“Table for two?” I asked, hopeful. The answer felt like a prison sentence, “More than forty minutes’ wait!”
My companion and I were not trying to crash Brasserie Lipp or L’Arpège on this freezing Tuesday night in Paris earlier this month. We had snaked our way to the head of the line at Chez Omar, the Algerian restaurant on rue de Bretagne that’s rumored to serve the best couscous méchoui in town. We vowed to come back at lunch time and soon found ourselves in a shorter line at Goku Asian Canteen, where we feasted on edamame, perfectly crunchy sweet potato fries and springy pad Thai.
Paris in 2023 seems to have awakened from a long Covid-induced nap. At every hour of the day, even on Sundays when most eateries used to shutter, Parisians crowd small ethnic eateries, eager to munch on an array of small dishes they share happily.
To take the pulse of the City, we spoke with Wendy Lyn, owner of the Paris is my Kitchen blog, a producer, journalist, and podcaster who’s lived in Paris for more than twenty years and offers insiders food and wine tours. Here are the trends she envisions for 2023.
1. Backlash: Paris is in the throes of a massive backlash from Emily in Paris. Parisians want travelers to know there’s more to their town than the cliche steak-frites, croissants and macarons. They are exiting the Emily bubble and craving much more than French food. At the same time, ethnic street food is landing in brick-and-mortar establishments around the city.
2. Collaborations: French chefs used to dream about the New World, but it seems the tide is reversed. Way beyond pop-ups, Paris is attracting young chefs from Mexico City, Nashville, and even New York for long-term collaborations. A great example of this is the old world meets new world at Bistrot Tontine, a collaboration between Bistrot Paul Bert & Julien Dô Lê Pham.
3. Community: While seasonal, fresh ingredients still make up the basis of the menu, what attracts diners are lively spaces where the soundtrack is a combination of community, music and creative fare. There’s no better example of this evolution than Michael “Mika” Grossman’s counter-seating Les Enfants du Marché tucked into a back corner of the Marché des Enfants Rouges in the Marais. “It’s like a Jimmy Buffett concert meets restaurant meets wine bar meets beach party.”
4. No Reservations: True, traditional eateries still enforce reservations, but the new hopping spaces simply don’t bother. Paris has become a first-come, first-served scene, often offering standing-room only for top ingredients just brought in from fishermen and farmers that very morning. A 440-pound tuna landed behind the counter at Les Enfants recently during lunch!
5. Signature Dishes: Whereas chefs used to bemoan diners for ordering the same dishes over and over again, they are now touting—thanks to Instagram no doubt—their signature fare: Aloyau de boeuf au poivre de Sarawak at Bistrot Paul Bert, chou farci au Café des Ministères after Jean Sévègne took first prize at the National Chou Farci competition; Fluffy pizzette by Florent Ciccoli at Café du Coin.
6. Cocktail bar food: Dinner at wine bars has been trending for a while, but cocktail bar owners now offer restaurant-level dishes. At Bar Principal, co-owner Chef Lucas Baur de Campos (known for Brutos, his Brazilian steakhouse nearby) offers a grilled sausage de Toulouse with potato mille-feuilles or his version of croque-monsieur, the croque de la mort with trompettes de la mort mushrooms and aged comté cheese.
7. Exodus: Several young chefs are leaving the city to create their own farms, grow their own food, and open their first restaurants: James Henry (Au Passage, Bones) and Shaun Kelly (Yard) have opened Le Doyenné, a guesthouse and restaurant an hour south of Paris. Edward Delling- Williams now runs Le Presbytère in Normandy.
8. Left Bank: After feeling like a deserted area during Covid, the left bank is finally poised for a renaissance and several eateries are planning to settle there in 2023. Stay tuned!