Chef Ken Oringer’s flaghship Boston restaurant Clio reopened this week after a month-long “facelift.” The French restaurant lost some of its classic bistro feel and the result is comfortable and informal, “like eating in someone’s living room,” he says. Oringer’s recent trip to Paris influenced quite a few of the changes. “My wife used to live in Paris so we try to get back with our two kids at least once a year. We want them to grow up speaking French and understanding why we love France.” Oringer loves exploring offbeat neighborhoods like Belleville that are very blue collar and ethnic. Here, he shares highlights from his trip.
“I can’t sit through heavy, four-hour French lunches any more,” says Oringer. “I look for funkier ethnic restaurants that offer lighter food. The woman cooking at this bistro in Belleville turns out very simple Middle Eastern-inspired dishes like roasted artichoke with a verjus, walnuts and wild herbs. I like to drink the more esoteric wines of the Loire and Rhone and the chef’s husband has put together a very interesting natural wine list for the restaurant.” 3 rue Jouye Rouve, 20e, Ménilmontant, 33/01-43-49-3970
“This restaurant is very well known now but I’ve been going since they opened in Belleville. I just love the whole idea behind the place. I find it very inspiring and that’s the direction Clio is moving. We want to serve great food but not take ourselves too seriously. The atmosphere should be fun, relaxed. The chef, Inaki Aizpitarte, has no rules. He just cooks amazing food and serves it in a bistro-type dining room in a working class neighborhood and he isn’t charging a lot of money. He offers a pre-fixe menu, which I love. You want a chef to take charge and say the menu is the menu and you have to try things and come out of your comfort level. I love that attitude.” 125 rue de Tocqueville, 33/01-47-63-9690, lechateaubriand.fr
“This restaurant in the Les Halles neighborhood is run by a phenomenal female chef who cooked for quite some time in China and other parts of Asia before she came back to Paris. She’s cooking very light, innovative French cuisine and using lots of Asian ingredients. I had a dish of foie gras with daikon, radish, bonito, and dashi. You would have never seen this in Paris years ago. The restaurant is tiny, just 40 seats and only three people in the kitchen.” 4 rue Sauval, 33/01-40-26-0807
“You would never expect to see a restaurant in this old-school, indoor shopping arcade. There are only 40 or so seats and the Japanese chef, Shinichi Sato, has worked at a handful of Michelin three star restaurants. His partner in the restaurant is one of the top butchers in all of France. This place isn’t a hole in the wall. There are white tablecloths, but the service is relaxed, not stuffy. The chef is taking a lot of risks and being creative with amazing product and serving preparations like veal tartare with oysters. And the price is very reasonable. He is serving proper two-star Michelin food and charging less.” 53 Passage des Panoramas, 33/ 01-42-33-0435, passage53.com