The August conundrum, which is what I call the fact that many restaurants in Paris close during one of the busiest holiday months of the year, may be less of a problem than it once was, but it still isn’t easy to find a seriously good bistro in the heart of the city at that time of year.
However, the fact that Chez Monsieur stays open during the whole of August is far from the only reason to head there for a meal. For starters, this handsome restaurant boasts considerable old-fashioned Parisian charm, and is within easy walking distance of La Madeleine, Les Tuileries, the Place de la Concorde, the Opéra, the Louvre, the city’s two most famous department stores and dozens of charming little hotels. The service is also charming and it has a first-rate wine list, as the owners are serious vinophiles.
That said, what mainly makes this table a worthy destination is the excellent cooking of young chef Martin Harispé, who hails from the Basque Country and previously worked at a flock of famous restaurants, including the Cheval Blanc in Bayonne, the Grand Hotel du Palais in Biarritz, and Le Meurice when chef Yannick Alléno ran their kitchens.
“Alléno’s mixture of technical precision and creativity in the kitchen really became my gastronomic compass,” says Harispé, whose menu features a variety of alluring Gallic classics alongside a selection of contemporary dishes.
Among the classic starters, the homemade terrine of duck foie gras with cherry jam is outstanding, and when the weather gets cooler, an excellent onion soup is frequently found on the menu. The lighter first courses include sea bream carpaccio with lime zest and a spiced vinaigrette, and Basque ham with a garnish of chopped tomatoes.
Harispé makes an outstanding blanquette de veau– veal and mushrooms braised in cream sauce – a monument of French cooking, and also serves an excellent steak tartare that’s hand chopped from Aubrac beef supplied by star butcher Hugo Desnoyer. The chef’s Basque origins come through in a succulent preparation of roast cod with a Basquaise garnish (onions, tomatoes and peppers), and the turbot meunière with a side of wilted baby spinach leaves is a perfect choice for a lighter meal. Finally, the stand-out desserts include crêpe Suzette, prepared tableside, and an excellent crème brûlée.
Chez Monsieur, 11 rue du Chevalier Saint-Georges, Paris 8th. Tel: +33 1 42 60 14 36. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Average à la carte lunch €48, dinner €96. www.chezmonsieur.fr
From France Today magazine