There has been a radical upgrade of the humble bistro in Paris and these new eateries are being called neo-bistros, where the look, atmosphere and feel of the classic bistro has remained more or less the same but the food has been upgraded immensely. As one diner to Au Bascou in Paris commented, it looks like a bistro, definitely feels like a bistro, and is priced like a bistro…but the cooking is far superior. A rather plain and undescriptive summary of one of the new breed of diners in Paris but quite an accurate one. Paris has always loved its casual dining, almost as much as five-star gastro food, the Parisians love an informal and relaxed atmosphere in their restaurants, as long as the food was up to scratch, and now they have it with the revamped neo-bistros. The big difference between the new dining experiences and a formal restaurant is that the quality ingredients that the young chefs serve are not caviar or truffles but organic vegetables and cuts of meat you may not expect. In this series we look at some of the best new neo-bistros in Paris.
For those who knew the old Astier, things look much the same, the old pine interior is still there, and the red and white check tablecloths are too, but something is far different. The restaurant has changed hands and the new owners have adopted the neo-bistro attitude in their cuisine. There is a new team in the kitchen, with a classically trained young chef from Le Meurice at the helm. There are clever but subtle additions to the menu which elevate the dining experience to a completely another level. The bistro still has a great wine cellar and the famous cheeses, and desserts are as good as they ever were.
Au Bascou has a new arrival in the shape of Chef Bertrand Gueneron who led the culinary team at the rather exalted Senderens restaurant across the city. The décor of Au Bascou is classic bistro, with old cartoons adorning the walls and a rather strange zinc bar. The menu has been completely revamped, many of the dishes created by the new chef himself. For instance, there is a warm fennel salad with prawns, a hearty chestnut soup and a flank of veal braised in carrots and oranges. Basque classics which the restaurant was famous for still exist and a visit to Au Bascou bistro is like making a trip to the French provinces.
Inaki Aizpitarte is the main man behind this stunning newly revamped bistro, it is cool, laid back and attracts both Parisian personalities and a very hip crowd. Le Chateaubriand is so popular that reservations must be made for dinner when the diner will be faced with a menu degustation which is a five-course meal. Firstly, there is amuse-bouche, then an entree, followed by fish and meat courses and all finished off with a choice of cheese or dessert. If you like your cooking avant-garde, then this is the place to go; think of it in terms of drinking oyster broth through a straw! We continue our culinary journey across Paris in part two of this series.