Looking for good food and friendly service without the stuffy atmosphere found in higher priced establishments? Here are two options in the Marais neighborhood to consider. Both offer a full menu – appetizer, entree and dessert – for about €30, but they each leave you with a unique experience. Pramil, located at 9 Rue Vertbois, just off the Place de la République, is rated number 17 on Trip Advisor. It has a more upscale ambience, simply decorated with white walls and table cloths. The food is inventive without being too artsy. My favorite dish was cream of asparagus soup with a scoop of fois gras ice cream. The soup itself was full of asparagus flavor without overdoing the cream such that when the ice cream melted into the hot soup it added just the right amount of creaminess. The contrast of the hot soup with the cold glace was a delight on the tongue. Other dishes we tasted included a sardine and summer squash tart – a simple pastry topped with a sardine filet and strips of squash, a sea bass filet with a side of eggplant and kalamata olives, and a mélange of veal kidney, escargot, artichoke and roasted potatoes. Everything perfectly cooked and well seasoned. The wine selection at Pramil is more extensive with prices to match. Servers are friendly, speaking good English and will happily translate the menu for you or will allow you to practice your French if you so desire. The only drawback was we were seated in the small back foreigner room with five out of six tables non-French speaking. Great for meeting other travelers; not so great if you want a more pure “French” experience.
Bistrot de L’Oulette, at 38 Rue des Tournelles, just off the Place des Vosges, has a 26 food rating on Zagat. The atmosphere is very casual and the food more traditional Southern French, with cassoulet and stew type dishes. While there were still English speaking tables, the predominant language was French making for a more authentic bistro experience. We tasted the rabbit salad with crunchy toast topped with onion jam, the pile of shredded rabbit being moist and simply seasoned; mackerel slices with mustard sauce; guinea fowl stewed in red wine, or salmi, with a side of scallop potatoes; and the only real disappointment of the evening, baby squid in ink sauce served with basmati rice. As a lover of the Spanish Chipirones en su Tinta and the Italian Nero di Sepia ink sauces, this French version, although flavorful, was watery and lacking body. The star dessert was a simple prune ice cream splashed with a dash of brandy. Although the à la carte prices are a bit higher at Bistrot de L’Oulette, the wine prices are generally lower as they offer predominantly Southern French wines which are generally cheaper, albeit good values. We enjoyed a smooth fruity Cabernet Franc for €27.
The two back to back dining experiences complimented each other nicely. Both provided good quality food and service and enough variation in ambience and food preparation to be interesting.