Bistro (Bistrot): a small, informal, classic Parisian restaurant serving moderately-priced simple meals.
In other words, it’s a neighborhood restaurant. It’s a place where friends can gather and enjoy great food classics, all the while relaxing within a laid-back, casual atmosphere. It’s a place where you feel welcome, the waitstaff is friendly (but always in a hurry), and a great meal is only an affordable prix-fixe price away. Check out this wonderful article about the typical Parisian bistro experience on Wendy Lyn’s The Paris Kitchen. It really gives a great overview about why locals love the bistro and how they are different from American restaurants.
Bistro Paul Bert is a pretty special bistro. It is known for being one of the best, not only for its amiable owner and waitstaff as well as great food and wine, but also for it’s relaxed-lively atmosphere. Here’s a recap of our experience:
Owned by Bertrand Auboyneau, he named the bistro after the street on which it’s located: 18 rue Paul Bert. The bistro seats a decent amount (my guess is around 40 people) within three different small indoor dining rooms as well as a couple outdoor tables. The walls are filled with various old posters and artwork, as well as large mirrors… the norm for Parisian bistros.
The kitchen is run by Chef Thierry Laurent. His focus seems to be on updating the French classics, using fresh, seasonal, and excellently sourced ingredients.
As we sat down, the server came over immediately to welcome us and offer a wine list. The sommelier pointed us to a very decently priced bottle from their all natural wine list. Meanwhile, our server went and propped up a large chalkboard next to our table. Regular practice in Paris, the chalkboard is actually the menu, which changes regularly based upon what’s available at the market on any given day. When that chalkboard comes, try to decide on your meal rather quickly… it has to travel to the next table when you are done. Our server was very welcoming and accommodating to us non-French speaking tourists, and she graciously translated the menu for us.
Bistro Paul Bert offers a daily prix-fixe menu of entree (starter), plat (main), and dessert for the really reasonably price of 36€. There are several choices for each course, with a nice variety to make happy both carnivores and vegetarians alike. In addition to the prix fixe menu, there is another large chalkboard hung on the wall, nestled between two large mirrors, with a couple daily specials available a la carte.
For her entree (remember, entree is starter in French), Asheley ordered the Beef Carpaccio with Parmesan, Mushrooms, and Arugula. The raw beef, pounded super thin, was very tender and full of flavor. The generous parmesan shavings paired really well with carpaccio, as did the peppery arugula that was kissed with olive oil. I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms so I could have done without, but Asheley enjoyed them!
I was going to get the Beef Carpaccio, but since Asheley ordered it, I went with this super fresh, gorgeous Roasted Beet Salad.
Asheley’s plat, or main course, was a stunning Roasted Fish with Ratatouille. The fish, which was either a dorade or turbot, actually might have been poached… I really can’t remember. But, I do remember it tasted really fantastic: moist, flaky, and tender. The ratatouille, which is commonly comprised of slowly stewed or sautéed vegetables such as peppers, onions, zucchini, eggplant, garlic, and tomatoes, was so fantastic. And really, can we talk about the presentation? It’s beautiful!
I ordered one of standard offerings that Bistro Paul Bert is known for (but oddly enough is placed on the daily specials menu): Filet de Boeuf au Poivre (34€). Not the typical cut of meat for steak-frites, Bistro Paul Bert serves a filet mignon instead of the normal entrecôte (from the rib section, such as a ribeye). This beautiful cut of meat was encased in an amazingly great peppery crust that gave a nice kick at the backend of each bite.
A word about how to order beef in France: their system is a little different than ours. First, you really can’t (or at least shouldn’t) order medium-well or well-done. Also, our gradations of doneness are one less than theirs. For instance, French medium, à point, is our medium rare. Here’s a little helpful chart:
American: Very Rare /// French: Rare (Bleu)
American: Rare /// French: Medium-Rare (Saignant)
American: Medium Rare /// French: Medium (à point)
That perfectly cooked steak was rested above an equally delicious Cognac-Armagnac Butter Cream Sauce (which I found out from reading Wendy Lyn’s The Paris Kitchen.) It was an addicting sauce, super rich and the perfect yang to the zingy ying of the steak’s pepper crust. It was also a delicious sauce to dip:
Perfectly golden-brown crispy Frites. They tasted great on their own (I did add a little salt to them), but even better dipped in that creamy, buttery sauce. Don’t you wish you could make that steak at home? Oh, you do?! Another reason why I love The Paris Kitchen: she shares Paul Bert’s Steak Frites Recipe!
Ending the meal was this luxurious Grand Marnier Souffle. Besides being stunning visually, it was one of the best souffles I’ve every tasted. It was everything a souffle strives to be: perfectly risen, with a delicate golden crust and a silky molten interior. It was plenty big enough to share… what an amazing way to end the meal!
We really loved our experience at Bistro Paul Bert. The waitstaff was welcoming to foreigners, the food was absolutely delicious, the ambience was casual, and it was a perfect choice to experience classic bistro dishes elevated to a new level of deliciousness. Check it out!