Hidden Kitchen, Chien Lunatique, Spring & Frenchie

smoked trout

Three of the hottest, most sought-after tables in Paris are lorded over by les américains. A few are part of the “underground” dining scene, which seems to be a global phenomenon, another is a one-man show (for now), and the forth is a cozy little resto located in a back alley where a French chef, who trained mostly in America, is combining the best of both cultures.

Hidden Kitchen

When two young cooks moved to Paris from Seattle, they began hosting dinner parties in their apartment, which was stark and nowhere near as sumptuous as their current digs. I can’t tell you where it is, but once you reserve, you’ll be in the know soon enough.

Hidden Kitchen is now in a more luxe location and the open kitchen overlooks the dining table where a multi-course dinner is served, and ten courses isn’t unusual. The chefs head to the market beforehand to scope out what’s fresh, so you won’t know what’s on the all-inclusive menu until you arrive.

But the courses are small, impeccably fresh, and inventive. So you won’t leave feeling overstuffed. And multiple wines are poured to compliment the food. They’re booked months in advance, naturally, but you can also follow them on Twitter, where they post last-minute cancellations, if you want to be in-the-know.

UPDATE: As of October 2011, Hidden Kitchen is no longer operating. The owners have opened Verjus wine bar and restaurant in Paris, and you can visit them there.

Chien Lunatique

One of my most frequently asked questions is: “Hey David, do you know those two guys from Chez Panisse who….” and I cut them off right about there and finish the sentence for them, since I know what’s coming.


They’re talking about Chien Lunatique, the supper club of David Tanis and Randal Breski, who spend half a year in Paris, and the other half in the Bay Area, where David is the chef downstairs at Chez Panisse. So if you’ve written and don’t get a response, it’s likely because they’re off cooking elsewhere.

But if you can get in, you’ll have some of the best food of your life. I’ve eaten there a number of times and Romain is still talking about David’s pot au feu years later, with a glazed look in his eyes. His cooking is that good.

David is the author of A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes (I made his recipe for Spinach Cake), and the quirky nature getting a place at this elusive table d’hôtel is part of the excitement of finally landing a seat at this address.

Spring

Daniel Rose eventually closed his tiny restaurant which only had 16 seats to move to a new, larger location, with a wine bar as well. Much anticipation followed the move and my lunch there was copious and intriguing. The menu changes daily and you might start with heirloom tomatoes with charred leeks and end with a lemon dessert with amazing raspberries.

There is a bouillon lunch menu, and a longer, more detailed dinner menu (€64). The restaurant changes constantly, like the food, but my lunch was pretty wonderful and surprisingly filling. You can find a compilation of write-ups at Paris by Mouth.

Spring
6, rue Bailleul (1st)

Spring has opened a specialty food boutique which also offers wine tastings at 52, rue l’Arbre Sec (1st), Tél: 01 58 62 44 30. (No reservations.)

apricot tart

Frenchie

When I called to make a reservation, right before hanging up, the person on the other end of the phone said to me, “Okay…awesome!” in English, which gave me a chuckle. It was likely chef-owner Gregory Marchand, who worked in New York at Gramercy Tavern for 1 1/2 years, and in London, before resettling back in his native France.

So he’s not technically American, but his cooking is certainly influenced by the new-American sensibility (for lack of a better term) for sourcing excellent products and not doing too much to them. The food is just fancy enough so you feel like you’re eating out, without being fussy. And I must say, I had the best lemon tart I’ve had in Paris at Frenchie, with a spoonful of strawberry sauce and a generous handful of fraises des bois, which I was not happy to share, thank you very much.

The signature smoked trout with asparagus purée (photo above) is a great way to start a meal, and the desserts, like the apricot and frangipan tart topped with crème fraîche and the barely-set panna cotta with summer berries and streusel, are influenced by Claudia Fleming, according to chef Marchand. The menu changes daily with two courses in each category and the 3-course menu is priced at €33. I always order wine by the carafe from the list on the wall, and haven’t hit a clunker yet.

As Alec Lobrano said, Frenchie is exactly the kind of restaurant you’d want in your neighborhood. (Actually, one of my best friends lives upstairs. Lucky her!) And when we left, the staff was outside drinking beers with the last of the remaining customers. Which was, indeed, awesome. And now there’s a wine bar just across the alley.

Frenchie
5, rue de Nil (2nd)
Tél: 01 40 39 96 19

(Note that prices and menu items are subject to change.)

38 comments

  • I wish I were in Paris. Or France, at least.

  • OK, I am glad to hear that Americans are not over processing their foods, (I personally call it crapping around) although I didn’t notice that in my recent trip. I think that it’s the Italians whose classic cuisine has always had this as the basic tenet. The trick is, of course, to be able to get great ingredients, which Italians are careful to make sure they can do.

    People just fail to get all excited about a recipe with three ingredients, even though to add even one more is death to goodness. They will not be convinced, and they don’t want to know you if you won’t add some mozzarella on top.

    I could be very happy in any one of those, or all…

  • Excellent – a few new places to try this December on our annual pilgrimage to France!

  • Cannot agree more with comment re: lucky to snag a Spring reservation.
    We were not only lucky to snag a rez on our May Paris trip (thanks to wife’s diligence & net connections) but we actually had the thrill of having Daniel & his superb sous-chef, the lovely Marie-Aude perform their magic for us in a 5 hour personal cooking class. UNBELIEVABLE. They’re both so down to earth & unassuming & the food was to die for – really.

  • Hi David,
    I have been curious about Hidden Kitchen since first reading about them 2 years ago. I seem to recall signing up for a newsletter but don’t think I have received one in a while. I would like to drag my husband over for dinner some time. Can you tell us a little about the other diners, e.g., are there any French or is it mostly tourists?

    Thanks for the other reviews. I had always wanted to eat at Chez Panisse (your “alma mater” no?) when I was out in Cali and didn’t know about Chien Lunatique!

  • Awesome list.

  • Just to add to my hubby’s post above (Den), I’m happy to see that my intensive internet addiction to all things Parisian has made me a person in the know! In addition to dining at Spring twice (May 2008 and 2009) and that wonderful cooking class, I was also aware of the other 3 places you’re writing about today and tried to get reservations for Le Chien Lunatique for this trip (but I’m pretty sure they are still in California in the spring) and we walked by Frenchies twice and called once during our 16 day trip this May to try to get reservations to no avail.

    In the next comment is the link to my review of our cooking class at Spring in case anyone’s interested…

  • Here’s the link

    Will try it one more time, if not, my blog address is http://www.slowtrav.com/blog/joden

    but there’s no pictures on that one. You can go to http://www.ourparisforum.com and look under “trip reports” under the heading “I could have licked that lobster clean!”

    Ok, no more taking over David’s site for me…..back to your regularly scheduled programming!

    JO

  • I worked with Frenchie at GT and I’m excited to hear that his restaurant is doing well. But, don’t you mean Nancy Olson rather than Claudia Fleming? Claudia has been gone for a long time…

  • Hi David,
    My wife and I are crazy about your fantastic blog – I love it so much that I think your blog is the number one reason why we’re dying to go to paris (years of french films and literature, the lure of the louvre and the romantic mythology of paris as a city weren’t enough!)
    Now here’s the deal, I cook and my wife (mandakini) makes dessert. We have really really fallen in love with the kitchen and we want to quit what we are doing and seriously learn how to cook. What are the cooking courses (pro-level) and baking courses that you would seriously recommend? Anywhere in the world is fine, as long as the medium of instruction is english!
    Would love to hear from you,
    Cheers!
    Rudraneil

  • i so need to visit paris, i’ve never been, and you have me completely drooling. :)

  • David, It is good to read an update on the new location for Spring. I am an avid fan of the Spring TV Kitchen Cam, and have wondered why the old location was still active so long after the move should have happened. It is also a pleasure to read that Hidden Kitchen is still “flying under the radar”. On our last Paris trip at Christmas 2007, both places were closed so the owners could return to the USA for the holidays. I enjoy reading about the adventures of ex-pats. Your latest book is a tasty pleasure.

  • Thanks to David’s recommendation I had dinner at Hidden Kitcken in 2007.I was alone in Paris and a little nervous about being a solo guest but it was a wonderful evening. The hosts were warm and welcoming.The meal was fabulous, fresh and creative. What a delightful, fun filled evening I had.There were people from all over the world.it was such an interesting group no one wanted to leave! I had better start now trying for a spot at Spring and Frenchie.
    David, LOVE your new book.

  • Love this–well all of your–post. Was so happy to see that Spring’s site has a live webcam of the kitchen and dining room! Thank you David for sharing your Paris with those of us stuck in our various mudflats.

  • David: Thanks for these. Would you know the official (or unofficial) way to get reservations for any/all late Sept? By the way,I’m working my way through your ice cream book and having a ball. What do you think about endive leaves with the Roquefort-honey ice cream? I do a similar salad amd miht work (or not). With perhaps my last trip to my beloved France coming up, this blog is even more fun!

  • That apricot tart looks divine.
    I will admit that I must have a Paris re-do to discover the underground scene. Thanks for the tips!

    P.S. Have you given roasted marshmallow ice cream/gelato a go yet?

  • David, there are no prices given for the Hidden Kitchen dinners, at least not that I found. What do the dinners generally run?
    I’ll be in Paris for 2 nights on July 4 and 5…I’m assuming they are on vacance at that time. Darn. It would be the perfect place for a lone diner!

    What apricot tart? Where apricot tart?

    I’m so enjoying your new book. I haven’t laughed out loud when reading something in a long time. The recipes are also enticing.

  • Aaaah! Must go look into airfare. Now. Those places sound wonderful. I’ve wanted to go to a couple for a while, but seeing your entire wonderful list has hit me with a wave of homesickness for Paris. (What is homesickness if you’re not actually *from* there? I’ve visited and stayed a lot, but it’s not my home. “Afarsickness”? “Memoryhunger”? “Paralytic nostalgia?”)

    Can’t wait for my next trip so I can try some of these delicious-sounding places. I just got David Tanis’ book and I’m drooling over it.

  • April raises a good point. How many of us characterize our longing for France, and Paris specifically, as Home-Sickness. It always seemed like home from my first visit in 1970. MemoryHunger may be the right phrase. Diesel fumes used to be the biggest memory triggers from my first visits. Parisian city air seems cleaner today than my American Suburban air. Certain food smells in 35 to 40 degree(F) do a lot for my Holiday memories of the city of lights. Things like Nutella on a warm crepe or some rotisserie chickens with boulangerie style spuds, or raw seafood.

  • April and Craigkite…..

    I could not agree with you more. At age 23 I had never been to France (or Europe for that matter) but when my French boyfriend took me for a long weekend in Paris, I never wanted to leave. It took me 10 years, but I married him, had two kids and convinced him to take me to France forever. He loves the US and was reluctent to come to France, but when I said I was coming with or without him, he found a job in Paris and is now wondering why he resisted for so long (which is just part of being French – resisting change). I have been here for 14 months now and am happier than I ever thought possible.

    I am in no hurry because I am here forever, but I plan to hit all 4 of these places. Thanks David!!!!!

  • Hey David,
    When are you going to come and visit my Underground Restaurant in London?
    Would be nice to see you…

  • Hi Winnie: He told me he was influenced by the style of Claudia who, as you mentioned, is no longer at Gramercy Tavern. But I’m sure her mark remains with the current pastry chef.

    Joanne: I don’t often give prices because those are subject to change. But the current price for the prix-fix dinner and wine at Hidden Kitchen is €80 per person. As noted, prices are subject to change so it’s best to inquire directly with them via their site.

    The apricot tart (shown) is from Frenchie, whose menu changes daily.

    Bob: Because of the elusive nature of these non-traditional restaurant (except Frenchie) visit the links provided, which has contact information.

    Hint: Spring’s site does list an e-mail address, but you’re best bet is to telephone instead. The folks at Hidden Kitchen are best reached via e-mail, as is Chien Lunatique. (You won’t likely get a response from Chien Lunatique if dinners aren’t available during the time requested.)

    If anyone has any tips, feel free to leave them here in the comments.

  • What timing! We had dinner at the Hidden Kitchen last night and it was truly memorable. Now if we can ever get them to pick up the phone at Spring!

  • Thanks for fixing my link, David! I’m a knob when it comes to things like this. Have a great vacation!

  • wow david! i wish i live in paris right now… these restaurants sound so great! i wonder if you have any recommendations for london and the surrounding areas (well actually i live in the north, re: liverpool, but i’ve given up on good food!)?

  • I have been in my kitchen all day today practicing recipes from your book for a dinner party. I am serving only things from your book and I trust you implicitly but have a rule of not trying a new recipe on guests :) On the menu….spiced nuts, fig tappenade, chicken tagine, couscous clafoutis and chocolate mousse (two desserts bc I want a fruit dessert but cannot imagine a dinner party without chocolate). I’ll throw in a salad too and a cheese course.

    I know you are a VERY busy, but I promise unlimited good wine and admirers. It would be an adventure….wanna stop by this Saturday? I am American and my husband is French. The other guests are American embassy employees living in Paris.

    Thanks, but I’m in the south of France, researching rosé and socca! -dl

  • Great reviews! I had heard of Hidden Kitchen and Spring. Thanks for all the wonderful information. I am taking notes for when we make it over there. Cheers!

  • We have a “kitchen” near us called the Hidden Lounge. See attached website:
    http://hiddenlounge.ca/events.html.
    It’s along much the same vein as the Hidden Kitchen. Small gathering, monthly dinners, never know what you’ll get until you get there, but always great food.
    Thanks again for sharing a little bit of Paris with us.
    Janet

  • David, I would love to have the recipe for the panna cotta–looks divine.

  • romney: You could certainly write a letter and see if he’ll share the recipe, which was very good. Otherwise it might be in Claudia Fleming’s book, which I’ve linked to in the post.

    (There’s also an Italian panna cotta on my Recipes page.)

  • I see Richard Hesse from Paris Updates has a review on Frenchies as well. Damn, I wish we could have got reservations while we were there last month! Oh well, there’s always next year………

  • Oh, god – now I want to go to Spring too. Are the french fries of the julienne/shoestring variety or more like steak fries? I wonder if the skinny french fries would be able to stand up to the richness of the duck fat.
    I had fries cooked in duck fat for the first time at Bradley Ogden’s One Market in SF, and remembered being disappointed that I only received 6 slender wedges of potato (on the order of a medium steak fry) on the plate with my blue cheese burger.
    Oh, I should note that I did not know they were cooked in duck fat. I either didn’t notice on the menu or it wasn’t there.
    I tasted the first fry and knew there was something more deeply flavored and savory to it…and that it definitely wasn’t cooked in vegetable oil. But I didn’t taste anything “meaty” and certainly would never have guessed duck fat. They were delicious and unlike anything I ever had, and I only finished THREE FRIES. As it turned out SIX french fries was too much for me. And this is coming form a person who can power-eat french fries.
    So, in long, no wonder Spring is so popular.

  • I really wish we had the kind of dining scene in India that you talk about here– I live in New Delhi and here, the smartest, exclusive restaurants are all in characterless five star hotels. Exclusive dining just means imported exoensive ingredients… there’s no mystery, no personality, no romance…

  • From your blog entry, and a few other good reviews i was able to dig up on the new Frenchie, we went tonight. It was a standout. Absolutely the best dinner I have had in Paris on my trip so far. I play in the San Francisco food playground, so the bar is high. Perfectly seasoned, inventive, playful and rich. The price was very very reasonable; 100 euros for a bottle of wine and a 3 course dinner for two adults. They even prepared a mini-version of our meal for my five year old for 19 euros. Compared to Ze Kitchen Gallerie and Itineraries (other “foodie” meals we have eaten this week) it was in a league all to itself. This is what food should be.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Just went to Frenchie for lunch (dinner was booked up for the next week, at least). Absolutely awesome. Flavorful food without being overdone, and beautifully presented. I love when a Chef uses each ingredient to its exceptional potential. Also, so fun to watch the Chef plate each course through the window in the brick wall. Another fantastic recommendation!

    Started chatting with the table next to us and I was saying I had compiled a list of places to eat at. She said, “Have you read David Lebovitz?” I said he was my foundation for my 10pg list of food and bakeries! After we left my boyfriend says to me, “That Lebovitz cat is everywhere!” So true, and I’m so grateful for it! I really feel like I got such a great slice of Paris thanks to you and your site.

    Cheers!

  • Thanks David for all the great tips – add my name to the list of admirers! Auelle horreur – but i confess “I don’t do dinner!! So an oxymoron – I know – But…I love Paris and go for extended stays frequently – with Parisian restaurants and food like everyone – being an major interest. So….is my understanding correct that from this list “Frenchie” is the only lunch option? How about a “Hidden Lunch Clubs”….maybe there would be one or two other interested souls….thanks again – for all your great information and immensely enjoyable writings…Denise

  • I just found out that I will be in Paris for 2 whole days!
    Do you have current website or info about Chien Lunatique? In some dream of mine, I get to go:)
    Thanks!

  • Otehlia: I don’t have any further information about Chien Lunatique. Since the website no longer seems to be operational, I will assume that they aren’t doing dinners anymore.