A mixed bag of restaurants:
- Tonkinoise - just OK. I read some positive posts on this Vietnamese/Laotian, but wasn't anything to write home about
- Frenchie - delicious meal, service was very good, and we were thrilled to get in in the first place. We couldn't reserve in advance - they were "complet" a couple weeks ahead, but they said to stop by that afternoon, which we did, and got a 9:30 res. Limited menu - just 2 starters and 2 mains per night, so you have to be flexible. Wonderful pork belly appetizer and fab lamb main, great sauces and interesting veg and garnishes. Creative, new style cooking. Cheese course was a revelation - Stilton (yes!) on a shmear of pureed Speculoos (yes!) with some other garnishes as well, everyone at our table remarked at the thought that went into such interesting combinations with Stilton.
- Mama Shelter - this restaurant at the relatively new Mama Shelter hotel in the 20th was recommended by a Paris colleague as good for a group, we had dinner for 7 there. Fun and whacky ambiance, foos ball table, strange and playful decor. It worked really well for us, with three teens in the group. Food was just OK, but the place was packed with Parisians. Go figure.
- Au Comptoir des Mers - seafood restaurant, adjoining a fish store. This was fine, they make simple, fresh fish. Terrific oysters. Sauces and sides weren't notable at all, but if you like fresh plain fish, this place is a good choice.
- Benoit - also recommended by a Paris colleague, traditional bistrot food, which (to my surprise) was quite terrific. We had some
excellent escargot and terrines to start, followed by gorgeous braised sweetbreads with wild mushrooms and foie gras. Delicious. The service was excellent. When we arrived they seated us in the back room - a few minutes later a couple sat next to us with their infant in a stroller, so we asked the host to move us to another table. He was a delight - we joked about having "been there, done that" (and not having anything against a young family, but just rather not take the risk of screaming baby if it can be avoided) and he was totally gracious even though the restaurant was clearly full that night, and moved us to the front room, which was a prettier room in any event. Cheese plate (pour moi) was divine with a nice selection all in perfect condition, and huge, and desert (millefeuille for my 20 year old son) was superb. Nice wine recommendation too.
- Rino - off the beaten track near Bastille. Tiny, Italian-owned, he just cooks one menu a night so it's kind of like going to someone's house for dinner. You can't be fussy. Also, two of the 4-tops are high tables with stools. The night we were there a group walked out because of that, and I supposed it can get uncomfortable after a while - the flip side is that these tables are directly adjacent to the tiny open kitchen and you get to watch the chef in action, and throughout the meal he pops his head up to see if you liked the dish and just to chat. What a treat. Food was very inventive, complex, intelligent and incredibly fresh market-driven menu - the chef is Italian, but the food defies national or regional stereotypes. Lovely service too. And really, for that quality, a 38 Euro menu wasn't bad at all.