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Bienvenue Chez Ralph’s

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The new Ralph Lauren boutique in Paris is awe-inspiring by any measure: its combination of French artistocratic setting and American marketing savvy makes it a must-see. Not least of its accomplishments is the unveiling of a restaurant, right in the shadow of the Lipp, Flore and Deux Magots, that manages the dual feat of raising the bar on American cuisine in Paris and blossoming as a quintessentially French place to be—not unlike Harry’s Bar on the rue Daunou, or Joe Allen’s near the rue Montorgueil, but on a distinctly more fashionable plane.

The venue takes up the inner courtyard and what was once the stables of a 17th century hotel particulier, whose charms were concealed in recent decades behind a grim-looking government building. The décor ranges from the vaguely Jazz-era, anglo-inspired bar with antique mirrors, to the more East coast vibe of teak and wrought iron furniture with blue striped cushions and hurricane lamps, while the menu highlights American surf-and-turf favorites, the likes of which are rarely, if ever, found in France.

Take, for example, New England clam chowder ($19), Maryland style lump crab cakes with sweet yellow pepper sauce ($28) and lobster salad ($41) or seared Double RL Ranch steak—flown in from the designer’s Colorado ranch ($57), Cookhouse Meatloaf and what is touted as the best hamburger in town ($32)—a popular debate among foodies. And while the staff takes care to cater to American tastes—butter appears beside bread unsolicited—other habits, such as the sharing of a main course, tend to be met with less-than-accommodating French reserve (we shared a steak, in the end, but only after some debate). A comprehensive wine list ranges from very reasonable $25 for a Mondavi to $1,164 for a 1995 Margaux. Were we to reserve again, we decided that we would forgo the cheesecake, which upon our visit did not represent the best in either culinary culture, in favor of the chocolate tart.

One of the most popular tables in town, with reservations taken more than one month in advance, Ralph’s also offers one of the most romantic settings—with the added benefit of American-style opening hours—seven days a week, lunch (or brunch) and dinner. 173 boulevard Saint Germain, Paris 6th.

Tina Isaac is Travel + Leisure's Paris correspondent.

Photo courtesy of Ralph Lauren

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