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Five Great Places to Eat in Paris

Mitchell Davis

July 02, 2018

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The iconic Paris-Brest at Jacques Genin (Photo: Mitchell Davis)

If you’re anything like us, the first thing you do when planning a trip—perhaps even before booking a plane ticket—is figure out where you’re going to eat while you’re there. Museums, sightseeing, and shopping are all well and good, but food is often the main attraction. To make trip planning a little easier, we’ve compiled lists of our can’t-miss spots in some of our favorite places. Below, our chief strategy officer (and resident globe-trotting gourmand) Mitchell Davis shares his top eats in Paris.

There is no shortage of delicious food to eat in Paris, of course. But as in any big city, you have to know where to go to find it. On a recent trip, a few experiences stood out. 

Alain Ducasse au Plaza-Athénée
25 Avenue Montaigne, 75008 Paris
+33 1 58 00 23 43

This is not your maman’s Ducasse. The ornate room has been refreshed with sleek, modern, sculptural accents and the menu has been modernized to reflect a more contemporary way of eating. Gone are red meat and butter—well, from the kitchen at least. Thankfully, a phenomenal butter is still served rather dramatically in the dining room, coaxed from a barrel onto a wooden paddle, that accompanies a delicious gluten-free, rice-flour focaccia sliced tableside. Chef de cuisine Romain Meder’s seasonal menu emphasizes vegetables, legumes, and seafood, the last barely cooked. Caviar is deployed generously to up the indulgence quotient. Desserts are creative and delicious without sugar. The overall effect is plant-forward luxury that leaves you feeling lighter and more righteous than most French three-star meals. If you want Ducasse à l’ancienne, you can eat at Le Meurice. Here you can begin to see a future of French cuisine. 

Carré Pain de Mie
5 Rue Rambuteau, 75004 Paris
+33 1 44 54 92 73

Since the early days of Nouvelle Cuisine, Japan has had a strong influence on the great chefs of France. And there are great French restaurants all over Japan. But Carré Pain de Mie is something different. A fusion bakery and sandwich shop, this unique spot in the Marais specializes in the fluffy white sandwich bread known as Hokkaido or milk bread (pain de mie in French), baked fresh throughout the day. They offer two varieties: a flat-topped, Pullman-style loaf made with Japanese flour and an enthusiastically domed loaf made with French flour. In the café, the Japanese counter staff slice the bread extra thick and serve it toasted with butter and jam. They also use it to make delicious sandwiches, including one of the best croque monsieurs I’ve ever found in Paris and a warm tonkatsu sando (fried pork sandwich) that rivals any I’ve had in Japan. Delicious and fun. 

Jacques Genin
133 Rue de Turenne, 75003 Paris 
+33 (0)1 45 77 29 01

While everyone runs around Paris in search of the latest pastry innovation, it’s nice sometimes to revisit the classics. And nowhere will you find classic French pastries better represented than at Jacques Genin. Known for his wide variety of other-wordly, salted-butter caramels, pâtes de fruits, pâtes de legumes, and chocolates, Genin is also known to make the best Paris-Brest in town (that’s the choux paste ring filled with hazelnut praline pastry cream created to commemorate the Paris to Brest bicycle race). If you don’t believe me that it’s the best, believe Parisian-based pastry guru David Lebovitz, who has deemed Genin’s Paris-Brest his favorite pastry in the entire city. Genin’s millefeuille isn’t bad either. What makes these pastries so good is they are assembled to order. There is no pastry case at this pastry shop. Instead, you have to sit down and order dessert, with a fine pot of tea or hot chocolate, perhaps, to enjoy while your pastry is assembled à la minute. Note Genin has two locations in Paris, but only the one in the Marais in on Rue de Tournelle has pastries. Don’t miss them. 

Le Grand Restaurant de Jean-François Piège
7 Rue d'Aguesseau, 75008 Paris
+33 1 53 05 00 00

The open kitchen and intimate scale of this elegant restaurant adds to the charm of dinner by Jean-François Piège. The name both indicates that this is Piège’s flagship, and has a touch of irony. A disciple of Alain Ducasse, Piège’s cooking echoes traditional cuisine, cooked with precision and subtle innovations. He researches historic recipes for inspiration. The 19th-century classic pommes soufflées make an appearance, served in an elegant metal egg topped with caviar. Asparagus with scrambled eggs and truffles appeared on our seasonal springtime menu. What butter Ducasse doesn’t use at the Plaza Athénée can be found here. And no one seems to mind. A fancy and fun evening of grande gastronomie.

Le Comptoir du Relais
 9 Carrefour de l'Odéon, 75006 Paris
+33 1 44 27 07 97

Most planes from New York usually arrive in Paris early in the morning, which gives you enough time to drop your bags off at your hotel or Airbnb and make it over to Place de l’Odéon by 11:45 A.M. so you can get on line for the first Le Comptoir seating at noon. Otherwise you may have to wait an hour or more to snag a seat at this tiny, no-reservations bistro, home to chef Yves Camdeborde, one of the earliest Parisian chefs to decamp from Michelin heights to forge a new bistronomie. Camdeborde doesn’t stray far from the classics: pâté de campagne, salad niçoise, breaded pig’s foot, veal breast roulade. The extensive menu and wine list seem like a magic trick in this tiny space, but everything is freshly prepared and delicious. Among my favorite dishes is the €5 oeufs mayonnaise, simply hard cooked eggs covered in homemade mayonnaise pungent with Dijon. I understand why Le Comptoir is more popular with tourists than locals. A French friend once asked incredulously why we would order oeufs mayonnaise in a restaurant, noting it’s such a dish of home. I reminded him I don’t come from a French home. 

Want more travel inspiration? Check out more trip ideas.

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Mitchell Davis is chief strategy officer at the James Beard Foundation. Find him on Twitter and Instagram.

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