I’d read here and there about a new wave in French cooking. Young chefs in Paris, like those in New York and, say, Kansas City, in recent years have been daring to break the mold of traditional French cuisine and making their marks with creative expressions of fresh, seasonal and locally produced ingredients.
So during a recent vacation in Paris, I sought out a handful of relatively new places, each of which delivered its own, highly original brand of cooking in unstuffy and inventive ways.
Sure my companion – some of you know her as She Who Is Not Easily Pleased – and I also had a fine pizza one day and at least one patisserie’s version of a ready-made ham and cheese on baguette. We also stopped by Gontran Cherrier’s cutting-edge bakery for a taste of squid-ink bread — it’s milder than you’d think. And at one over-rated traditional spot, we had what’s become a Paris cliché – a serving of steak frites that one wishes would’ve been better.
The neighborhood we stayed in — near the intersection of the 9th, 10th, 2nd and 3rd arrondissements (or districts) — happened to be a culinary bazaar, with restaurants and shops offering Syrian, Turkish, Kurdish, Korean, Chinese, Indian and other ethnic foods. But we were especially taken with the nouveau places, a few of which happened to be just minutes from our apartment.
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So, with Bastille Day on the horizon (July 14) here’s a recap of some of our dining discoveries in the central districts of Paris.
Just around the corner from our apartment and down a narrow, cobblestoned street, said to be the site of Napoleon’s stables, a stylish new Spanish tapas bar beckoned more than once. On our first visit we sat at the window overlooking the tiny kitchen where chef Fernando Canales’ cooks composed their small-plate dishes. From a serving of thinly shaved, aged Spanish ham to a duck foie gras to a lemony variation on a millefeuille, Farago’s food is first-rate and attractive. Don’t miss the “oeuf incroyable,” a slow-cooked egg. We returned once for dessert, once for a drink and once for another meal while France conquered Switzerland in a World Cup match.
Most plates 4-16 Euros; Farago Pintxo Club, 11 Cour des Petites Écuries, 75010; farago-pintxoclub.com
Frenchie Bar a Vins
Chef Gregory Marchand is something like the It-boy of new Parisian cuisine. In a narrow cobblestoned alley he has created an attractive food complex based largely on fresh and seasonal produce and inspired presentations informed by Marchand’s global cooking experience in New York (Gramercy Tavern), London and elsewhere.
His reservation-only main restaurant, Frenchie, books up months in advance, but a few steps across the alley he opened Frenchie Bar a Vins, a rustic and casual walk-in spot that serves some of the same food.
As we walked up, Marchand stood in the alley and greeted us with a handshake and a smile, and a few minutes later he pulled up to the bar to sample a new dish on the menu. We made a long night of it, savoring several dishes, starting with a scrumptious buratta, which came with grilled peaches, purple basil and balsamic vinegar. Then came fried sweetbread nuggets, served with a smoked mayonnaise; a papardelle with lamb ragu; and a buttery brioche stuffed with lobster from the Brittany coast. Some crisp rose wine served us well from beginning to end.
Starters and mains: 10-24 Euros. Frenchie Bar a Vins, 5-6 Rue du Nil, 75002; www.frenchie-restaurant.com
On a walk around Montmarte, and guided in part by the useful website Paris by Mouth, we settled in for a late lunch at this bright and fresh outpost of a Paris grocery and restaurant operation. Part deli and takeout counter, and part sit-down restaurant with tables inside and out, Jeanne B proved to be a superb oasis on a sunny Friday afternoon. A bowl of the freshest, crispiest radishes you’re likely to meet and a gargantuan steamed artichoke got things started on the right foot. A wedge of rabbit pie – a simple meat loaf wrapped in a thin puff pastry – took it to the next level. Love the excellent wine list printed on a label attached to a magnum bottle. Outstanding.
Two-course lunch menu: 19 Euros. 61 rue Lepic 75018; http://www.jeanne-b-comestibles.com.
Le Richer is a casual spin-off of L’Office, and it’s winning rave notices since opening early in 2013. We checked it out on our last night in Paris, and because we had an early flight the next day, we dropped by before the kitchen opened on a Saturday night and had our ritual Pastis hour while waiting. A plate centered on brocciu, a mild Corsican cheese, served with zucchini and a hint of mint, proved to be another revelation. Also vying for top honors were a delicious duck soup and meltingly tender braised pork cheeks, served with a crown of crisp potato threads. The short, reasonably priced menu, ended with a couple of desserts; our choice on She Who’s birthday: a lively looking composition that included meringue, violet sorbet, and raspberry cream.
Starters and mains, dinner: 9 - 29 Euros; 2 Rue Richer, 75009; www.facebook.com/Restaurant.Le.Richer
Steve Paul, editorial page columnist, reviews restaurants for The Star’s Preview section: 816-234-4762, firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter: @sbpaul.