C’est confidentiel – my list of small bistros, quirky wine bars, romantic boites, and tiny food shops

Funny to come across some of MY confidential list of favorite neighborhood places printed up in the Bon Appetit magazine. This is only for friends who truly appreciate these little finds. So, friends, here is my current list. But please, keep it to yourselves. C’est confidentiel.

SUPERB SPECIALTY SHOPS

Pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki (literally a stone throw from our apartment
Sadaharu Aoki’s talent is huge, but his pristine white shop is the size of a cream puff (he has two other locations in Paris; this is my favorite branch). Sada, a hero in his native Japan, is one of the most creative pastry chefs working in Paris, where he was trained. While his black sesame éclairs rightly have a cult following, I can’t get enough of the Bamboo, a slender chocolate cake with a green tea filling. Ditto the Brooklyn, an über-classy cheesecake.
35 rue de Vaugirard, 6th; 011-33-1-45-44-48-90; sadaharuaoki.com

Da Rosa Épicerie-Cantine
When José Da Rosa set up shop five years ago, I couldn’t believe my luck. At last, we ordinary mortals could buy the same Spanish hams, mustards, and fine oils that Michelin chefs trusted him to supply. Now life is even sweeter — there’s the cantine, where we can nibble foie gras, great cheeses, a few hot dishes (try the risotto), and wines, too. And don’t leave without a sack of chocolate-coated Sauternes-soaked raisins. I’d call them Raisinets, but they’re in their own universe of wonderfulness.
62 rue de Seine, 6th; 011-33-1-40-51-00-09

Pierre Hermé
Pierre Hermé is widely considered the greatest pastry chef in the world, and has some of the most interesting chocolate in town. Mostly, his shoe box jewel of a store on Rue Bonaparte is exquisite and has people lined up around the corner at all hours. His chocolate provoke, and though his provocations don’t always hit the mark, his work is always interesting. The combination of lavender and Chinese tea, chocolate with yuzu, the fragrant Japanese citrus, make it always an interesting event to experience his brand of gourmandise.
72, rue de Bonaparte, 6th; 011-33-1-43-54-47-77, www.pierreherme.com

Christian Constant
37 rue d’Assas, 6th; 011-33-1-53-63-15-15
Another place in the neighborhood, and not to be confused with the chef of Violon d’Ingres. This is the chocolate shop. Opened in 1970, Christian Constant sells some of Paris’s most delectable chocolates by the kilo. Each is a blend of ingredients from Ecuador, Colombia, or Venezuela, usually mingled with scents of spices and flowers like orange blossoms, jasmine, the Asian blossom ylang, and vetiver and verveine (herbs usually used to brew tea).

Mariage Freres Salon de Thé
13, Rue Grands Augustins, 6th; 011-33-1-40-51-82-50
My all time favourite place to spend time in the neighborhood. Actually, in Paris. Sitting and sipping tea at this jewel box of a tea salon, along with a Comptoir du Thé where its virtually a museum to the art of tea. It’s hidden in an alley way, tucked in a wonderful section of our neighborhood. This elegant salon de thé serves 500 kinds of tea, along with delicious tarts and cakes. In the upstairs salon, you’re transported back to a Chinese pagoda environ, with waiters dressed in elegant Chinoise uniform with beautiful Mandarin chairs and decor. On the main floor, one feels like you’ve stepped into a Chinese tea master’s apothecary with floor to ceiling tea cans and glass cases showcasing the most beautiful iron teapots and accoutrements for sale. They have another Salon in the Marais. www.mariagefreres.com

LADURÉE
21 rue Bonaparte, Paris, 6th; 33 (0)1 44 07 64 87
They say the history of Parisian tea salons is intimately tied to the history of the Ladurée family. Well, this Salon was reinvented in 1997, though you think it’s been there for centuries. This is my daughter’s favorite afternoon treat. The place is so special. They invented macaroons. Pistachio, Rose, Orange Blossoms, Lemon, Mint, in addition to the traditional Chocolate, Vanilla, Raspberry and so forth. The menu goes on for 24 pages with Petit Dejeuner, Salades, Les Viennoiserie, et al. The salon is exquisitely decorated to transport you back to some kinds of an exotic, exquisite luxurious, Oriental tent atmosphere, with requisite tromp l’oeil paintings of wild animals and flora. www.laduree.fr

STLYISH BARS, PERFECT BISTROS, GORGEOUS RESTAURANT

The Restaurant at L’Hotel
L’Hotel, where Oscar Wilde died “above his means,” is one of the coziest settings in Paris. Enter, walk past the small sitting room and the intimate bar, and you’ll reach the restaurant, formerly known as Le Bélier, which is like a luxurious salon, with silks, swags, sofas, and throw pillows, a setting so relaxing it clears your mind of everything but thoughts of a fine meal — which you’ll get here. The food is modern, refined, and beautifully presented (you must have the chocolate dessert plate), and the service cossets as much as all those pillows.
13 rue des Beaux-Arts, 6th; 011-33-1-44-41-99-00; l-hotel.com

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