Restaurant Les Chouettes in the Marais

At first glance, Les Chouettes is a small café in the Haut Marais, where locals gather at dark round tables and watch the world go by. Perched at the edge of a square, with a white awning and slim terrasse, the place looks casual, even ordinary.

But inside is a chic, luminous space with 3 floors of seating, and a limited menu that deserves a rave.

At lunch on a weekend, I chose the gravlax maison from among 3 starters. The delicate strips of salmon were dusted with morsels of cauliflower and broccoli, and topped with a pale yellow, speckled quenelle, which I expected to be crême fraiche—but it was a savory ice cream made with Charroux mustard.

The cod was a work of art, and another study in taste, color and texture. The combination of bright fresh peas, fava beans, and ginger confit should have dominated or distracted me from the perfectly cooked fish—but only enhanced it.

Portions were generous, and I didn’t need dessert, but couldn’t resist ordering the dessert maison: St Honoré, reinvented. The traditional cake is an elegant round cream puff flavored with vanilla, orange zest, or liqueur. I was curious to see how they had improved on an already divine pastry.

Their version consisted of 4 small rounds, joined to form a voluptuous bar. Inside was piped cream that tasted of chestnut, and a thin, crisp, dark chocolate wafer. I smiled when I saw it, and again after my first bite.

Quality food, gracious service, lovely ambiance, and reasonable prices: I will be back!

Will you be in Paris soon? Les Chouettes will close for summer vacation, reopening Aug 25.

Pâtisserie des Rêves Opens on Rue de Bac

Picture 1Rue du Bac is one of my favorite streets to stroll in Paris. The window displays all but take my breath away.

And the street’s newest pâtisserie, Pâtisserie des Rêves, offers more than eye candy. Pastry chef Philippe Conticini’s inspired creations are lovely and delicious takes on traditional treats.

The tarte tatin is topped with lime infused mascarpone chantilly. The eclairs – choose from chocolate and coffee – resemble smooth bûches. The St Honoré, normally round, is rectangular.

Fans have pronounced the Paris-Brest, with its rich, hazelnut center, near perfect.

Those enamored by the pastries have been less in love with the new shop’s service. Arrive after lunch, and there may be almost nothing left. Or it might be closed.

The shop’s just been open two weeks, so give them time to sort out the practical aspects. Conticini has a great track record (La Table d’Anvers, a Nutella cookbook), the shop is lovely, and the pastries worth the wait.

Have you visited Pâtisserie des Rêves? Let us know what you thought!

If you go:

93 rue du Bac, 7th, Métro: Sèvres-Babylone