There are plenty of terrific bistros in Paris – believe me I know, I have been to many of them. However, time after time, I return to what I consider the perfect bistro experience – Chez Georges in the 2nd arrondissment, on 1 Rue du Mail – right off Place de la Victoire.
There are certain requirements I expect when I eat out at a Paris bistro – it has to be crowded, elbow to elbow tables so that you are at once having your own meal, but at the same time sharing the same experience with everyone in the place. In many restaurant guides there is always an admonishment – “beware, tables are very close together…”. Hell yes, that’s the way it’s supposed to be, right? Ask Bourdain, he knows…
Chez George is on a small street, Rue du Mail, right behind Place de La Victoire in the 2nd District of Paris. As soon as you walk in, you know you are in for a true Parisian experience. The room is long and narrow, with tables lining mirrored walls, snuggly one next to the other. You are greeted with a smile, courteously, though expeditiously escorted to your table and left to yourself to enjoy the cacophony of chatter and laughter that permeates the room. Everyone around you is there to enjoy the food and the terrific ambience.
The menu selections are scribbled on a paper menu, seasonal selections always prominent mixed in with regular staples such as Terrine de Foie de Volaille (Liver Terrine), Foie Gras D’Oie (Duck Pate) or one of my favorites Salade de Lentilles (Lentil Salad) which is the most delicious combination of lentils cooked to perfection with minced carrots, shallots and a mouth watering vinaigrette. There are plenty of other appetizer selections that are typical bistro fare, so if you want your escargots, they have that too.
Main courses follow the same classic bistro repertoire – Steak au Poivre, Ris de Veau (Sweetbreads), Coqilles St. Jacques or a selection of grilled fish, Sole or Turbot, with vegetables and boiled potatoes. The way I order, if I have a rich appetizer, like Foie Gras, I go with the grilled fish as a main. If I start with the lentils, then the Steak au Poivre (Steak with a Cognac Pepper Sauce) is unforgettable. All this, washed down with a good bottle of Bordeaux from Chez George’s limited but excellent wine list.
To finish – more classics. Baba Au Rum, delicious bundles of Genoise Cake literally soaked in more rum than your system is able to handle after a full meal – but oh so delightful. Sinful Profiteroles filled with silky ice cream and covered with a blanket of smooth, dark, delicious chocolate sauce.
The overall experience is blissful, unrushed, seductive and delicious – just like any good meal in Paris should be. Though I always vow to try new places every time I return to Paris, I inevitably and joyously come back to Chez George for the quintessential bistro experience.
1 Rue Du Mail
Closed Saturday and Sunday