We’ve been to Paris many times, but we sure could have used a book like this before our first trip. Tom Reeves explains the way restaurants work in France, from the requirement that they display the menu (in our meaning of the word) for any passing diner, to the slow pace of service, which seems like bad service to pressed-for-time Americans, but is not meant that way at all. He also explains the three typical courses, and how what we call an entrée is a main course in France, with the starter or appetizer being called an entrée.
He also gives a rundown on ‘foreign’ (meaning not French cuisine) restaurants, and on the smoking ban which has been in effect since 2008. My experience is that the smoking ban has just made outdoor dining less pleasant – the smokers have moved to the outside tables – but at least you can breathe indoors, which didn’t used to be the case. The fine for smoking is €68, which is hefty, but nothing compared to the fine in Ireland, €3000.
Another really interesting thing is the explanation of the differences among the different types of eating establishments, and the origins of the names. For example, ‘bistro’, which sounds so French, came from Russian soldiers, stationed in Paris after Napoleon’s defeat, who wanted their booze served faster and would yell ‘Bystro! Bystro!’ which means quick in Russian. There is also a good explanation of the different kinds of food shops, the difference between a boulangerie and a patisserie, and the various other food establishments. Browsing in grocery stores in a different country is always interesting – but in France everything looks so good.
Our typical approach to dining in Paris is to find a recommended restaurant in the Rick Steves guide. I have to think Rick Steves has not been to any of the top twelve restaurants that Tom Reeves reviewed in detail for Dining Out in Paris. I had not heard of any of them, and most I would be hard pressed to find. But we’re going to Paris soon, and we’re going to try a few. This book contains the most detailed restaurant review information you can find, except perhaps in a major metropolitan newspaper, and not often there.
For each restaurant, Tom Reeves includes a color photo of the exterior – what a good idea that is, for someone trying to find a place for the first time. Take your e-reader with you and show someone the picture if you still can’t find the restaurant. He has color photos of the proprietors and/or chefs, and provides some details about who they are and how they came to be in the restaurant business. He even reviewed a food truck! For each establishment, there are detailed summaries of prices for drinks, appetizers, main courses, desserts, and an indication of the least expensive wine option. Very detailed descriptions of the food are done for each restaurant. The dozen restaurants have anything from traditional French cuisine to Brazilian fusion to African to vegetarian and vegan. My wife is a vegetarian, and while nowadays she can usually find something in any restaurant in Paris, even if it means having an entrée as a plat principal, it is a treat for her to have a multitude of options. We know of one vegan restaurant (Le Potager du Marais – on Facebook but website under construction) but now we know of another, Café Ginger. It looks like a lunch place but we’ll check it out. It’s close to Bastille metro. Another of interest is La Table de Botzaris, in a part of Paris where we’ve never been, but it looks like it might interest a vegetarian, at least for the starters.
For each restaurant, Tom includes their days and hours of operation, closest metro station, when they close for vacation, their website, phone, and other useful information, such as what credit cards are accepted.
This book is recommended for first-time visitors to Paris, and to repeat visitors who want to expand their culinary horizons, and explore some Metro lines they would not normally take. I’m looking forward to using it in the city soon.
Disclaimer: A free copy of this book was given to Jim with the expectation that a fair and honest review would be written of it.