Alain Ducasse’s Benoit, in Paris, is one of the city’s best tables – for many reasons. The restaurant was originally opened in 1912 by the Petit family and named after the family’s grandfather – Benoit Matray. The space represents all that is “Parisian” about food and ambiance, selling customers right from the start. But, top that off with incredible food utilizing recipes that have been cooked throughout Paris and other parts of the country for centuries, and you’ve got yourself a stellar offering that even locals are hard pressed to turn down.
I was a recent guest at the restaurant on a chilly winter evening. I was the first to arrive to the restaurant and was met by the manager, who sat me at a cozy corner table with a view of the entire place. As I watched customers begin to stream in, I saw that Benoit was not necessarily a secret. It had always been quite a well-known bistro throughout town, but when Michelin-starred Chef Alain Ducasse purchased it in 2005 and added his renowned dash of “je ne sais quoi” – it became more popular than ever. In fact, the restaurant has even opened a branch outside of Paris, in Tokyo.
Tables here are charming, decorated with white china featuring large gold “B”s on them as well as painted flowers. In every corner of the space you will see traditional French kitchen decor, wildflower arrangements, baskets of freshly baked bread and servers running about. It’s all so heavenly. Menus change with the season, but adhere to traditional dishes that have been enjoyed in the French kitchen forever. And, the menus’ design is all led by Chef Fabienne Eymard.
On any particular night, you might find dishes like: wild rabbit terrine, hen pheasant with duck foie gras and cep mushroom pie, saddle of lamb in cocotte with creamy polenta – and more. Desserts are decadent, really, begging you to indulge in classic vanilla millefeuille or Benoit profiteroles with hot chocolate sauce (which comes from their own chocolate factory). I devoured both.
The mood here is unpretentious, chic and casual – one where you can relax and hunker-down with really wonderful, classic French cuisine. I believe it’s one of my new favorites in the city and know that anyone visiting town should make a point of stopping-in.