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Dining Around the Louvre, in Les Halles and the Opéra
All-night restaurants and hearty bistros continue to thrive around Paris's former wholesale market, creating a boisterous contrast with the elegant streets around the Louvre and Opéra.
Home to the city's wholesale food market until the 1960s, Les Halles is still the place to go for late-night onion soup or steak frites, washed back with gulps of cheap and tasty red wine. The streets grow more subdued around the Louvre and Palais Royal, where you can relax in elegant cafés, slurp oysters at a classic brasserie like Le Vaudeville, or treat yourself to a meal of a lifetime at Le Grand Véfour or indulge in the more experimental haute cuisine at Spring. Though Madeleine is a food hub, thanks to the gourmet emporiums Fauchon and Hédiard, good restaurants are scarce between here and Opéra. For a quick bite, wander over to Rue Ste-Anne for a cheap and satisfying bowl of Japanese noodles. Quick lunch options are plentiful in this area, because it's crawling with office workers who pack the British-inspired sandwich shop Cojean.
Escape to Asia
If you can't face another slab of panfried foie gras, take a stroll down Rue Ste-Anne. The hub of the Japanese community in Paris is lined with noodle shops offering unparalleled value. At the ever-popular, cafeteria-style Higuma (32 rue Ste-Anne 01-47-03-38-59), €10 will buy not just a sink-size bowl of ramen but a plate of six gyoza (pork-filled dumplings). For udon, squeeze into Kunitoraya (39 rue Ste-Anne 01-47-03-33-65), where these thick wheat noodles are a specialty. Unique in Paris is Zenzoo (2 rue Cherubini 01-42-96-27-28), which serves bubble tea made with tapioca, and dim sum-style Taiwanese food.
Inside Les Halles
Faced with the unsightly 1970s shopping mall known as the Forum des Halles undergoing yet another facelift, it's hard to conjure up the colors, sounds, and smells of the wholesale market that took place here until the late 1960s. Émile Zola dubbed Les Halles "the belly of Paris," and although the belly has shrunk significantly since the market moved to the suburb of Rungis in 1971, it's not completely empty. The cobblestone street market on Rue Montorgueil (open daily except Sunday afternoons and Monday) is still a feast for the senses. And some area restaurants continue to offer savory, market-inspired fare. Newcomers to Les Halles should tread carefully. A hub for 800,000 daily commuters, the area attracts chain restaurants and street hawkers. With all of the commotion, it's easy to overlook worthy shops and eateries.
For Something Sweet
The scent of butter and almonds has been known to stop traffic outside the bakery and restaurant Stohrer (51 rue Montorgueil 01-42-33-38-20), founded in 1730. At the warehouse-style Dehillerin (18 rue Coquillière 01-42-36-53-13) nearby, cooks from around the world come searching for gleaming copper pots or silicone madeleine molds. Amateur and professional pastry chefs indulge their fantasies at Detou (58 rue Tiquetonne, 1er 01-42-36-54-67), the grocer for pastry chefs, which sells 3-kilogram hunks of Valrhona chocolate.
For Something Savory
Hidden in an inconspicuous street, Chez La Vieille (1 rue Bailleul 01-42-60-15-78) serves uncompromising French country fare at lunchtime and on Thursday nights. If you're still not convinced that the spirit of Les Halles lives on, visit the brasserie Au Pied de Cochon (6 rue Coquillière 01-40-13-77-00) or the boisterous bistro La Tour de Montlhéry-Chez Denise (5 rue des Prouvaires, 1er 01-42-36-21-82) and enjoy restorative food in the wee hours, just like the market vendors used to do.
When sampling the rarified wares of Paris's master chocolatier-pâtissiers, the distinctions become less about merit than about nuance. Yet there are three or four pastries at Jean-Paul Hévin (231 rue Saint-Honoré, 1er 01-55-35-35-96 Tuileries; also 3 Rue Vavin, 6e 01-43-54-09-85 and 23 bis, av. la Motte-Picquet, 7e 01-45-51-77-48) that leave his toughest rivals in the dust. Hévin isn't a household name, and unlike some of his competitors, his output is relatively understated. As they say, though, the proof is in the pudding. Take the Longchamp: lightness incarnate with a crème praliné center surrounded by a delicate meringue enrobed in almond-studded chocolate. The simple tarte à l'orange, all ambrosial orange cream and melting crust, is nothing short of miraculous, and the pomme de terre, a little marzipan-coated dumpling filled with silky dark-chocolate ganache, candied orange peel, and rum-macerated raisins, is heaven.
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