Number 18 on the World’s 50 best restaurants, Le Chateaubriand is one of the most talked-about places in Paris. Seemingly in opposition to the white tableclothed, Michelin starred, exceptionally formal Parisian restaurant of the past, chef Iñaki Aizpitarte serves a fresh, creative, casual, and relatively straightforward take on French cuisine. There are two seatings each night. The first is reservations only. The second is walk-ins only. If going to the second seating, show up at 9:15 for the 9:30 seating. Beforehand, you can grab a glass of nice French wine at a small wine shop, La Cave du Daron.
walking down the street, Le Chateaubriand is pretty easy to miss
Julian: After experiencing a few overly formal restaurants on this trip whose food was not all that impressive, I didn’t really feel like dropping 100 euros on another place that would scoff at the way I sipped my wine or the way I held my fork. So in Paris, even though the whole Michelin thing started here, I had no need to go to a classic French high-end place. But Le Chateaubriand, which seems to intentionally not have any Michelin stars, really intrigued me.
Jesse: We had a bit of misinformation (thank you, tripadvisor), that you had to line up at 7:30pm to be able to get a seat (without reservations) at Le Chateaubriand, so when we walked up at 7:25pm there was no line, just half of the staff casually smoking cigarettes and poking at their smartphones waiting for the first seating to begin. The server looked at us curiously when we asked him if we could put our names down for the second seating, (*in a french accent) “people, aah, don’t line up until, ah, 10 or 5 minutes before 9:30.” We felt a little bit silly, but took our extra 2 hours to explore the “trendy-area” around the restaurant, and got to plop down at a fun little wine bar for some pre-dinner drinks.
Julian: By the time 9:30 rolled around, both of us were hungry for a really awesome meal. Upon walking into the bistro, I was struck by how regular the whole place was; not only were they not trying to be a Michelin-type place, they also were rejecting many of the super hip design elements that we’ve been seeing all over the place. They were fine with what they were: a run-of-the-mill bistro. But serving some of the best food and wines in Paris.
Jesse: When the second service starts, they bring in 8 or so customers to stand at a bar where they give you the wine list. After about a 15 minute wait, we were seated in the back corner, which gave us a nice view of the whole restaurant.
Julian: The restaurant itself is small–probably around 50 seats in total. There is only one menu offered each night, which consists of 4 small appetizer courses, three larger main courses, and dessert or cheese. I guess this could be a turn-off to some people, but I’m finding I prefer to be told what I should eat fr dinner. I’d say of the amuse bouches (first courses), my favorite was the red mullet ceviche. It was basically a tiny bowl of chilled soup with a cube or raw mullet at the bottom, topped with cilantro blossoms. Because our server thought we spoke French, we couldn’t understand the course descriptions for the first half of the meal. So I don’t even know what the chilled soup aspect of that dish was. But it was really refreshing and texturally kind of fun with the fish.
Jesse: My favorite amuse bouche was a plate of small fried prawns, shell and all. Perfectly crisp, with a light batter and thin shells that weren’t a bother to munch up (I usually don’t like eating the shell), they were fun to eat. The waits between plates weren’t timed perfectly. They seemed to just plate as many of the same thing as they could at once, which resulted in some people getting a dish a couple seconds after they finished a course, and some waiting 15 minutes. It wasn’t super bothersome, just another sign they were doing things their own way, even if it might not be the best, or the trendiest way.
not sure if ceviche is the best name for this, but it was good
Julian: Ah yes, I change my mind. Those prawns were also my favorite amuse. And the seasoning the used on them tasted like Cool Ranch Doritos. Brought me back to middle school! Jesse also got a glass of potentially the most interesting wine we’ve had on the trip. It was a Georgian (the country) wine from Pheasant’s Tears winery. The only way I can think to describe the wine would be to say it tasted feminine. Not sure if that makes sense, but it probably was the most womanly thing I’ve ever tasted. In a good way, I think.
cool ranch shrimp and some good bread
Jesse: What Julian is trying to say, tactfully, is that the wine smelled like freshly cleaned lady parts. Not in a bad way, not in a fishy way, but in a powder-room-slammed-into-a-Venus commercial-model’s-fun-parts sort of way. Another dish worth noting is the sea bream and chanterelle main course. Stabbing the fish with my fork I thought it may have been overcooked, but upon more careful inspection, with my mouth, I found the crisp flavorful skin and a tender meat to be texturally satisfying. Topped with a lemon butter foam and chanterelles, it was simple and delicious.
Julian: For dessert we got a cherry ice cream with fired capers. Which was just weird. But our post-dessert dessert was great. It was a caramelized egg yolk dried in sugar, on top of a mini biscuit, with cookie crumbs. That was served with perfectly ripe strawberries with anise seed. A great way to finish the meal.
bustling at 11pm
Overall, we left Le Chateaubriand in good spirits. Although they are doing things their own way, they don’t have an obnoxious holier-than-thou attitude. And their food is unique, fresh, and a refreshing change from so many of the places that insist on putting 30 different components on a plate, none of which are simply prepared. I don’t know if I’d say it should be ranked number 18 in the world, but it was pretty darn good.