It was back in the early 1990s when young chefs rocked the restaurant scene in Paris by breaking away from the haute cuisine practiced at such high end restaurants as Les Ambassadeurs at Hotel Le Crillon (where most of them trained under master chef Christian Constant). They sent the French food writers into a feeding frenzy by opening small bistros in far-flung arrondissements where they offered gourmet meals at affordable prices.
These then-young chefs moved out from central Paris to where rents were cheaper and they could afford to offer up great cooking at great prices. There was Yves Camdeborde at La Régalade in the 14th Arrondissement, Thierry Breton with Chez Michel in the 10th, Rodolphe Paquin of La Repaire de Cartouche and, in the 15th Arrondissement, Thierry Faucher's l'Os à Moelle. These chefs set the tone for the generation of chefs to follow — using traditional French ingredients to express their own style of cooking and show us something new, as if we've never tasted it before. Today, Thierry Breton's restaurant in the 10th are still on our circuit and so is l'Os à Moelle.
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Cocotte at Chez Michel, photo by Mark Craft
The menu at Chez Michel is based on the food Thierry Breton grew up with in his native Brittany, in the west of France on a peninsula sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean. We always start with his famous fish soup when it's on the menu. The broth is aromatic, pungent, puréed, tasting of the sea. The food at Chez Michel never disappoints, and we're not the only ones who think so! Be sure to make reservations.
Japanese chef Masahiro Kawai, known as Masa, is now behind the stove at Chez Michel. But, the spirit of the restaurant has not changed and Chef Masa continues to serve up generous, simmered, warm, regional and sharing creations.
Chef Bruno Doucet, photo La Régalade
Coming from Tours, 240 km southwest of Paris, Chef Bruno was greatly influenced by the game dishes cooked during the hunting season. Doucet follows three never-changing kitchen commandments. Premiereme, respect for the products. Deuxième, respect for the proper seasoning. Troisième, respect for the correct cooking method.
Don't Miss — Roasted, caramelized pork: poitrine de cochon caramélisée de chez Ospital. Save room for Chef Bruno's famous rice pudding, just the way grandmere made it.
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At bistro Frenchie, photo by Mark Craft
You might say that Chef Gregory Marchand practically reinvented the modern Paris bistro. After a career working in the US and London (under Jamie Oliver, where he acquired the nickname Frenchie) Marchand opened a hole-in-the-wall restaurant on a dead-end commercial street in the 2nd Arrondissement. The news of his dishes (justly) spread like wildfire and he soon turned the street into a Frenchie food empire.
We still remember one of the finest bistro meals we ever ate in the early days of Frenchie, when there were just two people in the kitchen and you could watch Chef at the open pass preparing plates for the tables. He's now a Paris icon with food that remains famous for its inventive flavors and presentation.
Spend a Day in the Champagne Region
Visit the Historic D-Day Beaches
Cream of mushroom soup at L'Os à Moelle, photo by Mark Craft
If the cream of mushroom soup is on the menu order it! It is both drama and art — a large soup bowl arrives with a scattering of fresh herbs, toasted pine nuts and crispy lardon. Then the server brings a pitcher of the soup to ladle into the bowl, in this case a billowy mushroom broth is poured. Your taste buds, expecting warmth, are jolted awake with cold, silky, wonderful soup! This cold mushroom soup is a signature dish invented by Chef Thierry Faucher.
The meals goes on like this, one superb plate after another — boudin noir, foie gras, lapin, pintade — accompanied by the white Saumur and the red Saint-Joseph. After desserts have been served Chef Thierry is often out on the floor, shaking hands — in years past he might have been carrying his young daughter, but we suspect she's too old for that now! You applaud him for keeping his restaurant in Paris scrumptious for thirty years.
The history of L'Os à Moelle is a bit unusual. Chef Faucher opened the restaurant in 1994; in 2000 he opened a wine bar right across the street. Fast forward to 2011 and Chef sells the restaurant and rents out the wine bar to his staff, while he concentrates on another restaurant he's opened in the suburbs. But Thierry, it seems, can't stand to see his babies in someone else's hands. In 2013 he again takes over the wine bar and the next year he repurchases L'Os à Moelle. And we're thankful for that.
The dining room at Jacques Faussat, photo Jacques Faussat
Dining at Jacques Faussat remains one of our favorite restaurants experiences and Faussat himself a favorite chef in all of France. The restaurant itself it hidden on a small street in the 17th Arrondissement that the casual visitor is unlikely to find. Yet, in this unassuming location you'll find some of the best food you've every eaten.
Chef Faussat was raised loving food near the Basque country in southwest France. By age 12 he was already working in a local restaurant and 14 left home to attend cooking school. But, to this day, the flavors of his childhood and his region influence everything he cooks.
When we first ate at La Braisiere (as it was then named) it had one Michelin star, and we thought it was truly worthy of it. But in a subsequent edition of the Michelin Guide we were surprised to see that Chef Faussat had lost his star. Our fervor did not abate, however, and we continued to praise his cooking. Luckily, a year or two later Michelin came to its collective senses and restored the star.
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L'Ourcine, as seen by the nighttime smokers, photo by Mark Craft
The last time we dined at this gem of a Paris bistro, frothy amuses bouches in shot glasses arrived at the table as soon as we sat down — setting the tone for this modern bistro meal. We started with marinated fresh mackerel served on a salad with a tangy Thai-influenced vinaigrette. That was followed by roasted sea bream: crispy-skinned fish on a bed of vegetable couscous, and a chilled red wine from the Auvergne.
Founding chef Sylvain Danière was a protégé of Yves Camdeborde (the original founder of La Régalade when it was in the in the 14th). For our review, also see, The Best of Paris 2018…
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