The term bistro has lost its real definition in recent times, most people around the world regard a bistro as a small informal restaurant serving a particular nation’s classic dishes. So there have sprung up French, Italian, Mexican and all sorts of different types of bistros all over the world. But the original bistros were French and from Paris, and outside France some of their dishes have been largely forgotten. In this blog we look at modern bistros that exist today in Paris where you can find authentic Parisian bistro food, like tarte tatin and coq au vin. Featured in this blog are some outstanding restaurants that are located in Paris that serve authentic bistro classic dishes.
Josephine Chez Dumonet
Josephine Chez Dumonet
A really exceptional restaurant, that takes you back to pre-war Paris. Everything about the décor in Josephine Chez Dumonet reminds you of another time and another place. Strolling through the doors you are transported back to the art-nouveau period. The food served is old-fashioned bistro fare, that adheres to traditional cooking from the old bistro days in Paris. But if you want to taste authentic slow cooked dishes such as, boeuf bourguignon, millefeuille of pigeon or foie gras stuffed mushrooms, then this is the place.
A la Biche au Bois
Situated in a working part of town this bistro is normally crammed with locals who know their food. So, if you fancy some really authentic Parisian bistro dishes then A la Biche au Bois will satisfy your palette. As a good bistro should be the food is reasonable priced and rustic, simple rural dishes such as our mayonnaise, boeuf bourguignon, and hearty cassoulet are served regularly. Expect dishes at A la Biche au Bois to be seasonal, and during the game season the dishes are particularly fantastic and absolutely classic.
Situated in the bohemian Belleville quarter is a great rustic Bistro called Le Baratin. The food at this rather basic restaurant is created from the head of the owner Raquel Carena who was born in Argentina. So, the food is an eclectic mixture of French, South American, Spanish and North African. Delicious dishes such as braised ox cheeks, tuna tartare is accompanied by biodynamic wine which is organic. And do not be surprised to see great Parisian chef’s dining as it is a cool place to hang out.
Quite a charming building with pretty wallpaper and an exposed beamed ceiling it is superbly located right next to the Palais Royal. The chef is classically trained and he brings these influences into his rustic bistro food. Chicken Supreme with basmati rice and Duck Breast stuffed with foie gras are recent dishes on the menu. Although the dishes are technically perfect and have some luxury ingredients, the prices are more than acceptable. The service is also friendly but organized and when all these factors are put together it is hardly surprising that Les Bistronomes is highly popular. These great new modern bistros are part of the great New Bistro movement that has been hitting France over the past twenty years. In part two we look at even more gastronomic delights of other great bistros of Paris.
Classic bistro foods would of course be French rustic dishes, after all the Bistro emanated from Paris and was a form of cheap wholesome food that could be termed as classic French country food.The Bistro’s of Paris made easy to prepare dishes that would last a long time, such as vegetable stews, and cassoulets, these would be made from locally sourced ingredients to old classic recipes. Today the term Bistro has evolved just to mean a small restaurant, and has no real connection to its former meaning. And now there are Bistro’s all over the world, so the term typical Bistro food is really a contradiction, as it would depend what country you are eating in. So, for this exercise we have gone back in time, and have put together some traditional French dishes that would have been served in the Bistro’s of Paris a hundred years or so ago.
A real one pot classic French casserole, in many ways it epitomizes classic Bistro fare. In essence Pot-au-Feu is a beef stew and at its heart is a rich marrow bone imparting a deep meaty flavor to the dish, of course root vegetables are cooked in the same pot. In the classic Bistro way, the large cauldron would be constantly topped up with more ingredients as dishes were served during the day. Accompanied by nothing more than fresh crusty bread to dip into the delicious hearty stock.
Pate-en-Croute is a French version of the famous Cornish Pasty, with of course more Gallic flair and imagination. Often in rural France the dish would have game and perhaps local truffles as a filling topped with a thick crunchy pastry lid. The dish is strongly seasoned and the seasonal ingredients are all held in place by a tasty jelly. This dish could be made days ahead of consuming, and was an excellent item for Bistros to have as a larder ingredient as it would keep for weeks.
French Onion Soup
French Onion Soup
Soups were always a Bistro classic, and there is none better than the hearty French Onion Soup. Onions, garlic, stock are a classic combination for soups and with the addition of crunchy croutons and grated cheese make this a bowl of winter cheer. A cauldron of bubbling French Onion Soup is a delight to see in a Bistro, especially on cold winter days. The thick soup lines your stomach with a satisfying glow that will cheer you up to face the day.
Saddle of Hare
Bistro food is very much seasonal food, dishes that the ingredients can all be sourced locally. And a big favorite is game, rabbit and hare. The saddle is actually taken from the rear of the animal but is a terrific cut and suits long cooking in various stocks. It can also be prepared with hops to impart a delicious flavor to the meat. Served with seasonal vegetables game is a classic Bistro dish. Other classic Bistro dishes would include, boeuf bourguignonne, bouillabaise, navarin d’agneau, coq au vin, duck confit, steak tartare, and pâtés & terrines.
Originating in Paris in the 18th Century, a bistro is essentially a small diner that serves simple food at a moderate cost. Today many bistros are recognized by what type of foods the restaurant serve. Bistro’s started to become popular in the basements of Parisian apartments, where it was fashionable for tenants to pay for a room and a meal. Therefore, landlords had to prepare simple meals for his paying customers, the food was always easy to prepare and could be produced in quantity that lasted one or two days. A classic dish of the time in bistro’s would be cassoulet which is a type of bean stew that would often contain regional sausages.
As time passed astute landlords decided to open their basements to the public as well as their tenants and paying diners could also eat the simple fare. Due to the lack of legislation during this period, wine and beer were also served.
Cafe’s v Bistro’s
Cafe’s v Bistro’s
A cafe is basically an overgrown coffee house, that specializes serving simple dishes that can accompany coffee, sometimes they offer daily specials. Whereas a bistro often has one or two dishes that might change at lunch and dinner if it has all been consumed. Very often a bistro will use what is locally available in the area’s season, such as the catch of the day. Usually a cafe will offer easy-to-cook foods such as sandwiches or baked potatoes, perhaps a soup and breakfasts. A true bistro will offer rustic dishes that have their origins in the local region, these are often slow cooked dishes such as slowly braised rabbit stew, or vegetable stews and different types of casseroles.
Cafe’s often decorate in a particular theme that the owner has created, which could be almost anything from retro 60’s music type cafes to a modernistic and minimalist chic look. On the other hand, a bistro’s interior and décor normally reflects the type of food the proprietor prefers to serve his customers. Therefore, there are many Italian, French, Mexican bistro’s all decorated to reflect their cuisine and create an authentic atmosphere so patrons can enjoy an hour or two in their favorite holiday destination. Where cafes usually are twenty-four-hour operation, a bistro is a far more laid-back affair and can often actually close for one or two of the quieter days of the week.
Bistro food was originally rural French food, but now that definition has expanded widely. To construct a list of today’s typical bistro food would almost be impossible, as mentioned above there are many types of bistro today offering not just regional food but specific food of a particular nation. On the spectrum of types of cuisine, bistro food should be considered somewhere between haute cuisine and home cooked food, leaning more to the latter. This type of food is affordable, simple, familiar and most of all delicious.
Bistro dishes are often classics of a particular country’s cuisine, such as a Moroccan Tagine, or a Mexican Chili con Carne, or even a British Classic Toad in the Hole. This is the beauty of bistro’s, simple food in a great atmosphere that will not break the budget.