Kootchi is the kind of place that makes an instant visual impact while remaining discreet. The alert pedestrian will pick up on its curious name and brilliant blue façade, studded with lightbulbs and fronted by a tiny two-table terrace. Inside, the exoticism continues with the wall-mounted Middle Eastern carpets and elaborate lacework. You might as well have stepped into a Kabul teahouse.To most, Afghan cuisine is a terra incognita of meats, yellow rice and obscure spices. Which is precisely what you get at Kootchi: hearty, unpretentious food that fills your stomach while tingling your tastebuds. Shared platters are the done thing here – ask for a variety of rice, meat and veggie dishes, order a doore (a wonderfully revitalising drink of yoghurt and cucumber) to wash it down, and the kitchen will take care of the rest. You'll get the best deal at lunchtime, when set menus drop to €9–€12; come dinner, you can expect to spend up to €30 à la carte.
A deli, a bistrot, a sandwich shop, a salon de thé, a tapas bar… 58 Quality Street is a lot of different ideas for a contemporary Parisian eatery all rolled into one. But no matter what you call it, it offers very reasonably priced, quality food to take away or to eat in, with a charming Spanish inn-style décor. Underneath a sign for ‘La Grande Vadrouille’ there’s an enormous countertop full of condiments, cheeses, fruits and vegetables, plus shelves overflowing with bottles of wine and terrines and a few wicker baskets hanging from the ceiling under old lamps.On the menu you’ll find a mix of dishes from creamy polenta with mozzarella and ham, cod brandade, a plate of maki or charcuterie. But there’s no kitchen to speak of – instead, chef Hirotaka Okata and his team get by as best they can what the (sometimes unconventional) tools they have: a microwave to heat soup, a blowtorch to grill chicken skin, a rice cooker, a polenta machine. None of the results are standouts, but the ideas are sound and the dishes generally pleasing. Overall, it’s the very reasonable prices, the friendly atmosphere and the quality and freshness of the produce that is the draw here (excellent cheeses, delicious charcuteries and quality wines). It’s best to come for a quick bite on the go or an aperitif and a nibble while admiring the décor.
Chef Franck Marchesi-Grandi, formerly at Pierre Gagnaire’s Goya, gave this ex-pizzaria a makeover, creating a contemporary setting around an open kitchen. With the calm and dexterity of an artist, he prepares dishes like saffron-tinted langoustine soup, risotto enriched with ladles of cream, and filet of cod in a tangy tomato sauce. Its hard enough choosing the starters and mains, but when the dessert and cheese menu is thrust into your hands, an internal battle begins: Will it be chocolate 'ganache' rolled in cacao powder and served in a mint soup, or oozy gorgonzola served on a bed of rocket with pears and hazelnuts? Either way, you won't be disappointed. If you're on a budget, don't miss the excellent value lunch menu.
The name of his new restaurant, Aux Verres de Contact (‘contact lenses’) might lead one to suspect that Guillaume Delage, the former chef at Jadis, is getting short sighted. In fact, it’s a reference to the famed writer, journalist and bon vivant Antoine Blondin, who used to write off his bar receipts as ‘verres de contact’ on expenses claims forms. Just a stone’s throw from Notre Dame, the restaurant has a modern yet welcoming décor, with deep red and cream walls and dark wooden furniture.On the starter menu, there’s a good selection of charcuterie and high-quality cheeses, but also some more original things that really show off the talent of the young chef. For instance, an innovative croque-monsieur composed of layers of bread in cuttlefish sauce, mozzarella fondue and grilled vegetable. It’s a surprisingly effective reinterpretation, though the balance of bread to cheese could have been more generous to the cheese. Then there was a fresh and crunchy celeriac remoulade with whelks, followed by an exotic fruit jelly baba. It’s all just about right for a light lunch.For bigger appetites, there are also lunch menus (€22 or €29) that depend on the chef’s whim of the day. On our visit, it was a duck fillet salad and a shellfish soup with a quenelle of horseradish mousse, followed by a fillet of cod in a lemongrass sauce and an assortment of satisfying mini-desserts, especially the creamy rice pudding.The service was perfect – though we were there on a slow day. However, in a to
Even in Paris, the city of haute cuisine and knock-your-socks-off Brasserie fare, there comes a time when nothing but bacon, fried eggs, juicy burgers and fluffy pancakes drizzled in maple syrup will do. For those moments, Breakfast in America (known lovingly amongst regulars as B.I.A) offers bona fide American diner surroundings, all-day breakfasts and artery clogging delights like sticky pecan pie, washed down with bottomless mugs o’ Joe. Needless to say it’s a hit with the brunch crowd who come in droves so large they queue up outside, rain or shine. Fortunately turn over is quite fast, so you rarely have to wait more than half-an-hour. The €15.95 brunch menu gets you comfort staples like sausages and eggs (over-easy, sunny-side up or scrambled) with toast and fries or a generous Connecticut ham and cheese omelet and a squidgy chocolate muffin. B.I.A won’t take reservations, but there’s a second branch in the Marais, so if Latin Quarter students have hogged all the tables, you can try your luck on the Right Bank.
Caméléon is a uniquely bourgeois bistro, in a genre that usually has its roots in something more down to earth. Young chef David Frémondière is in charge in the kitchen (previously of Le Bristol), and his cooking is precise and inspired. The menu offers sophisticated traditional dishes cooked with regional ingredients, which never fail to be inventive. For example, the delicate, flavourful mussel soup, or the legendary veal liver from Corrèze that’s glazed with wine vinegar before being served in a thick slice with a hearty macaroni cheese.The service is impeccable, and though the prices match the left bank location (lunch menu €30, à la carte in the evenings around €70), for this quality in this area, it’s practically a steal. This restaurant serves one of Time Out's 50 best dishes in Paris. Click here to see the full list.
Located next to the Tour d’Argent, Chez Rene is a quintessential Parisian bistrot complete with white cotton tablecloths, worn mosaic flooring, leather banquettes and welcoming staff. The menu offers all the staples of classic French brasserie fare, cooked and seasoned with flair and know-how – prime beef, kidneys, andouillette and saucisson. A particularly good starter is the oyster mushrooms with butter and parsley, served in a brimming cup for just €10, and for dessert, make sure you try the mythical chocolate mousse – it's a dense, strongly-flavoured, legendary pudding, so leave room. This restaurant serves one of Time Out's 50 best dishes in Paris. Click here to see the full list.
When the grand old dames and moody wannabe writers tire of Café de Flore, they head to Coffee Parisien. Just steps from the Mabillon metro, this noisy, busy diner is never empty. Behind the bar, crowded with hurried diners, you can see the chefs at work – coleslaw virtuosos, hash brown geniuses. On the walls, there are portraits of Kennedy and Obama (a burger bears his name as well), Stars and Stripes, frescoes of dollars and clippings from the New York Times, all overlooking battered old red leather banquettes. On the wooden tables, paper placemats list all the U.S. presidents since George Washington. Food-wise, the New York feel continues. Divine cheeseburgers, fluffy pancakes, crisp bagels and delightfully runny eggs benedict: a bit greasy, but in the way that gets plates licked clean. This is a typical American diner with a touch of French refinement – which unfortunately also means that the service is chronically slow and rude.
Yves Camdeborde runs the bijou 17th-century Hôtel Le Relais Saint-Germain, whose art deco dining room, modestly dubbed Le Comptoir, serves brasserie fare from noon to 6pm and on weekend nights, and a five-course prix fixe feast on weekday evenings. The single dinner sitting lets the chef take real pleasure in his work. On the daily menu, you might find dishes like rolled saddle of lamb with vegetable-stuffed 'Basque ravioli'. The catch? The prix fixe dinner is booked up as much as six months in advance. If you don't manage to dine, you can sidle up the bar, an area the locals call L'Avant Comptoir, for wine and tapas. This restaurant serves one of Time Out's 50 best dishes in Paris. Click here to see the full list.
Julien Duboué, the young chef at Afaria, has transformed the peaceful neighbourhood café Dans les Landes into a noisy and welcoming tapas bar. It’s hugely disorganised – you’ll be lucky if reserving ahead guarantess you a tbale on arrival – but patience will be rewarded as soon as the food starts to arrive (you just have to hope it hasn’t been mixed up with your neighbour’s). The confusion is perhaps understandable given the number of dishes listed on the slate menu, mostly inspired by Basque cooking, but with various Asian touches (foie gras maki or prawns in a creamy Thai sauce). Some dishes will come to you on wooden boards, others on slates or even in a (clean, hopefully) wooden clog; this is a place for sharing, not selfish appetites. Among the best things that we tried were slices of pork with barbecue sauce, fried squid with sweet peppers, a pot of boudin (blood sausage) with apples, sucrines (tiny mouthfuls of salad), stuffed peppers, and prawns with grapefruit. Only the flash-fried ‘butcher’s surprise’ disappointed. Despite its service problems, it’s easy to understand why this venue is so overrun, especially in this area, which lacks a good range of restaurants.