French food is famous. Many dishes are typically thought of as “fancy” — caviar and escargot, for example. Other dishes have made their way into worldwide cuisine — souffle, quiche, crepes, the list goes on.
For our first time in France, we wanted to sample as many traditional French dishes as we could find. Here are the results.
An important note on Paris dining: sitting down to eat at a restaurant will be much more expensive than taking your food to go. This is because the service charge is included when you dine in. Some restaurants will post both sets of prices; others may not. Pay close attention if price is a consideration.
I have always loved crêpes. They’re like pancakes but so much lighter! So much less… bready! (That’s the Asian in me, I think). I was excited to see what they would be like in their birth place.
We tried various kinds. First, the crêpe de marron (chestnut) from Resto Louvre, which was delicious and actually fairly affordable at 4.90EUR, considering its location by Pont Neuf and the Seine. We also tried a generic Nutella crêpe (not pictured) at a pretty horrible restaurant, Cafe des Phares in Bastille — incredibly slow service, topped with never actually getting half our order. And finally from the Crêperie Chez Suzette, the eponymous Crêpe Suzette: caramelized sugar, butter, a little orange, and some Grand Marnier to round it up. Look for the distinctive blue façade.
Ahh, these were amazing. We tried them at a lovely restaurant, Cafe du Marche on Rue Cler. By the way, Rue Cler is a famous open market street in Paris, so definitely visit if only to experience the atmosphere. There are various eateries along this road, so pick what attracts you best.
Back to the profiteroles. They are basically cream puffs. A light flaky dough filled with custard, covered with delicious melted chocolate, and then topped with a dollop of whipped cream. Rich, great for sharing.
This was our dessert; we also had penne with truffle sauce, which was amazing, and chicken paillard (basically grilled chicken), which was just OK.
Duck confit and cassoulet
Duck confit is a leg of duck, cured and cooked in its own fat. Cassoulet is a slow-cooked casserole with meat, sausages, and white beans. Of the two, I’d recommend the duck confit, at least at Le Campanella. There was a lot more flavor (if a tad salty, but again it’s salt-cured and that’s what the potatoes are for) and it was slightly less rich than the cassoulet, though it was of course rather fatty.
French onion soup
Yet another classic French dish, and I found that the versions I’ve had in the US and even the Philippines are not too far off the Parisian kind. Then again, it’s basically just stock, caramelized onions, and some croutons and cheese on the top — you can hardly go wrong. The best part is that cheese is just different (and better!) in France.
Perhaps the French dessert. Custard topped with a crunchy caramelized sugar crust. This is widely served in French and fusion restaurants all over the world, so I wanted to see how it was different in France.
Turns out, not so much. But it’s the small differences, like how the crust was the perfect depth and just thin enough to break with a light tap of the spoon. Or how the custard was creamier, but not too watery, and certainly not lumpy in any spots.
This is a must-try in Paris, because, well, it’s crème brûlée!
Besides the dishes pictured above, we also had the fortune to try chicken vol-au-vent and beef bourguignon, both of which are actually our favorite French dishes. No pictures because they got scarfed down too fast, but I strongly recommend trying them!
Sadly, this was all the food we got to try on this trip — of course not mentioning the delicious breakfast croissants and rolls that we would buy on the street. And by the way, if I were to absolutely adore bread, it’s France and Italy that I would have to thank. Bread in these areas is just astonishingly delightful even in its simplicity.
There is so much more to French cooking that I would like to try, so I’m saving a list for my next trip to France. Any suggestions? Let me know!