Le Train Bleu, Paris, France

As Le Continental is packing for another trip to the continent, I realized that I never finished posting about restaurants I visited on my last trip to Europe.

Without a doubt one of the most beautiful restaurants in the world, Le Train Bleu is the name given to a restaurant in 1963 which was originally called Buffet de la Gare de Lyon when it opened during the Universal Exposition of 1900 (it opened in 1901). It is a grand example of the Belle Époque style of design, filled with 41 paintings of locations in the French rail system, current events, and buildings from the exposition, and the walls and ceiling are covered with gilt and sculptures.

“The tableau by BILLOTTE above the stairway leading down to the station platforms represents the Alexander III Bridge and the Palaces that housed the Exhibition in 1900, reminiscent of Saint-Mark’s in Venice.” – from the restaurant’s website.

I had some time to kill on a lunchtime layover en route from London to Zurich, so I stopped in for lunch. The steak tartare was excellent, mixed tableside with a dressing the waiter blended from scratch, then rested for several minutes so the flavors would mingle before it was served. You can also get the steak tartare seared (also tableside), which I would have tried if I had known about it (I saw another customer having it this way). The French fries were outstanding as well, very crispy on the outside and creamy inside. Every potato dish I had in Paris seemed so much better than most I’ve had here!

For dessert I had the rum baba, liberally doused with Rhum St. James from Martinique before serving.

the bar

Save your money for this special restaurant (as it is quite expensive) the next time you’re in Paris, or schedule a train connection so you can have lunch there. It will be worth it.

Le Train Bleu
Gare de Lyon – 75 012 PARIS
Tel: +33 (0)1 43 43 09 06

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Roger la Grenouille, Paris

My first trip to Paris and I had to try frogs legs, so I headed to the most famous restaurant in Paris for frogs legs, Roger la Grenouille (Roger The Frog), in the charming Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood (in the 6th arrondissement). Scant information on its history is available online, but I found out that it originally opened in 1930 by Roger Spinhirny in a cobbler’s shop. Over the years it became very famous and popular, hosting the Queen of England, popes, prime ministers of France, and famous entertainers.

Roger la Grenouille restaurant, Paris

The decor was homey and classic with lots of good clutter: hanging pots and bottles, plenty of photos, art, and clippings on the wall to look at.

Roger la Grenouille restaurant, Paris

I went for lunch to save a lot of money. There is usually a reasonable two or three course prix fixe meal at Parisian restaurants during lunch. Here a two course meal was 19 € (for an appetizer and main or a main with dessert) and a three course meal was 25 €. There was an amouse bouche of salmon mousse that was very good.

Roger la Grenouille restaurant, Paris

salmon mousse

My starter was a delicious savory foie gras crème brulée.

Roger la Grenouille restaurant, Paris

foie gras crème brulée

My main course was battered and fried frogs legs with fried plantains and manioc root. The frogs legs tasted like chicken. No, really, they did! The small bones are a little difficult to manage, but I enjoyed them. They also serve frogs legs prepared in other ways (not fried) for dinner, but it’s quite expensive so it would be a waste if you didn’t like them.

Roger la Grenouille restaurant, Paris

fried frogs legs with fried plantains and manioc root

Roger la Grenouille
26-28 rue des Grands Augustins, 75006 Paris – France
Tel : 00 33 (0)1 45 72 07 14
Open for lunch Tues-Sat 12:00pm-2:00pm; dinner Mon-Sat 7:00pm-11:00pm; closed Sunday

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Chez Chartier, Paris, France

One my recent visit to Paris, I met up with some friends from the bay area for drinks at Le Déli-Cieux on the roof of Printemps department store (a wonderful, inexpensive, “under-the-radar” spot for a champagne and a light meal with an incredible view of Paris – take the elevator to the 9th floor). Afterwards we had drinks at Harry’s, and then headed for a restaurant we heard good things about, only to find it closed on Mondays. We were in the 9th district (Faubourg-Montmartre) so I suggested we check out one of the oldest restaurants in Paris (which I had on my list).

There was a line at Chez Chartier when we arrived very hungry, but the line moved pretty fast as the restaurant is a big place. Originally opened in 1896 by the Chartier brothers, Frédéric and Camille, by the name Le Bouillon Chartier as a brasserie for the working classes to dine on a meat and vegetable stew (bouillon).

The dining room hasn’t changed much since it was designed in the Belle Époque era. The ceiling is very high and there is a mezzanine with additional seating. There is a skylight, dark wood and mirrors on the walls, and hat racks all the way down the center of the space. It was very crowded and bustling with waiters wearing the traditional rondin, a black waistcoat with many pockets, and long white aprons.

My advice is to go with a friend who speaks some French because the waiters are very busy and don’t have time to translate every item on the extensive menu of basic traditional French food at reasonable prices. They aren’t brusque, but they are fast and efficient (like at Tadich Grill in San Francisco). Despite the beautiful décor and fancy dressed waiters, it’s a fairly casual restaurant. The waiter writes down your order on the tablecloth so there’s no question about what you ordered later on. Good luck reading it though!

The food was simple and pretty good, yet nothing truly memorable. Your best bet is to stick with the classics, which is pretty much all they serve. I ordered the frisee salad with bacon and steak frites. I recommend skipping dessert, as we tried three of them, and they ranged from so-so to awful (including their famous Chantilly cream).

mustard jar at Chartier

Eating here is mostly about the setting, not about the food. And brush up on your French, or bring a French-speaking friend because when the waiter stares at you while you mangle his language it can be a little unnerving.

Old wooden boxes that used to store regular customers’ private napkins.

Chez Chartier
7 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 75009
+33 1 47 70 86 29
Open daily 11:30am-10pm

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Harry’s New York Bar, Paris, France

Originally opened as New York Bar in 1911 and taken over by Scots bartender Harry MacElhone in 1923, when it became Harry’s New York Bar. It was a favorite hangout of American expats and celebrities, including Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Coco Chanel, Rita Hayworth, and Humphrey Bogart. Cocktails invented at Harry’s include the Bloody Mary, the French 75 (allegedly, in 1915, before it was Harry’s), the Sidecar, the Monkey Gland, and possibly the White Lady, though Savoy’s in London claims it was invented there. George Gershwin composed “An American in Paris” at the piano at Harry’s. “Sank Roo Doe Noo” on the sign is a phonetic spelling of Harry’s address (5 Rue Daunou).

Harry’s New York Bar
5 Rue Daunou 75002 Paris, France
Phone: +33 1 42 61 71 14
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 12pm-2am, Friday-Saturday 12pm-3am

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L’Escargot Montorgueil, Paris, France

I recently spent a nice vacation on the European continent, which explains my lack of posts lately (I could have posted while traveling, but data rates and vacation laziness interfered).

My first day in Paris (my first time in the lovely city) I made a point of having lunch at L’Escargot Montorgueil, on a friend’s recommendation, at its current location in the 1st arrondissement (Les Halles area) since 1875 (according to Paris Historic Monuments Registry, though it started as a shop selling escargots and shellfish in 1832).

The beautiful interior was mostly decorated (as it exists now) in 1900.

I started with their signature escargots with butter, garlic and parsley, which they invented in 1837 and haven’t changed since (watch video), and a somewhat dry, fruity white wine (I never had a mediocre glass of wine in Paris). Magnifique!

For my main course I chose the pork chop. Seriously, it was the best tasting pork chop I have ever had (a close second was the barbecued pork chop at Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas), a bone-in rib chop perfectly cooked to a pinkish medium doneness (just look at that brown crust in my slightly blurry photo). I enjoyed a glass of rosé with my pork (often a good choice in France, from what I’ve read). The French are great at taking a simple dish and making it perfect.

The service was exceptional, the atmosphere lovely, and the food was superb. The prices are pretty high but during lunch they have a prix fixe menu (as do most Parisian restaurants) at 35 euros for 2 courses (entrée + main or main + dessert) or 45 euros for 3 courses (entrée + main + dessert) – wine is extra. Since I had bought some French pastries earlier I skipped dessert and had some of those.

Bon Appétit!

L’Escargot Montorgueil
38 Rue Montorgueil, 75001 Paris, France
Telephone: 01 42 36 83 51
Open daily 12 pm – 11:30 pm

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