Le Bistrot Paul Bert
Rue Paul Bert, in the Bastille neighborhood, has become one of Paris’s tastiest streets: There are restaurants, foodie bookstores, and wine shops, as well as this bistro, which is the cherry on the pudding. Its strength is its owner, Bertrand Auboyneau. Bolted to the bar, he presides over a world of gourmands who come here for the St. Jacques scallops in salted butter and farm-raised chicken in yellow wine sauce with morels, as well as for one of the city’s best steak frites (as good as Le Voltaire’s!). For dessert, it’s the glorious île flottante. Add to all this a remarkable wine list (notable for its organic selections), and you will understand why by 10:30 P.M. denizens of this bohemian neighborhood—along with inquisitive visitors who come to verify that they have indeed gotten hold of one of Paris’s best bistros—fill the restaurant’s succession of overlapping spaces, the best tables in which are up front, on the banquette across from the bar. $ Dinner, $50. At 18 Rue Paul Bert; 33-1/43-72-24-01.
Le Bistrot de Paris
This restaurant is well named, for here you will find a sort of distillation of the Paris bistro: red banquettes, globe lights, copper saucepans, sepia tones, and a clientele whose combination of impatience and tartness is so very Parisian. (This is the tony Seventh Arrondissement, with its antiques dealers, top-notch artisans, and prosperous neighbors.) The food is lively and distinct—from oeufs mayonnaise to house-made duck foie gras and breaded pork foot to andouillette à la ficelle (poached chitterling sausage), beautiful whole Dover sole, and thick veal liver à la française. There’s a spirited selection of cheese and desserts, too, including the bourbon-vanilla mille-feuille, and baba au rhum Saint-Etienne.
The service mitigates the diners’ boisterous ways with a benevolence worthy of nurses; at times there can be so much testosterone, so much life, and such appetites in evidence here that you might feel as if you’re being pressure-cooked. Occasionally though, toward the end of the night or at the very beginning (it’s best to come early or late), a lovely calm reigns. Choose one of the beautifully lit tables in a corner or at the back. Dinner, $65. At 33 Rue de Lille; 33-1/42-61-16-83.
Chez l’Ami Jean
Ideal for a breakup dinner, this Seventh Arrondissement Basque bistro, dark as a tavern, is a calorie- and decibel-spouting volcano. To go, you have to be famished, in top shape, and explosive. Otherwise you will suffer. Stéphane Jego prepares incredibly generous food, dishes of tremendous terroir that never veer into cuteness: pork fillet with almonds and thyme, sweetbreads and lamb feet with bell-pepper lasagna, fresh Spanish-style cod, cooked cream with strawberries and orange blossom. The pace is furious around the narrow tables—the ones to reserve are those near the entrance—and there is a kind of one-upmanship of the appetite, a choreographed crowd movement, a communal energy to the place. The service manages to stay afloat above the commotion. A rare experience in a city that can sometimes be reserved and snobbish, a visit to l’Ami Jean reintroduces you to a more irrepressible and lively Paris. $ Dinner, $65. At 27 Rue Malar; 33-1/47-05-86-89; amijean.eu.
Times change, but this stylish bourgeois bistro does not—it remains true to itself, with the same long bar, a fresco of the nearby Place des Victoires, and mirrors reflecting the chicest Parisian diners. Chez Georges resists time and trends that can turn us away from the bistro’s supposedly unhealthy dishes: foie gras, terrine, rillettes, escargots de Bourgogne, and grilled andouillette, to name a few. But we are a gastronomically incorrect country. We sop our bread in the sauce, we drink, we speak loudly. For my part, I have been ordering the exact same thing here for the last 20 years: rillettes on a crusty baguette and beef fillet in mustard sauce with glorious russet French fries and cream, followed—depending on the mood and the amount of wine left—by a red-berry vacherin. (It takes me a full day to recover.) The choice tables are near the entrance or at the very back, on the banquette. Dinner, $55. At 1 Rue du Mail; 33-1/42-60-07-11.
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.