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paris bistro

Where do you go on a rainy afternoon if you find yourself near the middle of Paris? Quite a bit of the town has emptied out, as people make their exodus away from the city for the holidays. Those of us here are celebrating at home – or from the looks of things out there – doing a little last-minute scrambling for holiday gifts. There are cases of oysters on the sidewalk, sold by the dozen(s), and store windows are featuring foie gras, Champagne, candied chestnuts, and a few early galettes de rois (frangipan tarts.)

We were out-and-about near Les Halles, where the city has finally torn down the building which many feel has been a blight on the city since it was built, so there’s a bit of construction going on around there while they work on the new project. But those folks, too, seem to have taken a holiday breather as the regular sounds of jack hammers and cranes were replaced by, well, nothing. The neighborhood was well known for the giant Les Halles market, which had been replaced by Rungis out by the airport, but a few of the restaurants that retain the feeling of the era have remained.

Le Louchébem is a rôtisserie, with the long, late hours of a bistro, which hasn’t been there as long as others, but is a reliable place for a meal – but only if you like meat. And lots of it. I won’t say anything about the green beans, except you don’t really go to this kind of restaurant for the vegetables. But the meat coming off the spit, and being carved up and plated is pas mal. Upon entering, I asked in my American-accented French for a table for two and the host asked me if we wanted to lunch upstairs. I haven’t been up there, but downstairs seems to be where all the action is. So my other half said in French-accented French that we wanted to eat downstairs, and they directed us to a seat by the window.

I guess cuisse de boeuf (beef thigh) isn’t well-known, or is a cut that’s usually done in France, because it was a new one for my other half. But after taking a look at it at the carving area, and he saw how bleu (very rare) it was, he wanted that. (Many French folks prefer their meat very, very rare – I find I can’t slice or chew meat cooked that way, so I go for saignant, or medium-rare.) I had carré d’agneau (lamb chops) which were fine, and appropriately fatty with a glass of the verre du mois (wine of the month), which was passable but should have been lush and ample, to go with the beef and lamb, rather than thin and fruity. And I’d wait until next month before ordering a the wine-of-the-month again.

Some desserts are house-made, which is nice and they note which ones on the menu are. But we went for the Paris-Brest made by the nearly bakery, Julien. Filled with a thick paste of caramelized hazelnuts and a few scribbles of caramel, we made quick work of it then downed a petit café and were soon back out the door, into the quiet, rainy streets of Paris.

Related Links

Rue Montorgueil-Les Halles

Aux Tonneaux des Halles

The Cookware Shops of Paris

Paris Favorites



    • Mary Wulff

    Pictures are awesome (as always),sounds like a lovely, romantic day out in rainy Paris.

    • Sylvie

    I like it there. I don’t understand when my boyfriend wants to go to Hippopotamus when Le Louchébem is right there….

    • Cuisinedeprovence

    Time to go to Paris again and got to Louchébem pdq…

    • Briana

    Thank you for including us in your rainy, romantic day… I’m very hungry for steak and red wine.

    • Grace

    wonderful review and just in time, my mother is visiting and i’m putting together a list of where-to-eats. Thank you David.

    • Steffi

    When I go to France, I’ll be sure to compile a list of these amazing places and visit each and every one!

    • KG

    Are food items like foie gras and Champagne typical gifts in Paris, or are food items the only noteworthy gifts to you? (I kid, I kid.) Really, though, the most I see of food gifts around here in the southwestern US are things like generic wine baskets, candy, and novelty chili products (I live less than an hour from Hatch). Is it more common to give gifts of food in France?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      In Paris, many people don’t entertain large groups of people – Christmas is a pretty family-oriented holiday, and gifts of edibles are commonplace; like a nice bottle of wine or Champagne, or chocolates.

    • Tom L

    Just heard you mention on Lynn Rosetto Kasper’s show that you make a dark chocolate fruitcake with cherries. Sounds amazing. Where can I find the recipe? Or do I already have it in one of your books I have packed away (but not for long)?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      It’s on the site and also in my book, Ready for Dessert (pg 33).

    • Jake

    last time we were in paris my girlfriend and i ate at chez denise, which is near les halles. cozy atmosphere and open at all hours. very filling, too!

    • mlle paradis

    oh la la! comme je creve de jalousie!

    • Evy

    Merry Christmas! I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas–from a silent but dedicated reader of your blog! Thank you for your beautiful writing, images, and recipes!

    • Mary

    Ate at Le Trumilou last month based on your website’s recommendation and loved it! My family teases me about “what does David say about this” whenever we visit Paris or make plans to visit Paris! Your blog is well-written, beautifully photographed, provides a great service and is just plain fun to read. Merry Christmas and thank you from an also silent but dedicated reader.

    • Annabel

    Sounds like one to try next time we are over (April, probably).

    • Rick

    It’s raining in San Francisco today too so I felt the connection 6000 miles apart. Your post has inspired me to put rain gear on and trek to Le Zinc, our Noe Valley French bistro run by Max Braud and Diana Barrand. Max is a transplanted Parisian and has retained his thickly French accented English for all the years we’ve known each other. Their brik is wonderful for brunch. It will spice up this grey day.

    • Catherine

    My other half prefers steak rare and I, like you, prefer medium rare. I heard recently that beef that is prepared medium rare actually has more flavour (as a result of the increased cooking time) than rare does, which I found quite interesting.

    Thanks for all the wonderful posts this year; they are always looked forward to, and a pleasure to read.

    Best wishes for the holidays to you and yours.


      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Food writer Jeffrey Steingarten did a lengthy article a while back about why medium-rare meat tastes better than rare meat, and I tend to agree. Although to each their own – I just have a hard time cutting, and chewing, very undercooked pieces of beef.

    • Kristin

    We stayed in a hotel around the corner from Julien this summer, and enjoyed sandwiches, salads & their fabulous desserts!

    • Colette

    Just heard you on the splendid table; made me homesick for Paris

    • Gayle

    I ate at Louchebem on my first trip to Paris many years ago. Sitting outside at night, with the lights of St. Eustache in the background, and the old purgolas that were across the street at Les Halles, it was beautiful. The meat IS good, but oh my
    goodness, those green beans. I can even picture the Jolly Green Giant cringing:)

    Happy Holidays, everyone. And thanks for a great year of posts, David.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, I think even the Jolly Green Giant might want to do an intervention! Thanks for the laugh : )

    • heather

    just had a great trawl through your blog entries, i saved up (quite) a few for a quiet sunday evening treat. i noticed on your ‘ma cuisine’ kitchen refurb you have a retro le creuset casserole in flame, i have one in powder blue, apparently from 1958 and in mint condition, which my darling belle fille will get when i get back to the southern hemisphere. best wishes to you and yours for a happy and prosperous 2013.

    • Teresa

    Thanks for the update about Les Halles. I’ve never been fond of that mall so I didn’t even know about the renovations. I like eating in the area, though, so thanks for the post!

    • Helen McHargue

    Merry Christmas from our avocado grove in California. I rarely want to change locations with anyone else, but you make me want to quit weeding, throw off my boots and catch a plane for Paris. Thank you for this wonderful blog!

    • jspecht

    Glad to hear that they have torn down that monstroisty. I always felt very unsafe in that building and would walk to Saint Eustache rather than take the metro there. I was too young to have visited the old market. Ahh youth ! Looking forward to a vist to Le Pied Au Cochon and a mass at Saint Eustache in 2014. Will be eager to see the progress.

    • Desuza

    What is the name of the dessert you had?

    • parisbreakfast

    Very fun interview on The Splendid Table!
    I hope to find those star cookies
    Bon Noel David

    • Gavrielle

    I must admit to a sneaking affection for the much-maligned Les Halles building – a photo of it appeared in my school French textbook and so I was thrilled to be able to lay eyes on it in person. I think I’m the only one, though…

    Joyeux Noel et bonne annee to you and Romain.

    • Suzanne Carpenter

    Hi David,
    Thanks for bringing the sights and smells of Paris back to life for me. Needed it; life has been hectic. We just arrived in Argentina yesterday. Not much like Christmas but we’re here, we’re together and in our home. Still waiting for Elvis.
    Wishing you the best of the season. Miss you but still feel close with your superb posts. Hugs,
    Suzanne and Reggie

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Hi Suzanne: Missing you in Paris! Hope that Argentina is fun – and warm… best to you and the family for the holidays!

    • Peter Longenecker

    First of all: Best Wishes for the Holidays to you and yours. Another place to try the next time you are in that area — A la Cloche des Halles, a couple blocks away on Rue Coquilliere. A bistrot a vins, with, among other things on the menu, several variations on plates of ham and eggs with cheese. Lots of good reasonably priced wine choices, especially Beaujolais. Now in the hands of the third generation.

    We go there each time we visit Paris and are looking forward to going back once again during our next two-week stay at the beginning of February. Cannot wait to tuck into another ouefs plat jambon fromage.

    Thanks much for a wonderfully informative and entertaining food blog.

    • Frances Mercer

    What a wonderful and cozy post! Thanks for another year of transporting me back to Paris and all your travels. You have a wonderful gift that we are lucky you share with all of us. Happy Holidays !

    • Richard Farner

    Dear David,
    A note of appreciation for your “Instant Mincemeat” recipe a couple years ago. I finally made some for this Christmas and it’s so much better than any I have tasted previously, with or without suet, there’s no comparison. I’m equally enthusiastic about the value of making one’s own candied orange peel.
    Thank you the gift of your blog, photos, wit and wonderful recipes.

    All good wishes.
    Richard Farner

    • Sissy

    Merry Christmas David and thank you for all your wonderful posts, recipes, comments and for taking us along with you (it feels like that anyway) to Paris this past year!

    • Debra

    Merry Christmas from the French alps! May the New Year bring you lots of good times and delicious experiences (and many interesting posts for us)!

    • Lori Lynn

    And bleu beef sure is! I’m with you on saignant. Thanks for adding two new words to my French food vocabulary.
    Thank you for the charming posts from Paris throughout the year David. Wishing you a dazzling Christmas and a fabulous 2013.

    • Zoey

    Isn’t your birthday the day after Christmas? Hope you have a happy one!!

    • Steve S. in San Francisco

    I’m a recent convert to your blog and have to thank you for the crystalized ginger and candied citron recipes. Successfully found young ginger at the markets in the Richmond District in San Francisco (though now out of season) as well as citron at one of our local farmer’s markets. Could not have turned out better. The glazed citron recipe worked equally well for a gigantic ‘Ponderosa’ lemon, which weighed in at over 2 pounds. Best to you for the New Year.

    • Bronwyn


    I just want to say thank you. I first stumbled on your blog when searching for a recipe for pain d’epices (trying to re-create the wonderful product we had sampled in Strasbourg) and the recipe I found on your website was the best I found. As a result I became a regular reader of your blog and requested (and received) a copy of your book ‘Ready for Dessert’ for my birthday.

    Your recipes have greatly added to the enjoyment of our family Christmas this year. I live in Sydney so sorbets for Christmas dessert, rather than plum pudding, are more sensible and more enjoyable in the hot weather. I made both the red wine and raspberry sorbet and the tangy frozen lemon yoghurt. Both absolutely delicious!

    I was short of time so searched your website for some spicy cookies that were quick and easy to make. (I didn’t have time for rolling out dough and using cookie cutters for the speculaas-type cookies I usually make.) I found Flo Braker’s pain d’amande recipe. It was so easy to make and, again, the end result was really delicious. It was strange to read in the introduction to that recipe, that you were posting another of Flo’s recipes in response to the feedback to her pain d’epices recipe, the very recipe that introduced me to you!

    So thank you for all the pleasure you have brought me. I love reading about the places you find in Paris and intend to visit many on my next visit there.

    • DaisyNYC

    If I found myself in the Les Halles area I’d be tempted to visit Pharamond, the bistro Normand, as much for the ott gorgeous Art Nouveau decor as for the escargots and steak tartare. It is a completely out-of-time sort of place.

    • Holiday Baker Man

    Can’t wait to try this place out next summer.

    • Fork and Whisk

    Nice post David. Love going out to somewhere cozy on a rainy day with my wife. Hope you had a great Christmas and have a Happy New year.

    • Kiki

    @ Sylvie; you sd get a new boy friend, lol! His choice is just NO alternative!

    @ David; how can you produce such wonderful food photos? My shots of plates with meat always look so sick… :) This looks brilliant – even to a lover of veggies and salads with the occasional nice chunk of beef!


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