Chez Dumonet

Chez Dumonet French bistro in Paris

One of my downfalls is that I do not have a photographic memory. Sometimes I go out to eat and the next day, I have less of a recollection of what I ate (and drank) than some of my esteemed colleagues who write about restaurants so eloquently do. (My memory is gradually been replaced by the camera on my phone.) In this case, as soon as I got home, I wrote up some notes from the meal and quotes from the chef, which some rather concerted efforts to find on my computer failed to turn up.

Chez Dumonet

That said, all the meals that I’ve had at Chez Dumonet, a spot-on classic Parisian bistro, have been memorable – regardless of the evolving ways that I have of preserving them. The memories last long after that feeling of being absolutely stuffed have diminished — the next few days after a meal here are invariably “salad days.”

Chez Dumonet

Fortunately, not much changes at Chez Dumonet, which is sometimes still affectionately called Joséphine. For those who want a place that is carrying on the traditions of the Parisian bistro, you can’t do better than Chez Dumonet. The only concessions they’ve made to modern times (and waistlines) are offering half-portions of certain dishes, which are massive enough to make you wish le doggy bag was more popular in Paris. (I, personally, do not mind rewarmed bœuf bourguignon the next day for lunch.)

Chez Dumonet

Chef/owner Jean-Christian Dumonet kept the nickname Joséphine, which people continue to use, the name of the beloved restaurant that he took well over a decade ago. He told me that it was previously a bougnat, a place that sold heating coal, as well as acting as a neighborhood café.

Chez Dumonet

It’s evolved to what it is today. And judging from the packed dining room at lunch, with the cooks working like madmen in the kitchen and diners of all ages crowded into the dining room, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be changing to anything else in the near future.

Chez Dumonet

You could start with a few slabs of the meaty housemade terrine, but I usually go with the herring, which comes to the table in a large earthenware dish, the neatly fileted fish marinating (or swimming) in a generous pool of olive oil, with bay leaves and thyme.

Chez Dumonet

It’s a “help yourself” kind of dish. But it’s best not to overdo it because the main courses that are coming up will fill any holes in your appetite.

Chez Dumonet

Although I was eyeing the pigeon with crisp potato cakes that the chef was turning out in the kitchen, I have a very hard time ordering anything else at Chez Dumonet, other than the exceptional duck confit. It is – and probably always will be – the best version in Paris.

Chez Dumonet

Served with potatoes cooked in duck fat, which are appropriately showered with coarse salt while they’re cooking. (And I thank them for cooking potatoes with enough salt – no amount of salt you add at the table will cling to the potatoes as well as the salt that’s added during cooking) It’s a dish that I would cross Paris to get to more often.

Chez Dumonet - potatoes cooked in duck fat

This is the kind of food that is a more occasional indulgence, rather than a daily delight. But judging from the banter between the sharp waiters and the jovial clients, many are obvious regulars.

Chez Dumonet

My French dining companion, Camille, couldn’t resist the steak tartar, which is one of those dishes that I also like a lot, but tends to be served in too-large portions for me.

Chez Dumonet

Here, that’s no exception. But I was happy to help her finish off the tremendous portion. (Although she was doing pretty well attacking it, on her own…) Made tableside, the waiter mixes up an egg yolk with capers, shallots, Dijon mustard, cornichons, and Worcestershire sauce, along with the hefty mound of ground beef, then will ask if you want it pimenté (spicy), holding the bottle of Tabasco at the ready.

I often warn people to only order this dish at a place you absolutely trust. And if you’re woman – or man – enough to like this dish, you can invite me, and I’ll help you polish it off if you’re not up for the task.

I’m not man enough to eat a whole portion, but when it comes to dessert, all bets are off. Le must is the Grand Marnier Soufflé, which comes out free-form style, rather than a straight-sided tower, baked to creamy perfection in an oversized porcelain urn with a browned, crusty top. A petit glass of Grand Marnier is presented alongside, in case you want to add more, and in some cases, the waiter will bring over the whole bottle of orange-flavored liqueur and leave it on the table.

When I asked if they left the bottle over for everyone, he said non, that it was only for certain customers that they liked, with the hint of a wink. (So either it was me, or it was because I was with a French woman with a hearty appetite, obviously enjoying her meal.) But note that the soufflé needs to be ordered at the beginning of the meal. So if you want one, and want to remain on the waiter’s good side – where you always want to be in Paris – be sure to put your order in early.

As we were finishing up, the chef came by to make sure that we didn’t leave behind the sugary sides baked on to the soufflé dish, after we ate the insides. We assured him not to worry…we were fully intending on getting to those.

Chez Dumonet

(And sorry, but no picture of the towering soufflé before we dove in. When someone brings you a hot soufflé right from the oven, you don’t do anything else but grab a spoon and dive in. Especially if you’re dining with someone who has already grabbed her spoon, ready to get a jump on you!)

Another dessert that shouldn’t be missed is the mille-feuille, two sheets of puff pastry filled with rich, voluptuous whipped cream. I first had it over ten years ago and still remember how remarkably buttery it was – even without any notes. I liked it so much that I asked to go into the kitchen and see how they did it. The pastry chef showed me sheets of puff pastry sugared and baked until crisp and caramelized, then cooled and filled with sweetened whipped cream. Any tables in the dining room that aren’t eating the soufflé for dessert are invariably sharing a mille-fuille, including some older gentleman finishing off a leisurely group meal with glasses of Cognac, who offered us tastes.

Chez Dumonet

The prices at Chez Dumonet put the bistro north of the budget category, which the chef told me was because of the quality of ingredients and the cost of having skilled cooks in the kitchen. It’s hard to argue with that, especially because you can probably skip the next few meals after dining at Chez Dumonet, as you won’t leave hungry.

Chez Dumonet

Chez Dumonet
117, rue du Cherche Midi (6th)
Tél: 01 45 48 52 40
Métro: Duroc or Falguière

(Open Monday through Friday, lunch and Dinner. Closed weekends.)


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48 comments

  • February 20, 2015 5:45pm

    Bar none my favorite bistro in Paris. Every time we visit, this has to be our first dinner and we always order the same things- beef bourgingon, duck confit, the seared foie, grand mariner soufflé and Mille feuille. Your post has made me start to count the days til my next meal there…

  • February 20, 2015 5:52pm

    You are making me nostalgic for Au Petit Marguery. Thirty years ago I celebrated my 18th birthday there with my father; in 2008 we went back and I was so please to see that it was (and is) still standing. There is nothing like a classic bistro where you can (and should) order a Grand Marnier souffle as soon as you sit down!

  • witloof
    February 20, 2015 5:56pm

    Thank you for this lovely lovely slice of Paris! I don’t know when I’ll be back but I hope to go there when I do.

  • February 20, 2015 6:13pm

    It all looks so delicious…but I’m feeling that already eaten dessert and left wondering what I would decide on ordering there…great pictures!

  • Claire
    February 20, 2015 6:18pm

    Dear Lord I’m drooling on my keyboard! What is the dish that looks like sliced beef in the fourth picture? Also, the men appear to be in suits. Is this a “dress up” place or would a sport coat do?

  • Robynn
    February 20, 2015 6:25pm

    The best boeuf bourguingon in Paris!

  • Steve
    February 20, 2015 6:45pm

    The gigot pictured looks exactly as it did when served to me over a decade ago. That’s consistency! Even now I remember the quality (and copious portions) of that meal.

  • February 20, 2015 6:54pm

    Wonderful post and lovely photos. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • brian
    February 20, 2015 6:56pm

    Whats inside of the stacked potato cakes?

  • Allyson
    February 20, 2015 7:06pm

    Wonderful review, as always. I simply adore your writing style and cannot get enough.
    I also find it tres Parisian that this place is closed on the weekends…you certainly don’t see that a lot in America, at least not with establishments that serve dinner.

    Those potato cakes are a work of art but I would have fallen for the duck confit too. If only I could leave for Paris now and eat there tonight!!

  • shelley
    February 20, 2015 8:11pm

    Maybe it’s just the intense cold here in the NE, but those photo’s make me feel dizzy

  • February 20, 2015 8:14pm
    David Lebovitz

    brian: Roast pigeon

    Claire: Sliced leg of lamb. A number of the men are dressed up a bit because they are coming from work, but it’s pretty casual and men don’t need a sportcoat to dine here.

    Allyson: Some restaurants only open 5 days a week, which owners say is because of the finaniclal challenges in the country of having an extra set of staff for the addition days, so many places close up.

  • Sarahb1313
    February 20, 2015 8:30pm

    We had a delightful meal there last year. They were helpful when I was trying to find an available reservation, polite, kind. I just don’t understand the reputation of the nastiness in Paris!!
    Charming old Parisian decor, pleasant staff and of course the really extraordinary traditional French cooking. The wine was of course a bit pricey, but…
    the whole experience was a real treat ;-)
    Thanks for the review, and of course your discussion on the old posts that helped guide me there in the first place.
    Can’t wait to get back…

  • February 20, 2015 9:11pm

    Some fantastic looking pictures there david, I’m not normally one for ‘pretty’ food but these images are making me salivate.

  • February 20, 2015 9:15pm

    Those potato cakes look deceptively simple, yet I can’t figure out how to best approach recreating them….

  • Mollie Hudson
    February 20, 2015 9:25pm

    Dear David,
    This looks phenomenal!! Thank you, as always, for your beautiful post.
    Thank you for explaining how they construct their mille-feuille. I always thought mille-feuille had more than two sheets of puff pastry-is it always just two sheets? Perhaps the flakiness of Jacques Genin’s incredible version (thank you for the recommendation!!) lead me to believe there were a few layers of puff pastry. Could you (or anyone) clarify please?
    Thank you for making our days brighter with your lovely writing!

  • Andrea
    February 20, 2015 10:01pm

    I went to Paris for the first time in October 2014 and had a gastronomically incredible experience at Chez Dumonet! Started with a tasty terrine, then had the duck with the most delicious potatoes while my aunt had the beouf bourgignon, which was scrumptious, and finished with a variety of wonderful cheeses. The meal was excellent, the servers were excellent, the atmosphere was excellent. It was a magical evening and I will go back the next time I’m in Paris!

  • Ruth
    February 20, 2015 10:40pm

    Wonderful post, David. My husband and I visit Chez Dumonet every time we are in Paris, and have been doing so since 1978! We always get the Boeuf Bourgignon and the mille-feuilles. I am a new reader of your blog although I know your work from your books and Paris By Mouth. Made the Chicken Marsala for Valentine’s Day. A big hit! Thank you!

  • February 20, 2015 11:13pm

    Hi, I had to comment and thank you for replying to my tweet about Chez Dumonet.
    I’m so glad I had the chance to visit while we were in Paris. We had a great meal with friends and I enjoyed exactly the same dishes as you did though it was our first time eating fois gras, I felt it was exactly correct. My Paris friend, who deems herself an expert on Duck Confit, told me it was one of the best she had…and so you concur! I am so lucky to have enjoyed a meal with my family and friends at Chez Dumonet. I will visit again if ever I am in Paris again.
    Oh, and I have a lovely video of the tableside beef tartare being made.

  • February 20, 2015 11:54pm

    Oh heaven….. Just brought our plates back to my kitchen.Made tarte au saumon with a life leafy salad and was SO glad that we ate first before reading yr. blog! This is an address to write down and your photos are to die for. I am truly amazed to realize what a terribly well informed readership you have. I never knowingly heard of this place before. Thank you so very much.

  • Marilyn
    February 21, 2015 12:29am

    David, is it ever possible to “split” a dish in Paris restaurants like Chez Dumonet?

  • Judy Brown
    February 21, 2015 3:59am

    Beautiful photos, as always. This kind of place is why we all fall in love with Paris, isn’t it? It looks absolutely, delectably perfect.

  • Jessica
    February 21, 2015 3:15pm

    Trust me, photographic memory, or pretty close thereto, is quite overrated.

  • February 21, 2015 4:45pm

    I would like to go soooooonnnnn … Ciao, Marica

  • February 21, 2015 5:10pm

    In Serbia we have a dish very similar to bœuf bourguignon that we make for Christmas dinner with gnocchi. It doesn’t get much better than great memories and delicious food!

  • February 21, 2015 5:37pm

    Thank you for sharing that experience with us. I love to read your blog. The comment from Ruth reminded me that I also should thank you for the chicken marsala recipe. We let the rest of the family eat early, and then my husband and I had a great night cooking together and dining together.

  • February 21, 2015 5:58pm

    Those crispy potato cakes look outstanding. Chez Dumonet is one of my absolute favorites for classic French. I couldn’t agree more about the duck confit, but I have such trouble resisting the boeuf bourgignon because I haven’t found a better one anywhere in the city. I usually try to coerce a dining companion into ordering the duck or BB so I can at least have a bite of both. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been, and last time I was there, their wine cellar had just gotten broken into and lots of precious bottles stolen. We got to see some dusty bottles from the 1800’s among other treasures down there. The staff have always been so great. Good reminder that I should go back for a visit! Been too long!

  • scott Sanders
    February 21, 2015 8:19pm

    David,

    we were there last nigth for dinner, and the food was not at all good. The salad was tasteless, the beef Bourguinon was just ok-i have had much better! And, the service was terrible. We were seated at the front of the restaurant and experienced the staff bad attitude toward every Ameican that walked in. There are so many other amazing restaurants in Pais-not sure why you are suggesting people go to this tired old psst it’s prime Brasserie. PS if you want a good soufflé, go to Le Cigale Recamier!!! Amazing!!!!

  • February 21, 2015 9:56pm

    This place sounds amazing! Duck confit is my favorite!
    Kari

  • Linda Zimmerman
    February 22, 2015 5:10am

    just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your blog I am a booty moose in the desert of southern idaho wiz 1 or 2 good restaurants that aren’t chains and I love to read about food and especially from you thank you so muchjust wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your blog I am a foodie living in the desert of southern idaho with 1 or 2 good restaurants that aren’t chains and I love to read about food and especially from you thank you so much! Have had the good fortune to travel in Europe and I read a lot about food

    • February 22, 2015 1:23pm

      Booty moose! Tell me more!

  • Bebe
    February 22, 2015 3:27pm

    Steak tartare! Haven’t had that since eons ago at Scandia in Los Angeles when the captain used to prepare it tableside. The last time he formed it in the shape of a heart. And yes, you must trust the restaurant.

    I have never experienced anti-American antipathy anywhere in Paris. Or anywhere else in France. Maybe it is because they don’t know I am American the minute I walk in. Greeting them with “bon jour” is helpful, too…

  • Bebe
    February 22, 2015 4:04pm

    PS. Your Chicken Marsala from a week or so ago was a winner. And the leftovers were even better a few nights later, sloshed with a bit more Marsala and heated in the microwave. And…..the very last piece was delicious for the cook’s lunch yesterday. I hasten to add that I made it with chicken thighs. They actually improve. I don’t believe breasts would.

  • February 22, 2015 4:07pm

    Another awesome post! I have never eaten there but will next time. I usually go to Pieds de Cochon for nostalgia. Years ago I used to love a place I think was called Jambon de Bayonne. Not sure if it is around anymore. The woman Chef was in her 70’s back then so it is unlikely she is still there. Nothing beats good old fashioned bistro/brasserie food! I was a Chef for 30 years and as I age (gracefully) I come back to enjoying the simple food best. I did a stage for Robuchon in 1996 and loved the fact that Paris restaurants often close on weekends. I think it is crazy that American ones put way too much emphasis on making money at all costs!

    Francois

  • February 22, 2015 11:22pm

    Dear David,

    Thanks for highlighting Chez Dumonet! I am have an additional bit of legend to add to your post. I am friends in Los Angeles with Noel Riley Fitch, author of “Appetite for Life, The Biography of Julia Child”, a biography of Sylvia Beach and a small but important guide to the Literary Cafes of Paris full of who had coffee and croissants where around town. Noel helped Mrs. Child close up her home in France before she moved for the last years of her life back to California. Noel went to Julia’s Last Meal in France. You guessed it, Julia Child said her last goodbye to Paris at Chez Dumonet.

    Hope you and your readers appreciate this news. All best from Julia’s hometown of Pasadena, California!

    Yours, Jeff von der Schmidt

  • witloof
    February 23, 2015 5:47pm

    Everyone! Click here!

    https://food52.com/the-piglet/judgments/90-my-paris-kitchen-vs-bar-tartine

    And David, congratulations!

    • February 23, 2015 11:52pm

      @witloof; thank you – laughed all the way through that wonderful and interesting ‘judgment contest’ you linked and of course I couldn’t agree more with the author (including the statement ‘Sorry, I’m just not a dessert person!’)…. When I got my Paris Kitchen book, I kept it on my nightstand for the first evenings and days – and instead of a midnight apple I read another story/recipe/tale and gorged my eyes on some more of those delicious photos….

  • February 24, 2015 12:32am

    I have My Paris Kitchen so could not agree more with the review linked above. I have cooked the chicken in mustard (oh, be still my heart!) and continue to savor each page of narrative and photo. This book is a treasure in every way that satisfies me. Bravo!

  • Linda
    February 24, 2015 1:39am

    Ok… we are convinced. Coming to Paris on Wednesday and this place is on our list! And do you need any peanut butter?

  • February 24, 2015 3:30am

    Oh, these photos are making me drool! Exquisite photos of gorgeous food. Thank you for sharing!

  • February 24, 2015 5:26am

    We went to Chez Dumonet 4 years ago on your recommendation and it remains one of the best memories of our trip to Paris!!

  • mandy
    February 25, 2015 11:14pm

    my husband and i went here in june 2014, and while the food was excellent, there was an obvious bias against americans. we were nicely dressed, and spoke as much french as we could, and we were still shunned to the back room, which slowly filled up with other american couples. i don’t usually care where i sit in a restaurant, but this room was more like a hallway, with the door to the bathroom right there in the middle. as good as that duck confit was, i don’t think we’d go back. le chateaubriand, on the other hand…i’ll be making two reservations there for the next trip!

  • February 26, 2015 9:40pm

    Hi!
    Do they have anything vegetarian on the menu? :)
    /Mattias

  • Kelly Kynion
    February 27, 2015 5:52pm

    Such a generous and information-packed post. Thank you. Dumonet is now on the bucket list for a trip in April. And it’s not far from Gare Montparnasse so perhaps in tandem with a daytrip to Chartres….
    You’ve given me countless hours of reading pleasure, so here’s one for you: Ludwig Bemelman’s collection of food-and-restaurant-related essays: La Bonne Table. A collector’s item online, or through a library.

  • Rick
    March 1, 2015 8:24pm

    Beware David’s rapturous description of this tired old place. As others have noted, their treatment of American diners is intolerable in this day and age. No need put up with their patronizing and condescending discriminatory treatment of non-French guests.

  • March 1, 2015 8:41pm
    David Lebovitz

    Hi Scott and Rick: Thanks for chiming in and sorry that you felt you were mistreated by the staff for being American. I’ve eaten here a number of times, mostly with other Americans, and didn’t experience that. In fact, this is the first time I’ve heard of Americans being treated unfairly here. While that is a stereotype of Paris, I know it does happen, but it hasn’t happened to me at this restaurant.

    I did go to another restaurant in Paris (with excellent food) a while back and the waiter was actively making fun of a group of Italian women who were dining together, by asking them – repeatedly, and obnoxiously – if they wanted Parmesan cheese on every course that he brought over. It was uncomfortable to watch as they were clearly annoyed. The waiter was also downright rude to us as well. But we weren’t being singled out; a Frenchman stood up in the middle of the meal, yelled that he had never experienced such poor service in his life, and left. (Which he noted he was going to notify the Michelin guide about.)

  • Douglas Wood
    March 2, 2015 11:49pm

    My wife and I had dinner at Chez Dumonet last Thursday, February 26. First, I must admit I do not have much courage when it comes to making dinner reservations on the telephone in French. Chez Dumonet only takes reservations by telephone. Well, I wanted to see what the place looked like so we were in the area early one evening and walked by about an hour before they opened. With some trepidation I walked in the door and asked about reservations and they were very happy to accommodate us the following night.
    At the start of the meal, I told the waiter that we were intending to share all the courses. I never imagined the length they would go through to ensure we had a great meal. We ordered 1/2 order of the artichoke salad with black truffles, 1/2 order of morilles for entrees, an order of duck confit and tartare for main courses.
    The two first courses were served together in a way we could easily share and the two main courses were served consecutively, first the confit and then the tartare, both served on a plate for each of us..
    I was a little disappointed in the salad, but the morilles we thought were wonderful. The confit was the hit of the evening for me, but the preparation of the tartare, at the table was gracious and memorable.
    No souffle was available that evening, we shared an apple tart.
    The meal was spectacular, do not miss the opportunity to dine at Chez Dumonet

  • Brad
    March 11, 2015 6:48am

    I had a spectacular meal here in 2011, my last visit to Paris; terrine, duck confit, Grand Marnier souffle; with very good service and spectacular treatment from the Chef, who personally brought me a large glass of classed-growth Bordeaux when my 1/2 bottle of Chinon ran out, filled up my Grand Marnier glass 3 times and brought me a glass of vintage Armagnac, none of which appeared on my bill. I am easy to spot as an American because of my atrocious French and my obesity. (I was well-dresssed in a coat and tie and did use my French.) But I was treated pleasantly, as you can tell, sat at a good table up front and enjoyed excellent service.