Seasoned Traveller


    Notes from the road

    Unpopular opinion: Paris dining is far from perfect. 

    If French cuisine laid the foundations for modern cooking around the world, then it should follow that the capital city is food’s global headquarters. It isn’t, or at least you must do your research to find classic French restaurants that retain their soul, as well as search beyond the cuisine, to find the best places to eats in Paris. 

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    The City of Light is a victim of its own successful branding. My culinary expectations were set so high that I was repeatedly met with disappointment when dining out. So, I stopped taking the advice of self-perpetuating “hot and new” lists – tired of enduring overcooked and under-seasoned dishes and kombucha-wine with pretty labels but no depth – and instead followed my gut. It made me double down on my when-in-Rome approach (eat as the Romans do) – and also ignore it completely. 

    What I found were Parisienne bistros with perfectly patinated personalities and classic French food that brought literal tears to my eyes; establishments that embody why UNESCO added traditional French gastronomy to the world's intangible heritage list. These restaurants don’t promote the use of market-bought or locally-sourced ingredients, because they are a given. Staff will tell you the context of what makes a wine special, both referencing palate and the people behind it. These are the kind of places that make you unconsciously punctuate the table with your fist while exclaiming, “This! This is what French cooking is all about!”

    At the other end of the scale, my disenchantment with popular, recommended venues also made me search spirited neighbourhoods coloured with spice and ingredients that one never associates with Paris. These pockets are populated by a mighty mosaic of migrant communities that, in some cases, unpacked little more than their recipes when they arrived from abroad. Many of these eateries are fiercely affordable, even under-priced. This can be a salve for those battling the euro from the Southern Hemisphere, though it is also an indication of how some cuisines are unfortunately less valued than others.  

    What makes Paris worth visiting isn’t the accumulation of trendy bistros and restaurants that are indecipherable from other global cities, it’s the people who serve timeless food, regardless of whether they are staunchly French or have come to call Paris home. Forget what everyone thinks they know about dining out in Paris and go deeper – you’ll be rewarded with that je ne sais quoi that makes a restaurant truly great, regardless of whether it has a Michelin Star or caters to taxi drivers after midnight. 

    Paris has always had a shiny surface. It’s up to you to scratch it.

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