Is Paris burning? Maybe. The City of Light's restaurant scene is certainly hot. Few other places have a comparable concentration of talented, highly trained chefs and demanding eaters inspiring one another. These days many of the top-end culinary artistes preside over Paris's palace hotel kitchens such as Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée, Pierre Gagnaire at The Balzac, Philippe Legendre at the George V, and Jean-Francois Piège at the Crillon. Meanwhile, a younger generation led by Yves Camdeborde of Le Comptoir du Relais is busy forging cuisine gastronomique and traditional bistro fare into the lively, enlightened style insiders call "bistronomie." It's served at reasonable prices in casual settings from the Left Bank to the Bastille neighborhood. A newfound respect for diners, too, is literally in the air: Purist Parisian restaurateurs have broken the tobacco taboo with a self-imposed ban on smoking.
1. AUX LYONNAIS
32 Rue Saint Marc, 75002 2nd Arrondissment
Tel: 01 42 96 65 04
For years a seedy neighborhood bistro, Aux Lyonnais is a case study in turning pigs' ears, snouts, and trotters into a silk purse. When Alain Ducasse took over in 2003, he wisely left intact the circa 1890s off-yellow walls with their tall mirrors, tile floors, and wooden tables with iron legs. He trimmed the menu to fit a page, and radically lightened the gutsy Lyonnais cuisine, keeping the variety meats, stewed suckling pig, braised shoulder of lamb, and the classic soufflés and île flottantes. You might not be able to hear yourself think over the convivial noshing of serious French eaters and itinerant gastronauts, but you won't mind, especially if you're chowing on the fried pork rinds and tangy potato salad with garlic sausage on the daily 28-euro prix-fixe menu—a bargain by Paris standards. Miracle of miracles, the pike dumpling—these can be downright leaden—practically levitates in its crayfish sauce. And the old Lyonnais standby of pears poached in Beaujolais, usually lumps of slippery fruit in gluey purple sauce? Here you get one easy-to-eat, lightly winey pear sliced and garnished with a scoop of fromage frais ice cream. Book ahead. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
2. BRASSERIE LIPP
151 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006 6th Arrondissment
Tel: 01 45 48 53 91
This clubby, perennial brasserie in the heart of Saint Germain is almost as famous for its cigar-smoking habitués and standoffish service—newcomers are often banished to the second floor, instead of being seated in the beautiful Art Nouveau ground-floor dining room—as it is for its scene. The food (after 126 years in business) is better than it used to be, and service is now at least polite and sometimes even charming. While the old-fashioned cooking is to be prized more for its homely authenticity than its gastronomic ambitions, you can eat well here, especially if you stick to basics: pâté en croûte, "Bismark"-style herring (fish poached in white wine and herbs and garnished with juniper berries), sauerkraut with ham and sausages, and classic salmon with sorrel sauce. The restaurant is open until 2 a.m., but if you're interested in people-watching, go for lunch, when it's frequented by an odd and sprightly mix of politicians, editors, fashion people, and the occasional movie star.
3. CASA OLYMPE
48 rue Saint Georges, 9th Arrondissment
Metro: St George
Tucked away in a quiet street in the rapidly gentrifying 9th arrondissement, this small dining room is casual chic and a perfect place for real French comfort food from talented and occasionally mercurial chef Olympe Versini. Her menu, including chestnut-flour galettes with coddled eggs, marinated sardines, roast shoulder of lamb and Paris-Brest, are a charming miniature dictionary of the reasons the world loves French food.
4. CHEZ DUMONET-JOSEPHINE
117 rue du Cherche Midi, 6th Arrondissment
Metro: Sevres- Babylon
The third generation of the Dumonet family now run one of the last and best of Paris's old-fashioned bistros. A charming Left Bank address with its amber-colored walls, elaborate moldings, serious waiters, and a sophisticated crowd. Go there for an anthology of traditional French bistro dishes, many of which are served in half portions, including terrine de foie gras; lamb's lettuce, potato and black truffle salad; tournedos Rossini; andouillette; boeuf bourguignon; and Grand Marnier soufflé.
5. CHEZ LES ANGES
54 Boulevard de La Tour-Maubourg, 75007 7th Arrondissment
Metro: La Tour-Maubourg
Tel: 01 47 05 89 86
Cool jazz on the sound system, a sunny veranda, and a tapas bar: That's how Jacques and Catherine Lacipiere—the husband-and-wife team also behind Au Bon Accueil (14 Rue de Monttessuy; 33-1-47-05-46-11)—have reinvented this former Burgundian bastion located within a Champagne cork's flight of the Eiffel Tower. Catherine greets guests and takes orders at lunch; Jacques does the same at dinner. This is pure market cuisine, the daily changing menu punctuated by fabulous wild fish, wild mushrooms, and seasonal game. To start, try escabèche of mackerel with capers and parsley sauce or succulent boned quail with a perfect soft-boiled egg on a bed of fresh spinach. Follow with thickly sliced pan-fried calf's liver with coarse salt and roasted shallot, or an intensely flavorful Bresse hen cooked in its own juices and served with dreamy mashed potatoes. At lunch expect politicians, journalists, and museumgoers (from the Rodin and Invalides), and at dinner, chummy regulars: a mix of ladies in designer jeans and pearl necklaces, gentlemen in blue blazers. Closed Saturdays and Sundays.
6. DOMINIQUE BOUCHET
11 Rue Treilhard, 75008 8th Arrondissment
Metro: Miromesnil or Saint Augustin
Tel: 01 45 61 09 46
At a time when many new restaurants in Paris spin on a "concept" or gimmick, chef Dominique Bouchet's eponymous spot next to the Marché de l'Europe upholds the time-honored theme that's made it a word-of-mouth success since it opened in 2004: excellent traditional French cooking. Better still, superb dishes such as roast sea bass on a bed of fingerling potatoes mashed with vanilla-perfumed olive oil, capers, and lemon, and a charlotte of crab, avocado, green apple, tomato, and fresh mango are served by cheerful waiters in a comfortable dining room with ebony-stained wood tables. Desserts are homey—a white peach simply poached in vanilla syrup and served with Champagne granita, for instance—and even the least expensive wines are great drinking. Closed Saturdays and Sundays.
7. HUITERIE REGIS
3 rue de Montfaucon, 6th Arrondissment
Near the Marché Saint-Germain, this cheerful little hole in the wall looks like a miniature version of the sea shacks that make eating in Brittany so much fun. They only serve oysters and shrimp (and the occasional fish dish) along with a great assortment of white wines. This simple formula pulls a friendly, wordly crowd of book editors, politicians, shopkeepers, and fashion types for a simple-but-delicious feast.
84 Rue de Varenne, 75007 7th Arrondissment
Tel: 01 45 51 47 33
In 2006, chef Alain Passard's L'Arpege turned 20 years old and, with the reconversion of Alain Senderens's Lucas-Carton, this pear-wood-paneled property in the embassy-studded Seventh Arrondissement might now be the most expensive table in France. Passard is brilliant and idealistic in his maverick way: In 2002 he created his own strictly organic kitchen garden to supply the restaurant, at the Château du Gros Chesnay about 150 miles southwest of Paris. But he's also quixotic. Several years ago Passard renounced red meat in favor of a menu that stars vegetables, fowl, and seafood. Yet because Passard is such a gifted technician, the cuisine's parameters never feel limiting. Deceptively simple dishes, such as a rich, mustard-based gazpacho with ice cream and heirloom Haut-Maine chicken with cabbage, squash blossoms, and baby root vegetables, are breathtaking. Passard's most famous dessert is the tomato roasted with 12 spices, invented in 1986 and on the menu again 20 years later, but the chocolate mille-feuille du mendiant with herb ice cream is just as impressive. The catch? The prix-fixe dinner menu currently runs 340 euros per person without wine (add at least 100 if you order à la carte), making the 130-euro "pleine terre pleine mer" lunch menu sound like a real bargain. Closed Saturdays and Sundays.
4 Rue Beethoven, 75016 16th Arrondissment
Tel: 01 40 50 84 40
For fashionable foodies, a meal at this small, split-level dining room with silver-painted walls on a quiet residential street near the Trocadero is guaranteed Nirvana. In fact, some of the capital's most demanding gourmets insist there's no young chef in the French capital today who has more talent and imagination than Pascal Barbot. As proof, they cite the rapidity with which his creations find their way onto the menus at other restaurants, notably his much-imitated avocado and crab ravioli dribbled with almond oil. To have the pleasure of a meal here, you'll have to book a month ahead, but it's worth it to sample dishes such as mille-feuille made with thin slices of button mushroom sprinkled with verjus (fresh grape juice) and caramelized foie gras, or langoustines in an airy egg-and-beer batter with a colorful salad of romaine, begonia flowers, garlic flowers, and pansy petals. You never know what you're going to get with Barbot's set-price "Surprise" prix-fixe menus—but that only seems to add to the place's mystique. Expect a diverse, international crowd of assiduous gastronomes, often including a famous face or two. Closed Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.
10. L'ATELIER DE JOËL ROBUCHON
5 Rue de Montalembert, 75007 7th Arrondissment
Metro: Rue du Bac
Tel: 01 42 22 56 56
Former three-star chef Joël Robuchon was hailed as the best French chef of the 20th century before he retired at age 50. Then, a few years ago, he returned to the limelight with this unlikely vehicle: a New York–style coffee shop cum tapas bar. Ironically, Robuchon wanted out of the Michelin rat race but received a star here in 2006 and a second star at his other Paris restaurant, a somewhat staid sit-down place in the 16th Arrondissement called La Table de Joël Robuchon. L'Atelier is innovative, totally nonsmoking, and fun, as long as you don't mind the counter-only service, high-rise stools, and lack of reservations—unless you want to dine when it's quiet. If you're a guest at the nearby Montalembert or Port Royal hotels, your concierge will be able to put you on the 8:30 p.m. "waiting list" and call you when your table is ready. Otherwise, odds are you'll wind up admiring the black and Chinese-red lacquer interior for an hour or more before ascending your stool. Begin with caviar, Spanish ham, or spaghetti carbonara, or perhaps an assortment of little tasting plates. This French take on tapas changes often but might include veal sweetbreads skewered with a bay leaf twig and garnished with creamy Swiss chard, or a tart of mackerel filet, Parmesan shavings, and olives. Then, go classic with a steak or opt for something more inventive like sublime cannelloni stuffed with foie gras and Bresse chicken.
11. L'ATELIER MAÎTRE ALBERT
1 Rue Maître-Albert, 75005 5th Arrondissment
Metro: Maubert-Mutualité or Saint Michel
Tel: 01 56 81 30 01
This is three-star chef Guy Savoy's rotisserie-restaurant for the bold and beautiful, on the Left Bank across from Notre-Dame. The unusual interior successfully marries glass surfaces and angular tables and chairs in shades of gray, with centuries-old golden limestone walls, pumpkin-colored ceiling timbers, and a massive, ornate fireplace. On the menu is high-end comfort food—chicken, veal shanks, filets of beef, and monkfish spit-roasted at one end of the cavernous main dining room. Meats come with luscious mashed potatoes, spinach-and-mushroom gratin, or stewed carrots and onions. Desserts are simple but sumptuous: small water glasses filled with chocolate mousse, crème brûlée, and other creamy favorites. At lunch you'll mix with the suited set, but at dinnertime you may be excused for imagining you've stepped onto a fashion runway. Book ahead, especially for nonsmoking tables.
26 Rue Bobillot, 75013 13th Arrondissment
Metro: Place d'Italie
Tel: 01 53 80 24 00
More popular than ever, this contemporary bistro (opened in 1997 near the Place d'Italie), draws crowds because of the superb cooking of Christophe Beaufront and its extremely reasonable prices. The friendly chef and his sassy wife run the restaurant like a kind of open house—generating an aura of conviviality that encompasses regulars from the neighborhood along with many well-advised foreigners. The food varies according to season, but it's all great: cold spinach soup, fresh cod ravioli with a frothy shiitake mushroom nage, long-cooked duck thigh stew with turnips and a dash of piquant anchovy. Among the main courses, Beaufront's signature dish is still the succulent pig-focused pot au feu—off-cuts of pork, fennel bulb, and sweet potato, with side garnishes of cornichons, horseradish sauce, and deep-fried slices of ginger root—served on a plate flanked by a glass of its own flavorful bouillon.
Closed Sundays and Mondays.
92 Rue Broca, 75013 5th–13th Arrondissment
Tel: 01 47 07 13 65
The menu changes almost daily at this superb old-fashioned French bistro near Gobelins, but usually offers a mix of traditional, homey, primarily southwestern classics such as piquillos stuffed with brandade (whipped salt cod). Plus, there's classic creamy blanquette de veau and contemporary creations like braised rabbit with green beans or cannelloni stuffed with lamb and eggplant. Service is friendly, and the small, brightly lit dining room has the appealing atmosphere of a country kitchen, decorated with old irons, hand-cranked coffee mills, and knickknacks. Book far ahead. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
14. LA COUPOLE
102 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75014 6th Arrondissment
Tel: 01 43 20 14 20
If metropolitan bustle and an intriguingly diverse Parisian crowd are a vital part of your brasserie experience, this sprawling Art Deco–style dining room in the heart of Montparnasse is still hard to beat. Brasserie Lipp's counterpart in stature has all the local archetypes on display: the portly man with a nubile young woman (is it his daughter, wife, or mistress?); the carefully dressed old woman with a poodle in her velvet-lined bag; bawdy quartets of arty types; Japanese tourists so jet-lagged they can barely keep their eyes open; and French families from the provinces who are simultaneously intrigued and appalled by it all. The columns in the dining room were painted by the artists who frequented the place in its interwar heyday (and restored rather heavy-handedly when the place was bought up by a chain in the 1980s). The food's best at the simpler end of the menu, so choose basics such as oysters and shellfish platters, onion soup, quiche, sole meunière, or the famous lamb curry.
49 Rue de Belleville, 75019 20th Arrondissment
Tel: 01 40 40 09 68
This sprawling, overlit, crowded dining room can be pretty noisy, but it's a great address for both fans of Asian cooking and anyone who's counting their euros. The voluminous menu here offers a generally excellent gastronomic tour of Asia, with dishes from Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and China. Popular with the local Asian diplomatic community, this is a great place to come in a group so that you can sample as many different dishes as possible. Don't miss the giant shrimp sautéed with ginger and chives or the tourteau au diable, a whole crab that's served in a sauce of coconut milk, hot pepper, and celery.
16. LE BARATIN
3 rue Jouye-Rouve, 20th Arrondissment
Tel: 01 43 49 39 70
Chef Raquel Carena’s terrific cooking—a very personal take on French bistro fare that finds inspiration all over the world, including her native Argentina—has made this vest-pocket bistro in Belleville a favorite of French chefs, including Olivier Roellinger, Yves Camdeborde, Pierre Hermé, Joël Robuchon, and Alain Ducasse. What gets these boys excited are heart-felt dishes like Carena’s red tuna tartare with black cherries, Maldon salt, miso-and-malt vinegar, veal with eggplant ribbons—she skins eggplants and roasts their skin until it’s terrifically brittle and crunchy. Her desserts are terrific, too, including a bread pudding made with dulce de leche.
17. LE BISTROT PAUL BERT
18 Rue Paul Bert, 75011 11th Arrondissment
Tel: 01 43 72 24 01
With a friendly, arty crowd and wonderful food, this back-beyond-the-Bastille bistro would be well worth seeking out even if it weren't one of the best buys in town. Don't be put off by the slightly cliquish vibe—no one's going to cold-shoulder you; it's just that this place has a devoted following of regulars, all of whom seem to know one another. So settle into one of the moleskin banquettes, enjoy the snug dining room's flea market kitsch (including a chandelier that looks like it's made of melting ice cubes), and inspect the regularly changing blackboard menu. What's cooking depends on what's in the market, but typical starters include a wild mushroom omelet and sautéed squid with risotto, while mains run to perfectly cooked cod steak with chanterelles and guinea hen with bacon-spiked cabbage. Finish with the serve-yourself cheese tray or the chocolate ganache cake draped in pistachio cream.
Closed Sundays and Mondays.
18. LE CINQ
Four Seasons Hotel George V
31 Avenue George V, 75008 8th Arrondissment
Metro: George V
Tel: 01 49 52 71 54
No matter how good the food, a meal at a grand hotel restaurant used to be a yawn or, worse, a parody of obsequiousness. It's places like Le Cinq at Hotel George V that are redefining Parisian luxe as an epicurean dream nestled in palatial walls. The maître d' addresses you by name, and a discreet footstool appears from nowhere for your purse, newspaper, or hat. The decor befits a palace hotel, from the moldings and frescoed cupola to the gray-and-gold drapes and plush carpet. Chef Philippe Legendre's sophisticated cooking is exceptional in freshness, flavor, and inventiveness without being wild or fussy. The fricassée of meltingly tender small baby squid with langoustine ravioli comes topped with a dollop of mild harissa chili. Basil perfumes the thick slab of roasted cod with tiny braised artichokes on one side and a crisp, lemony raw artichoke salad on the other. Minced Nyons olives and pine nuts enliven the miniature rack of milk-fed lamb. For dessert, don't miss the ethereal gratin of raspberries, blueberries, and crème brûlée. At noon expect to see a business crowd peppered with traveling gourmets and blueblood regulars, and a global mix of foodies at dinnertime. Reserve far in advance.
19. LE CHATEAUBRIAND
129 avenue Parmentier, 11th Arrondissment
Tel: 01 43 57 45 95
Housed in an old épicerie, this popular bistro clocks a bona-fide Paris frame of mind that's created by a hip, young crowd. We can't get enough of chef Inaki Aizpitarte's inventive modern bistro cooking. Aizpitarte's menu changes daily but runs to dazzling dishes like salmon teriyaki with red fruites, pigeon with pumpkin, hazelnuts and chestnuts, and a can't-miss boulette de lait caillé rose (rose sorbet with buttermilk ice cream).
20. LE COMPTOIR DU RELAIS
9 Carrefour de l'Odéon, 75006 6th Arrondissment
Tel: 01 44 27 07 97
With his 1990s hit restaurant, the far-flung La Régalade, Yves Camdeborde was credited with reinventing the Parisian bistro. Now the cult chef presides over this irresistible neo-bistro—40 wooden chairs atop multicolored mosaic-tile floors, with wood paneling and yellow-and-red-trimmed walls—next to the Hôtel Relais Saint-Germain. A master chef and marketeer, the affable Camdeborde offers two distinct menus: bistro (or brasserie), from noon to 6 p.m. daily and until 10 p.m. on weekends; and on weekdays, the phenomenal bargain five-course "gastronomique" menu. Lunch service is sans reservations, meaning a daily free-for-all (come just before noon or after 2:30 p.m. for the best chance of scoring a seat), and dinner reservations book up months in advance. But it's worth the hassle for Camdeborde's wild cèpes molded with foie gras and flanked by whipped artichoke mousseline, and a neo-tarte Tatin dessert that merges apples and mango, with vanilla ice cream. The secret to getting a dinner reservation? Stay at the Hôtel Relais Saint-Germain, (9 Carrefour de l'Odéon; 33-1-43-29-12-05; www.hotel-paris-relais-saint-germain.com or phone at about 7:30 p.m. on the evening you hope to go, and ask if, by some miracle, anyone has canceled. The magic word in French is désistement.
21. LE DÔME
108 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75014 6th Arrondissment
Tel: 01 43 35 25 81
A quick scan of the prices at this luxurious seafood house in Montparnasse makes it hard to believe that Trotsky ever sat on the glassed-in terrace, reading the papers over a coffee. (He did, though, along with Brancusi and a variety of other arty types who lived and worked nearby in the 1920s.) Despite Le Dôme's thorough transformation from bohemian café to elegant restaurant, something rakish and distinctly Parisian still hangs in the air here. Perhaps it has to do with the clientele, which includes everyone from cabinet ministers dining with their mistresses to theater people, politicians, writers, and, yes, even an artist or two. What everyone loves are the ultrafresh platters of shellfish, including some of the best oysters in Paris, and an impeccable catch-of-the-day menu, including sole meunière, line-caught sea bass, and wild salmon. Regulars skip dessert in favor of the excellent Auvergnat cheeses that the owners, the Bras family, bring up from their home region. Closed Sundays and Mondays in August.
22. LE GRAND VÉFOUR
17 Rue de Beaujolais, 75001 1st Arrondissment
Metro: Palais Royal or Bourse
Tel: 01 42 96 56 27
By many a twist, this restaurant, opened in 1760 has survived the French Revolution, industrialization, and passing culinary fashions. And despite his self-taught eclecticism, chef Guy Martin has won the Michelin three-star game. The setting is ravishing: chandeliers, plush carpets, and 18th-century mirrored and painted panels. At least one menu item nearly as old as the restaurant: the sublime mashed potatoes with oxtails and black truffles. Not so the rest of Guy Martin's cooking, which borrows inspiration from Japan, North Africa, and Italy more so than from his French Alpine homeland. Witness the sautéed John Dory perfumed with parsley and ginger juices or the tandoori-spiced frog's legs with parsley root jus. The desserts are surprising, too: roast mango and a ravioli stuffed with passion fruit cream and accompanied by coconut sorbet. Local businessmen and the art arbiters of the Ministry of Culture (also housed in the Palais Royal) fill the Grand Véfour by day, in part because it offers an excellent prix-fixe lunch menu. At dinner, expect to see a global mix of romantic couples and theatergoers with platinum cards. Book far ahead.
23. LE TEMPS AU TEMPS
13 Rue Paul Bert, 75011 11th Arrondissment
Tel: 01 43 79 63 40
Bring a shoehorn with you—Le Temps au Temps is one of those cheek-by-jowl Paris places east of the Bastille where a dozen tables share space meant for six. But the service charms, and the bric-a-brac decor with a timepiece theme is fun. Best of all: Chef-owner Sylvain Sendra's extraordinarily good food utterly disarms. Endra comes from Lyon, but you won't find the usual fried tripe or pig snouts on his ever-changing menu. Instead, the meal might start with creamy, flavorful Jerusalem artichoke soup flecked with shaved foie gras and drizzled with pesto, then move on to baked ling cod with whole roasted garlic and tiny fingerling potatoes. A la carte you might find venison stew with wild mushrooms and luscious chocolate crumble cake in a moat of chocolate pastry cream, topped with raspberry sorbet and whipped cream. The downside: Word is out. Artists, architects, hipsters, pearl-draped matrons, and suits keep this neighborhood spot fully booked for lunch and dinner, sometimes weeks ahead. Closed Sundays and Mondays.
24. LES AMBASSADEURS
Hotel de Crillon,
10 Place de la Concorde, 75008 8th Arrondissment
Tel: 01 44 71 16 16
In 2004, at the age of 34, chef Jean-Francois Piège left Alain Ducasse's flagship at the Plaza-Athénée to take over Paris's most opulent historic restaurant (at the Hotel de Crillon) and make his own way into the multiple-star firmament. After a renovation of the marble-faced dining room overlooking Place de la Concorde by by interior designer Sybille de Margerie, the glittering Baccarat crystal chandeliers and wall sconces still illuminate friezes depicting busy cherubim, but sunlight now shines through beige curtains onto armchairs upholstered in taupe velvet and poppy-colored tablecloths. Piège's menu evolves season to season, though he has several signature dishes, such as caviar-topped langoustines in a frothy nage. Given their exquisite execution, it's no wonder Piège is touted to be the city's next Michelin three-star chef. For dessert, pedigreed pastry chef Jérôme Chaucesse turns out ethereal sorbets and fruit-based confections, plus lavish reinterpretations of the French favorites mousse au chocolat and crème caramel. Fitting for occasions both formal and frivolous, this increasingly magnetic spot attracts a lunchtime power crowd then takes on a romantic air in the evening.
Closed Sundays and Mondays.
25. PIERRE GAGNAIRE
The Berkeley, Hotel Balzac
6 Rue Balzac, 75008 8th Arrondissment
Metro: George V or Charles de Gaulle-Etoile
Tel: 01 58 36 12 50
Pierre Gagnaire is not only a wizard of contemporary French gastronomy but also one of the most original and artistic chefs working anywhere today. The composition of his dishes is at times baroque—think range-raised capon (the breast stuffed with lemony almond paste, spring onion marmalade, and cherries, the thighs seared with fingerling potatoes), or poached thick-sliced sea bass served with smoked-tomato sorbet and split-pea gnocchi lightly sauced in fennel semifreddo. The menu changes regularly, but Gagnaire has a particular fascination with texture and also likes to explore the sour and bitter sides of the taste spectrum. The clientele in the sedate gray dining room ranges from tables of bankers to solitary Japanese devotees to quartets of ecstatic Americans. Book well in advance, but note that tables are occasionally available on lesser notice for lunch. In case you were wondering, Gagnaire's new glam-fashion Left Bank seafood restaurant Gaya is easier to book and offers a taste of the master's talent at about one third the price (44 Rue du Bac; 33-1-45-44-73-73).
26. RESTAURANT ALAIN DUCASSE AU PLAZA ATHÉNÉE
Hotel Plaza Athénée
25 Avenue Montaigne, 75008 8th Arrondissment
Tel: 01 53 67 65 00
Under the aegis of globe-trotting überchef Alain Ducasse, this elegant ivory-colored dining room in the Plaza Athénée does an appealing, contemporary take on French haute cuisine. Ducasse spends most of his time on airplanes these days, and has collected more Michelin stars than any chef in history, so it's young Christophe Moret, formerly of Ducasse's bistro chain, Spoon, who's actually in the kitchen. And that's not a bad thing. Moret is a talented cook, with a style imbued by Ducasse's love of produce and belief that no dish should contain more than four main ingredients. Begin with house classics such as langoustines topped with caviar, or coconut curry scallops, and then sample the spectacular pigeon fillets in a shallot-mustard sauce. The stunning desserts include a vanilla syrup-poached pear with ice cream and streusel. A recent redecoration has enlivened the room by making a big deconstructed crystal chandelier the visual centerpiece of this cosseted little world. The remarkable cellar has about 35,000 bottles, including rare Cheval Blanc, Latour, and Margaux. Closed Saturdays and Sundays.
27. RESTAURANT GARNIER
111 rue Saint Lazare, 8th Arrondissment
Just inside the front door of this unremarkable brasserie across the street from the Gare Saint-Lazare, this circular oyster bar is one of the most convivial places in Paris to feast of fabulous fruits de mer.
9 Place de la Madeleine, 75008 8th Arrondissment
Tel: 01 42 65 22 90
Many Parisian gastronauts view former three-star chef Alain Senderens as untouchable. He practically invented Nouvelle Cuisine, and for decades he piloted cutting-edge Lucas Carton, where a meal could top $500 a head. Then young chefs stole the limelight, opening exciting new restaurants without the pomp. Instead of retiring, Senderens shook Michelin in 2005 by announcing he no longer wanted three stars, and quickly lowered prices, redid his menu, and radically remodeled his landmark Art Nouveau premises. Nowadays Lucas Carton is—guess what?—Senderens. How he got permission to redo a landmark dating to 1732 remains a mystery. The beveled mirrors and sculpted woodwork survived, but the decorators went wild with curving 1970s beam-me-up-Scotty partitions and tight tables. The upside: Senderens's food still thrills and meals now hover around 100 euros (with wine—or whiskey, another of the restaurant's irreverent touches). As before, each dish is plated artwork: You hesitate to take your fork to rich roasted duck foie gras with caramelized quinces or plump roasted scallops resting on creamed Jerusalem artichokes and two chard-stuffed ravioli. The restaurant is nonsmoking, which hasn't dissuaded the business bigwigs or fashion, publishing, and power-art crowd that fill it lunch and dinner. Book ahead.
15 Rue Lamennais, 75008 8th Arrondissment
Metro: Charles de Gaulle-Etoile
Tel: 01 44 95 15 01
Chef Alain Solivérès, a native of Montpellier, has a remarkable pedigree: He trained under Maximin, Thulier, Senderens, and Ducasse. But he won his reputation with the brilliant modern riffs he did on Southern French classics while chef at Les Elysées du Vernet—hence the quiet magic that has animated Taillevent classics since he arrived in 2002. He tempts nervier palates at this Parisian grand dame (which opened in 1946), with new dishes that reflect his lusty but refined style; among them are a crème brûlée de foie gras that's crunchy on top and creamy inside, a coleslawlike crab rémoulade with dill, wild Dombes duck with caramelized fruit, and a luscious upside-down coffee-and-chocolate tart that turns the classic tarte Tatin on its head. Fine oil paintings, including some surprising contemporary canvases, old-fashioned flower arrangements, hushed service, and one of the world's great wine lists make this place meaningfully mythic. Book weeks in advance and, gentlemen, don't forget your jacket. Closed Saturdays and Sundays and all of August.