Tuesday, October 05, 2010

J'dore Paris

My sister and I both found ourselves with a few extra vacation days to use before the end of the holiday cycle, and a long weekend without our husbands, as my brother-in-law had to fly back to Hong Kong for business and Keenan had on his ‘diary’ to attend Oktoberfest (well, that’s another story) for the weekend. My sister and I tossed around the idea of going to San Sebastion in Basque country or Aix-en-Provence, but alas we settled for a four-day girls’ trip to Paris for a leisurely weekend of eating and shopping, which are my sister’s favorite pastime, along with sleeping, that is when she is not chained to her desk on the 46th floor of the ICC building.

We hopped on the EuroStar on the morning of the 23rd September and arrived to our rented flat in the Le Marais district just in time for lunch. It just so happened that my friend from San Francisco was also in Paris to catch his flight back to California after spending two weeks gallivanting around Barcelona, Prague, Berlin, and London, so we met up for lunch in the Le Marais. It was fun getting the update on mutual friends from graduate school, hearing about his travel stories, and catching up on the latest happenings in San Francisco over a glass (or two) of wine! We parted ways in the late afternoon as he wanted to catch an exhibition at the Pompidou and I had to meet up with my sister for some shopping therapy. 
Another highlight of my trip to Paris was meeting up with a dear friend from high school, whom I also went to Berkeley with, at Cuisine de Bar in the chic and very Parisian neighbourhood of St. Germain for lunch of tasty open-face sandwiches on toasted Poîlane bread. She, along with another friend and her older sister, spent the last couple of weeks traveling through Portugal and France (my globetrotting friends!), but unfortunately I caught her at the tail end of her trip so we didn’t have proper time to catch up. While our time was short, it was absolutely wonderful to see an old friend from home, and we enjoyed a laugh over a box of macaroons from Pierre Herme (a box of seven macaroons was €17, not cheap but delicious!). 
 As I mentioned in previous posts, when you are on holiday with my sister, expect to do a lot of shopping, I mean serious shopping. So needless to say, I spent a better part of our 4-day trip to Paris shopping. We spent hours browsing at French pharmacies because my sister has a fetish with facial products (she’s celebrating a ‘Year of the Tiger’ birthday and looks fabulous!); then there was a trip to the LaFayette Gallery; two hours at Frederic Malle perfume shop; hours at Monoprix for food and wine gifts such as mustards, saucisse, biscuits, and foie gras; and last but not least, a special trip to the LV flagship store on Champ Elyssee where we queued in the rain for over an hour to get in!
Aside from shopping, we also spent a lot of time eating and people-watching at cafés, which was a lot of fun. We spent an evening at Café Charlot and I took a break from shopping on Saturday afternoon to explore and people-watch at Chez Prune around St. Martin’s Canal, an up and coming hipster neighbourhood, in the 10th eme.

I also got a lot of restaurant recommendations from colleagues who previously lived in Paris, both high-end and affordable restaurants. We couldn’t try all of them on this trip, so definitely a list for my next trip to Paris, or for any of my globetrotting friends and family. Bon Voyage! Also, I want to wish my sister a very happy birthday!

Restaurants we visited:
Chez Omar (47 Rue de Bretagne, 3eme, Metro: Republique)
Exhausted from our early train ride and no luck getting reservations at Bistro Paul Bert (18 Rue Paul Bert Paris France, 11eme, Metro: Faidherbe-Chaligny), we found this lively North African restaurant near our flat. It was just was we were looking for: couscous, lamb shank, spicy merguez sausages, and half a carafe of red wine. Thank goodness, they don’t take reservations. 

Cuisine de Bar (8 Rue Cherche-Midi, 6eme, M: Sevres-Babylon)
We met up with my high school friend here for lunch. All of us got the lunch menu for: salad, open-faced tartine, glass of wine, and espresso with a sugar cookie. I liked the chicken with capers and salmon tartine. I loved the simple yet chic décor; great place for a casual lunch, but no reservations.
Le Gaigne (12 Rue Pecquay, 4eme Metro: Rambuteau)
We were lucky to get a last minute reservation at this tiny 20 seat restaurant hidden off Rue Rambuteau. Run by a husband-and-wife team, where he works the kitchen and she attends to her guests, the food and wine list were solid and the service was attentive without being overly obtrusive. Since the chef/owner is widely considered as one of Paris’ rising young chef, we opted for the five course tasting menu with wine pairing and enjoyed a delicious three hour dinner.
Breizh Café (109, rue Vieille du Temple, 3eme, Metro: St. Paul)
This is a great place for terrific crêpes and Brittany brewed apple cider or beer on a bustling street in the Marais district. We arrived around 7:30 PM and it was packed. If it wasn’t so darn cold, we would have enjoyed our meals outside.

Le Bambou (70, rue Baudricourt, 13th eme, Metro: Tolbiac)
Those who know me know that I love a good bowl of hot Vietnamese pho. We were craving a bowl of pho, especially spending the last week eating nothing but pasta and seafood in Croatia, so we schlepped ourselves to the 13th eme to Le Bambou. We got our fix of noodle goodness, but nothing compares to my Sacramento pho, even my friend concurs.

L’As du Falafel (34, rue des Rosiers, 3eme, Metro: St. Paul)
Originally my lunch destination with my friend from San Francisco, but it was closed on Thursday (usually closed Friday PM and Saturday) so we had to settle for mediocre falafel around the corner. It is the best place for a falafel in Paris! Be warned, it does get packed. Best for a quick meal or snack.

Other recommendations from my colleagues:
  • L'Ebauchoir: very nice, typical Parisian bistro, great food and wine. No set menus, but can be reasonable if careful on choices (take reservation)
  • Chez Ramulaud: another of my favourites, style typical Parisian, good atmosphere and wine. Have good menus for about 30€ in evening. Nearer Nation than Bastille but easy to walk to. Try this one.
  • Chez Paul: Very nice, but very meaty menu. In heart of Bastille's going out zone so a bit busy and unfortunately in a lot of tourist guides now, but a sure bet! (skip if going to Bistrot Paul Bert)
  • L'Alchimiste: love this place, but is off the beaten track in the middle of nowhere. But restaurant cheap, great food and really good atmosphere (about 50euro for dinner)
  • La Gazzetta: French style but very modern (quite innovative and experimental) and more expensive than others, but different.
  • Le Dôme du Marais: lovely setting, much more classy than others, but also much more pricey
  • Le Felteu - 15, Rue Pecquay (it crosses rue Rambuteau; traditional french cuisine, dishes are huge, I can never finish them. Prices are reasonable.
  • Le verre volé. It is on the canal st martin, not far from Chez Prune (another nice bar- brasserie). It is more a winerie than a restaurant but food is good as well, be careful it is quite small, so don't go too late
  • La Boulangerie, 15,rue des Panoyaux, 75020 it is behind Metro Menilmontant. Food is delicious!
  • La 20e Art, 46 rue Vignoles 75020 Paris 20ème. Super nice and very good food (Though my friend told me she went there last week and found the portion realy really small...)
Need more recommendations? See the following links:

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