Postcard From Tom: Paris
Despite a weak U.S. dollar, you can still eat well without breaking the bank in Paris. These three destinations serve as delicious proof.
CHEZ MICHEL (10 Rue de Belzunce, 10th arrondissement; 011-33-1-44-53-06-20)
A visitor doesn't come here for the location (near the Gare du Nord) or ambience (the room is plain, crowded and noisy). At Chez Michel, it's all about the food. More specifically, it's about the flavors of Brittany, where chef Thierry Breton, one of Paris's young culinary stars, was raised. Focus on dishes featuring lobster, pork or crepes. The excellent ingredients are arranged with flair, just as you might expect of someone who trained at the Ritz and cooked for a French president. Pre-fixe dinner (three courses) about $40.
LADUREE (16 Rue Royale, 8th; 011-33-1-42-60-21-79)
Use your eyes to order at Laduree, the gilded tea salon that is home to what might be the best croissants in Paris, but also to elegant finger sandwiches and fetching desserts. The goods, not all of which are on the printed menu, are on display behind glass near the door. Laduree has three other locations around Paris; I prefer this, the romantic 19th-century original. Pastries $6.75-$9.25.
LE CAFE DU PASSAGE (12 Rue de Charonne, 11th; 011-33-1-49-29-97-64)
"I don't have plans for dinner tonight," I told the sommelier during lunch at the grandly formal Taillevant. "Where should I go?" He steered me to an intimate wine bar in the Bastille district, run by a collector who clearly loves his field, pouring whatever treasure he's just found and honoring his wine-making chums by hanging their portraits on the walls. The kitchen's small plates -- garlicky sausage over lentils, creamy tripe and potato stew -- are simple and satisfying, and include a fine cheese plate to accompany the extensive wine list. Unwinding in what feels like a living room, where jazz plays and grape lovers gather, I am grateful for the tip. Small plates $8-$18.50.