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Where locals eat in Paris

medicine on the move

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august 2010

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Eat like a local at seven bistros that take Old World classics and give them a modern twist by

Sophie Lorenzo Michelin-starred chef Christian Constant offers modern takes on his grandma’s cooking at Les Cocottes.

French cuisine may boast impeccable technique but, let’s face it, it can be stuffy and a little boring. About a decade ago, a generation of young Parisian chefs came to the same conclusion and redefined their nation’s gastronomy by drawing on exotic ingredients and techniques. Between classic eateries and the new standard bearers, you’d think it would be hard to find a bad resto in Paris, right? Sadly not. Mediocre eateries abound — especially in the streets surrounding tourist hotspots. And it’s not always easy to tell a banal bistro from a hidden gem just by looking at the menu. Even if you plan to hit the capital like the most dedicated tourist, we suggest you eat like a local. Try one of these seven affordable spots. Whether they feature traditional home-style dishes or classics with an exotic twist, these are all sure bets. august 2010 • Doctor’s

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Eiffel Tower/Musée du Quai Branly Café Constant

Eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant isn’t in everyone’s budget. So it’s hard to resist Café Constant, where the dishes are actually prepared in the kitchen of Christian Constant’s Michelin-starred Violon d’Ingres down the street. This tiny café features bistro fare inspired by the chef’s family recipes — boar stew with chestnuts, pressed pork terrine with foie gras and fish cakes on a bed of spinach. These classics from Southwestern France are prepared in the fresh, spare style which made Constant a star. About €8 for appetizers, €12 for mains. If there’s a line up, try your luck a few doors away at Constant’s popular counter-style bistro, Les Cocottes. 139 rue Saint-Dominique, 7th; Invalides metro; tel: 011-33-1-4753-7334; leviolondingres.com

Centre Pompidou Le Hangar

Leave behind bustling Beaubourg Street and enter this little alley where you’ll find the Anne Frank Garden — one of the rare green spaces in this historic neighbourhood. Right next to it, an old fruit-and-veg hangar has been transformed into a neighbourhood restaurant which, not surprisingly, puts the emphasis on freshness. Dishes are uncomplicated, letting the aromas really come to the fore. The squash and chestnut soup is fragrant and subtle, the daily fish is cooked to perfection, and you’ll want to make a meal out of the black-olive tapenade. Don’t forget to order the molten chocolat mi-cuit at the beginning of your meal; it takes 20 minutes to prepare. The only downside: it’s a cash-only establishment. About €30 per person. 12 impasse Berthaud, 3rd; Rambuteau metro; tel: 011-33-1-4274-5544

Opéra Garnier L’Entracte

To really live like a local, try ending an evening with a show at the grand Haussmann-era Opéra Garnier (which hosts contemporary dance, ballet and opera; seats start around €15), followed by a bite right across the street at this intimate little brasserie. The menu sticks to the classics — Auvergnat ham, potato gratin, duck confit and the like. The mood in its three wood-panelled rooms tends to be liveliest right before and after shows and the views of the Opéra lit up across the street are dazzling. About €25 per person. 1 rue Auber, 9th; Opéra metro; tel: 011-33-1-4742-2625

Notre-Dame Cathedral La Ribouldingue

In the heart of the Latin Quarter, a young female chef has entered the scene with a daring menu laden almost entirely with things that North Americans tend to shy away from like tongue, brain and tripe. Surprisingly, the dishes are accessible and inventive with unusual fusion influences. For the less adventurous, there is always a “normal” meat and fish dish on the menu, in addition to the more accessible foie gras. If you’re feeling bold, try the main that everyone is talking about: the salad of thinly sliced, crunchy cow udders (really, we’re not making this up). Prix fixe menu for €27. 10 rue Saint-Julienle-Pauvre, 5th; St-Michel metro; tel: 011-33-1-4354-0934

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Doctor’s Review • august 2010


St-Germain/Carrefour de l’Odéon Le Comptoir

Yves Camborde is credited with launching the “bistronomie” movement which saw passionate young chefs bring affordable haute cuisine to the masses. There’s almost always a line up at his 22-seat Belle Époque-style bistro (part of the Relais de l’Odéon hotel), but it’s definitely worth the wait. Surprisingly, it’s on weekday evenings (rather than weekends) that Camborde pulls out all the stops, offering a five-course tasting menu for €48 which blends French classics with European and Middle Eastern influences. 9 carrefour de l’Odéon, 6th; Odéon metro; tel: 011-33-1-4427-0797

Musée d’Orsay/Louvre 5 Mars

This bistro is beginning to be a not-so-well-kept secret among urban explorers. It made its name by taking part in Paris’s fooding events — an annual celebration for hip foodies. The Pronvençal-inspired menu plays off the very urban loft-style decor which incorporates old country tables and big sideboards. The service is also interestingly retro: diners serve themselves before passing around large soup tureens and stoneware dishes filled with terrines or chocolate mousse. Get there early for a quiet meal; it turns into a hipster hangout later in the evening. About €8 for appetizers, mains €20. 51 rue de Verneuil, 7th; Musée d’Orsay metro; tel: 011-33-1-4544-6913

Tuileries Gardens/ Place Vendôme L’Écluse

What could be more Parisian after a long day of pounding the cobblestones than to sit and chat over glass of wine? L’Écluse specializes in the great wines of Bordeaux and serves them at very reasonable prices by the glass. Far from the crowds, its terrace on the pedestrian-only Place du Marché St-Honoré is one of its five outposts in the capital. The menu ranges from nibbles (cold salads, cheeses, terrines and tartares) to more elaborate mains with a fresh market twist — and each is accompanied by a recommendation for a wine pairing. The fourcourse “discovery” menu is €42, the “classic” menu is €48, wine included. 34 place du Marché Saint-Honoré, 1st; Tuileries metro; tel: 011-331-4296-1018; leclusebaravin.com

Taste of Paris