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Where The French Meet To Eat:
10 Paris Restaurants

Elizabeth Cawdry Thomas
Our correspondent, Elizabeth Cawdry Thomas takes you beyond the obvious in her selection of 10 restaurants much loved by Parisians and known to few foreigners. Some have been there for generations, such as Les Zygomates, while others are very new. She also recommends two "second" restaurants — owned by famous chefs who also run other much more expensive eateries. Most have a reasonably priced prix fixe lunch.

Prices, based on $1.30 = 1 Euro, incl tax and service. The number followed by 'th' is the arrondissement. Many are closed during Aug, Christmas - New Year's and on Sun and/or Mon, so check first. When calling from the US, dial 011 33 and omit the first 0 of the telephone number. When calling within Paris you need that 0.

 
Mostly French Clientele

 1.  Le Pré Verre: 8, rue Thénard, 5th, 0143 54 59 47. Metro: Maubert-Mutualité.

Chef Philippe Delacourcelle combines his knowledge of Asian cooking (he's lived in China, Indonesia and Malaysia) with that gained during his training with the late Bernard Loiseau.

Recommended: Veal with a puree of cauliflower and almonds; superb fish dishes for non-meat eaters. Lunch: 2 courses, glass of wine, cup of coffee, $15.60

Lunch or dinner: 3 courses, $32 Wine: Cheverny (a light Loire red), $14.30/half bottle.

 
 2.  L'Os à Moëlle: 3, rue Vasco de Gama, 15th, 0145 57 27 27. Metro: Lourmel.

Yellow cloth runners on wooden tables and big windows give this small bistro an airy feeling. Tables are close together; the French clientele are friendly. Chalk board menu changes daily.

Recommended: Amuse-bouche (marrow bone topped with chopped parsley and coarse salt, accompanied by a small spoon and toast); one of Chef Thierry Foucher's soups, such as pumpkin cream poured over mini ravioli stuffed with Comté cheese or cold celery cream with morels and croûtons.

Lunch: 3 courses, $42.90 Lunch: 6 course tasting menu, $49.50 Dinner: 6 course tasting menu, $49.90 Wine: $6.50/glass.

 
 3.  Les Zygomates: 7 rue de Capri, 12th, 0140 19 93 04. Metro: Daumesnil, Michel-Bizot.

In this former butcher's shop, which has its original hand painted ceiling tiles, an etched glass partition divides the 2 dining rooms which seat 18 each. The old custom of saying hello to the room at large when you arrive is alive and well here.

Recommended: Marinated duck liver shaved over mixed greens with pine nuts; mixed mushrooms in puff pastry; canneloni stuffed with chèvre. Roast lamb, grilled sea bass and stewed rabbit are each accompanied by potato gratin, grated sweet and sour beets and parsnip or rutabaga puree.

Lunch & Dinner: 3 courses, $36.40; 2 courses, $28.60 Wine: Burgundy, $19.50/half bottle.

 
Bistros With Regional Dishes

 4.  Les Caves Solignac: 9, rue Decrès, 14th, 0145 45 58 59. Metro: Plaisance.

This intimate bistro, scarcely changed since the 1930s, features the food of Sarlat. Host Jean-Francois Banéat, an amusing and interesting man, will make you feel at home at one of his 6 tables.

Recommended: Sauteed rabbit kidneys on a frisee salad; duck confit served with Sarlat-style potatoes (sauteed with garlic and mushrooms).

Lunch: 2 courses, $23.40 Lunch: 2 courses plus dessert, $32.50 Dinner: 2 courses, $35 Wine: House red, $4.55/glass or $9/half bottle.

 
 5.  Chez Maître Paul: 12, rue Monsieurle-Prince, 6th, 0143 54 74 59. Metro: Odéon.

Mirrors, fresh flowers and exposed old stone are signatures of this long-established bistro featuring cooking from the Franche-Comté region. Jean François Debert is an attentive host.

Recommended: Chicken dishes — with morels or in a creamy cheese sauce.

Lunch & Dinner: 2 course prix fixe, $37.70 Wine: House Bourgueil (red or white), $7.80/half bottle.

 
 6.  Au Trou Gascon: 40, rue Taine, 12th, 0143 44 34 26. Metro: Daumesnil.

A large ham from the Landes region in SW France sits on a carving table in the middle of this circa-1900 dining room, elegant with cream pillars and linen-covered walls. Formally dressed Parisians enjoy their wine in the thinnest Spiegelau glasses and the refined versions of hearty gascon cooking by Alain Dutournier, "the" star chef.

Recommended: Gâteau de Cèpes; Dutournier's versions of cassoulet and confit.

Lunch: 3 courses: $52, incl a bowl of olives and a little pot of delicate rillettes (shredded pork pâté) Dinner: à la carte from $78 Wine: House red or white $11/half bottle.

 
La Truffière restaurant
The charming La Truffière, with its friendly staff and famous chef, has been under the same ownership for 25 years.
 7.  La Truffière, 4, rue Blainville, 5th, 0146 33 29 82, www.latruffiere.com. Metro: Place Monge.

The exterior of this 17th century stone house with potted plants trailing down wrought iron gates, is just as charming as the candle-lit interior with exposed beams.

Recommended: Salmon served with diced beets in vinaigrette and mashed potatoes; slow-cooked lamb shoulder; cod with fennel, leeks and mushrooms. Dishes from the southwest are a specialty; the more expensive items incl truffles and foie gras.

Weekday Lunch: 2 courses, $24.70 Dinner: Prix fixe $71.50 & $93.60; à la carte from $80 Wine: $5.20/glass at lunch.

 
"Second" Restaurants Of Star Chefs

Chef Antony Clémot and some of his staff
Mon Vieil Ami's charismatic chef, Antony Clémot (center) changes his menu seasonally.
 8.  Mon Vieil Ami: 69, rue St. Louis-en-L'Ile, 4th, 0140 46 01 35. Metro: Pont Marie.

Vegetables take top billing in this charming new bistro owned by Antoine Westermann of the 3-star Buerehiesel Restaurant in Strasbourg. Arrive early if you prefer to sit at a separate table rather than at the long table d'hôte. However, since tables are only 6 inches apart it hardly matters. The room holds 45 guests. Most dishes are served on large plates with enough for 2 people.

Recommended: Venison, marinated overnight in red wine and cooked slowly for 4 hours, is removed from its bones and combined with garlic cloves, onion and a full-flavored broth, topped with potato puree — a superior shepherd's pie.

Lunch or Dinner: Three courses: $49.40 incl a glass of Alsace Pinot Blanc or mixed fresh fruit juice. If you choose the dish of the day, this meal is $42. $Tip: A less expensive alternative is to eat the dish of the day for $19.50, choose a dessert for $10.40 and have an elegant meal for only $29.90.

 
 9.  Les Bouquinistes: 53, quai Grands Augustins, 6th, 0143 25 45 94. Metro: St. Michel.

This very modern restaurant, one of four of Guy Savoy's establishments, looks onto the book stalls by the Seine. Savoy plans the menu and Chef Caussimon supervises the kitchen.

Recommended: The tender Hereford steak with pureed pumpkin and chestnuts; fresh figs roasted with honey and served with black currant ice cream.

Lunch: 3 courses incl a glass of wine and a cup of coffee, $34.45 Lunch: 2 courses incl a glass of wine and a cup of coffee, $30.55 Dinner: à la carte from $65.

 
 10.  La Table de Joel Robuchon: 16, avenue Bugeaud, 16th, 0156 28 16 16. Metro: Victor Hugo.

Joel Robuchon, one of the world's leading chefs, also runs L'Atelier. His menu incl some of his famous dishes plus many new ones; most come in appetizer-sized servings.

Recommended: Foie gras custard; tender quail with Robuchon's famous silken potato puree (half potato, half butter) with white truffles shaved over the top; beautifully boned whole whiting.

Lunch or dinner: set tasting menu, $195 Individual dishes for a 3 course meal, $65 Wine: $12/glass at lunch.

 
(Elizabeth Cawdry Thomas holds a certificate from the London Cordon Bleu and conducts French cooking classes in California.)