By Alexander Lobrano
The grape news from Paris this fall is the city’s new vintage of terrific wine bars, or bistrots a vins. This Parisian hybrid of traditional wine bars and bistros serve great wines and short menus of charcuterie, cheeses, and a few hot dishes intended to pair well with a good pour.
Recently, this format has been finding favor with ambitious young chefs who go out on their own, drawn by the lure of the small-plates concept, the ability to change their menus often, and the casual, convivial atmosphere typical of these establishments. In addition to appeal of the organic or naturel (unsulfured) wines that star at these new places, they’re also wonderfully affordable. Expect to pay 30 to 40 Euros for an assortment of small plates and a couple glasses of wine. Read on for five of our favorites.
International Allure at Au Passage
Opened last summer by a team who’d previously worked at Daniel Rose’s popular Spring restaurant, including chef Australian born chef James Henry, this lively spot in a narrow lane serves a short but delicious small-plates menu that runs to dishes like sliced steak with kimchi-style pickles, and grilled tuna with mussels and potatoes.
1bis passage de Saint-Sebastien, 11th arrondissement, 01-43-55-07-52.
Adventurous Eats at Le Dauphin
Designed by architects Rem Koolhaas and Clément Blanchet, this cool white marble space is the sister address to chef Inaki Aizpitarte’s Le Chateaubriand restaurant next door. The brief menu changes regularly and showcases Aizpitarte’s imaginative cooking—a composition of snails and cabbage in a jus of Spanish ham, or a luscious buttermilk-and-olive-oil ice cream for dessert, for example.
131 avenue Parmentier, 11th arrondissement, 01-55-28-78-88.
Contemporary Flair at Frenchie Wine Bar
Chef Gregory Marchand’s bistro Frenchie is one of the hardest reservations to land in Paris, which is why the lively bar he opened in June has become so popular. Since it takes walk-ins only, it’s a great way to sample his superb modern French cooking, maybe pistachio-studded terrine de campagne and smoked trout with shaved cucumber, pickled onions, and fresh herbs. But go early or be prepared for a long wait.
6 rue du Nil, 2nd arrondissement, no phone, no reservations.
Convivial Vibe at Le Verre Volé
One of the best bistrots a vins in Paris recently enlarged its cozy dining room, but it’s so good that it’s still tough to snag a table. So book well ahead of time to sample dishes like lamb-and-fig terrine and roasted duck breast with turnips.
67 rue de Lancry, 10th arrondissement , Tel. 01-48-03-17-34.
Natural Flavors at Vivant
Owner Pierre Jancou (pictured) painstakingly restored the Art Nouveau tiles of a shop that once sold exotic birds to create Paris’s most beautiful new bistrot a vins. Dishes typical of the chalkboard menu here include foie gras with artichoke salad, and grilled hen with baby organic vegetables.
43 rue des Petites Ecuries, 10th arrondissement. 01-42-46-43-55.
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American-born Alexander Lobrano has lived in Paris for 25 year, where he’s written about food and travel for publications including Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, Departures, and Conde Nast Traveler. He’s a regular contributor to the New York Times’ T Style, and the author of Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 102 Best Restaurants (Random House), which is also the name of his blog.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Bob Peterson