Café des Musées


This fun and funky corner café in the center of the Marais is a perennial favorite. I’d go just for platters of their delicate, silken house-smoked salmon, served up with a tangle of greens and tangy dressing for dipping. Chef-owner Pierre Lecoutre is a master at the stove, and diners can watch him perform in his tiny, open kitchen, shifting copper pots, stirring and searing, offering up gorgeous, giant entrecôte (beef rib steak), frying up deliciously crisp and golden French fries, roasting Basque pork topped with the famed smoked garlic from Arleux in the north of France. On my last visit we adored the Parmentier de pintade fermière,  a winning hachis parmenter of minced farm-raised guinea hen topped with soothing mashed potatoes (photo). Café des Musées also offers briny Brittany oysters from Paimpol in season. The wine list and “medicaments du jour” (daily medicine) measure up to the cuisine, with a crisp and tart Champagne Drappier Zéro Dosage (meaning no sweet wine is added before bottling), and a spicy, mineral-rich Chardonnay, the Viré Clessé Quintaine from Domaine de la Bongran 2004. A good place to know anytime, but especially when visiting the Picasso and Carnavalet museums nearby.

CAFÉ DES MUSÉES, 49 rue de Turenne, Paris 3. Tel: +33 1 42 72 96 17. Métro: Chemin Vert or Saint-Paul. Open daily. Breakfast 8am-noon (weekends 10:30 am-noon); lunch noon-3pm; dinner 7 pm-11 pm.Email

Lunch: 13€ menu. A la carte, 40€.

Dinner: 22€ menu. A la carte 40€

The L'Ami Louis secret

L'Ami Louis 1 12

Caricature or the real deal? Are they pulling our leg or offering us authentic bistro fare? I guess that it depends upon one’s history, outlook, mood on any given day. For sure, the décor at this 1930s bistro  -- which has been a worldwide icon since the 1950s --- rates as among the most dilapidated in Paris. Dingy, dark, faded, ramshackle. But, OH that roast chicken. The L'Ami Louis secret, of course, is kitchen’s oak-wood fired oven, offering a sweet, soft, and yet intense heat, making for a succulent bird that is up there with the best – if not THE best – in Paris. Maitre’d Louis (that’s his real name), who has been at L’Ami Louis since 1978, says they are on their fourth wood-burning oven since his arrival. In my earliest visits in the late 1970s I remember famed chef Antoine Magnin (whose photo hangs ceremonially in the dining room) cooking on an ancient black wood oven, wearing chef’s whites and a red kerchief given to him by actress Romy Schneider. “Nothing’s changed,” announces Louis, proudly, and he is quite right. Today’s voluminous slabs of chilled foie gras are better than I remembered, carefully seasoned, with that nice touch of acidity. Most starters, like the foie gras and the generous serving of scallops, seared with plenty of butter, whole cloves of garlic and a showering of parsley, can easily be shared. I have had better leg of lamb, this one tasting not as young as I’d like, though cooked to perfection in that wood oven. Towers of shoestring potatoes warm the heart of any potato lover, but my favorite “new” dish on the menu is the giant potato cake – they call it pommes Bearnaises --  brilliantly exeuted, with tiny potatoes cooked in their skins, then baked in a round mold so the skin turns blisterly and deep golden. The “cake” comes embellished with parsley and chopped  garlic, though I wish  they’d hold the raw garlic, especially in winter months when it’s bitter no matter how “fresh” it may be. The wine list has improved a thousand-fold (both in selections and in value), and on my last visit we feasted on both the flinty white Sauvignon Blanc Henri Bourgeois Sancerre “Jadis,” (80€) and the heady, deep purple, expressive Gigondas from Domaine de la Bouïssiere  (59€) bargain prices by former L’Ami Louis standards. Not that the meal is a bargain: the chicken for two is 80€,  the leg of lamb for two €140. OK, if you are in a frugal mood, two people could get out of this iconic bistro for 136€, without wine, not outrageous in this day and age. A place that every Paris Food Lover should experience, at least once.

L’AMI LOUIS, 32 rue du Vertbois, Paris 3 Tel: +33 1 48 87 77 48 Métro: Temple or Arts et Métiers Open: Wednesday-Sunday. Closed Monday, Tuesday, mid-July-mid-August.Lunch & Dinner: A la carte 68-160 €