so interesting, delicious and beautifully presented: braised snails inside little puff pastries with some grilled squid and a curry sauce. Mine was shrimp with a vegetable tartare.

My husband had the nightly dessert special (a rum tiramisu). I had something called “Let’s have fun with lemons,” which turned out to be several lemony desserts: a cookie, a sorbet, a pound cake and a little pot of lemon curd. I loved all of them.

Very reasonably priced bottle of Cahors (€20). (Most recent meal, March ’05.)

Les Zygomates (7 rue de Capri, 12th Arr.; tel. 01 40 19 93 04) — Métro: Daumesnil or Michel Bizot. Closed Sunday/Monday.

I had heard of this one a long time ago (its odd name stuck in my mind). It’s an old-time shop with a big front window, crowded tables and a very French feeling. We got there just at 8 o’clock and were the first customers. Within 20 minutes the place was full.

The fixed-price meal (€28) started with an amuse bouche of little toasts, raw carrots and an herby, cheesy dip. I had a phyllo nest with caramalized onions, crayfish and a walnut sauce, followed by a lamb dish on polenta with a Moroccan (?) sauce (tomatoes, onions and good spices — not too heavy). My husband had a puff pastry filled with calamari and a sauce, followed by cod covered with “scales” of potato slices. Both main courses were served with two very nice vegetable purees (different for each of us).

Desserts were a pistachio crème brûlée and a light chocolate mousse on chocolate cake plus fudge sauce and crème anglaise.

All dishes were delicious. Service was a bit slow (one waitress came running in about 30 minutes late, it seemed, so they were shorthanded). (Most recent meal, March ’05.)

Cosi (54 rue de Seine, 6th Arr.; tel. 01 46 33 35 36) — Métro: Mabillon or Odeon.

This is a lunch spot which specializes in soups, salads and sandwiches. I was aware of it but hadn’t been there. We got there about
11:45 and decided to have an early lunch — good move; by the time we got our food, there was a line out the door with people waiting to get in and order. (You order at a counter, wait for the food to be prepared, then carry it on trays to a table.) We sat upstairs and enjoyed the CDs of opera music.

My husband had a nice, pureed pumpkin soup (in French, potiron). French pumpkin is not as sweet as what we’re used to; this soup was savory with some nice spices and very satisfying. It was served with freshly made focaccia (from a wood-burning oven). I had a sandwich of fresh ricotta, oven-roasted vegetables, basil and a sprinkling of olive oil, served on the same focaccia. Rather unusual. I LOVED it. We each had a glass of red wine. Total about €15. (Most recent meal, March ’05.)

Palo Alto, CA