Tag Archives: bistrot

Discover New Restaurants by Les Heures Heureuses

For the third consecutive year, the City of Paris organized Les Heures Heureuses in the end of May. This successful food event has become very popular and it is about new discoveries: to make Parisians break their usual habits by visiting new bars and restaurants.

And sure, there is a lot to discover! This year, more than 280 restaurants in different parts of Paris were selling small tapas at only 2€ and most places offered wine at 2€ per glass to go with. We participated only on Friday night (and missed Thursday and Saturday), and made some excellent new discoveries.

 les Heures Heureuses

Our first we stop was La Cave Mavrommatis, the famous Greek wine bar and shop. Our food tour started well with a complimentary, full-scale wine tasting of white, rosé and red from Domaine Kir Yanni from the northern part of Greece. The moment we tasted the mini pitta filled with Graviera cheese, our next holiday destination was chosen…

Tip: If you have not yet eaten at Mavrommatis (42 rue Daubenton), hurry up! One of the best pigeons I have ever eaten.

Les Nautes

Our second stop, Les Nautes, continued on the Mediterranean side: veal meatballs in tomato sauce. Yummy! And excellent rosé.

Tip: Looking for a terrace by the Seine this summer? Think of . During Paris Plages there won’t be any cars.

Allo Sushi

From the Seine we moved to the heart of Marais for marinated salmon with herbs and edamame. Allo Sushi was previously unknown to us and we made a decision to make it our new Japanese cantine.

Tip: Every morning a seven-kilo Scottish salmon is delivered to Allo Sushi… with Le Label Rouge guarantee of excellency!

Le Thé des Écrivains

Our fourth stop was a book shop with a cafe –again a place we did not know about. Le Thé des Écrivains served a delicious Thai cake made of tako flower and coconut milk, and we had a cup of tea with it. A delightful address worth returning to!

Tip: More than a book shop! Cultural activities every week. Check Le Thé des Ecrivains for program.


Energy level up, we walked from the Marais to the 11th arrondissement. Our fifth stop was L’Embuscade, a lively bar in the trendy Oberkampf area. We had homemade Berber couscous and enjoyed friendly service and lively atmosphere.

Tip: Free couscous every Friday!!

Pierre Sang

Next and last stop was in Oberkampf, too. Run by a Top-Chef finalist of the same name, Pierre-Sang has been making buzz in Paris since 2012. We had two cheese tartines that were served with some unidentifiable (but delicious!) sauce. Will return very soon.

Tip: No reservations, no telephone, so arrive at the opening (7 o’clock in the evening) and preferably a bit earlier!


It was my first time to take part in Les Heures Heureuses and I would not want to miss it next year! We made many new discoveries at the cost of 40€ for two wine included. Who would not be happy?

Les Heures Heureuses: http://lesheuresheureuses.paris.fr

Addresses we tried:

Mavrommatis (group of restaurants and shops): http://www.mavrommatis.com
Les Nautes: http://www.lesnautes.com
Allo Sushi: http://www.allosushi.com (ALLO SUSHI)
Le Thé des Écrivains: http://www.thedesecrivains.com
L’Embuscade: L’Embuscade
Pierre-Sang: http://pierresangboyer.com

Waking up to a beautiful day

Such a sunny morning. The Magritte-blue sky. Freshly squeezed lemon juice with hot water, Greek yogurt with dried figs. Coffee with rice milk. Feels like spring. I need to wipe the dust off my Thierry Lasry sunglasses. wake-up view in ParisToday I am seeing a friend and we will play chic: La Grande Épicerie, Le Bon Marché, Saint-Germain-des-Prés and a lunch somewhere. Maybe at La Palette?

Bonne journée everyone!

PS For those who don’t know yet, Pearlspotting can be found on Facebook too.



Where to dine in Venice?

Being in a foreign city trying to find a good, honest restaurant can be tough. Of course there are some countries where it feels like anything you eat will be delicious, but still, I do argue that finding a cosy, fine restaurant with a decent price-quality ratio is not an easy task! Or is it just me and the years of living in Paris that have turned me obsessed about food…

Anyway, I am hereby going to list typical, bistrot-type Venetians restaurants that we came across during our visits in late 2011 and early 2014. This is by no means a comprehensive list (and in no particular order either!), but hopefully gives some idea to other travelers searching beyond the usual and the most touristic recommendations. Some restaurants we obviously liked more than others, so follow your feeling (or ask me for more details)!

1. Osteria da Alberto (http://www.osteriadaalberto.it/) near the hospital. Address: Calle Giacinto Gallina, Cannaregio. Osteria Da AlbertoWe visited this restaurant for lunch in 2011 and again in 2014. The prices have gone up a bit (normal), but it is still very reasonable and in our top three. Osteria da Alberto+ Honest and delicious home-cooking with fresh ingredients (including octopus!) in a lovely setting
+ Friendly, professional service
+ Perfect for watching locals (English and French spoken)
+ Excellent and very affordable house wine by carafe
+ Heavenly house dessert

2. Osteria Ai 40 Ladroni (http://www.ristorantivenezia.net/osteriai40ladroni.htm) in the north-western part of Canareggio. Address: Fondamenta della Sensa 3253, Cannareggio. Ai 40 Ladroni+ Delicious cuttlefish in ink served with polenta
+ Many seafood options
+ Tables in the lovely garden/courtyard
– Service was not the friendliest and in fact a bit odd…

3. Osteria alla Bifora. Address: Campo Santa Margherita, Dorsoduro. Osteria alla Bifora+ Very romantic, candles on the table
+ Open late
– Grilled vegetables very bland. Food in general not the tastiest I have had in Venice…
– Wine only by bottle and fairly expensive

4. Osteria Ai 4 Feri. Address: Calle Lunga, Dorsoduro. Osteria ai 4 Feri
+ Lovely atmosphere
+ Full of locals
+ The best cuttlefish spaghetti I have had in Venice
+ Excellent house wine by carafe
+ Heavenly house dessert

5. Pizzeria Ai Sportivi. Address: Campo Santa Margherita, Dorsoduro. Pizzeria Ai Sportivi+ Good enough pizza
– Seems a bit too touristic…

6. Trattoria Ca D’Oro (also known as Alla Vedova). Address: Calle del Pistor 3912, Cannareggio.Alla Vedova+ Sarde in Saor (sweet and sour sardines) very good
– Extremely long wait
– Unfriendly service
– Disappointing dishes
– Atmosphere looks warm but does not feel like cosy

Should you try any of these restaurants, please let me know what you think. Furthermore, do not forget to reveal your hidden and favorite pearl in Venice so that I can try it during my next visit….

Easy breakfast and lunch snacks in Venice

This is the first post about what and where to eat in Venice. I thought that for the simplicity, it would make sense to separate the quick snack options from dinner options, so here you go. Your guide to filling the stomach from the early morning to late afternoon!

WHERE TO EAT BREAKFAST? If your hotel does not offer breakfast, head to a bakery. Or if you prefer savory breakfast, why not to start the morning with tramezzini, also called Venetian tea sandwich. These triangular sandwiches (starting 1.50€ per piece) come with many different fillings, making it fun to learn Italian. Tonno pomodori anyone? tramezzini

TRAMEZZINI AND DEEP-FRIED SNACKS AT ROSTICCERIA SAN BARTOLOMEO. If you are busy visiting museums and sites, grabbing a few more tramezzini for lunch can be an easy and cheap option. If you have a bit more time, but still not enough for a proper sit-down meal where you are served, try Rosticceria San Bartolomeo at Calle della Bissa (500 meters north from Piazza San Marco). This smallish cafe/restaurant seems popular among the locals and we saw one gondolier eat here every day. With a glass of wine, of course. Must be a good sign! Rosticceria San BartolomeoTIP: two people can eat for less than 10€ if ordering only tramezzini and deep-fried snacks. Simply go to the counter and explain what you would like to have, and bring the food yourself to the table. This is what we did the first day.

However, the second day we went to the other counter (located still on the ground floor), where fried fish, grilled vegetables, etc. are being displayed, and ordered two plates at the counter. For some reason our bill jumped to 40€, which we felt was no longer a decent price for a quick lunch. The food was tasty, but not worth that much.

Lastly, there is also an upstairs restaurant, but it did not look particular attractive (this is also where the restrooms are). You may as well save money and sit on the ground floor by the windows I suggest.Rosticceria San Bartolomeo

THE MOST OBVIOUS LUNCH CHOICE: PIZZA! During our previous visit to Venice we had pizza on the terrace every other day. It was autumn and pizza with some local wine was the perfect way to warm us up and boost the energy level. But, as soon as you sit down, the bill goes up, so it is not very economical! This time it was too cold to eat outside and we did not devote as much time for eating our lunch, but should you still fancy pizza, get a slice! LIke tramezzi, they are everywhere and come in many toppings.pizza slices in VeniceWho can resist these delicious slices -I cannot! So, pick your choice and say buon appetito!


PS For dinner options, click here: Where to dine in Venice?

What to expect to eat in Roussillon?

Earlier this month I was in the region called Languedoc-Roussillon and specifically in the southern part of it, Roussillon. This area of France is truly interesting food-wise: it is very Mediterranean but the mountains lurk in the horizon, it borders Spain and it is considered part of Catalonia. It has a strong culture of jambon, sausages, different types of seafood, snails, rabbit, cod, anchovies and tapas plates etc., and one should not forget the local wine and cheese making!

Roussillon wine

This blog post is about sharing my culinary experiences during the recent five-day trip in Roussillon, and to show you what to expect to see and taste both at restaurants and at markets. Enjoy!

Beautiful garlic! After all, it is the Mediterranean!
garlic in Collioure

Cheese! (mixture of cow and sheep):
cow-sheep cheese

Roquefort-flavored sausage:
soubressade and local sausages

Sea urchins! Salvador Dali liked them… do you?
sea urchin

Catalan snails in tomato-jambon sauce:catalan snails

Warm goat cheese salad: warm goat cheese salad

Mussels with aïoli and grilled cuttlefish:
mussels with aïoli

Mushroom with Balearic spicy sausage called soubressade on a toast:Sobrassada

Duck legs: duck legs

Beefsteak: a beefsteak

Razor shells (my all-time favorite!!): razor shells

“Small tapas assortment”: tapas assortment

My only regret is that we did not have a chance to taste the local oysters, but one always needs to keep a reason to return!

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Atelier Maître Albert: classy and playful

If you have been following my blog, you know that we are very happy eating out at bistros, and that we quite rarely spend extravagant amounts of money at restaurants (we also think that Paris has so many excellent, affordable bistros that hurting your wallet isn’t necessary!). However, this summer we did a bit of splurging and enjoyed a dinner with an other couple at Atelier Maître Albert.

It was a beautiful summer evening and the sun was shining at our table. A family sitting next to us was leaving and suggested we finish their half-full bottle of rosé wine. What a nice gesture we thought!

We had king prawns with orange salad and poached egg with asparagus as starters. There was one thing we all agreed on: coupe de champagne rosé everyone!king prawnsPresentation of the starters was so beautiful that we almost did not dare to eat them… Both starters received ten points. poached egg

Our friend, who is a regular at Atelier Maître Albert, ordered his favorite bottle of red: Chambolle Musigny from Burgundy (fyi: if you have 130€ extra euros to spend, your money will be well spent on this one!).

Since the specialty of the restaurant is roasted meat, we had to try it! Three of us had a slice of roasted beef and I had lamb chops. My husband commented that his slice of beef was “une belle piece” (a beautiful slice); juicy, tasty and copious.slice of roasted beef

The gratin potatoes that came with the beef were served in a cute Staub mini cocotte. When my husband stopped eating his potatoes, the waiter came over encouraging him to finish his mini cocotte. At the moment I thought this was a rather risky move, but in fact it suited that situation: it brought some lightness to the overall feeling, which can often be quite stiff at restaurant of this level. In fact, ten points again to the creativity and human touch! gratin potatoes

After the main course, my husband and I shared a delicious goat cheese plate: goat cheese plate

…and afterwards we shared a grapefruit terrine that I absolutely loved: grapefruit terrine

As I mention in the title of this post, two words that best describe this high-end restaurant of the famous chef Guy Savoy are “classy” and “playful”. These are also the words that describe well my first-ever visit to Atelier Maître Albert back in the early 2000: I went in alone to have just a main course and a glass of wine, and the restaurant offered me a starter and a dessert. Classy and playful, what else?

Atelier Maître Albert (http://www.ateliermaitrealbert.com/): 1 Rue Maître Albert, 75005 Paris. Tel. +33-1-56 81 30 01

PS In case you are wondering, the bill came to 571€10.



Travel fever

Since returning to Paris on Monday my “travel-advisory-services company” has received a bunch of inquiries from different people about traveling.  Some examples:

  • my brother has already been to Zanzibar, but asked me about Lamu in Kenya
  • someone else wanted to know about driving to Oman from Dubai
  • a blogger friend from Sydney is coming to Paris and asked for bistro recommendations
  • my husband asked me to check out “what to do around Colmar” in Alsace (his work trip just got confirmed there and I may join him)
  • and then before I noticed, I got caught up in a discussion about means of travel to reach the Aral Sea! (I have actually been there! out of all the places, yes!)

All of these discussions brought up memories, so I went to see some old photos and found this photo I took in 2003 in Mombasa, Kenya. It is one of my favorite photos ever.


PS Have you checked Pearlspotting’s Facebook page? It has a bit more updates on what is happening in Paris!

Aux Deux Amis: if heaven was a tapas bar

I consider this weekend very successful: an important work phase completed, and two fantastic restaurants discovered!  On Friday we experienced L’Etoile: restaurant that makes you feel and look good! and yesterday night we enjoyed tapas at Aux Deux Amis.

As soon as I entered Aux Deux Amis, I sensed there is something very, very Parisian in this restaurant located on Rue Oberkampf. After few seconds I realized what it is: a subtle amount of Parisian attitude… Every other person seemed very conscious of his/her looks, the wine was tasted as if it contained gold flakes, and some characters would have put Hemingway into shadow by their artistic looks and behavior. We had a table in the corner, near the main door, facing the bar. Perfect for observation (and to be observed). Aux Deux AmisThe atmosphere was very bohemian chic, but the staff remained down-to-earth, friendly and helpful. They had no rosé wine, but we were offered to taste white wine from Bourgogne (Burgundy), which led to another moment of realization: this place is very, very serious about its wine. I had just tasted one of the best white wines ever: Saint-Veran Les Mandeliers, Domaine Arnaud Combier (2012). Aux Deux AmisWe ordered tapas: beef carpaccio, piquillos, burbot, bonite, mozzarella with coppa, and one other cheese of which I forgot the name. Each tapas was a match made in heaven.  Aux Deux AmisToward the end of the night the chef came out and emptied his glass of wine at the bar. It seemed everyone knows everyone. We learned there is a presence of fame –Aux Deux Amis was created by a former Chateaubriand.

The restaurant closes in one week, so hurry up if you are in Paris. Otherwise try again in September.

Meanwhile, check my new Facebook page!

Le Fooding review: http://www.lefooding.com/restaurant/restaurant-aux-deux-amis-paris.html

L’Etoile: restaurant that makes you feel and look good!

How do you recognize an excellent restaurant? From the fact that when you wake up the next morning, you have slept like a baby, and you feel and look as if you have just spent one week in a retreat. Without exaggeration, this is how I felt this morning after a very pleasant dinner at L’Etoile (former L’Etoile Rouge).L'Etoile, ParisWe were welcomed by la patronne, who offered us two glasses of rosé wine  because our table outside was not yet ready –a lovely, rare gesture in Paris, but most of all, the wine was not just any wine. It was excellent Pic Saint Loup from Languedoc. Menu, L'Etoile in ParisWe ordered two starters: a millefeuille of tomatoes & mozzarella, and a squid salad. Both were divine. IMG_5200 IMG_5202Based on the restaurant’s recommendation, we ordered a bottle of Le Côte de Provence Rosé Locus Ameno. Delicious.

For the main course I had grilled cod and my husband had rabbit. My cod had a lovely, very intense lemon taste and the rabbit came with a sauce that reminded us very much about mixes you find in the Indian cuisine. It had been a long time since I had such an intriguing culinary experience!  IMG_5206 IMG_5205I believe that the photos above speak for themselves. The presentation was artistic and beautiful, as you can see.

In the end we shared a dessert. I loved it, even if usually I am not a big dessert fan in France (my husband likes those heavy French-style cakes etc.). This blueberry mousse was great because it was light, reminding me of Finnish desserts. In fact, upon completing cooking classes, this is something my Dad made for us every single Sunday for quite a while!  blueberry mousseDuring our dinner, la patronne came to speak to us a few times, and she seemed to know many of the customers. In the end we even had a good talk with the chef, who came to our table. We learned he trained with a very famous Michelin-starred chef Joël Robuchon and in addition, he explained how important it is that the cooking follows the principle of four basic tastes: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness (he shared some of his tricks on how to make winter tomatoes taste better…..).

In overall, the restaurant L’Etoile merits nearly ten points and we are sure to bring food lovers visiting Paris to this interesting pearl that I believe has a lot of future. Keep watching the name I say. They are already on lefooding.com, but I would not be surprised if more recognitions were on their way….

L’étoile:  75 rue Crozatier 75012 Paris . 01 53 17 02 44

Le Fooding article: http://www.lefooding.com/restaurant/restaurant-l-etoile-rouge-paris.html

Kir at La Palette

IMG_2358There are many superb old-fashioned cafes in Paris that I like going to especially with friends visiting Paris. As a bonus, I get to play tourist, too. During these last two days, I have been to Le Petit Marcel near the Pompidou Centre, Cafe de la Mairie near the Eglise Saint-Sulpice and La Palette in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

La Palette, like many other similar cafes, was frequented by Picasso and Hemingway, amongst other famous names. When we walked in, the lunch hour was just ending and the waiters were getting ready for their own lunch pause. The snow was falling outside but inside the paintings and their yellow and orange colors warmed us up. Large mirrors on all walls were very scratched. There was a charismatic-looking American couple and us. It was an odd hour for an apéritif, but that is all we felt like having, so deux kir s’il vous plaît Monsieur!