37 Affordable European Restaurants

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David Nicolas

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Paris

We’ve come to Paris hungry for this season’s best bargains, but a dinner disaster threatens our first night in the City of Light. Cruddy-looking dishes and snooty service at a certain new “hot spot” send us bolting from our cramped table onto the street. “So now what?” huffs my companion. “It’s 9:30 on a Friday night!” Yes, I noticed. Frantic, I call M Comme Martine and L’Epigramme, two affordable favorites of my friend François Simon of Le Figaro. “Desolé. Tout complet.” Then—bingo!—a cancellation at the adorable L’Entredgeu nearby. Soon we’re slathering a coarse terrine de campagne onto crusty brown bread and savoring an earthy organic red from the Rhône. Snug on a leather banquette beneath a bullfighting painting, I admire the simple elegance of the multicolored string-bean salad under a cornmeal wafer—but what’s with the boring brown sauces served with the meat courses?An ethereal ginger mousse in a tangy puddle of rhubarb compote (not to mention the mellow bill) saves the night.

It must be the Russian oligarchs who keep Paris’s high-end restaurants packed. Sans petro-fortunes, who can afford those $90 plates of asparagus?One secret to eating better for less is forgetting the words à la carte. “Vive la formule!” (set menu) cry thrifty Parisians as they cram into neo-bistros charging $20–$30 for lunch and around $40 at night. I can’t get over the brilliant lunch we have at L’Agassin, another François Simon pick in the Seventh Arrondissement. Everything about this sleek room in shades of café au lait suggests a serious restaurant, but the set-meal prices say bistro. Formerly of La Tour d’Argent, Breton chef André Le Letty shows how saucing can dazzle with his garlicky escargots scattered on a backdrop of emerald parsley purée, and a meaty fillet of cod in a lake of light, modern beurre blanc nuanced with tamarind. When his Chinese-born wife (and maître d’) brings the mango “milk shake” and a plate of buttery Breton sablé cookies, her warm smile is infectious.

37 Affordable European Restaurants

37 Affordable European Restaurants

Paris

We’ve come to Paris hungry for this season’s best bargains, but a dinner disaster threatens our first night in the City of Light. Cruddy-looking dishes and snooty service at a certain new “hot spot” send us bolting from our cramped table onto the street. “So now what?” huffs my companion. “It’s 9:30 on a Friday night!” Yes, I noticed. Frantic, I call M Comme Martine and L’Epigramme, two affordable favorites of my friend François Simon of Le Figaro. “Desolé. Tout complet.” Then—bingo!—a cancellation at the adorable L’Entredgeu nearby. Soon we’re slathering a coarse terrine de campagne onto crusty brown bread and savoring an earthy organic red from the Rhône. Snug on a leather banquette beneath a bullfighting painting, I admire the simple elegance of the multicolored string-bean salad under a cornmeal wafer—but what’s with the boring brown sauces served with the meat courses?An ethereal ginger mousse in a tangy puddle of rhubarb compote (not to mention the mellow bill) saves the night.

It must be the Russian oligarchs who keep Paris’s high-end restaurants packed. Sans petro-fortunes, who can afford those $90 plates of asparagus?One secret to eating better for less is forgetting the words à la carte. “Vive la formule!” (set menu) cry thrifty Parisians as they cram into neo-bistros charging $20–$30 for lunch and around $40 at night. I can’t get over the brilliant lunch we have at L’Agassin, another François Simon pick in the Seventh Arrondissement. Everything about this sleek room in shades of café au lait suggests a serious restaurant, but the set-meal prices say bistro. Formerly of La Tour d’Argent, Breton chef André Le Letty shows how saucing can dazzle with his garlicky escargots scattered on a backdrop of emerald parsley purée, and a meaty fillet of cod in a lake of light, modern beurre blanc nuanced with tamarind. When his Chinese-born wife (and maître d’) brings the mango “milk shake” and a plate of buttery Breton sablé cookies, her warm smile is infectious.

37 Affordable European Restaurants

David Nicolas

37 Affordable European Restaurants

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