Expect a world tour full of bright authentic flavors when you arrive at Les Cuistots Migrateurs, the socially-conscious restaurant of the Hasard Ludique cultural centre in the 18th arrondissement. Based on the concept that food is the great connector, Les Cuistots Migrateurs (slang for the migrants chefs) aims to change the way people view Paris’s migrant population through introducing them to their homeland cuisines. The restaurant offers a buffet selection of dishes at lunchtime and mezze-style small plates in the evening, all prepared by chefs whose origins span the globe from Syria and Iran to Ethiopia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Senegal, and Chechnya.
The menus change daily, offering fresh, redolent salads and accompaniments, bursting with color and aromatic spices, such as Aloo Dum a warming potato dish from Nepal, a classic Syrian hummus with chickpeas, tahini and yogurt, and a refreshing Afghani salad of tomatoes, cucumbers red onion, and fresh parsley. They offer a meat and a vegetarian option as the plat de jour, and the day we dined we enjoyed a warming yellow split pea curry served with swiss chard and red peppers and a side of springy, nutty wholegrain rice. Desserts were generous and very rich, so much so that we regretfully could not finish them.
The building itself has a charming history, starting out life as the Gare Saint-Ouen train station over 130 years ago servicing the trains of the petit ceinture, the small rail line that used to run around the outer edge of Paris. Since the train line was decommissioned in the mid 1930s, the space was reimagined into a cinema, and then a homeware bazaar until it was bought back by the City of Paris in 2010 and made available to tender as a cultural project. The façade has been renovated to return it to its former glory as a train station, and in the rear, benefits from a vast terrace of over 100 seats that gives onto the old train tracks, making this an enviable outdoor space in the summer months that is open for drinks non-stop midday to 10pm Tuesday to Sunday.
LES CUISTOTS MIGRATEURS | 128 avenue de Saint-Ouen | Paris 18 | +33 1 48 31 34 36 | Métro: Porte de St-Ouen | Open Tuesday-Sunday | plat du jour 11€, 17.50€ 3-course lunch menu, 4-13€ mezze dishes in the evening | reservations not necessary | atmosphere casual.
From the street, Le Mermoz looks like just another neighborhood café. But once you see what’s on the menu and on the plate, you’ll feel differently. Chef Manon Fleury – straight from the kitchens of Astrance and Semilla – offers diners a bright, contemporary, vegetable-loving menu that truly hits the spot. At lunch, three starters, three main courses, cheese and two desserts are offered. At night, beginning at 6:30 pm, the 1930s-era café – with a large bar, bare wooden tables, and patchwork tile floors – offers a series of small plates.
I totally loved her watercress soup, dotted with chickpeas, and served with a touch of yogurt and the popular North African spice raz-el-hanout, then topped with a generous bouquet of fresh, pungent watercress and cilantro. The grilled line-caught mackerel was equally appealing and well-thought-out, served with crunchy fresh fava beans, leeks, and a flourish of fresh herbs.
Alabaster-white codfish from Loctudy in Brittany arrived on a bed of perfectly wilted fresh spinach, a frothy langoustine sauce, and a delicate dusting of toasted sesame seeds, a unifying dish with just the right touch of acid and crunch. The only disappointment here was a promising dish of fresh cultivated champignons de Paris and feathery pleurote mushrooms, paired with a golden, runny egg yolk and a pesto of the ramp-like ail des ours (wild garlic). Brilliant in concept, but sadly the mushrooms were just too vinegary even for my acid-loving palette, as if someone had in fact made a mistake in the kitchen.
The only dessert that was still available by the end of our meal was an excellent creation of a confit of kumquats paired with crunchy hazelnuts and a café-scented pudding bathed in a sweet syrup.
The wine list holds some very well-priced treasures, including sulphite-free wines from young winemaker Laura David, whose dry chenin blanc from her Montlouis-sur-Loire vineyards, will make you sit up and take notice, and enjoy.
Le Mermoz is a good value all around with starters at about 10€, mains at around 23€, and wines at 7€ a glass. The restaurant is just steps from the Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées, a neighborhood bereft of good casual spots for eating.
LE MERMOZ | 16 rue Jean Mermoz | Paris 8 | +33 1 45 63 65 26 | Métro: Franklin D. Roosevelt | Open Monday-Friday. Closed Saturday & Sunday | 40-45€ à la carte | reservations essential | atmosphere: casual.
Dining at the lively, casual Etsi – meaning “this way” or “comme ça” in Greek – makes you feel as though you are attending a big Greek family event. The owner enthusiastically announces the menu to assembled diners, explaining each item on the dining room’s blackboard. Diners respond loudly, drinks and wine are poured happily, and the small plates turned out of the tiny kitchen by chef Mikaela Liaroutsos just keep coming and coming. The 35€ evening menu is a veritable bargain, and, depending on the day, may include their homemade tarama; tiny, crispy spinach-filled spanakopitakia puff pastry pies; giant kolokithokeftedes, or fried zucchini balls served with tzatziki: and grilled octopus on a bed of fava beans and capers. The chef could have been bolder with her seasoning, but we had a wonderful time nonetheless. I was not expecting to fall in love with their desserts, but we literally devoured their giant, bright-flavored lemon tart, as well as the fudgy chocolate creation, adorned with a mix of berries. The wine list offers some Greek treasures, including the fresh, smooth and tannic red, Xinomavro Nature from Domaine Thymiopolous. And for those who prefer something a bit stronger, do try the Athens 42, a peppy, delicious marriage of the pine-like liqueur masticha, gin, and green Chartreuse, topped with vibrant, freshly zested lime.
Etsi | 23-25 Rue Eugène-Carrière | Paris 18 | Tel: +33 1 71 50 00 80 | Métro: Lamarck-Caulaincourt | Open Tuesday to Friday dinner only 7.30pm-midnight, Saturday 12.30-2.30pm & 7.30pm-midnight, Sunday noon-3pm. Closed Sunday dinner, all day Monday, and lunch Tuesday-Friday | Lunch + dinner: shared mezzes 6-9€, evening menu 35€ | Reservations recommended | Atmosphere casual.
Perhaps it’s the journalist in me, but I always love a good origin story. And 5 Pailles has just that. Pailles, meaning straws (as in the drinking variety) is a nod to a scene in the cult French film Le Péril Jeune, where 5 friends who are lingering in a café and are pressed to order something else in order to keep their table, so they ask for one coffee with 5 straws. The link to this Parisian café: the owners are 5 friends who quit their corporate jobs to start a café with the motto “life is too short for bad coffee”.
The coffee here is indeed very good. About half their beans are sourced from Lomi specialty roasters in the 18th arrondissement, who deliver them, on request, a light and fruity roast. The other half are beans selected from favorite roasters globally, adding variety.
The relaxed and welcoming café feels like a refuge from the bustling and heady commotion of the Faubourg Saint-Denis neighborhood. Make your way past the coffee bar and the café opens out into a spacious oasis of mid-century-style furniture and jungle-inspired wallpaper.
We were tempted by several items on their simple but varied menu but eventually settled on a smoked salmon, ricotta and pickled cucumber tartine, which was fresh, flavorful and generous enough to share between two.
The 5 Pailles team is also doing their bit for the environment, using recyclable and biodegradable packaging, minimizing food waste and working in partnership with charity Eau Vive Internationale, donating a portion of their coffee profits towards improving access to clean drinking water in Africa. We love what these guys are doing from beginning to end.
5 Pailles | 79 rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis | Paris 10 | Open daily, Monday – Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am-6pm.
It’s not often that I find myself dissecting a dish in a restaurant in hopes of discovering the secrets to its balance, charm and explosive flavors. But that is just what I spent a recent lunch at Restaurant Eels doing. Chef-owner Adrien Ferrand spent 2 years as head chef at William Ledeuil’s Kitchen Galerie Bis, so it is no surprise that he has honed his skills as a master of layering flavor, acidity and crunch, all punctuated with fragrant fresh herbs.
We began our meal with the restaurant’s signature dish of smoked eel, apple, licorice root and hazelnuts. Soothing soft pieces of smoked eel nestled into a sabayon-like foam, layered with bites and crunch from the tart apples and hazelnuts, showered in pretty pink oxalis petals, a well-deserving namesake dish that was both delicate yet bold all at the same time.
The starter of carrots, fromage blanc flavored with orange blossom, and grapefruit showed how Ferrand can take a few humble ingredients and infuse them with punch and character. The pungent turmeric bouillon was a clever device that elevated the dish above the ordinary. As with many of the dishes we sampled, what didn’t always seem obvious on paper turned out to be a harmonious combination of flavor and texture on the plate.
I can’t stop thinking about my fresh pasta main, the likes of which I have never had before. Springy, al dente fresh tagliolini was married up with a fireworks combination of sweet, tenderly cooked clams and razor clams, chamomile, delicately bitter confit of cedrat, (a large perfumed citrus fruit), and some kind of braised celery concoction. Here the sum was certainly greater than its parts, an astounding alliance of flavors that made for a surprising and altogether delightful and original take on a seafood pasta dish.
It would be hard to improve upon his “chou farci”, moist green cabbage leaves wrapped around tender shredded lamb seasoned with a magician’s touch. (It’s a dish my mother made regularly while growing up in the US Middle West in the 1950s. But sorry, mom, yours was never quite like this!) Like all of Ferrand’s dishes, a welcome bouquet of seasonal vegetables accompanied the stuffed cabbage, bright orange and yellow carrots, turnips and white radish, showered with a welcome garnish of refreshing, fresh cilantro.
The winter citrus dessert felt like a déjà vu, our carrot entrée reimagined into a sweet course, which gave the sense that the menu had not been considered in its entirety but rather as individual elements. The chocolate cream caramel to my mind was unsuccessful, with a rubbery marzipan-like chocolate topping swamped in what was described as banana marmalade but was more like an overly pungent, liquidy banana puree. A heavy and misguided end to an otherwise inspired meal.
The restaurant’s simple, refreshing, no-nonsense décor – bare wooden tables, comfortable woven chairs, attractive lighting, and golden exposed stone walls – reflect the place’s attitude: un-selfconscious, striving but not aggressive, pleasant service, and a clientele that clearly likes having a good time.
The wine list is brief, with a very golden, faintly sweet but appealing acidic white Cour Cheverny from the Loire Valley.
EELS | 27 rue d'Hauteville | Paris 10 | +33 1 42 28 80 20 | Métro: Bonne Nouvelle or Château d’Eau | Open Tuesday–Saturday. | €28 + €32 lunch menus, €59 decouverte menu (2 starters, 2 mains and dessert), à la carte 55-65€ | reservations essential.
Julia Sedefdjian’s Mediterranean, sun-drenched cuisine is a welcome injection of warmth at any season of the year. Sedefdjian came to fame at the 7th arrondissement restaurant Les Fables de la Fontaine when she, at the age of 21, was the youngest woman chef in France with a Michelin star. This gutsy young woman continues to impress: She is now running her own restaurant, Baieta, and still in possession of a Michelin star - this one acquired in the latest round of awards in January 2019.
There is much to love about Sedefdjian’s style and creativity as both a chef and a restaurateur. As much attention has been paid to the small details of design and decor as to what’s on the plate, although the food is really what stands out here. Julia’s unique cooking style is both a calling card to her hometown of Nice (the restaurant's name means little kiss in the Nice dialect), celebrating all the flavors of her southern French origins. Guests are welcomed with a small sample of pissaladière, a well- known tart of onion confit, olives, and anchovies, here served on a square of pillowy-soft bread, in all its glory atop a mini wooden stool, a cute and original touch. The warm confit of octopus was bursting with sunshine flavor, marinating in the rich comforting flavors of Provence: olives, tomatoes and olive oil. The sweet potato gnocchi that accompanied it felt slightly like an imposter and lacked the finesse and natural sense of place of the other ingredients.
The daurade tartare was a bright refreshing entree, exquisitely fresh and tasting of the sea, bathed in a subtle lime dressing and accompanied by a lemongrass infused cream – a little too subtle to be the highlight of the dish though.
Her bouillabaieta, a personal interpretation of the classic southern bouillabaisse fish soup is a triumph. It’s a modern revisit yet clearly recognizable as a classic, original without being wacky or losing sight of the heart of the dish that made it famous. Big chunks of monkfish, cubes of potato, garlic-rich aioli are set in a golden pool of rich fish sauce and served with a vibrant red rouille – a chile pepper mayonnaise -- making you feel as though you could be nearer the Mediterranean than the Seine.
A thoughtful and original offering of moist, delicately smoked chicken breast arrived with a flavorful package of ground chicken wrapped in cabbage, a showering of delicate greens, and a welcome, bright-tasting “tartine” of toast was topped with a silken spread made of the chicken’s organ meats, a clever way to use all parts of the bird.
Throughout, careful thought is given to the dishware, with each plate and bowl set to match the dish at hand. Sometime all white and modern, sometimes hand-crafted pottery in earth tones, always seeming to flatter the offering.
Sedefdjian’s solid qualifications in the pastry arts shine through in her desserts, the chocolate praline option came in the form of a row of mini soft chocolate biscuits filled with a rich dark chocolate ganache, interspersed with praline cream and small quenelles of hazelnut ice cream. A generous dessert of clementines teamed up with a delicate yogurt sorbet flavored with my favorite mouth-tingling Timut pepper, was served along with little cream-filled choux pastries and thin crisps of chocolate.
Service is warm and friendly albeit at times slow and distracted but if you are not in a rush, it doesn’t detract too much from an overall excellent dining experience. We were inspired by the passing dishes being delivered to neighboring tables and I suspect it won’t be long before I return for more of Julia’s sun-kissed cuisine.
Those who remember the Paris restaurant scene in the 1980s may recall that at this same address Colette Dejean officiated at Chez Toutoune, offering up an excellent red pepper mousse, fresh pasta with shellfish, and grilled leg of lamb with French fries. Vive les femmes!
Baieta | 5 rue de Pontoise. | Paris 5. | Tel: +33 1 42 02 59 19 | Métro: Maubert-Mutalité | Open Tuesday-Saturday. Closed Sunday & Monday | 29€ (starter + main), €45 (4-course) lunch menus, €85 7-course menu for the whole table (lunch and dinner), à la carte 60–80€ | reservations essential | atmosphere: smart casual.
Unexpected. This is the word that immediately sprung to mind when I first encountered this small unassuming restaurant-cum-wine bar that quickly shot to the top of my list of favorite neighborhood dining spots some time back. Unexpected because of its unlikely location, its curious chef and the spectacular dishes served up for such a humble establishment. Such a restaurant might be more at home in the 9th or 10th arrondissements of Paris, yet has found itself nestled among the upmarket fashion boutiques and classic bistros of the well-heeled Sevres-Babylone neighborhood – luckily for me just steps from my 7th arrondissement apartment.
As the crowds grew, so did chef Sebastien Leroy’s ambitions, and what started as a few café-style tables scattered around boxes of wine for sale at a modest wine shop/restaurant at 60, rue du Cherche-Midi soon moved across the street, expanding not only the restaurant but adding a wine bar and converting the original wine shop into a casual place offering cold plates. Soon after the move, I had some good and some indifferent meals at the new spot – a rather cold place, with bare wooden tables, bad lighting, and walls plastered with bare boards. Now, at least and at last, the restaurants seems up to its old speed, offering super-inventive and healthy combos, with fish, meats, and poultry surrounded by an avalanche of seasonal fruits (yes!) and vegetables. Vibrant blood orange slices team up with all manner of root vegetables, and the delicate celery-root-like cerfeuil-tubereaux sits alongside a delicious serving of quail and a generous offering of wild mushrooms.
Like many of the most interesting new wave of chefs in Paris, Leroy does not have classic French culinary training. He spent his early career as a graphic designer and then as a set designer in films, before turning his long time passion for food into a fulltime occupation. However, his earthy roots as the son of farmers goes a long way in explaining his deep affinity for all things seasonal and wild (the translation for the restaurant’s name).
And true to its name, Leroy’s wild personal cooking style is punctuated with fresh herbs and edible flowers, sourced carefully from the likes of herbalist and professional forager Stéphane Meyer (also known as the Druid of Paris!).
My first meal there, in the restaurant’s original address, made quite an impression – an entrée of raw mackerel, green asparagus, toasted buckwheat and white nasturtium flowers was united by a vinegar dressing whose acidity was perfectly balanced. And herein lies what I love most about Leroy’s food, his understanding of acidity and how to make it bring a dish harmoniously together.
This perfect introduction was followed by a slow cooked pork dish served with a bright refreshing salad of raw thinly sliced cauliflower, radish, coriander, mint and punctuated with a vibrant miso dressing, a dish I immediately wanted to figure out how to recreate.
Most dishes seem to follow this formula, meat or fish, simply prepared and accompanied by one or two star vegetables, a scattering of fresh herbs, leaves and/or flowers, and a sauce with near perfect acidity every time to bring the dish coherently together – a rather ingenious blueprint I would say.
All three of the spots are dedicated to natural, organic and biodynamic wines from small, lesser known producers. The right balance of acidity, for Leroy, is just as important in the wines he sources as it is in each dish that he constructs. Since his early days of solo operation, Leroy works with a front of house who can knowledgeably talk you through the extensive wine selection and will happily make food pairing recommendations.
Sauvage | Modern French | 55 rue du Cherche-Midi | Paris 7 | Tel: +33 1 45 48 86 79 | Métro: Sèvres-Babylone, Rennes or Vaneau | Open Monday through Saturday
Searching for a Christmas gift? Or maybe something just for you? We are excited to announce we have added a new At Home with Patricia Wells Cooking in Provence class for 2019, from July 7-12. We also still have a couple of openings left in our 2020 classes. Follow the link to sign up for a class. See you there!
If being close to the source of the food you are serving is a promise of quality, then what better place to have a sushi bar than in a fish shop itself? This is exactly what fishmonger Patrick Fernandez has done with his poissonnerie (fish shop) and adjoining atelier du degustation, Ebisu. This is no ordinary fish shop, since Fernandez has been trained in the 350 year old Japanese art of ikejime, a tradition of ‘harvesting’ or killing fish in the most humane way possible that not only improves the texture and flavor of the fish but also means the fish can last longer (up to 15 days for raw consumption), age better and develop an umami flavor.
Fernandez, discovered ikejime in 2015 and since has become part of a small revolution to bring the technique to France, a movement started by Japanese keiseki master Toro Okuda who opened his own restaurant Okuda in the 8th back in 2011, and who taught Fernandez all he knows. Fernandez and his wife, Thy, opened Ebisu in April of 2018, the first poissonnerie to offer ikejime in the capital.
The technique consists of 4 swiftly executed movements that paralyze the fish and allow the blood to drain out, which reduces the flow of cortisol and lactic acid into the fish’s flesh (caused by the stress of harvesting) that can negatively affect its flavor. Not all the fish sold or prepared at Ebisu are killed using this method, however those that are not come directly from small day boats in Brittany, that assure a high-quality catch.
Fernandez makes almost weekly trips to Brittany (depending on the availability of that week’s live fish catch) to fill his tanks with fish caught in the bay of Quiberon, to bring back to his shop for sale. The price is of course higher for live fish chosen from the tank and killed using the ikejime method but the freshness and quality is incomparable. Numerous Michelin-starred chefs in Paris agree, who source their fish for their restaurants from Fernandez, including Yannick Alleno and sushi master Yasunari Okazaki from L’Abysse (notably the best sushi I have eaten outside of Japan), Takuya Watanabe from Jin, and of course Master Okuda.
The menu in the atelier de degustation is simple and firmly fish focused, offering just a handful of entrees, such as a seaweed salad with tender squid and creamy mussels, tossed in a rice vinegar vinaigrette, or a plate of briny Brittany oysters. To follow, choose from an assortment of sushi, maki, sashimi, a generous combination of the three in the Assiette Ebisu, or a chirashi bowl (a bed of sushi rice generously topped with an assortment of sliced sashimi). The 25€ menu for a starter, main course and dessert is exceptionally good value, although we were less enchanted by the quality of the dessert on the day we dined.
If you are a lover of fresh flavorful raw fish and sushi, here is an address that you won’t want to miss.
EBISU | 30-34 Rue du Chemin Vert | Paris 11 | Tel: +33 9 50 76 38 66 | Métro: Richard Lenoir or Chemin Vert | Restaurant open Wednesday & Thursday 11.30am-3pm & 5-8pm, Friday & Saturday 11.30am-3pm & 5-9pm. Closed Sunday, Monday & Tuesday. Fish shop open Wednesday – Saturday 9am-1.30pm & 4-7.30pm. Closed Sunday, Monday & Tuesday | Lunch: fixed 3-course lunch menu 25€ | 3-course lunch menu 25€, Lunch and dinner 17-55€ à la carte. Reservations recommended (online possible via The Fork) | Atmosphere casual.
As a fish and shellfish lover, few things make me happier than a meal than includes a platter of briny, chilled oysters, perfectly seared sweet scallops, paired with a stony white Sancerre wine. Well, that’s what makes me happy at La Cagouille, a longtime favorite fish restaurant in the 14th. In many ways, this casual, unpretentious spot is one of a kind. Ever since Gérard Allemandou opened his first La Cagouille on rue Daguerrre in the early 1980s, the place has been a starring example of freshness and quality in its products.
On my last visit, I devoured the rarely seen miniature oysters, boudeuses, so called since they boud, or pout, because they can’t seem to grow any bigger. To my palate, they are the perfect little oyster, a tiny mouthful of pleasure. Alongside a thickly buttered slice of bread from baker Dominique Saibron, I’m in heaven.
It was Gérard Allemandou himself who taught me how to cook scallops and his words were “Cook scallops like meat, sear them well!” And that’s just the way they arrive at the table here, burnished brown on the outside, sweet, almost sugary on the inside. A touch of butter sauce and a shower of parsley is all they need to reach perfection. The accompanying, mile-high potato gratin – paper-thin slices of potato oozing with butter – could stand in as dessert. Irresistible.
To my left and to my right diners were feasting on the restaurant’s famous couteaux, or razor clams drowning in lemon butter, as well as La Cagouille’s moules brûles doigts, mussels so called because you almost burn your fingers eating them out of hand, off of a giant platter.
The tiny seared céteaux, or whole baby sole, are a lot of work to eat – separating out all those bones – but patience pays off in their clean, ocean-fresh flavor. I was less enthralled by the monkfish cheeks, which I found to be bland and uninspiring.
With the meal, enjoy a few sips of Henri Bourgeois’s 2017 La Vigne Blanche, a wine made from his younger vines in Sancerre. The soil there is limestone-rich, and the wine’s citrusy edge makes it a perfect match for La Cagouille’s special fare.
Allemandou’s partner, the outgoing André Robert directs the dining room and personifies the restaurant’s friendly atmosphere. A diner could hardly ask for more, with La Cagouille open every day of the year, a generous three-course meal for 39€, and a large terrace for dining in warm weather.
LA CAGOUILLE | 10 place Constantin Brancusi | Paris 14 | +33 1 01 43 22 09 01 | Métro: Gaîté | Open daily | firstname.lastname@example.org | 29 and 35€ menus at lunch and dinner, 38 to 112€ à la carte | Reservations recommended | Atmosphere casual.