11 Rue du Conservatoire,
Phone: 01 44 83 83 60
Most of us don’t have the luxury to pick up and spend two, three weeks, or even a month in another country. (I’m still not sure how I pulled off six weeks in Paris, but I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth.) When you only have a few nights in a country, you have to pick your restaurants very carefully. You google online, pulling up Travel & Leisure, Frommers, Fodor’s and the like, ask a friend who’s been, maybe skim a few, local blogs, then hope for the best. If I had to pick my top five Paris restaurants, I would most definitely include La Regalade Conservatoire and that says a lot.
La Regalade is the perfect example of a modern French bistro with authentic French cooking. It’s not one of those been around forever bistros with rickety tables all practically on top of each other, peddling plates upon plates of Steak Frites, Onion Soup and Croque Monsieur (which I love, but not all the time). And it’s not one of those “modern” spots loyal to no one cuisine. This is real deal French cooking at its finest, dubbed Bistronomy, originally created by Yves Camdeborde who was the original owner and chef at La Regalade. Chef Bruno Doucet purchased La Regalade from Camdeborde back in 2004, opening two more Regalade outposts in Paris, each equally as difficult (but not impossible) to get a reservation. La Regalade Conservatoire is the newest of the three, tucked inside the Hotel Nell in the 9th Arrondissement.
It’s a stylish spot with black & white tile floors, a white marble-topped bar, a chalkboard wall with today’s specials scribbled on it, and a glass wine wall that separates the two dining rooms — the perfect combination of elegance and unfussiness. But don’t mistake it for a “contemporary French” spot. Oh no. Upon ordering, you’re presented with a wooden spoon, cornichons, and a casserole dish filled with an unctuous and wholly comforting Country Terrine that’s made in-house and happens to be complements of the house as well, so eat all you want! (I like it best smeared on their rustic bread.) But don’t fill up as there are too many other wonderful things on the menu to sample, like a filet of flaky, moist Merlu fish with Braised Endives, Suckling Pig with Lentils and a Smoked Lard Emulsion, or Squash Soup crowned with Comte Cheese and Foie Gras.
I started with a velvety, pudding-like Squid Ink Risotto, studded with Grilled Shrimp and thickened with a Vache Que Rit cheese emulsion that I would’ve bathed in if I could’ve, and a gorgeous Spring Vegetable Tart with Lima Beans, Peas, Carrots and Asparagus on a flaky crust. Some of the best dishes on the menu are written on the chalkboard, like a baked Monkfish with Artichoke Barigoule or a Veal Shank with Foie Gras. Better still was the Roasted Duck For Two, a super juicy bird, paired with Cauliflower Puree and Mushrooms.
Whatever you do, order the Grand Marnier Souffle. It’s the best souffle I’ve had to date, an ethereal cloud of deliciousness that will make you forget all your cares. There’s also a Rice Pudding anointed with a Salted Caramel sauce, and a Poached Pear with Almond Mousse. Keep in mind, they’re closed on Sunday and Monday, so plan your meals accordingly as you’ll want to save a night for this soul-satisfying bistro.