The small dining room at Le Temps au Temps is packed nightly with hip young couples settling in for a go at chef Sylvain Sendra's chalkboard menu; it changes daily but runs to dishes like poule au pot with Szechuan pepper, baby vegetables, and wild flowers. With its friendly service, dark beams and heavy wooden furniture, L'Ami Jean has the allure of a country inn, and young chef Stéphane Jego serves up delicious modern Basque and southwestern French dishes like baby scallops roasted in their shells and axoa (veal stew). Au Bascou, a cozy place in the 3rd arrondissement, offers an excellent Basque-inspired menu.
Alsatian chef Antoine Westermann's Mon Vieil Ami has been a hit on the Île Saint-Louis ever since it opened with a slick contemporary décor—here it's done with mirrors and exposed black painted beams—and delicious modern rustic French cooking with eastern French roots, including dishes like a mushroom tart, seasonal vegetables braised in a cast-iron casserole, and duck breast. Steps from the Gare du Nord, talented young chef Thierry Breton also does a modern take on a regional kitchen—that of Brittany—at Chez Michel, with delicious, hearty dishes like tuna steak with coriander and tabouleh, roast John Dory with potato puree, and a terrific Paris-Brest (choux pastry filled with hazelnut cream). Le Pamphlet, a great-value bistro, serves contemporary Béarnais food on a quiet street in the Marais. Chef Yves Camdeborde, ex-La Régalade, is back, too, with Le Comptoir, a hugely popular (book in advance) modern bistro in a small, stylish art-deco dining room just steps from the Odéon; the single dinner menu changes all the time, but you can expect dishes like deboned, breaded pig's trotter; chicken soup with vin jaune and mousseron mushrooms; saddle of lamb with Basque-style raviolis; and runny chocolate cake. Lusty, generous dishes pull in crowds at L'Affriolé in the 17th. Memorable food like grilled squid and octopus with Granny Smith apple and turmeric and grilled lamb with lemon-grass and kumquats has won chef William Ledeuil a loyal following at Ze Kitchen Galerie, while shrewd contemporary riffs on the cooking of southwestern France—goose breast with poached peaches, for example—mean that the tiny La Cerisaie in Montparnasse is always packed. And, finally, it's worth a trip deep into the 15th for the hearty but sophisticated Basque food at Le Troquet.
Le Temps au Temps, 13 rue Paul Bert; 11th; 01-43-79-63-40
L'Ami Jean, 27 rue Malar; 7th; 01-47-05-86-89
Au Bascou, 38 rue Réaumur; 3rd; 01-42-72-69-25
Mon Vieil Ami, 69 rue Saint-Louis-en-l'Ile; 4th; 01-40-46-01-35
Chez Michel, 10 rue de Belzunce; 10th; 01-44-53-06-20
Le Pamphlet, 38 rue Debelleyme; 3rd; 01-42-72-39-24
Le Comptoir, 9 Carrefour de l'Odéon; 6th; 01-43-29-12-05
L'Affriolé, 17 rue Malar; 7th; 01-44-18-31-33
Ze Kitchen Galerie, 4 rue des Grands-Augustins; 6th; 01-44-32-00-32
La Cerisaie, 70 Boulevard Edgar Quinet; 14th; 01-43-20-98-98
Le Troquet, 21 rue François Bonvin; 15t; 01-45-66-89-00