On my recent trip to Paris, I had two meals that blew me out of the water. The first was very much planned. I wanted to go to Les Arlots, a bistro in the 9th arrondissement that has shown up on so many “best of” lists that I had to try it. (Caitlin shared her own experience of trying to go there earlier this spring.) The problem? Like many French restaurants, they don’t take reservations online, but exclusively by phone. And I didn’t have access to a French phone number. Most days, I curse what Resy has done to our restaurant ecosystem, but as I prepared for my trip, I thought how much easier it would be to just click a button and have the whole thing taken care of. I knew from my research that we wouldn’t get in without a reservation for dinner, so I employed my favorite restaurant tactic: the cheeky weekday lunch.
Les Arlots is open on weekdays from noon to 2pm for lunch, and we showed up on a rainy Tuesday around 12:30pm to find the small bistro nearly empty. We ordered oeufs mayo with black garlic and smoked eel; swordfish tartare with pine nuts, basil, and zucchini; and crispy skinned pollock with mashed potatoes, fennel, and carrots in a beurre blanc sauce. It was so good we couldn’t skip dessert, poached plums and pieces of almond crumble cake on a bed of fresh cheese called Faisselle. But I’ll admit, it was slightly distracting to look up from my meal and make direct eye contact with one of the bizarre taxidermied animals posed throughout the bistro. In addition to the expected deer heads and foxes, there was a truly haunted creature I assumed to be some kind of giant squirrel above the entrance, a swordfish skull in the bathroom, and many other cursed objects throughout the restaurant.
Ten out of ten, would recommend.
I’d love to hear about your favorite Parisian bistros and what makes them special. Drop me a line at [email protected].
The other great meal I had in Paris happened by accident. My friend and I had been in the 5th arrondissement, and decided to walk back in the direction of our Airbnb in the 10th, and find somewhere to eat along the way. Now, I am a fervent reservation booker. I like to do research on where to eat. Wandering around on sore feet trying to find somewhere that’s good, but not impossible to get seated at, is my worst nightmare. After walking for about 45 minutes, we stopped and asked for a table at a restaurant that looked perfectly fine, if not exactly exciting. In my mind, I had given up and was ready to settle. But just up the block, loud noise was coming from what I assumed was a bar. A big sign outside the noisy spot indicated that there was always a waiting list for a table, and this sparked my interest. People with glasses of wine in hand spilled out onto the street, all having what appeared to be a great time. I popped in and asked if they had any room, and as luck would have it, they had a table available without a wait. I ran back to the other restaurant where my friends were waiting, and ushered them to my exciting new find.
The bar/restaurant, Le Barav, served up an unreal selection of small plates, including tiny comté and chorizo raviolis and a ham truffle croque monsieur, alongside mystery glasses of wine pulled from a rotating selection of the bar’s favorites. You can read more about it in our updated list of best bars in Paris. And it just goes to show—sometimes if you’re searching for a great meal, you have to let it find you; research be damned.
Speaking of wonderful French wining and dining experiences, I’ve got some wine guides coming your way shortly. For a sneak peak, check out this interactive map of the Loire Valley wine appellations, narrated by the wine influencer @frenchwinetutor. Can you pronounce these different appellations?
What to watch this week
Tomorrow, the third season of the hit French show Lupin drops on Netflix. I’ll have a review ready for you soon, but in the meantime you can catch up on everything that happened in season one and season two.
Managing Editor, frenchly.us
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