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Dining in the Marais and Bastille/Nation
The center of Jewish and gay life in Paris, the Marais is the place to find the best falafel in town and some great bistro fare, too. Farther east, the Bastille area has attracted more than its share of gifted young chefs.
The once run-down Marais is now the epitome of chic, but you can still find reminders of its down-to-earth past along Rue des Rosiers, where falafel shops and Eastern European delis jostle with designer boutiques. Ambitious restaurants are few and far between in the Marais, but the popular Breizh Café attracts many with its inexpensive and authentic galettes (buckwheat crêpes) made with quality ingredients. The bistro scene gets interesting east of the Bastille, where lower rents have encouraged young chefs to set up shop. Around Père Lachaise the selection thins, but wander a little farther to multicultural Belleville to find an intriguing mix of Chinese and North African eateries.
For the perfect tarte tatin, which is like an upside-down apple pie, take a seat at the horseshoe-shaped bar of Le Petit Fer à Cheval (30 rue Vieille-du-Temple 01–42–72–47–47). The restaurant's recipe calls for juicy Gala apples, which produce a buttery, caramelized tarte that is served warm and pairs perfectly with a glass of hot wine. The tarte was first discovered by mistake in the 19th century at the Hôtel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron—the product of a botched apple pie recipe. It can be made with other fruit—like pineapple or pears—but nothing beats the classic, faithfully reproduced at this Marais café.
Fantastique Three: The Rue Paul Bert
This side street between Bastille and Nation is home to three local favorites. Bistrot Paul Bert (18 rue Paul Bert 01-43-72-24-01) boasts bistro classics, and its seafood annex, L'Ecailler du Bistrot (22 rue Paul Bert 01-43-72-76-77), serves exemplary oysters. And the Argentinian Unico (15 rue Paul Bert 01-43-67-68-08) draws hungry hordes for its charcoal-grilled steaks.
Master chocolatier-pâtissièr Jacques Genin (133 rue de Turenne, Marais 01–45–77–29–01 Filles du Calvaire) deserves the legion d'honneur for his efforts to restore great traditional French pastries to their classic form, particularly the august mille-feuille. Genin's stripped-down version disposes with the usual bells and whistles—fresh fruit, custard, chocolate—to achieve a scintillating clarity: layers of lightly caramelized pâte feuilletée, a buttery puff pastry, and an ethereal, barely sweet pastry cream in either vanilla, caramel, or praline. All of the glorious pastries in this tearoom-chocolate-boutique-pastry shop (probably the most beautiful in Paris, by the way) are available for takeaway, but this one is assembled to order and is best eaten fresh on the premises. Along with a cup of Genin's bittersweet hot chocolate, well, you get the picture. Oh, yes, and then there are the chocolates, some of Paris's finest.
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