Although France is renowned for its delectable haute cuisine, falling into the arms of well-located tourist food traps in Paris can be all too easy. Thankfully, numerous family-owned hidden gems lay scattered around the city’s charming streets. Next time you’re in the City of Lights, head to these five restaurants for a true taste of French hospitality (and perhaps some of the best meals you’ve ever had in your life).
1. Le Saint Sebastien
Opened in late 2018, this 11th arrondissement hotspot is perfect for visiting foodies. Founded by husband-and-wife duo Daniela Lavadenz and Thomas Deck, Le Saint Sebastien brings a breath of fresh air to the city’s dining scene. The pair are no strangers to the scene too: Lavadenz, a Bolivian native, had stints at Le 6 Paul Bert, Au Passage and Chez la Vieille, while Deck owns brewery Deck & Donohue.
The restaurant is located on its namesake street and brings a number of things to the table that have been missing from Parisian dining: reasonable prices, thoughtful yet innovative cooking and unmatchable hospitality. Its extensive wine list is interesting, with plenty of natural options, and provides perfect pairings with chef Robert Mendoza’s seasonal vegetable-heavy menus. The icing on the cake? The restaurant’s impeccably chic décor, helpfully curated by Lavadenz’s close friend Remo Hallauer of Comme des Garçons fame.
2. Le Rigmarole
French, Italian, Japanese and American influences collide at Le Rigmarole, also located in Paris’ bustling 11th arrondissement. This one-Michelin-starred restaurant is the brainchild of married couple Robert Compagnon and Jessica Yang, who met and fell in love in Paris many years ago. French-American Compagnon, a former student of Japanese language and literature, worked in Japanese restaurants across the States, while Taiwanese-American Yang previously honed her pastry skills at New York’s Rebelle.
At Le Rigmarole, dishes are inspired by Japanese yakitori and robatayaki restaurants, as well as Italian and French gourmet traditions. Yang makes all of the restaurant’s ceramics by hand and Compagnon imports binchotan (Japanese charcoal) into France, which the kitchen staff use regularly in their cooking. Additionally, Compagnon also brings his past pasta experience from Momofuku Ko to the table. Expect regularly rotating hand-pulls crafted in various original shapes, sizes and flavours. Le Rigmarole’s tasting menu is based on seasonally available ingredients and has a strong focus on local produce.
Founded by Etheliya Hananova and her husband Noam Gedalof in September 2017, this one-Michelin-star restaurant’s cuisine is product-driven and highlights goods from French purveyors, including organic free-range veal from Jacques Abbatucci in Corsica, organic poultry from Simon Graf and locally sourced seafood. Hananova curates her beverage list with artisan-driven winemaking in mind, and puts a spotlight on responsible farming and excellent terroirs.
Classic French cooking techniques are used in the kitchen with the goal of emphasising harmony and cultural reflection. Gedalof, who is also the chef at Comice, strikes the ideal balance of lightness and richness in each of his dishes, which provide a nice relief from often-too-heavy French cuisine. After a rendezvous at the Eiffel Tower, simply take a quick 25-minute stroll along and across the Seine to reach the restaurant.
Looking for a cosy all-day spot to soak up the atmosphere of Paris? Hit Mokonuts, Omar Koreitem and Moko Hirayama’s answer to top-notch breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s also where you can find some of the city’s best cookies. Located in the heart of the 11th arrondissement, dining at this tiny charming café is like having a private meal at the couple’s home.
Both husband and wife have a creative flair – Koreitem rose through the ranks in Michelin-starred kitchens like Daniel in New York while Hirayama honed her dessert techniques at restaurants such as Blé Sucré – tap on their multicultural background to serve flavours that put a predominantly Middle Eastern spin on French ingredients. Sustainably and locally sourced products are key in creating their signature dishes. These include flaky sourdough English muffins with butter and jam and labneh tartines for breakfast, while the lunch and dinner menu presents a rotating selection of appetisers, entrées and desserts.
Once the daytime crowd makes its way out of the wood-chair-lined dining room, evening hours bring a selection of tapas-style entrées (fresh mackerel crudo or soft-boiled egg with chickpeas, anyone?) and a selection of natural wines. Parties of eight to 12 can make reservations, but it’s first-come-first-served for smaller groups. Get there early and make sure you save room for the couple’s homemade desserts: cookie creations include tahini, multigrain chocolate and coconut with Cambodian black pepper. The homemade chocolate babka and creamy cheesecake topped with pomegranate seeds are among the non-cookie options.
5. Juveniles (reopens 23 August 2022)
Juveniles is a safe haven away from the stereotypical haunts that occupy most of Paris’ 1st arrondissement. Opened in 1987 by Scotsman Tim Johnston, this friendly wine bar and bistro has been a fixture in the F&B scene here ever since. In 2014, Johnston was joined by his daughter Margaux and her husband Romain, who can regularly be found slinging bottles behind the counter and plating up dishes in the kitchen. The couple have even been known to bring their adorable Shar-Pei, Inox, to lunch service.
Expect classic French fare – foie gras, terrine de campagne (country terrine) and traditional entrecôte de boeuf (rib steak) – as well as a specially hand-curated English cheese selection. As for tipples, unlike most of Paris’ wine lists that boast a “French only” club, Johnston seamlessly weaves in a handful of selections from Andalusia (sherry), Italy and Australia, as well as the United States and South America. Although Johnston describes Juveniles’ cuisine as “unfussy”, it has some of the tastiest food you’ll find in Paris. After a long day spent at the Louvre, Tuileries or other centrally located attractions, visiting this restaurant is a must.
*For more information on whether the locations are open, please check their individual websites.