Restaurant Astier

Astier Paris

What’s not to like about a somewhat out-of-the-way bistrotière like Astier, serving examples of classic French cuisine, keeping the torch alive of a genre that’s become harder to find done right?

The pre-fixe menu at Astier is a little gentler at €35, and you can choose from four of five selections in each category. There’s more extensive selections on the à la carte side of the carte. (Traveler tip: Menu in French means a fixed series of dishes, often les plates du jour composed of various courses. A carte is the actual physical menu.) but we were thoroughly pleased with chunky block of house-made foie gras sprinkled with fleur de sel, with toasted brioche and chutney alongside.

knives at Astier Astier wine list

Warm brandade (whipped salted fish and potatoes) was a good rendition of the classic thankfully served in appetizer proportions, although I could have done without the diced roasted peppers on top which detracted from the taste. (I may also be a little biased, though because also can’t stand roasted peppers.) My main course was a shallow bowl of slow-roasted, tender lamb shoulder with stubby baby carrots in a thick jus and exactly what I felt like eating sitting in a Parisian bistro.

photo

The star of the show at Astier, which I hope they never take off the stage (I’m sure there would be a riot if they did, and I’d lead the pack) is the massive cheese plate. There’s hardly room on the table for it – Another tip: hold on to your wine glasses when they set it down – then dive right in. We had to guide our stunned neighbors when it was their turn with the cheese board—Romain is especially good at taking charge and took control, slicing cheese for them and putting in on their plates. When it was our turn, he loaded me up with five superb specimens: Époisses (which was the best I’ve ever had), Salers, Brie de Meaux, a fine, ripe Camembert, and a tangy Basque sheep’s milk cheese.

(Next time someone says the French practice portion control, they can remove Romain—and his damn 28-inch waist—from that equation.)

Astier menu

Needless to say, I could barely eat my rice pudding, which tasted fine with some poached fruits embedded in the top, but when the waiter set down a studly Baba au rhum in from of the man behind us, just about every head in the room turned, especially when the garçon split it open and doused both halves with nearly a quarter bottle of rum. His wife, who was being prudent forking up a warm chocolate cake, said to me “C’est le meilleur Baba au rhum à Paris!” And from the look of his face, she wasn’t lying.

We had a bottle of Chenin blanc (€22) from the Touraine*, which was the first selection on the reasonable wine list, after we started off with two glasses of Champagne. (€11 each and kind of steep, but I really needed a glass that night and didn’t think it’d be polite to drink one in front of a dinner companion without springing for one for him as well.) Dinner for two, with a few supplemental charges, because we veered a bit from the menu fixe, came in at €118. A few years back, a major food magazine was going to do an issue on Paris, but the editor told me she was concerned about the prices in Paris, especially with the exchange rate. But a four-course meal like this in any American city, with wine and two pre-dinner glasses of bubbly would cost about twice as much.

Fromages

(I’d also like to give points to Astier for serving bottles of chilled filtered water, still or sparkling, at no extra cost. France is one of the largest consumers of bottled water in the world, and the tap water is perfectly safe to drink, and free. The waitress told me they were trying to reduce waste and the strain on the waiters, who were tired of carrying all those cases of bottles. It’s a great initiative, one which I hope more restaurants worldwide would adopt.)

chocolate cake at Astier

It’s tricky these days to find an honest French meal in Paris, made with good ingredients by actual cooks rather than hired hands. And when I left, I took a peek in the sparkling kitchen where the cooks were staying busy plating up food for the other lucky diners. The waiters were hovering by the door and the owner was behind the bar polishing glasses, waiting to say goodbye as we left. I was a little sorry to go, but happy that there was a reasonably long walk home in front of me, because I needed it.

Restaurant Astier Paris

Restaurant Astier
44, rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud (11th)
Tél: 01 43 57 16 35

Restaurant Astier is open seven days a week. They also have opened a take-out/eat in dining annex next door that’s very casual, focusing on rotisserie meats, charcuterie, and wines by the glass, called Jeanne A (42, rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, Tél: 01 43 55 09 49)



Related Posts and Links

Jeanne A. (Hungry for Paris)

Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud (Secrets of Paris)

Jeanne A. in the 11th (John Talbott’s Paris)

Paris Bistro Astier: For Old Times (and New) (Patricia Wells)

Fastidious French Get Free Sparkling Water Fountain (Good)

Paris Restaurant Archives

French Menu Translation Guide

Sunday Dining in Paris


*I’m far from being an expert on wine, but I sure like it. And I used to come to France before I moved here and was usually timid about ordering it because of my inexpertise, so would limit myself to order bottles with familiar names, like Côte du Rhone and such. But I’ve been trying to learn more (by tasting, bien sûr) and as I started moving toward white wines, I found I was really enjoying wines from the Touraine, an area not far from Paris called the Loire.

The best white wine from that region is Sancerre, which is always priced a bit higher than the other white wines. (And usually merits it.) But other white wines from the Loire are Sauvignon blanc and Chemin blanc, and are often quite good and economical choices, if that’s a concern. You don’t have to pay a lot of money to drink decent wine in France.

Muscadet is another white wine produced in the same region, which has the unfortunate association (because the names are similar) with inexpensive sweet wine called Muscatel, which it doesn’t resemble. Muscadets aren’t always great wines, but some aren’t bad and I’ll take a glass at a bar during l’heure d’apéro, the pre-dinner drink.

So if you’re in a restaurant and want to try something different, if you see the word “Touraine” listed after a bottle, and something bright and minerally appeals to you, you might want to give one a try. And if anyone gives you a hard time about it, tell them you’re supporting the local wines.

41 comments

  • Lovely post, David – might have to try that one in a couple weeks when we are visiting Paris. Clearly rue J-P Timbaud has gentrified enormously since I spent a few months in a 7th floor walk up studio there some 20 years ago!

  • Thanks David! We live in the 3rd and I think this should be close by. When the hubby and I have a night on the town we will be sure to check it out! Are reservations required on week days?

    I wanted to post early as I want to comment on your last post and in just a few hours you had well over 100 comments!

    I wanted to make sure you got around to reading mine…So what I was going to say was it WAS a great day Friday wasn’t it! It made my day…we soaked in all of the Vitamin D that we could. It’s just a sneak preview of Spring and I can’t wait!

    Also I was looking through your archives and found a great post on French Lessons/Schools/Teachers. Thanks! It really helped with my research…I have almost settled on a Private Teacher as I believe I need more conversation than sitting in a classroom.

    Thanks for your excellent posts keep ‘em coming!

    TN

  • YUM! I’m adding it to the list for my May visit.

  • We looked at houses in the Touraine several years ago, and I fell head-over-heels for the region. Someday, perhaps… The Paris apartment is wonderful for visits, but a gardener must have a patch of earth to dig to be happy over the long haul.

    Astier sounds great, good to hear one of the old places has come back. Will give it a shot come April!

  • Sounds good! I will go to Astier next month when I’ll visiting Paris.
    Thanks for this post!

  • Why can’t we bring the cheese course to the U. S.? It’s brilliant. Your picture of the cheese platter makes me want to get on a plane right now. I guess I’ll just have to spent some afternoon soon in the local cheese shop and make my own smaller version.

  • that cheese platter looks INSANE!!!!

  • Thank you David for this post recognizing the fine qualities of restaurant Astier.
    I love Astier and recommend it to all of my friends!

  • Thanks for writing about Astier. I used to live one block away and loved the sight of their traditional shop front, curtains and all. As a vegetarian, I wasn’t inspired to visit it on my own, but when a Danish friend came, we tried it, and the cheese platter was as you say, astounding.

  • My boyfriend and I were just discussing how we have had a severe paucity of good cheese lately and this is making me long to be back in France. Astier is getting bookmarked for our next trip across the pond.

  • Thank you for mentioning Sancerre ….. it is by far my favorite white wines and I am always happy to see it get some recognition. It goes perfectly with chevre, my favorite cheese.

    I will add Astier to my go to list and think of you as I dive into that cheese platter.

  • Yes! So glad to hear it. I first went to Astier ages ago, maybe 15 years ago?, on a trip to Paris with my dad. It was magical and I still remember every moment, esp the cheese plate. Went back two years ago and was underwhelmed. So happy they’re doing better now!

  • There was a wonderful little french restaurant where we live in the SF Bay area that my husband and I visited every anniversary and for occasional other meals. After about 4 years it started to go down hill to the point we (and many others) quit eating there. I’d go in when I was in the neighborhood and check it out because I was so hoping to see some changes. I’m glad I kept an eye on it, because the owners finally got their act together and fixed it, but it was years before that happened. I know life can make all of us take things forgranted but usually it doesn’t take years to fix what’s broken, especially if it’s your livelyhood! Whatever..at least they made some serious changes and I’m glad because we really loved that little place. I still wonder what made it go downhill for so long, though. I’m glad for you that your place is on the rise again.

  • I’m coming to Paris in the spring and this is very helpful!

  • Add me to the ones visiting Paris next month, but we’ll be “en banlieue” this time, in Boulogne-Billancourt, so a trip to the 11th is probably not on the cards. Another time, perhaps.

  • That cheese platter looks fantastic! I have what is undoubtedly a stupid question, so please be gentle. How does the cheese course work in that situation? I’m guessing they come to your table with that massive thing and you help yourself to whatever you want while they wait? I’m more accustomed to being served pre-portioned cheese, so I probably would have thought it was like a dessert tray where you pick one and they come back with it! Since I’m unlikely to have Romain at my disposal to take charge, I’d really like to understand the etiquette involved. Anyone?

  • Hi Karen: No, it’s not a dumb question at all. If you’re American (or not French) it’s likely because we weren’t raised having to deal with the cheese course. (Kind of like the French don’t pick up their burgers, but they use knives and forks to eat them.)

    I wrote more extensively about serving and slicing cheese in The Sweet Life in Paris (along with pitfalls to avoid!), but in general:

    1. Taking up to three kinds is considered normal, a couple more is okay, but after that you can’t really appreciate all the cheeses because you’re overloaded.

    2. In general, you don’t go back for seconds (except sometimes I can’t help it.)

    3. Eat milder flavored cheeses first, before the stronger ones.

    4. When you slice cheese, always try to include a bit of the crust and the pâte (interior) with each slice.

    5. And most important: Never cut the ‘nose’ (the pointy tip of a triangular slice) off a piece of cheese if you can possibly help it. Because it’s the middle, that’s often the best part and it’s considered bad manners to take it, unless the cheese has been sliced down already to where that point is reached.

    When in doubt in France, you can always ask a waiter (or another customer) to help you. The French like to help people—or tell them what to do, as is the case with Romain.

  • Great to hear it, David. I remember this cheese platter. Such wonderful memories. I remember looking out the window and being completely enchanted, it was the first place Loic ever took me to, because I told him wanted a restaurant with a good cheese plate. We were very poor then. It was worth every penny.

  • oh yummy…takes me back to the French dining we recently came back from.
    Great web site, by the way. will want to keep visiting, thanks! -Slavica

  • Thanks for another tnatalizing post. They alone are going to get me to France for the first time – really. But, please, it is torture to have to read about 28″ waists ;-).

  • Great blog, we went to Astier 15 years ago, recommended by Gault Millau and the cheese platter is still the talk of our eating experiences. Cant wait to get back, but its a long way from Australia.

  • J’aime votre website/blog. J’aime Paris! J’aime Le Grand Boucle.

    I’m afraid I don’t often have time to read all your articles or the Comments, which are both marvelous, but I was interested to know if you have ever been to any of the Bistro en Cie chain of restaurants. I visit Paris every year to watch the Tour de France and came across Le Breteuil a few years ago and have booked a table every year. I find it very pleasant but sometimes it’s not as perfect as I would hope. Nothing bad, but just a few wee niggles about either the service or the meal. Below is the link to their website. I would highly recommend it, but would also recommend booking beforehand as well. We normally book for 19:30 as it gets extremely busy after then. Keep blogging!

    http://www.bistrocie.fr/anglais/index.php

  • Good food, massive cheese platter, decent wine AND a affordable? Thanks for taking one for the team. Is it possible to dine at place like Astier and just order say an appetizer, bread and the cheese plate? Or what about cheese platter and baba rhum?I just can’t eat more than few courses anymore but hate to be one of those diners who doesn’t go with the flow. The other problem with dining while traveling in France is there is often three meals out plus all the chocolate and pastry choices. So dinner sometimes needs to be really small, but I love bistro menus and atmosphere.

    28″ waist with no portion control? Not fair.

  • What a FAB restaurant review!
    Though your photo of that ‘massive cheese plate’ leaves me unconvinced a walk to and from this place would keep you so trim.
    I walk everywhere when in Paris, DO NOT eat massive cheese plates, and yet still come home with ‘extra baggage’
    The description of the Baba was awesome, reason alone to make this a must-do!
    merci carolg

  • I am so glad Astier has improved – it used to be our favorite bistro in Paris but we were afraid to go back after hearing the recent negative comments. It is back on our list for this September.

  • You didn’t mention the herring entrée. It’s amazing–a huge, communal vat of herrings!

  • It’s nice to hear about your experience at Astier. I was there in the fall with friends and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal….from soup to dessert. We had heard about the expansive cheese course and were still in awe when the tiered platters came to the table. I’ve had cheese courses at other restaurants that were impressive, but so was the l’addition! The ambiance with the long open windows to the street below and well worn plates with the scrolled “A” makes you feel like you are in good company. I’m looking forward to going back. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Kristine: You can order à la carte at Astier, but if I remember, the cheese course is €14 and main courses hover around there and higher, you’re better off ordering from the fixed price menu if you’re looking for a better value.

    One thing people forget is to be prudent when ordering. While it’s tempting to have foie gras, cheese, beef, etc…I’ve learned to pace myself and not get carried away when ordering, balancing the rich with a course or two that’s leaner.

    Doug: I’d heard bad reports about it and it was always a place I liked, so was happy to confirm that Astier is back. The staff really could not have been nicer.

    Diane: I like the look of the place, too. A lot of those old bistros in Paris went downhill (foodwise) and while they have the gorgeous dining room, the food is often lacking. Nice to see someone doing it right!

  • I had had Astier on my list of restaurants I wanted to try for years, but then all the negative comments had me strike it (but we went to Biche au Bois instead, and that was lovely). Thanks for letting us know it can go back on the list!

  • I totally agree with you about the Touraine wines. The area is frequently ignored by the wine tourist industry and disregarded as a wine producing area even by the French, and yet what comes out of here is fantastically good value and extremely drinkable. I never buy champagne any more. Pétillant de Loire and sparkling Vouvray are often better wines and always better value.

  • We ate at Astier in 2009 when we were in Paris. We were lucky and got a table without making a reservation. Unfortunately we kinda allready spent our entire budget for the weekend, so we stuck to a plate (Poitrine and Lamb if I recall correctly), some wine and a coffee. I did see the cheese platter pass my table, several times, and each time I cried a little. I love (!!!) French cheese and I share your love for white wines to accompany them. Last week I bought the most delicious Comté I ever had, from a very cute deli in Maastricht, the Frenchest (is that a word?) city of Holland.

  • These days I substitute sweet desserts for cheese at the end of a meal.
    Before going do remember “un petit café bien serré ” fills half of a small espresso cup. That is coffee for the connoisseur.

  • Wonderful news about Astier, one of my fondest memories from when I lived in the neighborhood 12 years ago. Do they still have the terrine d’agrumes, which was the perfect closure after the massive cheese tray?

  • Thank you for the picture of that heavenly cheese plate !!!

  • Where is the photo of the cheese plate?

  • I last ate at Astier in the summer of 2008 and was unable to resist choosing four or five cheeses from the plate. When I couldn’t eat every last speck of them, the waiter returned to our table, looked at me with absolute disgust, and said in a voice dripping with sarcasm “you would perhaps like a, what-do-you-call-it, doggie bag?”

    This is seriously the most stereotypically French moment I’ve ever experienced in Paris (and I lived there for 9 months). But it did take some of the joy out of what was otherwise a pretty good meal.

  • Elaine, click on the link in the body of the blog entry. It’s a photo on Twitter.

  • Mara: That’s too bad. Am wondering if that was part of the bad reports that I was talking about before this visit. (Although sometimes waiters have a bad day or are just plain rude.) Since it was 3 years ago, that may have been the case. But thanks for chiming in.

    I don’t usually write up places to go in Paris here unless I’m pretty sure readers are going to have a good experience. Too bad yours back then wasn’t so good..but when people say things like that to me, I respond “Sure, I will take a doggy bag home. Thanks for offering” which, of course, would drive them nuts : )

  • I love Sancerre and wish I could drink it daily. The cheese plate is amazing, it is big!

  • Cool window pic!

  • Thanks for the information on Restaurant Astier. It was on my list to go for a long time but never went because I kept hearing negative comments about diners experience there. I will make it a point to go there when I am next in Paris in the next few months. I can’t wait for the cheese course.