Three days in Paris this fall yielded some new favorite restaurants and bakeries — and reinforced an old one.
Cheval d’Or After an awkward dinner at the highly anticipated newcomer Maison (hopefully time will loosen things up; the chef, Sota Atsumi, made Clown Bar a must), it was so good to step into the warmth and generosity of this Belleville restaurant on a rainy Sunday night. Ex-Dersou chef Taku Sekine and Florent Ciccoli of Jones are having fun with casually excellent French-Asian food. We let my new favorite server, Caro, choose her favorites from among the shareable plates, from ginger noodles to vegetable fritters, pristine sashimi to pork noodles with egg yolk. The natural wine list is great—again, we let Caro guide us and couldn’t have been happier. Bonus: In addition to being open Sunday, the restaurant is pretty kid-friendly, too. Reserve ahead, or hope to snag one of the 20 counter seats.
Cuisine Chef Takao Inazawa was at Le Verre Volé, an OG wine bar whose boudin blanc with pommes purées regularly lures me to the Canal St. Martin, while his wine sidekick, Benoît Simon, spent time at Septime and Le Chateaubriand. (Hard to top that.) They transformed a takeout shop into a cool, casual, refreshingly affordable Japanese-leaning bistro. My dinner happily toggled between cured mackerel with leeks, miso and myoga (Japanese ginger); tempura veal brains with shiso; crispy fried pigeon spiked with Szechuan peppercorns; and a delicate fish soup. Dessert was the best tarte tatin I’ve had in recent memory. Entrees top out at 25 euros, and there’s an 18-euro lunch menu that makes for the perfect stop on the way to Rue Condorcet’s excellent designer vintage shops a few blocks east, just across Rue des Martyrs.
Circus Bakery The area between St. Michel and the Sorbonne in the 5th arrondissement isn’t a food destination — unless you’re looking for drunk-student pizza and gyros. But I’d heard such great things about Circus Bakery that I let my Google Maps lead me past the crowds to a curvy lane, where Youssuf Li, the man behind the popular Marais coffee bar Fragments and the amazing cocktail bar Cravan (my only reason for visiting the 16th), is baking beautiful breads and sweets. There are just a few benches for sitting with your house kombucha and seasonal galette, but I recommend sticking around: I soon jumped up for another of everything, from the rye bread to the baguette to the cardamom buns. At lunch, they offer “pit-za” sandwiches, and Thursday through Saturday, the oven goes back on to make pizzas. This is the kind of place that has the power to remake a neighborhood. Who knows? Soon the rue Mouffetard might even be cool.
Vivant 2 I’m biased when it comes to this spot in the 9th: I’ve known chef Pierre Touitou since he was in culinary school as a teenager. It’s been fun to watch him mature into a confident cook and restaurateur, transforming a respected wine bar into one of the most exciting dining counters in town. Having finally installed a real “kitchen,” he now has the tools he needs to turn out exquisite bites of top-quality ingredients, taking direction from Paris, sure, but Japan and Tunisia, too. It might be a few white asparagus, blanketed with guanciale and black truffle and blow-torched, or a new take on flaky brik pastry. The menu changes almost daily. My move? Order all the seafood, and let the brilliant wine director, Clement, pick the natural wines and pray your credit card goes through. Touitou also owns the excellent Déviant just down the street — a favorite for cheap-ish/high-energy bites and glasses that stays open late.