To them we can only say, "Welcome to the 21st century, folks, the era of the diving dollar and what may be Western Europe’s Golden Age."
But a traveler willing to spend about an hour of pre-trip research will find that one person’s total daily outlay for food and drink in Paris, outside of such ritzy Right-Bank areas as the Champs Elysées and the Opera district, need not exceed $100.
On the other side of the Seine River, clustered on and around the Left Bank’s major boulevards, is a multitude of neighborhood cafés and brasseries dispensing continental breakfasts for $10, and lunches of, say, quiche or lasagna with a fresh green salad and a glass of drinkable wine, all for about $25. In France, the printed menu is known as la carte. There is also a separate bill of fare, known as le menu, offering two to four courses for an inclusive price. Many a three-course lunch or dinner, with a glass or two of good wine, in a full-service, white-tablecloth restaurant can be had for as little as $42, without having to compromise on quality or pay taxes and tips, which by law are included in the bill.
What follows are capsule reviews of six moderately priced Paris restaurants that, in November 2007, produced memorable meals in pleasant surroundings, with reliable service and, in most cases, above-average wine choices. Calling ahead for a table is a must almost everywhere. Smoking is prohibited in all restaurants in France. In the list below, prices are based on 1.5 euros to the dollar, the numbered "District" indicates the municipal district, called the arrondissement, and the 10-digit telephone numbers are to be used only within Paris.
No credit cards. Open daily. 9 rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, 5th District, Tel: 01.43.29.12.12, Metro: Maubert-Mutualité. Offering a three-course dinner for a fixed price of about $42 without wine, this new Left Bank hot spot jumps, with imaginative but approachable food and a seductive wine list, amid a jumble of artifacts and bibelots animating the dining room. Good bets from the chalkboard are melon and Parma ham, mushroom-stuffed breast of veal, tuna with wine sauce, and custardy desserts.
Au Bon Accueil
Closed Saturday and Sunday. 14 rue de Monttessuy, 7th District, Tel: 01.47.05.46.11, Metro: Alma-Marceau. The name implies a warm welcome, and it doesn’t lie. Chef-proprietor Jacques Lacipière’s modern-French cuisine, in an array of marvelous flavors and textures, is generously doled out by coddling waiters in the understated bistro-chic dining room. An exceptional à la carte dinner, including wine, is attainable for $60, and it’s a bargain. Typical fare: red-pepper mousse with eggplant caviar, roast turbot with asparagus, and silky crème brûlée.
Closed Sunday and Monday. 17 rue Malar, 7th District, Tel. 01.44.18.31.33, Metro: La Tour-Maubourg. Three imaginative, exceptionally fresh courses for $40 to $50 make L’Affriolé’s price-to-quality ratio tough to beat. They’re served in surroundings best described as "Spanish baroque," by a truly hospitable staff. Try the cream of fennel soup with mussels and parmesan, the crispy duck fillet with tomato spice, or a beef pot roast with Tarbes beans and chorizo.
No reservations. Closed Monday.139 rue Saint-Dominique, 7th District, Tel: 01.47.53.73.34, Métro: Champs de Mars. The two- or three-course menus go for about $35 to $45 without wine. You’ll probably have a wait before being seated at renowned young chef Christian Constant’s always buzzing retro bistro with wine bar. It serves consistently delicious classics: white veal cordon bleu with Gruyère, lentil soup with foie gras, chilled chicken with aspic and cream, and île flottante (floating island dessert).
Closed Saturday and Sunday. Reserve early. 11 rue Dupin, 6th District, Tel: 01.42.22.64.56, Métro: Sèvres-Babylone. A bit more than $50 is the ticket for an exceptional three-course lunch or dinner with bread baked on-site in an always convivial, stone-lined dining room mere steps from the Bon Marché department store. Chef Loïc Ferry produces a parade of such winners as roasted scallops with orange rice, pork cheeks tandoori with polenta, and pear roasted with fennel.
Le Pré Verre
Closed Sunday and Monday. 8 rue Thénard, 5th District, Tel: 01.43.54.59.57, Metro: Maubert-Mutualité. Fusion cooking is still in style in the Delacourcelle brothers’ glass-encased domain in the heart of the Left Bank. The unremarkable décor is deceptive, since the low-priced menu ($42 for three courses, without wine) is dotted with offbeat dishes like onion soup with Japanese miso, wood-roasted fish, and spicy suckling pig.
Gene Bourg is a New Orleans-based free-lance food writer and former restaurant reviewer for The Times-Picayune. Among the magazines which have published his feature articles are Gourmet, Saveur, Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure.More.