Asking me for 10 best restaurants in Paris, or at least my favourite spots, is like asking a mother for her favourite child – impossible (although we all know Anna – she’s my sister – , that I am mom’s favourite child). Thinking about Paris makes me very nostalgic. I only went there for the first time when I was 20, no clue why it took me so long. My dad and I spent four days in Paris, where he studied and worked when he was in his early-twenties.
I immediately fell in love with the city. Not one of these head over heels, wild loves with ups and downs, intensive happy moments, dark and sad low moments and the urge to immediately need to move in and spend the rest of each other’s lives together. No, rather the kind of healthy love, where you feel just very content and sympathetic towards the other person, but you’re taking things slow and relaxed. Your heart isn’t breaking into a hundred parts just because you’re spending one night apart.
Call me unromantic, but that’s how it was with Paris. I liked it, I liked it a lot, but I didn’t feel the urge to immediately return. I knew I would be back at some point. I didn’t know when, but I knew I would be. After a failed attempt to move to Paris for my Erasmus, I finally moved to the French capital for the final year of my Master studies, around five years after I had visited Paris for the first time.
With studies you usually get a lot of time that you need to self-manage. I’m the best at time management and so I spent 90% of my time in cafes and restaurants and 10% (with a 200% intensity) studying. Already then, I found Paris to be incredibly inspiring when it comes to food. Ethnic food of all kinds, a lot of attention to top quality and seasonality, interesting and challenging combinations and somehow the word avant-garde describes the food scene in Paris pretty well.
You have restaurants with price ranges that I can’t even pronounce, you can have bargain lunch deals at usually pricey restaurants and you get amazing food at places where you’d never even imagine a restaurant. Also, many Parisian restaurants have a certain roughness, spontaneity and unpretentiousness that I’m often missing elsewhere.
Ok, I’m close to crying out of longing – I’m serious – so take this list and go wild on your next visit to Paris. There are many, many more great restaurants and places there and I will for sure share them with you another day, too.
Raw tuna, smoked beetroot, Roquefort cream, raw almonds, coriander blossoms, wild strawberries. Reads like a poem? That was one of the starters that opened a very eventful dinner at Abri in the 10th in Paris. Chef Katsu Okiyama and his team got a Michelin star, about one and a half years ago, but not much has changed since then. The menu is still incredibly tasty, the dishes creative and the price unbeatable. For 65€ you get 7 different courses. You have no clue what you’ll get until you get it, though. The menu is chosen for you by the chef, you just tell him what you like to eat and your allergies. Don’t try to sneak onto what other tables got, because every group gets something different. Fun, right? The restaurant is tiny, so make sure to book in advance.
Mokonuts sells one of the best miso sesame cookies in Paris that are deliciously chewy with crunchy crust. It’s also an immensely inspirational spot owned by a very creative couple, Moko Hirayama and Omar Koreitem. Seasonal dishes with twist, like labne cheesecake with nectarines and red currant, Octopus panzanella, Labne ice cream, nectarines and coriander flowers. The menu is dominated by flavours like bergamot, rose water, sumac and miso. It’s open till 15.30h only and people love it, so be prepared to wait or reserve a lot in advance.
3. La Buvette
This tiny place in the 11th was one of my favourite wine bars when I lived in Paris. Relaxed, no reservations possible, great wines and small but delicious snacks like their homemade pâté, the big buttery beans with olive oil and lemon zest and canned sardines with burnt lemon. The very direct and friendly owner Camille has also released a cookbook this year that I’m very keen to get my hands on.
4. Les Résistants
A place that looks like a page ripped out of an interior magazine. Wooden and tiled floors, vintage details, plants everywhere, rattan chairs and stools and beautiful marble tables. Their menu sounds simple when just skimming over the ingredients, but it’s definitely not. Carefully sourced ingredients, perfect combinations and a lot of freshness is what makes up the dishes served daily at Les Résistants. When I was there, I was lucky to get the last portion of a ridiculously soft and tasty Atlantic bonito with different types of summer squash, rhubarb, dill, apple. My dessert was almonds crumble, raspberries with white cheese from Normandie and a really intense and flowery honey.
5. Cheval d’Or
This Pan-Asian restaurant was opened last year by Taku Sekine and Florent Ciccoli. It’s small plates to share in a very simple, rough and concrete-dominated place with dishes that burst with flavour. One look at the menu is enough: you’ll want to order everything. White tuna, bell pepper, yuzu. Duck tartare, apple sesame. Iberico pork tonkatsu. Taiwanese fried chicken, miso chili, steamed broccoli. This was our choice among many others. You can look into the open kitchen where chefs are doing magic over steaming pots and sizzling pans.
6. Le Grand Pan
One of the best 1kg steaks I’ve eaten in Paris. On the bone, with a simple side salad that’s all you need. Far from tourists and main city spots, this restaurant is worth the Metro ride. A rustic interior and the quick and decisive waiters make you feel like you’re dining in traditional, old Paris.
Another star restaurant that has the vibe of a relaxed neighborhood spot with a demanding and out of the ordinary menu. The dishes go beyond traditional French cuisine, while still leaving some hints to them. I was lucky to get a table for lunch some time ago. I was in love with all the food. Oysters with cherries and toasted buckwheat, Turbot with grilled asparagus and artichoke in a tarragon-garden sorrel sauce and pigeon with young potatoes, wild asparagus and sea vegetables. The wine menu is equally impressive with some of the usual suspects, but also a bunch of new names.
I remember the linguine with mackerel and plenty of delicious herbs as well as the tender, medium rare beef filet with fresh grapefruit, fennel and dried fruits as if it was yesterday. This rustic, simple and very pretty Italian restaurant is definitely one I’d come back to over and over again. Local ingredients interpreted in a French-Italian way.
9. Chez Aline
This place is simple and very easy to overlook. A small place that sells one of the best ‘jambon-beurre’ in Paris as well as some salads and a tortilla. The sandwich is made on a sourdough baguette tradition: soft and chewy in the middle, with a crunchy, caramelised crust. Inside you’ll find two ingredients: salted butter from Normandie and slices of ham produced by Yves le Guel, who is one of the few still sticking to the traditional way of making ham. Believe me, this is a sandwich you really don’t want to miss out on.
10. Boutique Yam’tcha
Backpocket to Yam’tcha, a top Paris star restaurant. The owners are incredibly friendly (there’s a Chef’s Table Episode on this place) and I went there last year for the first time, because their famous baos have chased me in my dreams. I got the Stilton and Amarena cherry bao that is so perfectly creamy, salty, tangy, sweet, soft that you want to buy ten of them immediately.