Follow me on my Parisian adventure as I dish the best places to eat in Paris – from the best crepes to the best wine bar to the best surprise menu!
Bonjour mes amis!
Paris was magical. Well, once I got over my phone being pick pocketed at the Paris Beauvais Airport upon my arrival, then it was magical. I couldn’t get over how old looking the city is and how the Eiffel Tower towers over the short buildings and skyscraper-less skyline. I loved the vibrant flowerbeds that blossom on each and every balcony – and how each apartment has a balcony! It really is a breathtaking city.
We stayed in Montmartre (18th arr), which was recommended by a few friends. Our AirBnB ended up being a block from the Moulin Rouge actually! If only we had enough time to see a show there! We spent our first (half) day exploring Montmartre, which is quaint and very “old city” Paris with cafes every which way you look. While exploring the hood, we stumbled upon (although it’s quite hard to miss) the Sacre Coeur (sacred heart) basilica, which is perched up on a high hill (bring your walking shoes) and offers gorgeous views of the city. Especially if you climb the narrow, winding 300 step staircase to the top of the basilica. If you’re not sure if you’re claustrophobic, this is a great way to test it out ;). Let’s just say the palms were clammy walking up there. The views are worth it though.
If you make it to Montmarte during a visit to Paris, I recommend eating dinner at Le Grand 8 for authentic French cuisine. We found this restaurant while sipping rose at a cafe on our first day and paging through my friend’s Louis Vuitton’s City Guide to Paris (yes, that exists). They recommended a few restaurants in each neighborhood in Paris and Le Grand 8 was listed for Montmartre. Of course, you had to call for reservations. So I channeled my high school French classes and took my stab at calling. All went very well as my friend looked at me in awe until they asked for our phone number. Suddenly, the thought of translating 10 numbers from english to french seemed daunting. Plus, it wasn’t even my phone number I had to translate – it was my friend’s. I panicked. And started blurting out numbers in English as my friend relayed them to me. Next thing I know the phone was handed to someone else who spoke English. #fail #itried
We confirmed our reservations (yay!) and went to Le Grand 8 around 7:30 or 8pm. The place was DEAD. There was maybe one other table in there (a couple that just happened to live in Boston – weird!) and my friend and I started second guessing our dinner decision and Louis’ credibility to city guiding. We took a chance and within 30-45 minutes of sitting down, the place was PACKED. I mentioned with this restaurant, you’re going to get authentic cuisine but you’ll also get an authentic experience, meaning no English translated menus and the owner and server will bust out their massive 5lb French/English dictionary to try to help translate things for you. We ended up doing fine with ordering our food but choosing wine was definitely a crapshoot with the language barrier. Note: they only serve bottles of wine here. No glasses. But hey, when in France…
We had a couple appetizers to start (which apparently I didn’t snap any pics of) – one was marinated white asparagus (white asparagus is in season and big in paris right now) and the other was fresh feta. NOM.
And for my entree, I had this tender, flaky piece of cod served in a white wine butter sauce (which was heavy on the butter for sure) served with roasted radishes and fennel. A simple but beautiful and delicious dish.
If you go to Le Grand 8, try to get a table next to a window and you can see some nice views of the city. This was our first dinner in Paris and it definitely set the bar for the rest of the trip – we loved the relaxed atmosphere and the lack of urgency to hurry up and finish our meal. It’s safe to say this dinner lasted 3 hours (this seemed to be an ongoing trend for the duration of our time in Europe). I appreciated the atmosphere of Le Grand 8 too – far from pretentious or showy, the decor was simple with an old authentic French vibe that felt very welcoming. Definitely check out this restaurant if you’re in Montmartre!
Our third night in Paris, we went to a restaurant called Le Perchoir, which was listed in an article I read before the trip about where the locals eat in Paris. I actually ended up making a reservation here a couple weeks before I left. We almost didn’t make it as our expat “must-fit-in-every-tourist-attraction-mentality” was very time consuming to say the least. Remind me on my next trip to Paris to just eat, drink, and wander. And not worry about climbing 10,000 stairs at every attraction. But I’m SO glad we did make it to Le Perchoir as it was definitely a unique culinary experience. I was a little nervous and skeptical walking up to this place as it was in the 11th arrondissement and a slightly sketch hood and there were two bouncers at the door – I’m like oh no, what did I get us into? But we took the elevator (no more stairs!) up to the 7th floor to the restaurant and again the place is DEAD. Apparently Parisians think eating at 7:30pm is cray cray. But sure enough, come 8:30pm, there’s not an open seat in the house. Once entering the restaurant though, I knew we were in the right place. The decor was SUPER cute – it had a funky “Paris meets hipster Brooklyn” vibe going.
Once the server came over to the table and announced that the restaurant serves a “surprise menu”, I thought my friend was going to kill me. Did you know about this and not tell me?!?!, she asked. And I honestly didn’t remember reading that on the website and if I did, I must have thought it just meant that the menu changes daily. But no, this was a you don’t get a menu kind of establishment. They bring out each course and you don’t know what you’re getting – surprise! Of course, they took into account my pescetarian dietary preferences but other than that, what you see is what you get here. And we were not disappointed with our surprises. Plus the surprise factor is just plain old fun. And apparently surprise menus are a thing in Paris. We were talking to a chef sitting next to us one night at Frenchie Wine Bar (which I’ll talk about in my next post) and she said the restaurant she works at does a surprise menu too. Has anyone ever seen this in the US? I haven’t!
We started with this little tomato basil puree with smokey spices. It might not look like much, but it certainly packed a lot of flavor.
Then we were served this appetizer which was monkfish liver with coriander flowers, and fennel. The texture of the monkfish liver took a little getting used to but with the crunch of the crispy exterior and the potent flavor of the coriander flowers, it was pretty delicious.
Next up was seared tuna with potato chip crisps and an aioli. Salty, crispy, delicious.
This beautiful wedge of lettuce with tomato puree, olive puree, red onion, breadcrumbs, scallions, parmesan, and a vinaigrette. Love when salads are presented like this! Wedge and all.
For my entree, I was served cod with soy sauce and butter potatoes. How adorable is this little pan?!
And then seasonal veggies with a smoked eggplant puree.
And like all good surprise menus, this one included dessert.
We started with this lemon creme with fresh strawberries.
And then dove fork first into this apricot and pistachio cake.
Served with fresh cheese ice cream.
If you make it to the 11th to visit Le Perchoir, be sure to save time before and/or after dinner to hang out on their rooftop bar, just one floor above the restaurant. If you thought the decor of this restaurant was cool, you’ll LOVE the rooftop. Complete with blankets for cool nights, craft cocktails, cute bartenders, and SPECTACULAR people watching.
As you can see, I ate well in Paris. But there’s more. Stay tuned for part two where I talk about the best crepes and best wine bar in Paris.
Au revior 😉
Tell me, have you been to Paris before? What are some of your favorite must-eat spots?