When it comes to dining near the Eiffel Tower, many first-time visitors to the 7th arrondissement bemoan the abundant tourist traps. But don’t be fooled. The quartier may ooze grandeur from its Haussmannian façades, but as residents will tell you, it’s also retained a village atmosphere, particularly around the rue Cler. And there are some excellent eateries in this part of town. One that I highly recommend is Philippe Excoffier, located on a tiny street (Rue de l’Exposition) connecting Rue Saint-Dominique and Rue de Grenelle.
Excoffier served as the head chef at the American embassy for 11 years, where he helmed a brigade of 20 cooks and created dazzling, inventive menus for both intimate dinners and grand receptions (with 2,000 attendees!). After a small hiatus, Excoffier opened his own eponymous bistro in 2011 just a stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower. It’s a chic space with welcoming staff, and the chef serves up classic French cuisine with a refined touch.
Excoffier grew up in the Savoy region in a family that prided itself on its potager, and seasonal vegetables continue to play an important role in Excoffier’s inspired cuisine. “It should be tasty and full of flavour,” the chef explains of his dishes. He shows great flair (and fun!) in crafting new menus based on what’s in season at the market.
A recent lunch was a delightful distraction from the pollution that was shrouding the city. We started with an appetizer that was so filling it could suffice for our main course. The lobster “burger” is piled high with homard and an avocado mousse. It was such a success for Valentine’s Day, that it remained on the menu for weeks afterward. A risotto dish was generously adorned with shaved truffles, and the Suprême de Volaille, free-range chicken, was also stuffed with seasonal truffles. Don’t miss the chef’s signature soufflés- which should be ordered at the beginning of the meal. We tried the Bourbon vanilla, which comes with a little pitcher of melted chocolate, and also the caramal soufflé, over which you pour warm caramel made with salted butter.
The lunch menu is a real steal at 22 euros for a starter and a main course or a starter and a dessert. (You can also opt for the full three-course entrée/plat/dessert for 27 euros.) No wonder Excoffier has such a devoted following of locals who regularly book tables.
Mark your calendars! On Thursday, April 9, Philippe Excoffier will be serving the very same dinner menu that he served for a 2006 reception at the American embassy for a famous French actress. Dinner clients who can guess the name of the actress will be treated to a glass of champagne on the house. “The first female President of the jury for the Cannes Film Festival, she won an important lawsuit against Warner Brothers in the 1940s, thereby reducing the power of the studios over the actors. This legal victory brought her immense respect from her peers, and she then received even more interesting and challenging film roles. She won two Oscars in three years’ time. Living in Paris since 1953, she’s best known for her role in Gone with the Wind.”
Philippe Excoffier, 18 rue de l’Exposition, 75007 Paris. Tel: +33 (0)1 45 51 78 08. Open from Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner. Note that you can make reservations via the website. It’s possible to privatize the restaurant for Sunday lunch or Monday lunch or dinner, for a group of 25 persons or more.