Josiah Citrin, chef and owner of L.A.’s two-Michelin star restaurant Mélisse, finds constant creativity in the restaurants and chefs of France. After graduating from high school, Citrin moved to Paris for three years to pursue a culinary career. “It’s always a special experience going back there now and eating the food that inspired me as a young cook and continues to inspire me today,” he says. Paris is always abuzz with new restaurant openings and hot new chefs, but Citrin finds the city’s stalwarts to be just as exciting. Here, he shares where to eat in Paris and France’s gastronomic capital, Lyon.
Passage 53 , Paris
“In November of 2012, the owner of Passage 53, Guillaume, and his and entire team came to cook with us at Mélisse. The team prepared a special menu for me. A few of the highlights included the abalone with sauce made from its liver, turbot with seaweed and cabbage, and the Bresse chicken with Perigord truffles. Bresse chicken is widely considered to be the finest chicken in the world. They’re raised in the region of Bresse, France. The chicken’s diet of bugs, leaves, and seeds from the land give it a great flavor. It is finished by being fattened on grain and buttermilk-soaked corn, which creates a richly flavored flesh with succulent fat. The chicken definitely lived up to its hype.”
53 Passage des Panoramas
Scallops at Bistro Paul Bert (photo by Josiah Citrin)
Le Bistrot Paul Bert, Paris
“Le Bistrot Paul Bert has the reputation of being one of the best bistros in Paris. It is one of those special places where when you walk in and you instantly feel at home and know you’re going to have a good time. The servers are friendly and knowledgeable. I had beautiful scallops seared with seasonal vegetables that were all individually cooked to perfection. The sauce that came with the dish was made out of the roe of the scallops.”
18 Rue Paul Bert
L’Ami Louis, Paris
“L’Ami Louis has been around since the 1920s and is considered a Parisian staple. It is one of those truly classic French bistros where you feel the history pouring out of the walls as soon as you walk in. I have been wanting to eat here for a long time; in fact, I contacted them to get their recipes when I prepared meals for one of my client’s 40th and 50th birthdays. L’Ami Louis has kept its standards high and has continually produced a great atmosphere with great service and great food. I had the côte de bœuf with parsley butter, cooked rare. It had the flavor of grass-fed beef that you only get in France. I also had the potato galette with garlic and parsley. The potatogalette was cooked in goose fat, so it was crispy on the outside and had a melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness on the inside. The raw parsley and garlic added the perfect touch of spice and herbaceous notes.”
32 Rue du Vertbois
Georges Blanc, Vonnas
“It was an honor to meet one of my chef idols, three-star chef Georges Blanc. He’s the original celebrity chef—the man who took chefs out of the kitchen and made the job glamorous. I’ve admired him since my first apprenticeship in Paris. His modern, minimalist approach to cooking at the time was an inspiration to a young, up-and-coming chef like me. His restaurant is in the small town of Vonnas, just outside Lyon. Lyon has turned out an incredible number of talented chefs.
L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or
“This was my first time dining at Paul Bocuse’s restaurant, and it was by far the highlight of my trip. Walking into Bocuse for the first time was like stepping back in time to the 1970s. The food was perfect and the service impeccable. I had to try Bocuse’s famous truffle soup VGE, the initials of French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, for whom the dish was first made in 1975. My favorite dish of the evening was the loup de mer en croute. It was classic, delicious and perfectly executed.”
Want more? Check out our guide for eating like a local in Paris!