Three completely different neighborhoods, but very similar dining experiences: laid-back bistros, excellent food, amazing value.
Le Comptoir Tempero
Le Comptoir Tempero is actually not far from me, but in a part of the 13th that I would describe as “nothing to see here”, an ugly boulevard along the elevated line 6 metro I pass through when running from the Avenue des Gobelins to the Bibliothèque Nationale. Don’t let this deter you. This is the second neo-bistro run by the Franco-Brazilian couple Alessandra and Olivier Montagne (the original Tempero restaurant is a few blocks away, on the even more obscure Rue Clisson), featuring contemporary French-Brazilian-Vietnamese fusion cuisine in a cozy, modern dining room. Each dish is like a work of art, and although it appears portions are small, my friend and I felt full enough after the starter and main dish to pass on dessert. Lunch is the best deal, with two-courses for €15 and three courses for €20. At dinner the menu is à la carte (count on €35-€40). Book in advance if possible, there are only a few tables. 124 Boulevard Vincent Auriol, 13th, M° Nationale, tel 01 45 84 15 35. Open weekdays for lunch, Thurs-Fri for dinner.
There are few good-value restaurants around the Arc de Triomphe, but since one of my best friends lives near there, I thought I’d suggest something different from our usual sushi take-out. Le 116 (the annex to the neighboring gastronomic restaurant Pages) has that faux-scruffy Brooklyn style décor of unpainted walls, exposed bricks and cement floors you usually find in the 10th. The menu is described as Japanese BBQ, with tapas-style dishes like grilled octopus, calamari, and even Wagyu burgers with home-made fries, served on heavy crockery or thick wooden boards. Lunch menus (including Bentos) are €15-24, dinner dishes €5-40, depending on how hungry you feel. They also have a large selection of artisan beers and Japanese Nikka whisky. 2 rue Auguste Vacquerie, 16th, M° Etoile or Kléber, tel 01 47 20 10 45. They never answer the phone for reservations, so try and get there early if you want a table.
Le 116 (photo from their FB page) and La Cantine de Quentin
Whenever I’m at the Canal St-Martin I eat at La Cantine de Quentin, an épicerie and wine shop with a few tables inside (including one large enough for a group of six) and a few on the sidewalk. I have never reserved in advance, but they always seem to have at least one table open. Besides the excellent home-made French bistro cuisine (certified “Maitre Restauranteur”), I really keep coming back because of the friendly service, the skull-and-bone wine glasses (no one takes themselves too seriously), and the rare option of ordering half-sized desserts. This is particularly clever if you can’t decide and want two different halves! 52 rue Bichat, 10th, M° Jacques Bonsergent or République, tel 01 42 02 40 32. Open Tues-Sat for lunch, and Sun for brunch. Two-course lunch formule €17.