One of my good friends works for the Gordon Parks Foundation. This year is the centennial of Gordon Parks’ birth and, to celebrate, Steidl is publishing a series of five books that span Parks’ photographic career. On the occasion of the Paris Photo International show in November, US Ambassador Rivkin hosted an event in Parks’ honor at the Ambassador’s Residence. Friends and I made a week of it in Paris. Dining (and drinking) highlights are below.
Founded by a former fashion industry executive, Chritophe Vasseur purchased a bakery dating from 1889 and opened shop ten years ago in February 2002 near canal Saint-Martin. Voted best baker in Paris in 2008 and 2012, he’s known for traditional, less-refined bread dating from before World War II. I was in the neighborhood visiting the studio of Seraphin and literally stumbled upon this bakery mid-afternoon when children were in line for an afternoon snack and adults were buying pain des amis for dinner. The chocolatine (or pain au chocolat) was incredible—and I can only imagine how much better it’d be for breakfast.
Originally opened by a Basque nationalist in 1931 and still decorated with Basque sports memorabilita, chef Stéphane Jego’s cooking made this spot lauded as one of the best bistros in Paris. I made the mistake of going for lunch and filled up on the bread, country cheese spread, chef’s choice of meats (saucisson sec, jambon, andouille, chorizo, and saucisse de boudin noir) and fricassee de sous bois en soudeaise (sautéed mushrooms). Perhaps the best part of this bustling restaurant is the fact that during lunch, it’s crowded with businessmen in suits eager for carnivorous specials—not tourists.
One of the two Nordic-esque restaurants we visited in Paris, this restaurant reminded me of Relae—sparse aesthetic and modern, produce-driven food. Opened in 2010 by a young Italian chef Giovanni Passerini (who worked for a Swedish chef, spent time at Arpège and Le Chateaubriand, and named the bistro after his childhood nickname), the six-course tasting menu only cost 55 euros. The dishes were so delicious, I had to take notes: 1) pumpkin ravioli with langoustine; 2) monkfish with fennel, frisée, peanut; 3) foie gras tortelloni, mackerel, and celery root; 4) beef, carrots, cabbage, tarragon oil; 5) pear, cream cheese, and extra virgin olive oil; 6) apple tart and hazlenut ice cream.
If Rino is Paris’s version of Relae, then Septime is Geist. Again, Scandinavian sparse interior and clean cooking. Chef Bertrrand Grébaut is an alum of Arpège, Joel Robuchon, and l’Agape and opend this restaurant in the 11th in April 2011. The lunch menu of 28 euros reads like the menu at Eleven Madison Park: Veau de lait cru/Huitre/Céleri (raw veal with oysters, celery, and breadcrumbs); Cabillaud/Courge/Champignons (cod with squash and mushrooms); Chocolat/Coing/Crumble (dark chocolate mousse with pear sorbet, quince mousse, and black olive crumble).
Located in the 16th Arrondissement, Kura is by far the best Japanese restaurant I’ve visited in Paris. The menu changes every month according to seasonal ingredients, and the 55 euro fixed menu is filling, yet refreshing. The scallop carpaccio and chicken and broccoli amuse bouche were incredible. Also check out the bento box lunch spot next door, Hana.
And a couple spots for drinks or dancing…
Remember the club in Mulholland Drive? David Lynch created it on rue Montmartre, six floors below ground in the same place Zola printed J’Accuse. Live musicians and DJ sets keep the crowd dancing and multiple surrealist rooms ensure a fun, yet simultaneously confusing, evening. Before midnight, the club is members’ only.
Less than a year old, this speakeasy-style bar by the same folks at Experimental Cocktail Club, Curio Parlor and Prescription Cocktail Club is identifiable by an unmarked black door next to the upstairs steakhouse. I stopped by for a pre-dinner drink, but a second lounge spaces opens for the late-night crowd.