Chez Dumonet-Josephine

The third generation of the Dumonet family now run one of the last and best of Paris's old-fashioned bistros. A charming Left Bank address with its amber-colored walls, elaborate moldings, serious waiters, and a sophisticated crowd. Go there for an anthology of traditional French bistro dishes, many of which are served in half portions, including terrine de foie gras; lamb's lettuce, potato and black truffle salad; tournedos Rossini; andouillette; boeuf bourguignon; and Grand Marnier soufflé.

117 rue du Cherche Midi, 6th; 01-45-48-52-40

Pierre Gagnaire

There's no bolder chef in Paris than Pierre Gagnaire, who compares himself to a jazz musician in search for extreme and off-beat harmonies. His stylish restaurant has the atmosphere of a quirky temple, too, since it attracts reverent gourmets from every corner of the globe to taste dishes that are as intricately constructed as a fine watch. The menu includes Tsarskaya oysters, culatello ham, broccoli and agria (potato) with smoked eel, and an astonishing riff on lamb—a rack poached with oregano, covered with a crust of herbs, and garnished with Swiss chard tossed in the lamb's cooking juice, roasted garlic and shallots, and eggplant with shrimp in prune eau de vie; grilled chops and a navarin (lamb stew) with zucchini flowers.

6 rue Balzac, 8th; 01-58-36-12-50

Oyster bars

Right Bank: Restaurant Garnier. Just inside the front door of this unremarkable brasserie across the street from the Gare Saint-Lazare, this circular oyster bar is one of the most convivial places in Paris to feast of fabulous fruits de mer.

111 rue Saint Lazare, 8th; 01-43-87-50-40

Left Bank: Huîterie Régis. Near the Marché Saint-Germain, this cheerful little hole in the wall looks like a miniature version of the sea shacks that make eating in Brittany so much fun. They only serve oysters and shrimp (and the occasional fish dish) along with a great assortment of white wines. This simple formula pulls a friendly, wordly crowd of book editors, politicians, shopkeepers, and fashion types for a simple-but-delicious feast.

3 rue de Montfaucon, 6th; 01-44-41-10-07

The late Jean-Claude Vrinat was one of the world’s greatest restaurateurs, and his elegant-but-cordial townhouse restaurant in a kid-glove corner of the 8th arrondissement is not only one of the longest-running power tables but one of the city’s very best restaurants. A master of classic French dishes such as veal sweetbreads en croûte with sorrel sauce, chef Alain Solivérés also has an imagination that’s as remarkable as his technical skills. His talents are on display in dishes like the recreation of a medieval dish by Guillaume Tirel, aka Taillevent—caillette de porcelet (patties of suckling pork in caul fat) with Málaga grapes, tiny pork chops, carmelized cabbage, and lentils du puy.

15 rue Lamennais, 8th; 01-44-95-15-01;

Okay, Alain Ducasse himself probably hasn't broken an egg in this kitchen in a decade, but this exquisite restaurant is a testament to his genius in having created an école Ducasse, or brigade of spectacularly talented and well-trained chefs who propigate his cooking style, which is summed up by his dictates, "fusion is confusion" and "never use more than four ingredients in a given dish." Examples of L'école Ducasse cooking by chef Christophe Moret include scallops in curried coconut milk; Limousin lamb with baby vegetables; sole with an emulsion of asparagus, fava beans, and baby peas; and ewe's milk flan with peppered caramel and strawberry-tree honey.

Hotel Plaza Athéneé, 25 avenue Montaigne, 8th; 01-53-67-65-00;

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