Ever since it opened in a remote corner of the 14th arrondissement near the Porte d’Orleans in 1992, we’ve enjoyed La Régalade, which reinvigorated the bistro idiom and has reigned as one of the best of its kind for almost twenty years. We remember our first visit vividly. On a rainy night in Paris it seemed to take forever to get there with a grouchy cab driver at the wheel, and by the time we arrived at this simple looking place we were wondering if it had been a good idea to follow up on the enthusiastic recommendation of a local friend.
Then we went inside, settled down over glass of chilled white Macon, and dug into a superb complimentary terrine with excellent country bread and an earthenware crock of cornichons. That night, we ate a salad of seared duck liver, apple and prunes on a bed of mache, scallops cooked in their shells then garnished with chopped walnut, sea bass with celery bulb ravioli, L’Ossau Iraty ewe’s milk cheese with homemade black cherry preserves and a perfect Grand Marnier soufflé. It was a fine meal washed down with a good but pleasantly inexpensive (80 francs) bottle of Montauban vin de pays. We went back to chef Yves Camdeborde’s wonderful bistro twice on that trip, and then within six months it became almost impossible to get a reservation.
Friends often balked at traveling to its outlying location, so our visits became less frequent. Camdeborde sold out eventually—he needed a sabbatical after doing three dinner services a night for so many years—then went on to open the equally popular Le Comptoir du Relais just off the Odeon with the talented chef Bruno Doucet. We quickly became fans of Doucet’s cooking, which is lighter and more refined than what Camdeborde did when he was in the kitchen at La Régalade. The location in the deep 14th arrondissement has always been an inconvenience, though, so we were delighted to learn on a recent trip to Paris that Doucet has opened La Régalade Saint-Honoré, on the rue Saint Honoré just a ten minute walk from the Louvre in the heart of Paris. We booked right away, and though the rather plain setting didn’t get us very excited, the chicken liver terrine that came to the table with drinks before dinner certainly did, along with the fact that the prix-fixe menu here is a very good value at 33 euros.
We loved our starters, chicken broth and coconut milk soup with grilled shrimp and spaghettini and marinated salmon with a salad of fresh herbs, and were delighted by our main courses: demi-salted fresh cod steak on a bed of baby spinach leaves with tiny croutons and a light vinaigrette, and crisply roasted but still very juicy pork belly from the famous Basque producer Eric Ospital. Desserts were terrific, too, including rhubarb compote with fromage blanc and a Breton sablé with marscapone and tart Gariguette strawberries. We ate here a second time during our this most recent Paris trip, and the following meal was just as good as the first, which means that La Régalade Saint-Honoré has risen to the top of our bistro list in Paris and has become a firm new favorite. Highly recommended.
La Régalade Saint-Honoré, 123 rue Saint-Honoré, 1st arrondissement, Tel. 01-42-21-92-40. Metro: Louvre-Rivoli. Closed Saturday & Sunday