Among the hundreds of debuts in 2013, we added more than 50 new openings to our guide to Paris restaurants. But what did we really love? To narrow it down, we asked our contributing editors – a diverse group of Paris-based food and wine writers – to nominate their favorite new openings of 2013. Among their top picks, a few trends are clear: half are helmed by young foreigners (Canadian, Australian, Japanese, Italian), more than half include a bar for drinks and nibbles, and most are second or third offerings from an already-popular restaurant group.
The restaurant named as a favorite more than any other in 2013: James Henry’s Bones.
Opened January 2013
Bones opened as a restaurant with chef James Henry (formerly Au Passage) breaking down whole animals, baking his own bread, curing his own charcuterie, and challenging diners with preparations both delicate and robust (heart, anyone?). But what really gets us excited is the bar up front. Serving a long list of wines by the glass and offering a chalkboard menu of small plates that are perfect for sharing, it’s become a regular hangout for restaurant industry types and a good number of our contributing editors. Catherine Down says “I’m never really sure if I’m actually cool enough to hang out here, but this is my go-to place for small plates and drinks. The suckling pig sandwich carved at the bar is a treasured late night snack. I always have a great night out there.” Aaron Ayscough agrees. “As much as I adore James’ menus, I think his primary innovation at Bones is cultural: he showed Parisians that a lively, free-wheeling bar could co-exist with serious, sought-after cuisine. That such a dynamic is already de rigeur in London or New York in no way diminishes the achievement.”
Named as a favorite by Aaron Ayscough, Catherine Down, Clotilde Dusoulier, Alexander Lobrano, Camille Malmquist, Lindsey Tramuta & Meg Zimbeck.
Suckling pig in the bar at Bones (photo Meg Zimbeck)
Technicolor seafood in the restaurant at Bones (photo Meg Zimbeck)
Stripped down decor at Bones (photo Meg Zimbeck)
Opened January 2013
“When Bertrand Auboyneau opened this new spot just a few doors down from his Bistrot Paul Bert, which is an almost universally beloved bistro, we expected good things,” says Meg Zimbeck. “It’s so nice to not be disappointed. Chef Louis-Philippe is a very thoughtful cook. I love the format, the price, the wine list, and the service.” Dorie Greenspan agrees: “I love the vibe in the room, the fact that if you go with 4 people you can taste the entire menu and, of course, I like the food. I think this is a place where the small-plates concept works well.”
Named as a favorite by Aaron Ayscough, Clotilde Dusoulier, Dorie Greenspan, Alexander Lobrano, John Talbott & Meg Zimbeck.
Lamb and potatoes at Le Six Paul Bert (photo by Meg Zimbeck)
Egg, mushrooms, truffle at Le Six Paul Bert (photo by Meg Zimbeck)
Dining room with open kitchen at Le Six Paul Bert (photo by Meg Zimbeck)
Opened January 2013
This offshoot of L’Office, one of our favorite bistros, opened early in the year and built a steady following thanks to its unusual (for Paris) format: corner café in the daytime and at night a spot for sans reservation snacks, small plates, wine and cocktails. Alexander Lobrano says “Le Richer is a great example of new casual Paris dining at its best, because they serve an excellent market-driven menu of contemporary French bistro dishes that are affordably priced and made with really good produce, service is alert and friendly, and you can eat at the bar or opt for a table. It’s a perfect reflection of how the Faubourg-Saint-Denis neighborhood of the 10th arrondissement is rapidly emerging as one of the most interesting new restaurant districts in Paris, too.”
Named as a favorite by Clotilde Dusoulier, Phyllis Flick, Alexander Lobrano, John Talbott & Lindsey Tramuta.
Roast duckling at Le Richer (photo by Alexander Lobrano)
Bar at Le Richer (photo by Alexander Lobrano)
Reopened in September 2013 under the banner of Alain Ducasse
Alexander Lobrano explains why he championed including Le Meurice on our list: “Aside from the fact that chef Christophe Saintagne is doing some brilliantly simple, even humble, food here, what fascinates me about this reboot is that it’s completely re-conceived what the experience of French haute cuisine dining should be. To wit, Ducasse sees a wholesome minimalism as the new metric for Gallic luxury. Gastronomically, there’s some almost Amish about the way that Saintagne cooks, since every dish is designed to exalt the natural tastes of the produce its made with rather than transform it, and this less-is-more gestalt also nods at both ecology and healthy eating in a major break from the Baroque experience of excess and opulence that formerly defined the idiom of haute cuisine.”
Named as a favorite by Alexander Lobrano (the only among us who has been since Ducasse took over).
John Dory with figs at Le Meurice (photo by Alexander Lobrano)
Wild duck at Le Meurice (photo by Alexander Lobrano)
Roasted fig dessert at Le Meurice (photo by Alexander Lobrano)
Opened September 2013
The inclusion of Come a Casa is perhaps a testament to how much we want (need?) good Italian in Paris. Lindsey Tramuta loves this new place near Bastille for the “honest, simply good cooking with warm and reliable service to match.” Alexander Lobrano agrees. “After despairing of ever eating a decent, to say nothing of authentic Italian meal in Paris, a place where cooks add crème fraîche to risotto and perennially over-cook pasta, the charming Come a Casa came a wonderful surprise and relief. It makes good on its name, since it really is ‘Like Being At Home,’ with a warm friendly Italian team that does a short but beautifully prepared chalkboard menu which changes all the time. I still think about the superb artichoke lasagna I had there, and the Tuscan charcuterie is reason alone to go, as are the Italian wines.”
Named as a favorite by Catherine Down, Alexander Lobrano, Lindsey Tramuta & Patricia Wells.
First courses at Come a Casa (photo by Catherine Down)
Panna cotta with red fruits and chocolate at Come a Casa (photo by Catherine Down)
Dining room at Come a Casa (photo by Catherine Down)
Opened September 2013
Christian Etchebest is in expansion mode, branching out in 2013 with this new installation near Pigalle. “I’ve been crossing town for years to go to the original, La Cantine du Troquet, because it’s consistently good, extremely generous, and downright cheap for what you get,” says Meg Zimbeck. “I’m pretty excited that I can now get my usual fix – a plate of grilled pigs’ ears washed down by a bottle of Lapierre Morgon – without crossing the river. It’s great fun, and the servers are so kind that I barely notice how ugly the room is.”
Named as a 2013 favorite by Clotilde Dusoulier, Alexander Lobrano, John Talbott & Meg Zimbeck.
Dining room at La Cantine de la Cigale (photo by Alexander Lobrano)
Grilled pigs’ ears at La Cantine de la Cigale (photo by Meg Zimbeck)
Outstanding wine list at La Cantine de la Cigale (photo by Meg Zimbeck)
Opened September 2013
Lazare opened inside the train station at Saint-Lazare with a menu signed by chef Eric Frechon. Many food writers have fallen under its spell. “Since most Paris brasseries have become miserably mediocre and expensive, Lazare makes me hope that this much-loved but neglected Paris restaurant idiom might be pitched for a revival,” says Alexander Lobrano. “I like Karine Lewkowicz’s decor – a mix of brasserie tropes like mosaic floors and globe lamps with a sort of post-industrial loft look created by exposed pipes in the high ceiling overhead. Eric Frechon and his team have created an appealing menu with some really good cooking, including a superb sole Dieppoise.” Meg Zimbeck agrees as far as the food is concerned, but called it the worst service she’s ever experienced.
Named as a favorite by Phyllis Flick, Alexander Lobrano, John Talbott, Lindsey Tramuta & Patricia Wells. Hated by Meg Zimbeck.
Plenty of suit jackets in the dining room at Lazare (photo Meg Zimbeck)
Celeri remoulade at Lazare (photo Meg Zimbeck)
Sole Dieppoise at Lazare (photo Meg Zimbeck)
Opened October 2013
“I love the Bistro Bellet for revalidating traditional French bistro cooking for a new century,” says Alexander Lobrano. “Chef François Chenel makes one of the best pâté de campagne I’ve ever eaten and his blanquette de veau is excellent, too. They’re a few references to Niçoise cooking on the menu, too, including the pissaladière often served as an amuse bouche, and everything about this restaurant is sincere, generous and appealing.” Meg Zimbeck adds that “It’s everybody’s new favorite. Both Aaron Ayscough and I have been twice this week, and I’ve heard the phrase ‘best ever’ applied more than once to their terrine and blanquette de veau. I love that you can eat at the bar, and that the kitchen serves late until midnight.”
Named as a favorite by Aaron Ayscough, Phyllis Flick, Dorie Greenspan, Alexander Lobrano & Meg Zimbeck.
Fish soup at Bistro Bellet (photo by Meg Zimbeck)
Blanquette de veau at Bistro Bellet (photo by Meg Zimbeck)
Pissaladière at Bistro Bellet (photo by Meg Zimbeck)
Opened November 2013
Yannick Alleno’s new outpost inside the Palais Brongniart (that fancy building next to the Bourse subway) delighted many of our contributing editors. “I brought some out-of-towners who wanted both a splashy scene and to eat classic French food. This was perfect. Deceptively simple dishes like sweetbread sausage with mustard-licked potatoes, combined with polished service and great people watching,” says Meg Zimbeck. “I suspect I’ll be back a lot in 2014.”
Named as a favorite for 2013 by Phyllis Flick, John Talbott, Lindsey Tramuta & Meg Zimbeck.
Potato salad with sweetbread sausage at Terroir Parisien (photo by Meg Zimbeck)
Roast chicken in broth at the new Terroir Parisien (photo by Meg Zimbeck)
Glassed in kitchen and long bar at the new Terroir Parisien (photo by Meg Zimbeck)
Opened November 2013
Septime remains impossible to book more than a year and a half after opening, but their new place Clamato is a no-reservations refuge for those who want a taste. Aaron Ayscough told us that the accrabes are his favorite dish in Paris right now, “basically just balls of crab, lighter than air, the texture of cashmere.” Catherine Down said the place offers “great seafood, vibrant flavors, excellent wine, and good people watching. The maple syrup pie really hit home for this New Englander.” Meg Zimbeck loves the wine list, which includes unexpected suggestions from Savoie, plus the fact that you can eat at the bar.
Named as a favorite for 2013 by Aaron Ayscough, Catherine Down, Alexander Lobrano, John Talbott & Meg Zimbeck.
Accrabes at Clamato (photo by Meg Zimbeck)
Raw lieu jaune with radish and coriander at Clamato (photo by Meg Zimbeck)
Théo Pourriat behind the bar at Clamato (photo by Meg Zimbeck)