Skip to content

The Paris dining scene continues to change and evolve. The pandemic changed where we ate, and how we ate…at least for a while. Restaurants are all open again, and packed. But the pause provided a chance to breathe new life into the city. The government offered support, but still, the closings affected restaurants, cafés, and bars hard, which were still reeling from setbacks that included lengthy strikes, unruly protests, attacks, and now, Covid.

As the city comes back to life, there are little gems that sparkle here and there. And Capitale is one of them.

The owner is Margot Lecarpentier, who may be familiar to some of you as I profiled her, and her bar, Combat, in Drinking French. It’s one of my favorite places to have a drink in Paris, perched on a hill in the multicultural Belleville neighborhood, where I do a lot of my food shopping. When writing the book, I asked Margot about the expansive bar she designed for making cocktails on, she said she wanted it to feel like a dining room table, and added, “Because I am from Normandy…and I like to eat!”


Her drinks have a savory quality and she builds a cocktail like a cook creates a dish, using natural and no-waste ingredients like fig leaves and citrus scraps to make syrups and infusions, which she sometimes shares on her Instagram page.

The idea of her new restaurant (which doubles as a coffee shop/café), Capitale, doesn’t stick to one idea, but picks up pointers from everywhere to create an ever-changing menu. The food is very fresh, inviting, and reflects how younger chefs and cooks in Paris are stretching their legs beyond their borders, but keeping the focus on the bounty of local and French ingredients. The café breaks the rules for when you can eat what, which are less strict than they used to be in France. So you can go in at lunch and get an œuf au plat (sunny side up egg) with ricotta and chive oil, or a Croissanwich stacked with ham, avocado, cheese, and mustard-mayo sauce as a late afternoon goûter, or snack.

I first went to Capitale shortly after they opened (I couldn’t wait), which was for brunch, which is popular with the twenty-somethings in Paris. (So yes, my presence brought up the median age in the dining room.) Some places entertain the idea of le brunch, but they don’t always get it right, including the bottomless coffee. (I was a brunch waiter for a while in the U.S. and I think 80% of my time was spent refilling coffee cups.) But here, everything is fresh and cozy, which is the keyword to a successful brunch, at least in my book.

Being from the U.S., I zoomed in on the pastrami on the menu. The dish is a nod from several places, which, like the surrounding Belleville neighborhood, is where several different cultures meet. Closer to Turkish pastirma than its counterparts in New York and Montreal, a chiffonade of sliced meat sits on freshly made pain de maïs (cornbread) along with dollops of sauce ranch, mustard, and a selection of housemade pickles.

As you can see, it’s not the classic pastrami/smoked meat sandwich, but it was a nicely reinvented brunch dish, and there were no complaints about it. It was delicious and decidedly French. (Cornmeal is used in the Basque region for polenta and taloa, a tortilla-like Basque specialty that I’ve tried to make, but not successfully.)


When I went back recently with my friend Forest of 52 Martinis, we both were excited by the Pain grillée, beurre de noisettes et chocolat blanc, confiture – three generous slices of sourdough toast with white chocolate-hazelnut spread, a touch of sea salt, and housemade jam. It didn’t occur to me then, but it was a rather sophisticated peanut butter and jelly. I like when the French make something American better than we do. (The Chocolate Chip Cookies at Kayser bakery are another example of that.)

Neither I, nor Forest, are restaurant reviewers, just two friends catching up over lunch, and it would have been fun to try everything on the menu. But we enjoyed an excellent Ricotta toast with crispy kale, preserved lemon (citron confit), olives, hot chiles, and almonds (shown at the top of the post).

We also tried the Chirashi made with sushi rice, fermented vegetables, a soy sauce-cooked egg, and ginger which isn’t really a dish made for sharing. Japanese food is a different vibe and we both love Japanese food but I think it shines better when you’re not trying to share it, and are avoiding eating off the same plate, a downside of dining with others in this era of Covid. (I also want to enjoy it when I’m not eating it in between mouthfuls of spicy kale and French-style peanut butter and jelly.)

I love how Margot put together such a great drinks menu, with the focus here on those without alcohol, or low ABV. Being France, there’s wine and beer, with intriguing options like a coconut-matcha frappé, mint tea with basil and black pepper syrup, coffee with camomile and maple syrup, a non-alcohol Suze (gentian) tonic, and I just had to try the made-in-Paris fig leaf kombucha, which earned a 20/20 (a French A+) from me.

I also enjoy The Green Opium, a Brunch-friendly sans alcool cocktail made with a base of coffee-infused (non-alcoholic) vermouth, verjus, fig leaves, and orange flower water. It’s the perfect drink any time of the day.


Capitale
10 rue Pradier (19th)
Paris

Current hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 9:30am to 5:30pm, closed Monday and Tuesday. (Subject to change. Check their Instagram page for updates.) No reservations.


22 comments

    • Lynn Loring

    The chocolate chip cookies from Kaiser ARE the best bakery CCC I have ever had. I get stuck buying them most of the time when I walk inside, as I want to branch out!!
    . I love having it validated by you.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      They are really good! Many of the chocolate chip cookies are on the dry side and sort of hard (I think because people are used to sablés, not soft cookies so much), but his are excellent.

    • Colin

    What happened to Tuesday?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Added!

    • Bette

    Can I just say, yum?! And what beautiful presentation of each dish.

    • Warren

    Cannot wait to try this place when I’m next in Paris, possibly later this summer. I totally love the 18th and the 19th, and now there’s somewhere new and interesting to have a pause and a snack. Thanks for the reco.

    • Carol in Texas

    David, what is in the final photograph? It looks like a sort of raisin bread topped with toasted almonds…….I could not find a description of it in your blog.

      • Rocky

      Yes! I want to know too. What is that?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      It’s a “croissant cake” – I’m not sure how it’s made and I haven’t tried it, but it looked delicious!

    • Susan Goldberg

    Fun to read about new places opening in Paris. There will be a lot to try if I can ever get there again. Sure miss it!❤️

    • Susan Riggs

    Adding this to my list, merci David!

    • M Folk

    great place, great post. I love the french sensibility in the plateware, and the creative ingredients in non alcoholic mocktails. Would love ot try the vermouth. Wow. Can’t wait to get out of Australia and make a bee line for Paris and Capitale. thank you David

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, I also like the mismatched plates and how Margot has created very good “cocktails” using great ingredients, that taste good. Sometimes “mocktails” can feel like an afterthought just to have some in the menu, and they’ve really nailed them at Capitale.

    • Annie Rose

    I hope that all restaurants in Paris continue to survive with the current restrictive policies regarding injections. In my part of the world, the suburbs in Cook County 30 miles north of Chicago, Illinois, wonderful restaurants are folding weekly due to Covid mandates. Just this month, two long time very popular restaurants, Tuscany and Bob Chinn’s, closed their doors in my town. The restaurant business is a hard business during good times, but with Covid mandates limiting seating and now discriminating against the uninjected, many restaurants cannot get enough staff or customers to survive. But a short 5 minute drive north into another county that has no restrictions is a different story. Their restaurant business is booming. Thank you for your wonderful descriptions and photos of your favorite places and dishes. They are wonderful! I hope your restaurant, cafe, and bar friends continue to thrive.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      France did an admirable job supporting restaurants and cafés during the beginning of the pandemic, providing aid and paying many salaries so the impact was lessened. (People also have universal health care, so there was no worry about people losing coverage or paying premiums.) Also France isn’t a “tip” culture so the income of waiters and bartenders didn’t fluctuate as much as it does in the US, where people rely on tips for their income.

      Now that everything in France is wide open – restaurants, cafés, and bars – things are going back to normal and a majority of the population is vaccinated (75-80%) although some people (myself included) are wary of eating in a crowded restaurant with side-by-side seating, no ventilation or open windows. So I am dining at off-hours when there are fewer people.

        • Warren

        As a frequent visitor to Paris (3 times a year pre-COVID) bringing small culinary tour groups, your ‘on the street’ information of Paris’ reopening is very much appreciated David. TY.

        • Cathy

        we think we’ll finally be back after a two-year absence – would you pls make a list of favorite places with outdoor seating – as much as we like Paris, we want to be able to board our flight home on time!

          • David
          David Lebovitz

          Many cafés have terraces and outdoor seating. Last year the government quickly approved restaurants build makeshift terraces outside to help improve business and provide safer dining. Those were all removed as of October 2021 for a variety of reasons, but one was that they could be extremely noisy for neighbors, as people sometimes partied at them well into the early hours of the morning (like 3am) and they caused some problems. It is yet to be determined what this spring and summer will bring.

    • Nita Lavigne, Australia

    A trip to Paris for the next little while still seems
    like a pipe dream so your wonderful newsletter is keeping the dream alive! I would also love to know about the cake in the last picture!

    • Maggie Beltrami

    On my list when I’m there in June, Combat too. My BFF since Kindergarten and I always planned to go to Paris together to celebrate 50 years of friendship. Covid delayed it by two years but we are determined to make it happen this summer! Covid will just have to make way!

    • Violette kogut

    I plan to return to Paris this year; 2 years without a trip to France was too much for my system. Thanks for all the places to see – Paris changes a lot, but so much to see…Your report of different places to eat makes me homesick
    À bientôt

    • S

    Everything looks incredible, especially the pastrami!

A

Get David's newsletter sent right to your Inbox!

15987

Sign up for my newsletter and get my FREE guidebook to the best bakeries and pastry shops in Paris...