What do you call a Guide Michelin restaurant that breaks all the rules, but still manages to treat you like family, and consistently turn out gorgeous French food paired with beautiful wines and champagnes? You call it Mon Bistrot. And my husband, Leon, and I call it our favorite restaurant in Paris.
Mon Bistrot is owned by two remarkable men: Yann and Franck. Franck works the bar and the front of house. He’s a real sweetheart and is a lot of fun to hang out with, not to mention he pours some pretty great cognacs, armagnacs and calvados from behind that bar. Yann is the genius in the kitchen, creating beautiful food based on the French style, but with his own unique flair — every dish, a bit unexpected and fun. Since Yann has a young daughter, he doesn’t want to work on the weekends, so the restaurant is only open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday. They’re also closed the entire month of August so Yann can go on holiday with his family. Told you they pay no attention to the rules.
The waiters here pamper you within an inch of your life. (I won’t insult their level of attention by simply calling it “service.”) Julien and Etienne cater to your every need. They are both wonderful. And Marciel, the brilliant sommelier, is a charming flirt. Everything about this place is fancy but informal. It’s a wonderful contradiction.
Leon discovered this little gem through tripadvisor. (It’s one of our favorite resources for finding “the great and unusual” wherever we travel.) We were still living in Dallas at the time, but Leon had to travel to Paris every couple of weeks for work. Since he’s a real foodie at heart, he was looking for something extraordinary near his office. Boy, oh boy, did he find it.
The first time he took me here was about six weeks after his first visit, when I tagged along for one of his business trips. At that point, Leon had been here four times already. The second I walked in the door, Yann ran over to kiss me, saying, “Madame Leon! Madame Leon! We have the best table in the house just for you!” Thank goodness everyone falls in love with Leon the second they meet him. I was golden by association – even before I said hello.
That first night, when I was leaving, I was still confused about the whole French “kissing on the cheek” thing, so I asked Marciel, the sommelier, “I forget. When I am leaving, is it one kiss or two for goodbyes?” Without missing a beat, he very seriously replied, “Pour moi? Quatre!” Since then, every time I see Marciel or Julien (our favorite waiter) they get four kisses each. I forgot once, and Marciel was actually shocked and hurt. I can’t tell you how much we love these guys. They are just like everything else here, very elegant but at the same time, wonderfully friendly and welcoming. The interior design of the restaurant manages to walk that line perfectly as well.
It’s beautiful here. The walls are painted this dreamy, robin’s egg blue. There are massive, gilt-framed, art gallery originals lining the walls — vintage ads for liqueurs and absinthe; I lust after them every time we have dinner here. As if that weren’t enough, in one corner, there is a huge crystal vase simply packed with cherry blossoms. The flowers float across the ceiling in the corner of the dining room like a giant canopy of pink butterflies.
Dinner that first night was incredible, and to this day, every time we visit, we have a ball. The food is always special. Whether it’s lobster, smoked duck, risotto with grilled shrimp, or tuna tartar, everything here has Yann’s special magic. His menu changes constantly, but two dishes are ever-present. One is Leon’s favorite main course, and one is my favorite dessert. Let me tell you a little bit about them both and you can see why everyone raves about the food here.
We’ll start with Mon BIstrot’s famous steak called the “Johnny.” Yann flies all of his beef in from Argentina weekly, and the meat is so tender you would almost think the cows got spa treatments every day. The “Johnny” is a filet mignon, barely seared on one side, then covered with a mustard sauce to allow the rest of the steak to warm. This dish only comes one way — bleu. (“Bleu” means practically raw but warm.) You cannot order it medium, or even rare. It is ALWAYS served bleu. (I truly believe you could get this steak up and walking if you had to, so it’s not for the faint of heart.) Leon gets the Johnny almost every time we visit, and he always recommends it to friends. Once they’ve tried it, they’re totally hooked.
My favorite dish is, of course, a dessert, Yann’s deconstructed lemon tart. It’s served in a beautiful, three-tier, crystal dish that looks sort of like a glass Christmas tree. The top tier holds a toasted, marshmallow-y meringue. The homemade crumble lies in the tier below that. And in the largest crystal bowl on the bottom is the silky, tangy, sweet, lemon crème. It’s served with a long wooden spoon which you draw through the meringue first, coating the spoon thoroughly. Then you swish that through the homemade crumble (which stays on the spoon thanks to the sticky meringue). Finally you scoop up the lemon crème. Once all three components are loaded onto your spoon, you get a bite of one of the most special desserts you can imagine. In each spoonful you get cool and warm, sweet and tart, creamy and crunchy. In short, it’s perfect.
And it’s not just these two dishes that blow everyone away. It’s the unexpected way that Yann puts everything together: fresh popcorn in a chilled, zucchini soup, veal carpaccio with fava beans, grilled polenta and smoked duck, glazed with a balsamic reduction. The dishes are all delicious, and they are so beautiful that they look like art on a plate. We have brought all sorts of people here, and whenever we bring a new group, Mon Bistrot becomes one of their favorite places in Paris too. The food is that good, the wines are that beautiful and the people are that special.
One time last year, we had brought two friends to join us for dinner. We had a table for four in the corner, and at the other end of the dining room, there was a party of about 12 people. Throughout the night, we noticed that the restaurant and bar were completely full, but the table for two right next to us was always empty. At the end of the night I asked Julien about it. He said, “Ah yes. Well, Yann didn’t want you all to feel crowded, so he told us not to seat anyone there for the evening. We turned away about 26 people tonight.” That’s the kind of thing that make this place so extraordinary. That’s why people keep coming back over and over — because they make you feel cared for, like family.
From Leon’s first visit, Mon Bistrot has been our favorite place in the city to bring friends, family, business associates, even neighbors. Everybody we can possibly bring, we have brought. When we found out a couple of friends of ours were coming to Paris for their honeymoon, we knew we had to give them a wedding dinner here, complete with free-flowing champagne. The guys here really know how to pull out all the stops.
Everyone we know in Dallas already loves the place, whether or not they’ve been to Mon Bistrot themselves. They love it just from the all the stories they’ve heard about how lovely these men are. It’s like going to a Michelin star restaurant that just so happens to be owned by your crazy-funny family. Serious food, but lots of laughter and irrepressible joy.
The next time you’re in Paris, stop by and tell them Leon and Grace sent you. You’ll be glad you did!
To read more about Mon Bistrot, or even see a video of Yann making the “Johnny” for the local news, check out their website. http://www.mon-bistrot.fr
4 thoughts on “The Best Restaurant in Paris – Mon Bistrot”
I can almost taste the lemon on the end of my tongue right now! I’ll bring my spoon if you bring one of these home with you to Texas in July!!
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We’ll try, but it might be tricky!
Nice! Only 49 more to go… http://www.cntraveler.com/galleries/2015-02-19/the-50-best-restaurants-in-paris
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