T+L's Guide to Secret Paris
Forget Tablecloths—and Come Hungry
If you think back to the traditional stereotype of French restaurant dining, you’ll envision grumpy, bow-tied waiters and a confusing array of silverware. All of this fusty silliness is now more and more easily avoided thanks to the “bistronomy” revolution so thoroughly chronicled by both the French and American press. Allow me to join in the adulation and note that le grand quartier and the 11th are home to some of the best examples of the phenomenon. Bistronomy is a back-to-basics movement that started with Yves Camdeborde’s La Régalade in 1992 and continued in outlying neighborhoods where the chefs and owners themselves live. Generally, a restaurant in this genre serves under-$50 prix fixe menus produced by young chefs who cut their teeth in haute establishments. Diners are either neighbors, too, or they are playing follow-the-chef along with the slavering food press and blogs such as lefooding.com. They’ll depart their own beaten paths for an impeccable meal combining the finest small-producer ingredients with low-key presentation. I fell in love with Miroir the first time I walked in the door and was greeted by the broad smile and neon-green Adidas of the owner’s young wife, a former employee of the magnificent wine emporium Lavinia, who steered me through the small, refined carte as if I were an old friend. Then I ate their caramelized pork belly from the Basque producer Louis Ospital, served au jus with roasted root vegetables. Cartoon hearts floated above my head, and soon the restaurant and I had each other on speed dial.
The upside of bistronomy is massive for the individualistic French: young restaurateurs need only toil at grand, Michelin-starred places long enough to learn something about polish and technique before jumping ship to a homier, mo