Paris Museum Restaurants
Art is on the plate at five top spots where the views are as fine as the food, and you can keep the security guards up late.
Musée du Quai Branly
Poised like a giant wood-and-metal tortoise on the roof of Paris's newest museum, Les Ombres (27 Quai Branly, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/47-53-68-00; dinner for two $190), is about as related to an old-fashioned museum cafeteria as the International Space Station is to a split-level ranch. Architect Jean Nouvel named it for the shadows (les ombres) cast by the Eiffel Tower, which looms extravagantly close. And although the usual vehement Parisian arguments have broken out over the museum's radical architecture and approach to exhibitions, the new restaurant is a sensational success. Chef Arno Busquet spent more than a decade with Joël Robuchon before opening Les Ombres. His ingenious cuisine samples Oceania, Asia, and the Americas, but "fusion" seems a banal way to describe such felicitous encounters as Angus beef roasted with Chinese truffles, a lemongrass-infused mullet served with steamed seaweed, or apricots and wild thyme roasted in honey. Lunch will cost you less, but a late dinner is spectacle time: starting at 10 p.m., the Eiffel Tower twinkles for the first 10 minutes of every hour—apparently just for you.
There is no more sumptuous Belle Époque dining room in all of Paris than the Restaurant of the Musée d'Orsay (1 Rue de Bellechasse, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/45-49-42-33; lunch for two $40), overlooking the Seine and the Right Bank. The frescoed ceiling alone is worth the visit. You can imagine Marcel Proust and his friends sitting here (when it was the ballroom of the hotel adjoining the Orsay train station), gossiping of the rebels not yet known as the Impressionists, whose work now hangs in the museum. The recently renovated kitchen specializes in subtly simplified versions of traditional cuisine—grilled sea bream fillet or duck-and-peach supreme served with gratin dauphinois. The two-course prix fixe lunch is a bargain at only $20.
Palais de Tokyo
The glam-funk fashion-and-design-crowd mecca Tokyo Eat (13 Ave. du Président-Wilson, 16th Arr.; 33-1/47-20-00-29; dinner for two $136) flaunts the zanier side of French style—as befits Paris's most avant-garde museum. The big noisy dining room is lit by huge pink spheres flashing in time to the booming music. Forget quiet conversation, and focus on food that gets away with being self-consciously outré, as in a minestrone of sardines. The service careens between imaginatively rude and downright friendly. Visit the huge Deco terrace if you need a new favorite place to while away an hour or so.
A bubble-encased escalator rising up the façade of the great arts complex lets you off at the roof and a dazzling 360-degree view. The other visual feast here is the vast, playful restaurant Le Georges (Place Georges Pompidou, Fourth Arr.; 33-1/44-78-47-99; dinner for two $191), designed by Jakob + MacFarlane and long frequented by the art world beau monde. The staff is rumored to be chosen for their looks (waitresses in tiny dresses carry order pads in saucy little shoulder bags; winsome waiters wear well-cut suits and ties). Undulating aluminum interior structures (amoebas or molars, depending on your mood) lead to both the kitchen and the coat check. Fans of new wave cuisine will love such dishes as le tigre qui pleure (grilled beef strips marinated in Asian spices), and crab and mushroom mille-feuilles. Or come for a drink at sunset, when the rooftop shines golden, and everyone and everything looks enchanting.
Musée du Louvre
Café Marly is scene-ier, with its coveted tables overlooking the majestic Richelieu courtyard and the Pei pyramid, but Le Grand Louvre (34 Quai du Louvre, First Arr.; 33-1/40-20-53-41; dinner for two $136), below the pyramid, remains steadfastly cushy and quiet. It serves utterly reliable, expensive haute cuisine with contemporary touches: foie gras with orange marmalade; loin of lamb roasted in a tea-and-cumin infusion; quail stuffed with fresh fromage blanc. On Sunday mornings, chef Yves Pinard offers an elaborate ambigu—the 18th-century French predecessor of the English brunch.