The overarching honesty and generosity of La Vierge’s concept places the restaurant alongside overachieving peers like Belleville’s Le Cadoret at the vanguard of a new generation of Paris bistrot that recognizes the value of virtue.
The best way to understand the underground appeal of Empire Celeste is by comparing it to another well-known Parisian Chinese restaurant, Davé. Offering run-of-the-mill Chinese cuisine in a cramped, kitchy red interior, Davé is notoriously popular with the fashion set. Its walls are festooned with images of the proprietor arm-in-arm with Yves Saint-Laurent, Mick Jagger, and Kim Kardashian. Empire Celeste, run by three generations of the Wang family since the restaurant’s founding in 1953, is the Davé of another peculiar subculture: the natural wine crowd.
Nestled on a drab Belleville backstreet beneath the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Le Cadoret’s blue awning shines out like a beacon. So does chef Léa Fleuriot’s delicate, thoughtful approach to country-bistrot classics. A sleeper hit since Fleuriot and her brother Louis opened it in 2017, Le Cadoret is a bistrot and café where an ostensibly straightforward offering - traditional recipes, inexpensive natural wines, craft beers - achieves the sublime thanks to rare combination of sincere and efficient service, serious value, and an ironclad commitment to ingredient quality.
Disregard what is written on the window of Cheval d’Or’s elegantly-preserved red façade, for what restaurateur Florent Ciccoli (of Jones and Café du Coin, among other endeavors) and chef Taku Sekine (of Dersou) have created on a quiet side street near the Parc des Buttes Chaumont is not a Chinese restaurant. Cheval d’Or is, rather, a tasteful and welcoming luxury small-plates restaurant offering a delicate synthesis of pan-Asian and Parisian cuisines, more middle ground than Middle Kingdom.
This slightly posher St-Germain sister restaurant of the long-time Marais favorite is turning out the same buttery buckwheat galettes as the original, but in less cramped conditions. Tables on the terrasse make this a great options for warm summer evenings, especially if you start with an icy platter of fresh oysters or langoustines.
Breizh Café Odéon in pictures
La Poule au Pot is a looker. It's wonderful to walk in and witness the vintage wallpaper, the globe lighting, and the silver-plated serving chariot wheeling between Pepto-Bismol colored tables. It is at once a little elegant and also a touch cheesy. One can almost picture the 80s pop stars who used to slouch into these red banquettes, the mirrored pillars reflecting their manliner and sprayed hair. Today's Poule au Pot, having been recently rebooted by star chef Jean-François Piège, reflects something different - a desire for traditional cuisine bourgeouise and also the willingness (by some) to pay for it.
French food magazine Fulgurances opened L’Adresse in 2015 as a culinary incubator featuring a rotating cast of guest chefs. In 2016, we were blown away by the food of Israeli chef Tamir Nahmias. More recently, we returned for Mariana Villegas, a young Mexican chef who previously passed through Cosme and Union Square Café in New York. Her cooking is bright and inventive. Here's an update on what's happening at Fulgurances.
Fresh off Paris’ greatest resto reboot of recent years - transforming the defunct destination Restaurant Bones into the beloved seven-day mainstay Restaurant Jones - chef-restaurateur Florent Ciccoli doubled down on the Voltaire neighborhood in late 2017, opening Café du Coin with the aid of frequent collaborator Greg Back (L’Orillon, Les Pères Populaires).
But for alert wine geeks, Café de la Nouvelle Mairie might as well be the Panthéon itself, as pertains to natural wine.
Le 6 Paul Bert had a brief closure followed by several different chefs and menu makeovers. We’re not sure what’s going on over there right now, but will update this description after another visit. Here’s what we wrote about the first incarnation:
Vins des Pyrénées in pictures
Photos by Meg Zimbeck © Rome by Mouth
What people are saying
Reviews of the restaurant under the current management
Le Rigmarole opened in October 2017 and delighted me more than any other restaurant that year. A recent return visit confirmed my feeling that Le Rigmarole is honest, inexpensive and delicious. It's casual and a bit chaotic, and it deserves to be packed every night.
What people are saying
This dining room near the Bourse (the former stock exchange) is compact and cozy, complete with all the markers of a comforting old bistro. It’s largely filled with Americans, especially now that chef Daniel Rose has become the toast of Manhattan with his French restaurant Le Coucou. The latter is delicious but difficult to book and easily five times the price of La Bourse et la Vie. Rose’s primary restaurant in Paris (now that Spring has closed) feels like a steal if your reference point is French food in New York.
When comparing it to other Paris bistros, this place feels lavish and expensive. On the surface, La Bourse et la Vie appears to have much in common with a neighborhood bistro serving classic dishes like poireaux vinaigrette, steak-frites and pot au feu. But look more closely and you’ll learn that the leeks are dotted with hazelnuts from Piemonte and the steak is 30-day aged Simmental beef.
Rose, who is obsessed with old recipes, continues to resurrect and refine vintage dishes that modern-day travelers are rarely able to encounter. His version of pot au feu is deeply delicious and evokes the classic dish that was bubbling a century ago on stoves all over the nearby market neighborhood of Les Halles. However, it’s radically different and probably more delicious than the original because it marries perfectly cooked (not boiled to death) cuts of veal and lightly cooked vegetables with the sort of profound bouillon (broth) that has become Rose’s signature. It’s also served with a side dish of tête de veau with a sauce ravigotée. More “authentic” Paris bistros are not making food like this anymore.
All of this specialness doesn’t come cheap, of course. That delicious steak-frites is priced at 39€, and dinner for two is likely to be 120€ before wine. However, most new restaurants that have opened in the years since Rose took over La Bourse et la Vie are offering much less for a similar price. Paris is becoming very expensive. At La Bourse et la Vie, it’s both expensive and very good.
La Bourse et la Vie in pictures
Great natural wines by the glass, fresh well-prepared food, and congenial service at this simple bistro near Bastille.
Address: 74 rue des Archives, 75003
Nearest transport: Filles du Calvaire (8), Rambuteau (11)
Hours: Closed Monday & Tuesday; Open Wednesday-Sunday continuously for lunch & dinner
Telephone: +33 1 42 77 23 62
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Dessance in pictures
Photos by Meg Zimbeck © Paris by Mouth
What people are saying about Dessance
David Lebovitz (2015) “Like most experimental food, not everything is a hit. A starter of mustard leaf sorbet that was paired with mirabelle plums and smoked cheese (shown up above) tasted – well…like a frozen puree of mustard leaves. But a grated carrot sorbet with pea puree and pea shoots was excellent. And I loved the ripe strawberries with parsley ice cream and fruit leather that led the way to the final course.”
The Financial Times (2014) “On a recent visit, the four-course degustation menu began on a savory note – raw tuna paired with tangy orbs of red and white currants, droplets of peach purée, avocado sorbet, and a red onion emulsion that was so good I’d like to suggest they sell it as a condiment.”
Sugared & Spiced (2014) “This second visit to Dessance was overall a pleasant experience. Some dishes were a bit too much for me in terms of flavor combination, but Dessance still remains an interesting address to visit for its unusual creations. For a change of the Paris sweet scene, why not?”
The New York Times (2014) “The menu at Dessance doesn’t run toward the pastries, cakes and tarts that a desserts-only concept might imply, but rather offers a small but intriguing collection of dishes that can be eaten as both desserts and main courses, including, for example, a surprising combination of violet-colored vitelotte potato purée with raw and poached apples, arugula and marjoram granité.”
Le Figaro (2014) “Plutôt convaincante à prouver, par un jeu de compositions biseautées, que l’idée du repas en mode sucré ne se réduit pas au final d’un repas.”
Table à Découvert (2014) “Le menu ne se substitue pas à un repas (à moins qu’il y ait des adeptes), mais se déguste comme un moment à part, après un plat salé dégusté ailleurs (même s’il y a 2,3 propositions de salées comme des madeleines au roquefort, une assiette de comté, coing et scones ou un foie gras mi-cuit, butternut, fruit de la passion, brioche).”
Nicolas isn’t the only star charcutier in town (Gilles Verot has a well-deserved following), but he’s the first to build a restaurant around his creations. This could be terrible – I cynically anticipated great charcuterie followed by mediocre mains and forgettable dessert. I was instead delighted by the best Quenelles de Brochet with sauce Nantua that I’ve ever tasted (yes, even in Lyon). The Baba au Rhum is also as good as all the other reviews (see below) say it is. As for the charcuterie, there’s a whole page of options to be taken as starters, ranging from elegant (Pâté en croûte with quail, pear and pistachio) to down-and-dirty (La Couronne de Cochon with all parts of the pig). The wine list is short but includes some very good Beaujolais, which is what you want to be drinking here. The connected shop selling for takeaway is a great source for picnics on the nearby Champ de Mars, and it provides a way to share his creations with my friends who never, ever leave eastern Paris.
- Charcuterie starters, including different versions of Pâté en croûte
- Quenelles de Brochet
- Baba au Rhum for dessert
Arnaud Nicolas in pictures
What people are saying
I became a fan of chef Edward Delling-Williams when he was cooking at Au Passage, and so I was thrilled when he opened Le Grand Bain on one of the grungiest / coolest streets in Paris. Like at Au Passage, there’s an ever-changing chalkboard menu of small plates, many of them vegetable driven (if not always vegetarian). You’ll also find massive hunks of protein to share. On a recent night, my friend and I competed for the last bite of a beautiful (entire) sole for only 30€, while vowing to return for the whole lamb shoulder that had us drooling on the neighboring table. This delicious drama played out while sitting outside on a street that’s a destination for graffiti tourists. Le Grand Bain is a great place to eat well and to drink natural wine while surrounded by the joyful cacophony of Belleville.