Néo-Bistro’s Offer A Gastronomic Meal Minus The Astronomic Price
The Néo-Bistro trend started several years ago as top chefs clamored to stay afloat in the turbulent economic times. With its tremendous selection of luxury establishments, Paris suddenly found itself losing the gastronomic battle of modernity to other emerging cultures. Super expensive meals seemed shameless and thus sent an entire population of big spenders out searching for something a bit more subtle. Paris has undergone a very particular transformation in the food service industry, not to mention the hotel industry, and has been forced to respond to changing attitudes and global influences.
Globalization in general has given way to a new form of Global Gastronomy, redefining traditional boundaries and mapping out new territories that had never before existed. France has always been the leader in terms of gastronomic excellence, but the proliferation of luxury dining establishments that have been popping up all over the globe has changed the way the world responds to fine dining. Thus, a new type of cuisine has emerged from the ashes, known as the Néo-Bistro, for the near bistro quality of the food. Don’t be fooled, however, these charming little restaurants may not scream chic from the outside, but on the inside they give the larger brasseries and bistros a run for their money with a slightly off-beat style, an original culinary interpretation and a decidedly democratic price.
The sign in the window of Glou Restaurant says, “Cuisine et vins sympathiques” (Good Cooking and Good Wine), and that pretty much sums up the overall experience of one of Paris’s trendiest Néo-Bistros. Journalist and founder of the former cooking magazine, Régal, Julien Fouin, opened this charming little restaurant in the Marais last year and the tables haven’t been empty since. An updated take on traditional French fare with an accent on fresh imported delicacies, such as Oysters from Utah Beach or Shrimp straight from Madagascar. A generously stocked wine cellar offers rare treats to taste by the glass, providing un unedited opportunity for choosing a fabulous wine to accompany any meal. Lunch menu at €15-€20 / Dinner menu at €35.
GLOU 101 Rue Vielle du Temple 75003 Paris 01 42 74 44 32 M Sébastien -Froissart
Frenchie, that’s what Jamie Oliver nicknamed Grégory Marchand when he worked with him in London. And that’s what Marchand decided to name his new bistro in Paris. For a French born chef to have spent time in the kitchens of New York and London, coming back to France took a good deal of grit. Adding insult to injury, Marchand decided to buck the traditional French bistro fare for something a bit more worldly, in other words something typically American. The instant success of Frenchie, a tiny little space in the heart of the ‘Sentier’, proves that is often worthwhile to think, or in this case, to eat outside of the box. Lunch menu at €27 / Dinner menu at €33.
Frenchie 5 Rue du Nile 75002 Paris 01 440 39 96 19 M Sentier
For a regional taste of tantalizing Basque cuisine, venture down to the 15th arrondissement where Afaria has claimed its place among the trendy tables of the Parisian ‘gastronome’. Authentic, bold savors emanate from the kitchen and pass before you in the brightly lit restaurant devoid of any pretentious decoration. Created by a young couple who met while working at the Four Seasons George V restaurant, the themed menus open the door to the intrepid traveller with a Southern option (Les Sudistes) for those who savor the southern French cuisine, a Traveller option (Les Voyageurs) for those who long for an exotic taste, and a Miniature menu (Les Petits Appetites) for those who prefer to just pick. Lunch menu at €22 and €26 / Dinner menu at €35.
Afaria 15 Rue des Desnouettes 75015 Paris 01 48 56 15 36 M Convention
Au P’tit Panisse
In a 30′s style decor, the revival of this little bistro, led by the team from La Vache Acrobate, has seen a remarkable transformation in the presentation of satisfying regional products (Les Produits du Terroirs). A relaxed atmosphere reinforces the notion of a convivial family meal and the reasonable prices won’t leave you wistful. Push past the cracking paint of the drab green door to test for yourself, Au P’tit Panisse proposes 3 daily specials to choose from, each one an old family secret. Lunch menu at €15 / Dinner menu at €22 or €28.
Au P’tit Panisse 35 Rue de Montreuil 75011 01 43 71 37 90 M Faidherbe-Chaligny
Arduous though the task may be to find this little gem, the authentic wine bar feel is alive and well at Racines. Hidden in the bustling Passage des Panoramas, this charming little bistro, founded by Pierre Jancou, is housed in a former wine shop. The owner apparently didn’t see the need to redecorate as the endless bottles hanging about the restaurant only seem to add to the intrigue. The few tables fill up quickly with food friendly tourists and Parisians fighting for the right to dine at this trendy Rive Droite location. Lunch menu at €25 / Dinner menu at €50.
Racines 8 Passage des Panoramas 75002 Paris 01 40 13 06 41 M Grands Boulevards
“Une cuisine de coeur” (heartfelt cooking), is how chef Christian Etchebest describes his traditional looking bistro, Le Troquet, in the 15th arrondissement. A generous meal peppered with Etchebest’s native Basque influnces, ranging from panfired scallops to pork parmentier, can be found on the daily specials board. There is no set menu, as the dishes change according to the season and of course the humor of the chef, but the lack of ‘safety items’ forces the culinary voyager to travel outside their comfort zone…where the experience is well worth the risk. Lunch menu at €26 / Dinner menu at €42.
Le Troquet 21 Rue François-Bonvin 75015 Paris 01 45 66 89 00 M Sevres-Lecourbe
Famous for his spicy pig Pot-au-Feu, Christophe Beaufront pays tribute to the true meaning of the word bistro, which tradtionally defines a cosy local restaurant that specializes in making ‘stews’ and other types of comfort food. With a constantly changing menu, Beaufront makes sure his customers keep coming back for more. Inventive is the name of the game at L’Avant-Goût, with unusual offerings such as Vanilla Foie Gras, Crispy Rabbit with Apricot Sauce or a moist Chicken and Snail Terrine with Almonds. Lunch specials are arranged “autour d’une soupe” (around a bowl of soup) and include a main dish and a glass of wine for €14. Dinner menus feature a starter, main dish and a dessert for €31.
L’Avant-Goût 26 Rue Bobillot 75013 Paris 01 53 80 24 00 M Place d’Italie
The talented Stéphane Jégo turns the tables at the chicest of all the Parisian Néo-Bistros, L’Ami Jean. Attention to all frivolous foodies and vegetarians, the game-laden menu may offend more than just a few. From deer to wild pigs, cows, lambs and even turtles, nothing seems sacred when it comes to making a great meal that will really stick to your bones. For the carnivore, the gastronomic feast is a fabulous assortment of deliciously derived dishes that will leave a lasting impression on your palette. Fish lovers will gratefully take solice in one of Jégo’s magnificent creations, such as a Virgin Lobster from Brittany or a Filet of Bar roasted in garlic and thyme. Lunch menu at €35 / Dinner menu at €55.
L’Ami Jean 27 Rue Malar 75007 Paris 01 47 05 86 89 M La Tour Maubourg
Identifiable by the ‘Highly Flammable’ symbol that stands as a logo for this rock-n-roll bistro, Les Combustibles,that transforms the lazy days into lively nights with an alternative rock scene that heats up nearly every evening. The food is only a pretext to keep the crowds fed, for the bar stocks rare whiskies and specialty beers while the menu features more than just cold meat platters. Eclectic in age and genre, this crazy little bistro can’t help but please with a mission to defend the diversity of taste through the use of seasonal products, a delicate dance choreographed by Guillaume Dubois. Prices range from €16 – €35.
Les Combustibles 14 Rue Abel 75012 Paris 01 58 51 17 31 M Gare de Lyon
Sophisticated is an adjective not usually associated with the word bistro, but Les Fougères is clearly the exception to the rule. A lushly decorated dining room in delicate tones of beige, accentuated by lively touches of apple green, sets the backdrop for an elegant dining experience. At the helm, Stéphane Duchiron, a former Guy Savoy apprentice, steers his gastronomic boat with brilliance as he concocts complicated dishes that seem to activate the retro-minded spirit of the old French guard. However, the journey is anything but nostalgic as Duchiron sets his own itinerary into unchartered waters with great success. Lunch menu at €22 / Dinner menu at €36. The Menu Dégustation, composed of 6 dishes chosen by the chef, at €60.
Les Fougères 10 Rue Villebois-Mareuil 75017 Paris 01 40 68 78 66 M Place des Ternes