La Bourse et la Vie

steak frites at La bourse et la vie paris bistro

When Daniel Rose opened his first restaurant, Spring, it was a small, seasonally driven restaurant on an unremarkable street in the 9th arrondissement. Word quickly spread about the talented chef, who helped fuel a revolution of younger chefs in Paris cooking creatively, most of it French-inspired, but with an additional focus on sourcing the finest seasonal fruits, vegetables, fish and meats.

As an American, Daniel didn’t have fixed ideas about how things should be, and used ingredients that were decidedly French – part of a now full-blown movement in Paris amongst a younger generation of chefs, who are putting more vegetables forward on their menus, accenting plates with unexpected seasonings, using less sauces, and lightening up plates, which eventually became part of an international conversation about the current and future state of French cuisine.

Most of these smaller places are packed, but Daniel made a big move and took Spring to another neighborhood, offering more intricate menus than he had been making before. (He is also re-opening the nearby Chez La Vieille in Paris, and opening another in New York.) Spring restaurant had been a success in its spiffier incarnation, but Daniel Rose decided to take a look back at classic French bistro cooking in his new place, applying the same insistence he’s known for in his other restaurant, on the quality of ingredients and careful preparation of the iconic dishes that many of us know and love. It’s obvious on the menu, and on the plates, that Chef Rose has a deep affection for them too.

Gougeres at La bourse et la vie paris bistro

I’ve had a couple of meals at La Bourse et La Vie, a name which is a riff on the expression, “Your wallet or your life.” (Readers of The Sweet Life in Paris will recall my confusion over le bourse, which also means scrotum in French.) And I would certainly give up either (although I will hold on to my own bourse, thank you very much…) for another one of the marvelous gougères brought to the table shortly after you sit down. The golden brown, crispy cheese puffs are huge, like the ones you get at bakeries in Chablis. They arrive sliced in half, which is a good thing, because if I had my own, I would probably not had room for dinner afterwards.

Foie gras aat La bourse et la vie paris bistro

Order the Foie gras with onion jam and you’ll be presented with several massive slabs of duck liver with warm toast and a flurry of flaky French sea salt and pepper over the top, which is all foie gras really needs.

Leek salad at La bourse et la vie paris bistro

Poireaux vinaigrette is a lovely plate of baby leeks topped with roasted hazelnuts from Piedmont (Italy), widely considered the best of their genre. And I agree. Some of you know the reproach I got for adding some bacon to my leeks vinaigrette at him, which “someone” eventually came around to, hazelnuts are something I’m going to try the next time.

La bourse et la vie paris bistro

But probably the killer app in the appetizer department are the Huîtres gratinées, a trio of oysters topped with a ridiculously unctuous dollop of Normandy cream, then baked on a bed of salt, just until browned and bubbly.

La bourse et la vie paris bistro

I had them on my first visit and loved them so much that I told a friend’s elderly French mother about them. She hails from Brittany, and was stunned when she heard that people cooked fresh oysters. (And with crème fraîche, too?!) I also love oysters crues. But the quick-cooking ensured that the oysters here remained juicy and briny underneath the blanket of thick, fresh cream, which melded perfectly with the salty bivalves nestled below…waiting to be spooned up…which I happily did.

La bourse et la vie paris bistro

On my first visit I had the Pot-au-feu, the French classic, whose English translation – boiled beef dinner – doesn’t quite do it justice. (That’s not a literal translation of the words, but that’s the dish in English.) The French version is often served in courses, with a bowl of broth to start. Then out comes the meat along with condiments like Dijon mustard, cornichons, coarse salt and horseradish alongside, and you’re welcome to pick out the pieces of tender beef and vegetables, as you wish.

Pot au feu at La bourse et la vie paris bistro

At La Bourse et La Vie, the Pot-au-feu comes out in a well-used copper pot and is lightened and brightened up with a flurry of fresh herbs, a clever touch that you won’t find in a stodgy bistro. Because the dish came from humble beginnings, it usually includes a beef bone, served with a narrow spoon to dig out the jelly-like marrow.

La bourse et la vie paris bistro

I loved this dish and would order it again. (And again and again.) In fact, last night I had dinner with a friend and when we were talking about this restaurant, we both agreed that the Pot-au-feu was the dish to have. I did try a fried quail with buckwheat that was on the menu, on a subsequent visit, that were pieces of deep-fried quail which had been dipped in a buckwheat batter (Caille frite au sarrasin), which arrived as being more of a riff on fried chicken, which is one of my favorite things on the planet, than something you’d find in a bistro. I wasn’t quite expecting it and spent my time trying to sneak tastes of Romain’s Pot-au-feu, which I’d urged him to order, and was one of the few times a panful of meat was lighter than a plate of quail.

Pot au feu at La bourse et la vie paris bistro

Dijon mustard at La bourse et la vie paris bistro

It’s hard for people to imagine a bistro without Steak-frites and it’s something even the corner tabac would have on its menu. When done right – with good beef and a pile of freshly made French fries cooked until crisp, it’s one of my favorite dishes.

Steak and French fries at La bourse et la vie paris bistro

La bourse et la vie paris bistro

On the initial visit, a group of friends and I had reservations for the second seating and I am pretty sure we were the only Americans in the place. (Even though two of us live here.) The second time I was at the first seating dining with Romain, and he was in the minority. I like a mix of people and it’s encouraging to see people traveling who like to eat well, since I’m one of those kinds of travelers myself.

The restaurant is compact, so that no matter where you sit, you’ll likely strike up a conversation with some of your neighbors, like we did. For those who want to “live like a local,” you might want to reserve a table for later if you’re so inclined. And due to the small size of the restaurant, it’s highly recommended that you reserve in advance.

La bourse et la vie paris bistro

I am an unabashed fan of simple French desserts, and Crème caramel is at the very top of that list. When dining with my small group of friends, one owns a great restaurant in the United States, and she’s a terrific baker, too. We both agreed that this was one of the best versions of crème caramel that we’ve had.

I later learned that a touch of cream added to the custard brings it to the top, along with vanilla seeds, a twist that you don’t find in France. (I worked for a while in a Mexican restaurant in California and my co-workers were surprised when I added vanilla to my flan, so that addition may be an American addition?) I dunno, but it works with the cool custard and even though I was supposed to be sharing mine, I secretly wish I had ordered one that I could have spooned up all by myself.

Creme caramel at La bourse et la vie paris bistro

La Bourse et La Vie
12 rue Vivienne (2nd)
Tél: 01 42 60 08 83

(Reservations recommended.)

Camembert du Normandie

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  • P. Adams
    February 23, 2016 11:06am

    It all looks amazing. Thank you for sharing. I’m totally taken with the gougères – probably because I love them and first made them in the 70’s. These are aspirational. I’m going to up my game.

  • February 23, 2016 1:07pm

    What a fabulous looking restaurant. This whole post had me salivating – reading it at lunch time was not a good idea!

  • February 23, 2016 1:36pm

    I love flan as well, and add a bit of vanilla to mine. I really felt like you took me to this little gem with your post! Great work, as always.

  • February 23, 2016 5:04pm

    Wow! French classics at their very best. Those gougeres look absolutely amazing.

  • February 23, 2016 5:20pm

    Have been there 2 to 3 weeks ago with a friend. Small room decorated with taste, smiling team, I loved my Pot-au-feu de veau with Tête croustillante, my friend loved her oysters. It’s already on my website, on my recommendation list and I already have sent a few guests and friends. Unfortunately closed on WE….

    • Nadia@maisontravers
      February 24, 2016 11:44am

      I am jealous!

      • February 24, 2016 3:06pm

        Hi Nadia, Don’t stay jealous, come , I’ll be happy to meet you. I remember we already exchanged on another post by David.martinn at info

  • Susan Hill
    February 23, 2016 5:24pm

    I want the beautiful green salad! So French.

  • February 23, 2016 5:47pm

    Beautiful photos David, excellent job.

    • February 23, 2016 6:20pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks! It was pretty dark in there, and we were trying to eat. But managed to get some snaps, including some of the cooks in the kitchen.

  • February 23, 2016 5:52pm

    Delicious looking, all of it. Steak and fries for brekky, please!
    Would you be so kind and tell me what that lovely green sauce is, atop the steak in the first photo?
    Thank you in advance, and also thanks for the gourmet armchair travel.

    • Carolyn Mann
      February 24, 2016 7:47am

      Nancy Wilder, The green probably is butter compounded with herbs. There are many variations. One butter recipe for 4 steaks is 4 T unsalted softened butter, 1/2 shallot, 1 clove garlic, 1T fresh chives, 1 T fresh parsley, salt, pepper. Mash and grind everything together. Can use right away – 1 T per cooked steak, or mold into a roll and chill. Slice into 4 pieces to top the cooked steaks.

  • Bill Flodin
    February 23, 2016 5:55pm

    Where will I find the recipe for the gougeres?

    • February 23, 2016 6:20pm
      David Lebovitz

      There’s a link in the post for my recipe, where I talk about the gougères.They’re made much larger at the restaurant, hence the darker brown color and thicker exterior.

  • Jen
    February 23, 2016 6:06pm

    Every time I make gougeres for friends and family they love them! I always add parmesan cheese in the batter and sprinkle on top like you did in your post — thanks David!

  • Laurie
    February 23, 2016 6:07pm

    I have a question abut making clarified butter. It is a simple process that I have done many times, until I bought the butter from Trader Joes. It usually smells divinely like …butter and is golden in color. Not this time. It is the palest yellow I have ever seen and does not smell like much of anything but canola oil. I did not start with any kind of butter blend. What should I be using to make clarified butter? Thanks, Laurie

    • February 23, 2016 6:19pm
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t know about that butter but I do know TJs carries Kerrygold, which is excellent. I’ve not used it to make clarified butter, but I’m sure it works well.

    • February 23, 2016 9:35pm

      The butter that Trader Joe’s sells under its name is very poor quality. Not only does it taste like nothing but it has a very high water content, which is evident when you melt it. It’s particularly bad for baking.

      • Heart
        February 24, 2016 5:30am

        Thank You, I thought it was just my palate…

      • Nora Signer
        February 24, 2016 9:21am

        Hi David-Hi David’s community-The label on Trader Joe’s Organic Sweet Butter states that where other butters have water they have a higher percentage of milk which only leaves more milk solids in the bottom of the pot when clarifying the butter or cooking it longer for ghee, not a great surprise when it happens. So I no longer use TJ’s butter. My problem is when there is a new batch of ghee I end up using it for practically everything. I’d clearly have a lot of trouble if I had easy access to Normandy butter!

  • Kit Williams
    February 23, 2016 6:13pm

    Funny, the timing of this. I made a creme caramel last night and, as I was trolling the internet while it was in the oven, I suddenly realized that I had forgotten to add the vanilla (I didn’t have a bean, so meant to add the extract after adding the milk to the eggs). Ah well — my subconscious was making it the French way! Anyway, David, at what point of the cooking do they add the cream? Is it heated up with the milk? Is it added after the milk and eggs have been combined? DO tell, if you know the secret! Many thanks!

  • Jen
    February 23, 2016 6:14pm

    PS, they don’t just love them, they go crazy over them! It’s my favorite thing to make for parties for that reason. :)

  • Alison
    February 23, 2016 6:19pm

    This place sounds so appealing, but WHERE IS IT?! We live a couple of blocks away and have searched up and down rue Vivienne for this restaurant to no avail. Does it not have a sign?

    • February 23, 2016 6:40pm

      very discreet, I almost missed it and my friend as well… on the left hand side when you go from Bourse toward Galerie Vivienne. I suppose they expect to be so famous in a few weeks that they don’t need to “show off” :-)

      • Alison
        February 24, 2016 8:41am

        Thank you!

    • February 23, 2016 10:09pm
      David Lebovitz

      They don’t have a sign but that’s the address listed in the post. They do have a menu posted outside with the name of the restaurant on it, but for now, that’s it.

    • Alex
      March 4, 2016 9:34pm

      Restaurant has a green arched exterior. The menu is posted in a small window outside. There are sometimes seasonal specials too. I have been there several times, amazing food and great service!

      • Alison
        March 4, 2016 9:37pm

        Thank you. Once we learned there was no sign, we walked by and found the place, only to discover that they’re closed until March 7! Sigh– will persevere. Happily, this neighborhood is a target-rich environment for good food so I guess we’ll survive until their return.

      • John Talbott
        March 4, 2016 9:38pm

        It’s on the East side, and indeed is hard to spot, with its small facade. Look for #12.

  • Joan
    February 23, 2016 6:42pm

    I was in Paris last week – wish you’d posted this before that!!! Still, I had a great meal at Zeyer (Alésia) and will keep this address for the next time, hopefully late May!

  • February 23, 2016 6:50pm

    wow….i just ate and now i’m hungry again….thanks a lot…i love your writing and taste, david…i’ve been living in france now for 4 months and have developed a wonderful addiction to camembert…i was told by an “expert” that the only camembert to eat is properly labeled “camembert de normandie”…just wondering what your thoughts are about that and could you tell me who makes the camembert in the above photo…can’t make out the name…again, thank-you so much for taking the time to share your experiences…i’m a fan….

    • February 23, 2016 7:06pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, Camembert de Normandie is the true, raw-milk cheese. I think there are only 7 producers of it left, and I always choose it over the standard Camemberts, the ones sold in supermarkets and perhaps in some cheese shops. I don’t know which brand of Camembert de Normandie they serve but any reputable cheese shop should be able to point you towards a good one. (Often they will open it and smell it for you, or at least feel it, to check the ripeness before selling it.)

    • February 23, 2016 7:40pm

      Dear Craig, I know David is very busy with his wonderful posts and beautiful photos. I live in the Montorgueil/ Bourse area and know quite a lot about the foodscape. I work with a flexible agenda and March seems quiet. So if you want to stroll the area with me on a friendly basis of course, I’ll be happy to be your guide and discuss food, take you to some nice shops most of them being on David’s listing, utensils , cookbooks with you. We can find 1/2 day to brush the topic. So up to you… contact me at info at key2paris dot com. Don’t worry no obligation, it’s because I love Paris, Montorgueil and food so much. Like to share. Gourmets regards Martinn

  • February 23, 2016 7:24pm

    Those gougères!

  • Cathy
    February 23, 2016 7:41pm

    My mouth was watering at your descriptions and I was all set to pick up the phone to make reservations until I saw that they do a first and second seating… classic French bistro, my ass! That is so American! I refuse to dine in Parisian restaurants that have adopted this horrible system. Part of the beauty of a French meal is that the table is yours for the whole night. True chefs who are artists would never rush their customers and it is highly regrettable to see that a place like this is just interested in making money and not making repeat customers.

    • February 23, 2016 9:58pm
      David Lebovitz

      Most of the places in Paris now do two seatings. It’s rare that a restaurant can afford to only do one seating, especially one like this that only has 29 seats. I think they had 6 people on staff, and it’s extremely expensive to have employees in France due to very high social charges. (Some say the high costs are the reason some restauranteurs are using frozen foods to make ends meet. Everything here is impeccably fresh.) Am not sure if you live in France or not, but most small food-based businesses have a difficult time making ends meet due to Paris rents, utility bills, high labor costs, and food costs.

      Last night I went to Au Passage and they do two seatings, as do places like Frenchie and Ellsworth, too, for the same reason – and also because so many people want to eat there as well. Generally only the higher-end places do one seating per night and while it’s nice to go to those places, they are more special-occasion nights for most people.

  • February 23, 2016 8:36pm

    I’m taken with the gougeres…they look amazing. My mouth is watering, too. Am downloading the recipe right now!

  • Victoria
    February 23, 2016 8:48pm

    In Jacques Pépin latest cookbook, Heart and Soul, he says when baking gougères to leave them in the oven when they are done baking with the door open until they cool and that will help them not to deflate so much. I tried it and it works.

    • Nadia
      February 24, 2016 11:46am

      That is the classic French way to cook them. Works every time.

  • Susan Allen
    February 23, 2016 9:49pm

    Clicked on the link to ‘great restaurant’ in the second to last paragraph. Discovered it is our own beloved Al Forno, but did not know that Jo had a blog. Also a dear friend’s nephew is the pastry chef. There’s a reason Rhode Islander’s always end up back here. The range of restaurants, local markets and just about every kind of food can be found here. I remember someone trying to make gougeres in our dorm kitchen, so exotic in the late 60’s

    • February 23, 2016 9:59pm
      David Lebovitz

      I ate there maybe 15 or so years ago and I still remember my dinner. I didn’t know them at the time but the clams with sausage still lingers in my mind, as does the lemon tart made-to-order with red currants…!

  • Peter L
    February 23, 2016 9:55pm

    So, don’t go. In defense of the two seatings at LBetV, as David mentions it is compact; I remember it having about 30 covers max. If that place did only 30 dinners a night it would not be in business very long. Another thing, the place has a lot of repeat customers.

  • Ford Cornell
    February 23, 2016 10:28pm

    Three comments…

    1. Your photos are sumptuous! Have you ever considered selling them? They’d make good kitchen art.
    2. Your writing combines the sinful and sublime touches of a lover of the good bite. Thank you for the mouth watering prose.
    3. Not to be offensive but humorous…how much do you weigh?!!
    Do you walk home or roll? I’d be rolling all the way… But wearing a big smile.

    You have an amazing gift for blogging. Never stop, please.

    • February 24, 2016 11:48am

      It’s all about moderation

      • February 24, 2016 3:09pm

        yes here in France we always think quality versus quantity :-)

  • Barbara
    February 24, 2016 12:13am

    I bought Kerrygold butter in awhile Foods, Santa Monica, CA, & think they had back East in DC area, so I’d check in your local WF’s–if u have.

  • Barbara
    February 24, 2016 12:14am

    That’s Whole Foods!

  • Jackie
    February 24, 2016 1:57am

    About a hundred years ago (2008), I ate at la bourse ou la vie (at least that’s what my notes say – I have no French. Same spot, new owners? It was such a lovely meal, but the place was empty. Might have been the day or time or rainy weather. I have seen reference to this new place a couple of different places and am hoping if they are related, the old owners are doing well. They were exceedingly kind to two clueless young Americans and fed us very well.

  • Peter L
    February 24, 2016 2:43am

    Jackie, It is the same (physical) space. You are correct: it was LB OU LV, now it is ET instead of OU. Used to be an extremely good steak-frites place, owned by a former architect. The last time we were there, several years ago, the writing was clearly on the wall that it was in its last days. BTW, for such a small space, the interior makeover was incredibly well-done.

  • John talbott
    February 24, 2016 3:29am

    I have two questions, David:
    Why doesn’t Daniel have a star and
    Why doesn’t anyone state that it is his wife’s grandmothers recipes that fuel breakfast and lunch?

  • Michele
    February 27, 2016 4:41pm

    First attempt at making your linked gougeres recipe is now in the oven, thank you! I love reading your blog.

  • Laurie
    February 28, 2016 4:48am

    Going to Paris in July. Right now it the website shows no openings in July. Do you know if they only book a couple months in advance or if they’re already booked or if they’re closed?

    Any other recommendations for the week of Bastille Day?


    • February 28, 2016 7:19am

      Hi Laurie, being a Parisian , I’d say I love to behave “Royalty” for Bastille Day :-)
      Going to Versailles, having luxury food just to be “controversial”
      on the 13th and 14th look for places to Danse in the streets Bal des Pompiers, Bals Populaires…
      You should go to the Bastille on the 12th or13th (as on 14th most of things are closed). Go avenue Daumesnil, walk on top of promenade Plantée, visit the artisan shops underneath, go to Marché d’Aligre and enjoy food and flea market in the morning, go to Ducasse Manufacture de Chocolat on rue de la Roquette ; discover many passages with artisans mostly related to furniture design and art (XIXth century History). I have a list if you want. Charming, History, a must see.

    • February 28, 2016 9:00am
      David Lebovitz

      Most places in Paris don’t book that far in advance. Usually two months is normal for popular places but you could certainly call and inquire. Unlike the celebrations in America, “Bastille Day” in Paris isn’t celebrated with the same gusto. (It’s the beginning of vacation season, so most people are preparing to head out of town.) There is a military parade down the Champs-Elysées and some events. More info is at the Paris website.

      • Laurie
        February 28, 2016 10:20pm

        Thank you so much! Will definitely make our plans accordingly.

  • February 28, 2016 7:41pm

    I love this place. A lot. And at first sight you could say that they had not created anything.
    But this is right the point where they are good at : Daniel Rose is doing an amazing and “apparently” simple job, but everything is done quite greatly. Simple details that make all the difference. I highly recommend this place, especially at this winter season where you want to have this kind of meal.

  • February 28, 2016 7:42pm

    and definitely the kind of place I want to go back to !

  • March 1, 2016 6:49am

    The foie gras with onion jam looks very delicate. Easily one of the most robust yet delicate foods you can find in the world.

  • Daniel Rose
    March 4, 2016 2:35pm

    Thank you for this delicious profile and pictures. Although I know this restaurant ‘intimately’ I am still taken by how beautiful it looks and feels through your lens and description.