Wednesday, January 4, 2012

1 Year Resto Review

After spending 1 year in France I'd like to spend 1 blog post reviewing some of my tastiest dining experiences. The reviews cover Paris, Lyon, Clerment-Ferrand and Bordeaux. For each establishment I have attached the best link I could find.. if you don't speak French, please use google translate.. that's what it's there for.

This post is pretty self-explanatory... I have reviewed each place based on what I find most important; Favorite Dish, Ambiance, Price and sometimes Word of Caution. Price reflects what I personally spend on average at the resto.


For 7 months I was an intern in an area called Levallois-Perret. Below are my top lunch spots in order of awesomeness.

Sushi Rivay
Favorite Dish: CH01... wrap your taste buds around the following description: a bowl full of perfectly cooked sticky white rice, covered in a layer of fresh cut pieces of raw salmon, topped with a delicate yet thorough coating of fresh avocado slices, sprinkled with a few magical chinese spices. Now, I personally like to take it to the next level and smother my sushi bowl in sweet soy sauce.

Ambiance: Small, cozy and packed everyday at lunch time. The husband and wife owners are very welcoming and friendly.

Price: 14 euro

Restaurant la Belle Etoile - Specialite Tandoori
Favorite Dish: Beef Kuruma... I have no idea what they put in the sauce, but trust me it is savory and delicious.

Ambiance: Heavily decorated in a good way. White table cloths, ornate windows and mood lighting will certainly inhibit your ability to eat lunch in under two hours. It is easy to lose track of time.

Word of caution: Service is not super consistant.. if you want something or don't want something, don't be afraid to be vocal about it. The sorbet is flavorless.. don't eat it even if it comes with your meal.

Price: 11 euro

Favorite Dish: Kafta Plate... Two brochettes (or what American's would refer to as Kebabs) of tender, juicy meat, covered in slices of red onion and slices, on top of triangle shaped slices of thin toasted pita bread. It also comes with a healthy scoop of hummus and a healthy scoop of taboule. Somehow they still find room on the plate for a leafy salad with tomatoes and more red onion. Delicious.

Ambiance: Medium size restaurant, but still packed at lunch time. Dark wooden furniture, green and red napkins and warm painted walls along with friendly service which makes Kaokab a delightful lunch choice.

Price: 12 euro

Although I liked working and lunching in Levallois, I loved snacking and dining closer to home in an area called Republique. Below are some places that served me well when I was too tired to cook.

Cafe Clochette
Favorite Dish: Ravioli... It is actually an appetizer that you can order as an entree. As a personal rule, I almost never order ravioli because you get 4 of them and usually end up leaving sad and unsatisfied. Well, these are mini raviolis and there is a whole bowl of them! And they are creamy, cheesy and highly satisfying.

Ambiance: Off the main Canal Saint-Martin, sort of hidden. In the summer both sides of the restaurant completely open up so you get to experience some of the great outdoors. The staff is surprisingly friendly and helpful. The water is ice cold... even though it has no ice. How do they do it? They often have wine specials... and all the wine I've ever had there is delicious.

Price: 11 euro

Les Enfants Perdus
Favorite Dish: Truth be told this place is rather pricey. Although I did have dinner there once, which was fabulous, I preferred to go there for their amaaaaazing, best I ever had in my life, hot chocolate. It is homemade.. which means they bring you out a cup of hot, melted chocolate along with a cup of steaming hot milk.. mix it together and what do you get? Hot yummy chocolate! They also give you a bowl of cotton candy... don't ask me why.. I guess to keep the sugar rush going and going and going. As a side note, they also make fabulous cocktails, like mojitos.

Ambiance: All of the servers are attractive young men, which perpetuates the theme of "Les Enfants Perdus" aka the lost boys from Peter Pan. They all have "lost boy" nick names and they are friendly and fun. The restaurant itself is cleverly decorated so you feel like you are in Peter Pan but in a non-cheesy way. (Think "Finding Neverland" starring Jonny Depp). The owner is American, from the midwest. His story is quite an interesting one, but I don't want to ruin the surprise so feel free to ask him yourself.

Price: 40 euro for dinner.. dont remember how much the hot chocolate was

Pink Flamingo Pizza
Favorite Dish:  L'Aphrodite pizza... slices of eggplant marinated in garlic, olive oil and crushed red peper surrounding a scoop of homemade hummus. Sounds weird, taste awesome! Other favorites are La Gandhi a Sag Paneer inspired pizza, and La Poulidor, a pizza with the toppings duck, apple and goat cheese.

Ambiance: Fun. Low maintenance. Known for delicious, specialty pizzas. You place your order at the counter then sit at the table and wait. Service is quick and easy. Since they are walking distance to Canal Saint-Martin, you can order you pizza at the counter, they will hand you a balloon then you sit on the canal and wait for them to bring it to you. Like I said.. fun.

Price: 11-16 euro for a pizza, pricey but so worth it.

Ari's Bagels
Favorite Dish: Crocodile Dindy... Smoked turkey, cream cheese, onion rings, pickles, tomato, roquette and honey mustard on your choice of toasted bagel.. it is so good my mouth is watering at the thought. Especially for Americans living in Paris.. if you have a home sick moment.. go here and be healed.

Ambiance: Small, cafe-like. Crowded. Fast, organized, accurate service. Loyalty card.. sweet! True to American tastes and products.

Price: 6- 10 euro

Paris is know for luxury in every sense of the word. However, paying over 100 euro per person to eat at a palace or fancy hotel is not always a prudent decision. One effective way to have the 5 star experience at a much lower price, while satisfying your curiosity of how the other half lives, is to simply have a drink and people watch. I have not included a written review of these places because I didn't eat there.. and because a picture is worth 1000 words.. follow the links :)

Le Royal Monceau

Le Meurice

The rest of the restos are a mix of different tastes, ambiances and locations.

Le Palais de Raja-Maharaja
Favorite Dish: Lamb Korma with pea-rice and cheese nan

Ambiance: The owner "James" Krishna is hilarious. He is very giving and very funny. He will do anything to please his customers. The food is fresh, authentic and amazing!!! This is by far the best indian food I have ever had!

Price: 30 euro

Joe Allen
Favorite Dish: I was here only once to celebrate Thanksgiving, so it was a special menu, but it made quite an impression. I would be happy to go back to this American Bistro in the future.

Ambiance: For Thanksgiving there was a fun spirit.. the terrasse was covered in hay and there was a very talented magician. What these two things have to do with Thanksgiving.. I don't know... but it made for a fun experience.

Price: 50 euro

Le Petit Chalet
Favorite Dish: Fondue Bourguignonne

Ambiance: Small, cute, touristy and fun.

Price: 20 euro

Le Monde des Grillades

Favorite Dish: Lamb brochettes... perfectly cooked with steamed veggies

Ambiance: Small but with two floors. Speedy service.

Price: 20 euro

Blues Bar-B-Q

Favorite Dish: Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich combo. The sandwich was great... especially when you are having another homesick moment. The Texas-style beans, however were not very good. Not seasoned enough.. tiny portion.. not worth trying.

Ambiance: Very cute. Very 1950's America diner. Don't think anyone there speaks French.

Price: 6-10 euro

Le Zimmer

Favorite Dish: Risotto di Parma

Ambiance: Classy, frou-frou, but nice.

Price: 30 euro


Favorite Dish: Lamb curry menu

Ambiance: Service is a bit intense.. they will try to sell and sell and sell. Just say no if you don't want to pay more. Major plus = it is right next to the Bercy train station.. so if you have a train leaving from Bercy and you want a really good meal before you go.. this is your place.

Price: 10 euro (just say no to the hard sell!!)


Favorite Dish: Farfalle with the garden rocket and cheese sauce.

Ambiance: Large, friendly and very italian. The portions are huge!!! For under 15 euro you can get enough pasta to feed 2-3 people.

Price: 12 euro

Zinc Zinc

Favorite Dish: Grilled scallops in creamy risto... and it was the best meal that I had in a restaurant for my first 5 months in France. Enough said.

Ambiance: Large place with good service. Expensive but incredibly delicious.

Price: 30 euro for lunch

Rouge Tendance

Favorite Dish: Tajine.. but the wok experience is super cool.. check out the website

Ambiance: Huge, vibrant and very exotic. The Wok buffet is cool. You fill a bowl with all you want in your wok then they cook it in front of you.

Price: 30 euro for dinner

Bouchon Lyonnais- we went to 2 or 3 of these traditional restos.. but unfortunately I cannot find the names of the ones we went to. This review to be continued...

Le Banana's Creperie Glacier

Favorite Dish: the apple pie dessert crepe with caramel sauce

Ambiance: Your basic creperie. The service was friendly and with 10 girls and non-stop giggling how could I not have a great time!

Price: 12 euro

D'ici et D'ailleurs

Favorite Dish: Chicken tajine

Ambiance: Cool atmosphere, but over priced and ok service. It's still a great place to try exotic foods or just try something different in Clermont.

Price: 18 euro

Bistro Venitien

Favorite Dish: Salmon fettucini.. amazing food.

Ambiance: Large, friendly and very italian. All the food is tasty, but the resto is super popular so always call ahead.

Price: 15 euro

La Mama

Favorite Dish: It is a super difficult decision between any one of the pizzas and the lobster pasta.. The pizzas are similar to Chicago style- thick, juicy, melt in your mouth. The pasta is all homemade.. can't go wrong.

Ambiance: Small, friendly and super busy. If you like to cook I would recommend the rather uncomfortable bar seating directly facing the chef.. he is friendly and very well-trained. It was an experience to remember.

Price: 20 euro


Favorite Dish: Lamb korma.. spicy and delicious.

Ambiance: Medium size resto, friendly staff great food.

Price: 15 euro


Favorite Dish: Truffade.. so cheesy so good.

Ambiance: Traditional Auvergnat resto.. great food, great cultural experience, but slow service.

Price: 20 euro

Cafe Derriere- didn't eat here, but stopped for a drink and it just seemed worth a mention.

Le Paradis- was lucky enough to attend an event here. Enjoy the pics! (pics to come)

Tan Hoa

Favorite Dish: fried bananas.. so good

Ambiance: Asian flare, fancy dishes, pretty decent food.

Price: 12 euro

La Cassolette

Favorite Dish: Choose any one of the cassolettes- cheesy, potatoy, yummy, oven baked diners- and you will not be disappointed!

Ambiance: Great service. Hot, tasty and cheesy food.

Price: 15 euro

L'Empire du Malt- another fun bar with a very rustic ambiance.

Pates Fraiches

Favorite Dish: Salmon sauce with tagliatelle pasta.

Ambiance: This is one of those pick a sauce, pick a pasta, stick it in a chinese to-go box and enjoy. But unlike its competitor Mezzo di Pasta, Pates Fraiches actually tastes fresh! Plus, you get more sauce for a cheaper price.

Price: 4,50 euro

I was only in Bordeaux for a couple days and I just tried one restaurant because I was too busy spending the rest of my time at win bars and taking vinyard tours. However, the food was yummy, the ambiance was friendly, kind of gimmicky.. what with the outfits and the live guitarist playing traditional french songs, but if you are a tourist you will love it!

Chez les Ploucs

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