Restaurant Caillebotte in the 9th

Unpretentious, with friendly staff, smiling cooks in an open kitchen, and daily specials with delightful surprises, restaurant Caillebotte is a welcome addition to a neighborhood that’s already a food lover’s delight.

We arrived for lunch on a rainy afternoon after a stroll down the nearby market street, rue des Martyrs. Our appetites were already stimulated by rotisserie chicken sputtering on the sidewalk, and Sebastian Gaudard’s tarte au citron and almond croissants (reportedly the best in Paris).

A smiling hostess seated us just inside the front door, at a square marble-topped table the color of clouds. We looked out on a group of 20-somethings from a nearby office, middle aged regulars on stools at the counter, and three cooks in an open stainless steel kitchen whipping emulsions with hand blenders and sending out copious starters and plats.

The menu offered modern takes on French comfort food: velouté de potiron with potato-comté gnocchi; parmesan risotto with Brittany shrimp and chorizo; milk-fed pork; roasted duck; lotte meunière with bacon et pain brulé.

We started with ravioles de légumes in pot au feu, an aromatic broth that demanded sopping with freshly cut bread. A few greens atop the large, tender pasta brought a freshness, color and crunch to a dish that otherwise had me imagining a fragrant, long-simmering stew on a winter day in a village in the Alps.

Everyone around us ordered the plat du jour, and we took our cue from the crowd. To be honest, the formule encourages this, as the plat du jour with starter or dessert is just 19€, and mains à la carte start at 21€.

Our poached chicken with hand-cut veggie chips and parsnip purée (the last infused with white chocolate!) was light and luscious at the same time. Served in a shallow white bowl, it was a splendid combination of flavor and texture. The chicken was melt-in-your-mouth tender, the chips, made from beets and sweet potatoes, satisfying. The white chocolate added richness to the parsnips without making them sweet.

8 Rue Hippolyte Lebas, 9th, no website. Closed on weekends, reservations suggested, +33 1 53 20 88 70

Paris for Fashionistas – “Impressionisme et la Mode” at Musée d’Orsay

Impressionisme et la Mode” at Musée d’Orsay is a multifaceted show, featuring paintings by Manet, Monet, Caillebotte and other Impressionist painters; beautifully conserved 19th century dresses from Musée Galliera; photographs and lithographs from Paris department stores; and, to fully recreate the fashion world of the late 1800s, chairs marked with names as if for a fashion show, and quotes from Zola and Baudelaire.

Seen in this context, paintings like Manet’s “La Dame à l’Eventail” and “Le Balcon” take on new life. Works by women artists Berthe Morisot, Camille Corot, Eva Gonzoles, and Mary Cassatt lend female perspectives to the period and the dress. Men’s fashions are treated, too, with works such as Caillebotte’s wonderful “Au Café” and Fantin Latour’s “Un Atelier aux Batignolles”.

The collection brings together custom, culture, fashion and art. It renders the world of the Impressionists not just visible, but sensorial, experiential.

Afterward, shop the excellent museum bookstore for books on fashion through time, mother-of-pearl buttons, and hats by contemporary milliner Marie Mercie. Until Jan 20, 2013.

Paris in the Time of the Impressionists at Hôtel de Ville

If you like history, you’ll love Paris au Temps des Impressionistes (Paris in the time of the Impressionists) at Hôtel de Ville – an eyewitness account of the changes taking place in Paris between 1850 and 1914.

Works by Caillebotte, Cezanne, Fantin-Latour and Gaugin, among others, show the transformation of Paris streets under Haussmann. We see the city’s early boulevards, public gardens, grands magasins, and apartment buildings, as well as studies, maps, photographs, and architectural drawings and maquettes from the time.

While there is plenty of beauty on show (my favorite is Caillebotte’s view of Paris rooftops in snow), the show doesn’t shy away from the political difficulties of the period. Particularly moving, and in stark contrast to the depiction of the gas-lit ginguettes and opulence of the then-new Opéra Garnier, are works depicting the Commune of 1871.

See a video of the show with French commentary.

The show is free, and on display until July 23, 2011; closed Sundays and holidays.