I was in Paris this past week visiting friends in the 20th and managed to have some wonderful meals and dining experiences.
My best lunch was a rainy day at Le Baratin in Belleville. Gorgeous veal stew, with a choice of entrees (I had tomatoes with anchovies) and stewed apples for dessert (19 euros for 3 courses?). Walk by the Belleville Zoo murals if you're nearby.
We had fun at Monjul in the Marais near the Pompidou center. 19 euros for 3 courses, which were a cold watermelon soup, fried fingers of pork (and chickpeas?) with mashed potatoes, and a delectable apple sorbet and less successful chocolate caramel tart.
Impeccable steak with peppercorns in a cream sauce at La Bourse ou La Vie. Another place I'd have liked a salad or green vegetable as a break.
the tea room at the Mosque near Jardin des Plantes was booming. I had couscous with merguez and mint tea. It was fine, if pricey (13 euros, versus 7 or 8 for a less touristy experience in Belleville). The tiny birds peck at the couscous. I regretted not having enough room to try the sweets, which you choose from a giant tray.
Lunch at Chez Janou near Place des Vosges was a mixed bag. Awful service, and I watched one of the servers putting mustard from the tables back into the jar. My stuffed peppers with chevre were okay. Beef stew was tasty but some of it was raw---I'd have returned it had anyone glanced my way. The atmosphere is charming, with Jacques Tati posters on the walls. Can't decide if this place has been ruined by Rick Steves or by its own management.
A wonderful dinner at La Biche au Bois. My rabbit terrine was delicious, as was the duck. And what a cheese course! Finished off with Ile Flottante. Dinner for five including two bottles of wine was under 200 euros. Very friendly and caring service. The only thing I could wish for would be a salad course. We ate late and then walked almost back to our apartment; eating earlier might help too. This is a very rich meal.
One night we stopped by L'As de Fallafel. This is a hopping spot. I'm not a big falafel eater, but I know a good sandwich when I see one. The roasted eggplant appetizer was great, as is the hot sauce. Cold drinks cost as much as fallafel.
We had a simple but refreshing dinner at La Cambodge in Montmartre, after the Vietnamese restaurant we wanted to go to was booked.
The final night we had an exceptional meal at La Gazzetta, which I know gets mixed reports on this board. Two got the five courses (38 euros) and one got the seven (50 euros). The two extra dishes were the highlights: a carrot puree and a rhubarb tarte tatin with goat milk ice cream and pistachio pesto. But the rest of the menu shone as well: tiny peas with hake, cucumbers with burrata, strawberries with candied elderflowers, chicken with the best potatoes ever. Service was mixed; professional but not warm. Dinner for three with a bottle of Carignan and a couple of apertifs was just over 200 euros. I rather liked the atmosphere.
loved the macarons, chocolate, and baguettes from Gerard Mulot
loved shopping at the markets (although surprised at how little was local, unless bananas are now grown in France) and talking to the merchants. I picked up inexpensive haricot verts, radishes, artichokes, apricots, and avocados. And admired but did not buy the sauvage asparagus.
LOVED buying cheese. A perfect assortment of five cheeses for our happy hour snack ran less than 10 euros. French cheese from the fromagerie is an outstanding bargain. Pick up a bottle of cider too.
loved the Tetrel candy shop near 4th of September.
wines are a fine value, so we drank a lot of them. But I had just come from Austria, where they were half the price...
I had many more recommendations on my list and places I wanted to try. I grabbed a Laduree macaron as I lunged for airport security; sadly it got smushed in the fray. (Mulot's was better).
Not being that familiar with Paris, I wasn't sure how to know whether restaurants were near where I was going; Google maps works well for this. I set up a personal map and put pins in the various recommendations.
Worth noting I don't speak more than a handful of French, only French food, although my friends do. I had no real language barriers--being polite goes a long way, especially if you demonstrate you're knowledgeable about food.
I was delighted at Parisians' strong opinions. In Austria if I asked whether the beef or fish entree was better, I'd get a quizzical look. In Paris, it was easy to have wines and menu choices recommended, with authority.