Hungry for Paris

A chance to break French bread with an expert.

Hungry for Paris By Alexander Lobrano Random House 347 pp. $16

In any given week, Alexander Lobrano tries out a half dozen new restaurants and revisits old favorites. And as European correspondent for Gourmet Magazine, he’s the perfect host to introduce us to everything we need to know about dining well in Paris. Part food memoir, part enticing restaurant guide, Hungry for Paris leads visitors to Paris through a maze of information that makes dining in the French capital as simple as grabbing a bite at your neighborhood eatery. A cook as well as a food writer, Lobrano invites us to become his pal, his accomplice in navigating the Parisian restaurant scene.
For those who wonder exactly what is French food, he presents 10 dishes that define the cuisine for him, from his childhood favorite boeuf bourguignon, to cassoulet and pot-au-feu. If you’re confused by bistros versus brasseries, about dress codes, or whether to bring young children to a fine dining establishment, Lobrano will have you eating like a Parisian before you even get to his list of recommended restaurants.

And oh, those 102 restaurants! Arranged by arrondissements, each place he’s sampled is remembered with a story, a dish, and a short “don’t miss” recommendation. From Le Bristol, in the eighth, for a “top-flight business meal ... one of the city’s best addresses for romantic dining,” to Le Pamphlet, tucked away in the Marais – a “dark horse of a bistro” with delicious Basque-béarnaise-inspired cooking – the list will tantalize serious foodies as well as bargain travelers. But beware, Lobrano’s charming and detailed descriptions make it impossible to put this book down long enough to plan that trip to Paris.

With the French fetish for freshness and the Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines surrounding the country, Paris is Europe’s best city for seafood. Conquer your fear of the unknown, sample oysters or even a sea snail, if you will. In his essay, “Eating the Unspeakable,” this formerly shy kid who hated messes – including lobsters served by his grandmother – poses the question, “Why fly all the way to France to eat chicken breasts or steak?”
You may discover you enjoy pig’s feet or calf’s brains. At the very least, you’ll have a delicious tale to share when you return home.

Augusta Scattergood is a freelance writer in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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