Word of Mouth: January 2020

This ongoing feature collects the reviews, news & events of interest to those who love food, wine & Paris. We update weekly and organize by month.


Restaurant Radar

The Michelin guide announced its newest French stars on January 27, including Kei, Paris’ only new three-star table. Chef Kei Kobayashi becomes the first Japanese chef to earn three Michelin stars in France, serving what Le Monde calls “complex, refined” cuisine. Also of note are second stars awarded to Taillevent, the Etoile location of L’Atelier Joël Robuchon, Top Chef star Stéphanie Le Quellec’s three-month-old La Scène, (not to be confused with the now-closed restaurant she once helmed at the Prince de Galles, also called La Scène) and Yannick Alléno’s haute sushi table L’Abysse. Alléno must be doubly pleased, as his newest restaurant Pavyllon (also located in the neo-classical Pavillon Ledoyen) scored a star for dishes that Figaro Madame calls “gems.”

Ahead of Michelin’s official rankings, Le Figaro released its own top picks of 2019 that notably feature Shabour, a new addition to the city’s flourishing Middle Eastern food scene from Israeli chef Assaf Granit. Le Figaro loves the convivial nature of the restaurant that Le Fooding praises as “magical” and full of generosity.

Elodie and Jean-François Piège have given a makeover to first arrondissement bistro L’Épi d’Or. The restaurant, the couple’s sixth, gains a preposition (now dubbed À l’Epi d’Or), a trendy open kitchen, and a signature pâté en croûte.

Mokonuts chef Omar Koreitem and pastry chef Moko Hirayama (formerly of Yam’Tcha) opened sandwich shop Mokoloco this winter. Marie Aline warns in Le Monde that biting into their meatball and anchovy sandwich may lead to “an obsession or even an addiction,” and Télérama applauds the “gastronomic virtuosity” of the duo who have apparently created another smash hit.

Folks are also falling in love with the new Israeli restaurant Maafim, with praise bordering on the visceral. Le Figaro dubs the house special babka French toast “already unmissable;” Le Fooding hails it as “indecently good,” and Time Out calls it “pornographic.”

The restaurant Cuisine, recently made over by chef Takao Inazawa (ex-Verre Volé) and Benoit Simon (ex-Septime and Chateaubriand), is sending out Japanese-inspired dishes that Le Fooding calls “spectacular.”

At Pantagruel, which opened in December, chef Jason Gouzy (formerly of Le Galopin) seduced Le Figaro’s Emmanuel Rubin with his “touching” cuisine that stands out from others in his generation. Baptiste Piégay in L’Officiel noted Gouzy’s “audacity” in both cooking and in naming his restaurant after Rabelais’ gluttonous giant.

Elsewhere, Jess Hodge (ex-Bones) has opened bistronomic wine bar Pompette with Canadian chef Jordan Robinson (ex-Frenchie) in the kitchen; Le Fooding digs the “Robuchon-esque” (read: ultra-rich) parsnip purée. Forest Collins of 52 Martinis highlights the tasty pizzas and spritz cocktails at La Riviera, and Le Fooding applauds Alex Chapon and chef Emanuele Tamussi’s revitalization of l’Enoteca, which “was starting to become a serious bore.” Le Fooding also stopped by Libertino, the eighth address opened by the Big Mamma group, calling it “a true spectacle that’s a cross between insanity and baroque style.” If you ask us, these details can’t make up for the ho-hum food you’ll find at their over-hyped Italian spots.


Industry News

Michelin’s Bib Gourmand, released just a week before the Red Guide’s new stars, highlights nine Parisian tables, including two of our recent faves: Cheval d’Or and La Vierge. The Bib Gourmand, launched in 1997, rewards tables marrying quality and reasonable prices (read: a three-course menu at under 38€ in Paris or under 34€ outside the capital).

The strikes that have gripped Paris since December 5 appear to be losing steam, although they’re not officially over. Since January 20, Paris subway service has more or less returned to normal, though a one-day strike was called for Friday, January 24. The near-total transportation shut down that began in early December to protest pension reforms has heavily affected small businesses. Within the first two weeks of the strike, Paris restaurant revenues fell by 50 percent. Restaurant owners continued to report “devastating” losses throughout the six-week strike, especially in the trendy area around République, where most of the demonstrations took place. Several restaurants, including Raw, have closed.

Cheese- and Champagne-loving Americans are breathing a sigh of relief to learn that president Trump seems to be backing away from the threatened 100 percent tariff increase on “luxury” food and wine imports from France. What to do now with all that Chablis you stocked up on?

Chef Marc Veyrat lost his court battle against the Michelin Guide. He had alleged that his Savoie restaurant’s demotion from three to two stars was based on the inspector’s erroneous observation that his soufflé de fromage contained (gasp!) cheddar cheese. Veyrat was ordered to pay court costs and remains cheesed off, according to reports. It’s worth noting that the Savoyard chef is now spending more time in Paris, as he took over the kitchens at luxury La Fontaine Gaillon this winter.

L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges lost a star following the death last year of its legendary chef Paul Bocuse. It boasted three stars for four decades, longer than any other restaurant in history. The Michelin Guide announced the news a week before before releasing its 2020 rankings.

Speaking of losses, we’re sad to report that Sébastien Demorand passed away on January 21 at the age of 50. The culinary journalist and former Masterchef judge will be remembered for coining the term “bistronomy,” for his work with Omnivore and many other publications, and for his delightfully dandyish style. He could talk about a plate of ham for seven minutes, and will be missed.


Upcoming Events

February 6: the monthly Belleville Food Market will be celebrating the Lunar New Year by showcasing specialties from some of the city’s top Chinese restaurants including La Taverne de Zhao and Café Lai’Tcha from the team at Yam’Tcha.

February 22-March 1: the Salon de l’Agriculture will return to the Porte de Versailles expo center. We’ve written here about how to best navigate this massive farming and food festival.

Past Events

January 24-February 1: Paris Cocktail Week is a celebration of all things spirits, with 50 participating bars serving reduced-price cocktails all week long. This year’s event illustrates the newfound prevalence of delicious mocktails on the Paris drinking scene, with creative alcohol-free options on offer thanks in part to special infusions from local craft distillery la Distillerie de Paris.

January 25-26: the 13th annual Fête de la Coquille Saint-Jacques will take place in picturesque Montmartre, featuring a scallop cooking contest judged by Guillaume Gomez, chef to the French President, and a market selling everything from raw scallops and scallop brochettes to other Breton products like cider, caramel, and crêpes.

2 thoughts on “Word of Mouth: January 2020”

  1. Susie says:

    Have long been reading about your food tours; and your restaurant reviews. FINALLY going to take a tour this spring. Your write-ups are always interesting and informative.

  2. Kim says:

    What a great roundup of foodie Paris current affairs – merci beaucoup!

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