Low-Key, Innovative Paris Restaurants to Bookmark for Your Next Trip

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Low-Key, Innovative Paris Restaurants to Bookmark for Your Next Trip
© Nicolas Lobbestael

Few things in life are better than eating your way through Paris, whether you’re a poivre-seasoned veteran or a first-timer trying to pronounce coq au vin. And while the ultra-gilded tables of the city’s central 8th arrondissement will continue to ring up long, expensive feasts once dining—and life in general—fully resumes, it’s the other side of Paris, the 11th and its adjoining arrondissements (east and north of the Marais, nudging Place de la Bastille), that have served as the city’s hotbed of gastronomy for the last decade. 

These days, addresses that once seemed edgy—Le Dauphin, La Buvette, Clamato—are practically the establishment, and the new wave of bistronomy—the rebellion against Michelin grandeur that initially defined these restaurants—has begun to diversify. Riffs on Asian cooking are especially evident; there are Italian influences in the mix too, while trends like hyperseasonality and natural wines aren’t going away anytime soon. And if you opt to stay in the 10th or the 3rd on your first trip back, you can walk to all of these: So eat, drink, and don your most comfortable pair of shoes.

Low-Key, Innovative Paris Restaurants to Bookmark for Your Next Trip
© Sophia van den Hoek The exterior of Racines, on the Passage des Panoramas

Racines

The young Sardinian chef Simone Tondo took over this beautiful restaurant—a tiled, glazed corner inside one of Paris’s 19th-century arcades—a decade after its inauguration as an influential neo-bistro and champion of natural wines. The plates still reflect the seasons and the wines are juicy and low intervention, but the flavors have taken a turn to the south, thanks to Tondo’s origins. The menu is scrawled across a blackboard: Start with the finocchiona—homemade cured sausage with fennel seeds—or the creamy burrata, then choose between a giant veal chop alla Milanese, a piece of perfectly cooked fish, or masterly pasta. There isn’t a wine list per se, but Stephanie Crockford, who runs the front of house, pours interesting regional Italian varietals by the glass. About $104 for two; racinesparis.com

Low-Key, Innovative Paris Restaurants to Bookmark for Your Next Trip
© Joann Pai Maison’s lychee pavlova with beet sorbet

Maison

Inside an ancient gabled building, among streets stacked with tower blocks, this spot resembles an art installation. Chef Sota Atsumi trained under Michelin-starred heavyweights Joël Robuchon and Michel Troisgros before a stint at the sensational—and sensationally inventive—Clown Bar, where his duck pithivier with date and yuzu became emblematic of the bistronomy of the 2010s. At Maison, an elevated experience is marked by warm, communicative service and a seasonal, produce-led tasting menu; theatrical moments (like a pigeon dish in two acts) never feel overwrought but rather generous and thrilling. Wines from the Alsace, Jura, and Loire regions are listed alongside Burgundies and vins de voiles, and single diners can eat at a counter facing the open kitchen under industrial pipes painted Pinot Noir red. Lunch is well paced, and well priced, too. Set lunch menu from $65; maison-sota.com

Low-Key, Innovative Paris Restaurants to Bookmark for Your Next Trip
© Joann Pai Bone marrow with crispy sunchoke at Le Cadoret

Le Cadoret

The holy grail: classic French food, not too fancy, beautifully prepared and of excellent value. Le Cadoret, opened in 2017 by chef Léa Fleuriot and her brother Louis-Marie, is a neighborhood bistro, with mirrors, terrazzo floors, and a relaxed atmosphere, which its young owners have enhanced with a menu of craft beers and an up-to-date wine list (one that’s Loire- and Jura-heavy but includes quince liqueur from Domaine Binner in Alsace). At a glance, the food might seem a little safe, but there’s real skill in cooking a faultless blanquette de veau or steak frites with béarnaise sauce. Starters like homemade boudin noir are at once toothsome and delicate, and retro desserts (île flottante, crème caramel) are subtle, not sticky. Plus, Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is just north—the ideal post-meal stroll. About $90 for two

Low-Key, Innovative Paris Restaurants to Bookmark for Your Next Trip
© Mickaël A. Bandassak One of the unfussy tables at Le Saint Sébastien
Low-Key, Innovative Paris Restaurants to Bookmark for Your Next Trip
© Mickaël A. Bandassak White asparagus with hollandaise foam at Le Saint Sébastien

Le Saint Sébastien

Owner Daniela Lavadenz left a career in finance and worked at Au Passage and Le 6 Paul Bert, amassing her wine cellar (which includes bottles by cult heroes like Jacques Puffeney and Christian Binner) for a year before opening Le Saint Sébastien with chef Rob Mendoza. His cooking is artful and balanced; a dish of squid served with watercress and sorrel purée seems too simple to be so good, while monkfish tail is finished over binchotan charcoal and deftly paired with miso eggplant. The interior can feel a little cold in winter, with its hard surfaces and ’50s mirrors, but when the room is buzzing and there’s a crisp-shelled vanilla tart on your plate, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. About $110 for two; lesaintsebastien.paris

Low-Key, Innovative Paris Restaurants to Bookmark for Your Next Trip
© Marsan par Hélène Darroze Cherries with Greek yogurt sorbet at Marsan par Hélène Darroze

Marsan Par Hélène Darroze

This left-bank address, a hop over the river from the other restaurants here, reopened in 2019 with a smart redesign—though fortunately for its regulars, the food remains as inspired as ever. The name is a tribute to founder and chef Hélène Darroze’s home region in Landes, and there’s no doubting her attachment to the southwest and its flavors; the tasting menu at the chef’s table alone features ingredients from Béarn, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, and Périgord. A sea-urchin, caviar, and cauliflower starter is impressively creamy; gilthead bream with Colonnata back fat, Paris cèpe, and black truffle is a savory mouthful; and thyme-scented baby lamb from the Pyrenees is a restrained showstopper. It’s all distinctive, thrilling, and utterly French. Set lunch menu from about $90; marsanhelenedarroze.com

Low-Key, Innovative Paris Restaurants to Bookmark for Your Next Trip
© Sophia van den Hoek Natural wines and ciders at Early June.

Early June

Camille Machet and Victor Vautier, the young owners of this wine bar and shop by Canal Saint-Martin, work hard to create a light and joyful atmosphere. They’re open evenings throughout the week for drinks—natural wines with lots of Beaujolais and Languedoc, Paris-brewed Deck & Donohue beer—and small plates that far exceed standard-issue bar food. Their first chef, Amandine Sepulcre-Huang, set a spirit of experimentation by adeptly combining East Asian flavors with ingredients such as Basque sardines. These days, traveling chefs drop in for a few months at a time; last in was the Danish chef Mathias Silberbauer, a veteran of the now-shuttered Relæ in Copenhagen, whose high notes included sole in langoustine sauce and pickled mackerel in a verbena-and-soy dressing. Whoever is in residence, the dainty, intricate dishes are easy to eat and harmonize excellently with the fresh wines. About $90 for two; early-june.fr

Low-Key, Innovative Paris Restaurants to Bookmark for Your Next Trip
© Early June Double Dragon’s oysters with caviar and XO sauce

Double Dragon

For all its progressiveness, the neo-bistro movement has sometimes verged into boys’-club territory. But a clutch of women-led bars and restaurants has emerged around the 11th, including CheZaline and Le Servan, whose proprietors, Tatiana and Katia Levha, recently opened this laid-back joint that leans toward East Asia. Here a friendly crew in white logo’d T-shirts serves an affordable menu of spicy comfort food, starting with deep-fried Comté bao buns in XO sauce and a refreshing Lao-style tripe salad with holy basil. Sweet, spicy Korean fried chicken is a must-order, though it’s the more esoteric dishes, like a foamy red spinach curry with egg yolk, that make the restaurant more than just a pilgrimage for those craving a hit of chile. There are distinctly French notes too, like the Morteau sausage served with crispy rice, as well as the Philippe Pacalet 2015 Meursault on the drinks list next to Yunnan tea and sake. The decor is deliberately unstudied, paired with the low thrum of hip-hop. About $70 for two; doubledragonparis.com

Low-Key, Innovative Paris Restaurants to Bookmark for Your Next Trip
© Virginie Garnier La Poule au Pot, in Les Halles
Low-Key, Innovative Paris Restaurants to Bookmark for Your Next Trip
© Nicolas Lobbestael La Poule au Pot’s vanilla ice cream topped with caramelized pecans

La Poule Au Pot

It is said that the previous owner of this Les Halles institution—only the second in the restaurant’s nearly 90-year history—anointed star chef Jean-François Piège as his heir apparent, having rejected every other succession plan. So it was that much-lauded Piège, who runs a handful of restaurants in the area with his wife, Elodie, took on the historic dollhouse-like building, ripping out the café curtains and old wallpaper and polishing it all to a high shine. Despite the changes, the menu of cuisine bourgeoise, plated up family-style, is intact, if elevated. Classic onion soup is served daily, even in a heat wave, and snails, frogs’ legs, and bone marrow make regular appearances. Big-hitting mains include Charolais beef fillet and poached chicken; old-school desserts like tarte Tatin are both flawless and generous. It’s all comfortingly beyond cool, yet only retro on paper, thanks to the dynamism of team Piége.

This article appeared in the November 2021 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here.

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