“Where can I eat traditional French food in Paris”? This is a question I have fielded frequently in recent weeks as a surge of travelers prepare their itineraries for an autumn getaway in Paris (my favorite time), but it is one that has become distinctly more challenging to answer.
In fact, I can count on one hand the positive dining experiences I have had in the last year at establishments where more traditional dishes figure front and center on the menu. As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, many traditional or “old school” brasseries and bistros have cut corners in recent years in order to ease the brunt of high social charges, labor costs and pricey commercial spaces. This means they’re excising homemade quality to rely on canned ingredients and frozen meals that simply need to be microwaved.
As a visitor, especially one who may not have researched all of their meals in advance, it’s not always an easy task to discern whether the restaurant you’re considering will live up to the image of culinary excellence you have probably constructed in your mind. The bistro, known for classic dishes like steak-frites and pot au feu, among many others, has become a dying breed, supplanted by neo-bistros that run to modern, creative, market-driven menus that would look entirely foreign to some of the world’s most renowned culinary voices about French food like Julia Child or Auguste Escoffier. I adore neo-bistros. They have played host to some of the best meals I’ve ever had – particularly at places like Le Richer, Pierre Sang, Clown Bar and Le Galopin but the only thing inimitably French about them is a technical base and rigor.
Fortunately, there are a handful of chefs turning their attention back to heritage dishes, simplifying and sprucing them up with better quality ingredients. Just last week, French-trained American chef Daniel Rose opened his ode to the bistro, La Bourse et La Vie, to great fanfare. The well deserved: each dish is a soul-warming reminder of the beauty in simplicity and a lesson in how old can merge with the new in magical ways. The restaurant is also quite a departure from his contemporary, tasting menu table, Spring, that earned him accolades from French food writers and international diners alike.
It was a great honor to get to speak with Daniel at length about his vision for this new dining experience and write about it for The NYT T Magazine. To read more about La Bourse et La Vie (open for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Hooray!), click on over to T.
La Bourse et La Vie
12 rue Vivienne, 75002
Métro: Bourse (line 3)
+33 (0)1 42 60 08 83
Reservations strongly recommended
Read about other excellent bistrots in Alec Lobrano’s report for the WSJ