For many years, Sunday dining in Paris usually meant a meal in one of the city’s beautiful brasseries, maybe La Coupole, with its animated art deco dining room, or Julien, with its gorgeous art nouveau interior. Unfortunately, most of these lovely places have been snapped up by the city’s two main brasserie chains, Flo or the Frères Blanc, with such dire results in terms of quality and service that I no longer recommend them.
Happily, however, even if most Paris restaurants are closed on Sundays and most of the city’s brasseries are no longer appealing, there are still many terrific places to eat in the French capital, so here’s a short list of my favorites (“L, D” indicates an establishment that’s open for lunch and dinner, and “D” for dinner only). Note, too, that many hotel dining rooms are open on Sunday, including the excellent ones at Le Bristol and the Four Seasons George V.
Alcazar (L, D). This stylish Left Bank brasserie occupies the space that once housed a popular cabaret, and the menu runs from freshly shucked oysters, smoked salmon and foie gras to start, to main courses such as grilled shrimp, roast shoulder of lamb, steaks and lobster salad. 62 rue Mazarine, 6th, Tel. 01-53-10-99-99. Dinner for two, $130.
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (L, D). Located just off the stylish rue du Bac on the Left Bank, chef Joël Robuchon’s fashionable counter-service-only, small-plate restaurant is ideal for a light but memorable meal. Reservations are only possible for lunch from 11:30-12:30 p.m. and 2-3:15 p.m., and for dinner at 6:30 p.m. Otherwise, it’s potluck for a spot here, but worth it to taste delicious dishes from the regularly revised menu, such as foie gras-stuffed ravioli in chicken bouillon or sea bass cooked with baby artichokes and girolles mushrooms. A second branch of this restaurant has just opened on the Champs-Elysées. 5 rue de Montalembert, 7th, Tel. 01-42-22-56-56; 133 Avenue des Champs-Elysées, 8th, Tel. 01-47-23-75-75. Dinner for two, $250.
Chez Flottes (L, D). With a convenient location in the heart of Paris near the Tuileries and the Place de la Concorde, this popular family-owned brasserie has a large menu that will satisfy all appetites. Start with oysters, escargots or onion soup, and then try sole meunière, steak tartare or the grilled Scottish menu. It also serves pasta and salads and offers a children’s menu for those under 12. 2 rue Cambon, 1st; Tel. 01-42-60-80-89. Dinner for two, $130.
Christophe (L, D). Hard-working young chef Christophe Philippe’s simple little bistro in the Latin Quarter is a great find for anyone who wants to sample inventive contemporary French bistro cooking for reasonable prices. The menu varies, but runs to dishes such as nems (Vietnamese-style spring rolls) filled with Basque pork; boudin noir; grilled duck breast with pear-turnip compote; and lemon-cream mille-feuille for dessert. 8 rue Descartes, 5th; Tel. 01-43-26-72-49. Dinner for two, $120.
Le Comptoir (L, D). Chef Yves Camdeborde’s popular bistro a few steps from the Odéon on the Left Bank operates first-come, first-served on Sundays, so arrive early and try your luck. Camdeborde’s chalkboard menu changes often, but runs to dishes such as octopus salad, roast rack of lamb, and chicken Béarnaise. Note that a different menu is served at weekday dinners, which must be booked well in advance. 9 Carrefour de l'Odéon, 6th; Tel. 01-44-27-07-50. Dinner for two, $140.
La Fontaine de Mars (L, D). Dating to 1908, this attractive old-fashioned bistro in the 7th arrondissement has a good-looking décor of Bordeaux-and-cream checked curtains, brown leatherette banquettes and brass sconces. The menu offers delicious traditional bistro dishes such as country terrine with onion jam or marinated leeks to start, followed by grilled duck breast in a Périgueux sauce (foie gras) or chicken cooked with morel mushrooms. 129 rue Saint-Dominique, 7th; Tel. 01-47-05-46-44. Dinner for two, $140.
Pramil (D). A little off the beaten track, this small, pretty spot with a beamed ceiling and lots of potted white orchids serves delicious contemporary French bistro cooking, including dishes such as cauliflower cake with red-pepper jam, roast suckling pig in miso sauce with three kinds of carrot, and raspberry-apple tart. 9 rue Vertbois, 3rd; Tel. 01-42-72-03-60. Dinner for two, $130.
Le Stella (L, D). This 1950s-vintage brasserie in the silk-stocking 16th arrondissement pulls a chic crowd to eat excellent traditional French comfort food in a lively dining room with good service. Start with oysters, escargots, green-bean salad or fish soup, and continue with sole meunière, Bresse chicken or a filet mignon with frites and Béarnaise sauce. 133 avenue Victor Hugo, 16th; Tel. 01-56-90-56-00. Dinner for two, $140.