Counter culture

Authentic produce, top chefs… Neo-bistros are giving Paris a new soul. We give you the full Cook’s tour.

Raquel Carena (Le Baratin)

Characterful cooking
Raquel Carena is considered by connoisseurs as the best cook in Paris. From Pierre Hermé to Inaki Aizpitarte and Olivier Roellinger, they're all regulars at Le Baratin. But this small Belleville bistro is anything but flashy. The walls are the colour of the past and the tables have a patina that can only be genuine. A fat cat sleeps on a chair. But Raquel's food wakes up everyone's senses. Every lunchtime and evening, her kitchen produces divine market-fresh food: succulent chuck steak (it melts in the mouth!), pan-fried pollack in mandarin butter and hazelnut-topped apple crumble. "There's nothing new in cooking. You just need to have 'simmering sense'", explains Raquel. €16 to €35 à la carte.
3, rue Jouye-Rouve, Paris 20 (+33 (0)1 43 49 39 70).

Théo Pourriat et Bertrand Grébaut (Le Septime)

Trendy workshop
Le Septime is a light-touch bistro near Bastille, owned and run by Bertrand Grébaut and Théo Pourriat. Wood, large windows and industrial lamps are a perfect match for the food on the plate: balance, bite, acidity, salt and lemon. Gifted Michelin-starred chef formerly at Agapé, Bertrand Grébaut has learned his business well. When he worked with Alain Passard, he was in charge of vegetables. "In the winter months, you really needed a lot of imagination". But he acquired a taste for it. The menu changes to reflect his mood. "As long as it's good and honest, anything goes here", explains Septime front-of-house partner Théo Pourriat. Today, the chef has made a cream of mushroom soup, and belly of pork with oyster mushrooms and chicory. As you leave the bistro, the obsession grips you: "When are we going back?" Set price menus €26 (lunch) and €55.
80, rue de Charonne, Paris 11 (+33 (0)1 43 67 38 29).

Pierre Jancou (Vivant)

Back to basics
Pierre Jancou is something of a character. You can tell that from his track record (La Crèmerie and Racines), his cheek and his passion for the fruits of the vine. A year ago, and despite having left Paris to live in the Drôme region, he fell in love with this former tiled bird shop in the 10th arrondissement. He turned it into Vivant, a unique restaurant where diners at pretty Formica tables enjoy Cecina de León (smoked cured beef from the mountains) and Fiocco di Culatello (literally - small pig's backside). "You won't find any emulsions or siphons here. My cooking is no-frills cooking that respects ingredients". So his Italian-style kitchen is pretty basic. All his ingredients are sourced from the best producers. And his cellar is one of the most extensive for organic wines. €38 to €Ä57 à la carte.
43, rue des Petites-Écuries, Paris 10 (+33 (0)1 42 46 43 55).

Édouard Bobin et Franck Baranger (Le Pantruche)

A classy double act
Pantruche (old French slang for Paris) seems the perfect name for this bistro on the south side of Pigalle. Edouard Bobin and Frank Baranger have really captured the spirit of the area: "This place used to be a brothel. My father-in-law, who was a policeman, actually raided it once", laughs Franck. Since then, the area has become much more gentrified, but in this dining room, red light still creates an intimate atmosphere. The cooking is decidedly sophisticated. Franck Baranger is a former pupil of Christian Constant and loves to cook fish. His tartare of oysters in wasabi, soy and watercress broth is to die for. But the best is saved for last: a Grand Marnier soufflé with a divinely creamy heart. Set menus at €18 menu (lunch) and €34.
3, rue Victor-Massé, Paris 9 (+33 (0)1 48 78 55 60).

Victor Gaillard et Alice Di Cagno (Le Chatomat)

Sweet and savoury music
Today's most high-profile address isn't much bigger than a pocket handkerchief. The 30 m2 dining room serves just 22 covers in minimalist surroundings. And yet, this delightful eatery in Ménilmontant draws in the whole of Paris. Why? The talent and friendliness of its two chefs. Trained in top Paris kitchens, the four hands of Alice Di Cagno (L'Arpège) and Victor Gaillard (Ledoyen) make sweet (and savoury) music. Sausage of veal, fennel, oysters, potatoes and watercress, exquisite smoked burrata cheese with mushrooms, cream of chives, and delicious homemade sorbet. The flavours explode in the mouth. And the critics aren't wrong. Le Chatomat has received the 2012 Prix de Fooding award for best restaurant. €28 to €40 à la carte.
6, rue Victor-Letalle, Paris 20 (+33 (0)1 47 97 25 77).

Texte : Julie Brown
Photos : Olivier Roux