duck magret with melon slices
Here, bistrots are everywhere--uh, obviously!? It is a very common type of French dining dating back to 19th century which initially started as a wine and jambon beurre (ham and butter in a baguette) joint for the workers. Perhaps it's safe to say that it is like how ihaw-ihaw(or a Chicken House) is to us, Pinoys.
To give a brief history, bistrot was coined from the Russian word bystro, meaning "quickly", during Russia's invasion of Paris in 1815 and naturally, its restaurants, too. Another theory just as apt is from the French word bistrouille which is brandy mixed with coffee. Both sound correct to me but there is much more to highlight than just its rapid service and loyal coffee-drinkers. Especially nowadays where we have bistrots owned by former sous-chefs of Michelin star restaurants producing fine gastronomique quality food for less than 40€! And it is these type of bistrots that I remain loyal to any day over those fancy, trendy restaurants offering stiff dining experiences.
at Swann et Vincent, my first date with the hub
Bottom line, I enjoy its cozy, casual and almost rustic setting. I mean who wouldn't want to feel as if they are back home in their mom's country-style kitchen for a Sunday lunch?
I relish the first moment of entering a bistrot in France. Its space is perfectly small; the wooden tables are arranged close together that it could pass as a communal dinner party; there is a friendly noise of chatter among the diners that pretty much replaces the house music; the nearly tipsy state of the guests rubs off a Friday-evening feel to the restaurant's ambiance and the best is the lingering aroma of long-cooked stews infused with melted butter and fresh-baked bread. Aaahhh, incroyable (incredible)!
a typical bistrot set-up
Needless to say, the food plays the starring role in a bistrot spectacular. It is comforting, hearty and has subtle touches of innovation with its presentation and choice of ingredients in season.
an unforgettable goat cheese salad with artichokes
Autumn parmentier of lamb confit
chevre salad with bacon
another goat cheese salad with strawberry dressing
Usually, they ask if you would like to have an apéritif (cocktail, alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink) while either waiting for your table and/or menu ( la carte) or menu chalkboard .
One time, my husband was, for some reason(or not), in celebratory mode and ordered absinthe: the potent, classic way. Towards the end of our meal with the help of a bottle of wine, his brain was almost ab-sent. Moderation is key, readers!
order wines from the region you are visiting: a bottle from Vierzon, Centre region of France
In most bistrots, it is also a custom to serve pica-pica like olives or plainly, bread, before ordering. The French also like their formule , our version of 'combo meals', which is an order of either an entree+main or main+dessert or sometimes, all 3 for a bargain price. Lunch formule could be from 18-25€ while dinner is approximately 30-40€.
French-Basque entrées at our favorite bistrot, Le Troquet, located in the 15th arr
Summer Pot-au-feu beef stew with truffles
coeur de filet de beef sur charlotte de potatoes
Also, they have the degustation which serves you 6 different plates (or less) for 40€; the endpoint being--stuff yourself good! Lord, we did this before and had to refuse the 6th plate --dessert--because it was too much for our over-bloated stomachs.
Vanilla macaron strawberries gariguette
Surprised with our refusal, the servers with great concern had to clarify if there was a problem with their food. Ha, ha. Moderation, where were you?
Finally, bistrots are reasonably priced considering the quality of service and food that goes along with it.
So if you are a bistrot-lover like me, please do me the favor of sharing some of your favorites as I would love to try them out one day. Whether it is in Manila, Paris, New York or elsewhere, trust that I will always stay true to them, bistros, and be its #1 diner (together with my husband).
- Tap water is potable so don't be ashamed to ask for une carafe d'eau (pitcher of water)
- Always check if they accept your credit card (normally VISA, hardly American Express)
- Reserve in advance as bistrots, especially the good ones, are always full!
- Tips are not a mandatory % like in the US so leave the amount you wish. If we are satisfied with the overall meal and service, my husband and I like to give 2-3 euros. To each his own.
- For a listing of top bistrots in Paris, check out this link (le top 5 des meilleurs bistrots parisiens). Our all-time favorite, Le Troquet, lands in the #1 spot.
- To locate your bistrot via Google Maps, click on my entry "Locate a spot in Paris now!" and you will get directions in a snap.