On Rue Saint Dominique, in the epicenter of the tony Seventh arrondissement near the Eiffel Tower, lies a single block of restaurants that, together, offer some of the best French cuisine in Paris. A constellation of three restaurants next to each other – all owned by famed Chef Christian Constant – give varied choice to a sophisticated clientele, from simple but chic Café Constant, to ultra modern and sleek Les Cocottes, to his flagship Michelin star restaurant Violon d’Ingres.
While you will see Chef Constant most often manning his newer restaurant, Les Cocottes, it is Violon d’Ingres which is the true standout – not just among his three restaurants but among the very best restaurants in all of Paris. (A childhood friend of mine who is now a managing partner at a mega Wall Street firm in L.A. came for dinner with us at Violon, after he had been to Alain Ducasse’s Jules Vernes on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower and Plaza Athénée for dinner – but told me Violon was his favorite.)
To know Christian Constant is to know he is a leading revolutionary in creating some of the best nouvelle bistro chefs in Paris in the past 15 years. Chef Constant led the kitchen at the Hotel de Crillon’s Les Ambassadeurs, which was then, as it is now, a major destination for the finest haute cuisine in Paris. Constant decided to go out on his own and leave his two Michelin stars behind him. But that is not all. Under Constant, he fostered a number of protégés, including Yves Cambelorde (La Regalade, Le Comptoir du Relais), Thierry Breton (Chez Michel) and Christian Etchebest (Le Troquet), who also struck it out on their own and have become well known in offering sophisticated nouvelle bistro cuisine without being tied to the Michelin star system. Sebastien Grave and David Bottreau, two other loyal Constant lieutenants, acquired Constant’s other Michelin star restaurant next to Violon, Les Fables de la Fontaine (not to be confused with another neighbor, Fontaine de Mars), which offers some of the best seafood in all of Paris.
As we lived only a block away from Rue Saint Dominique, I was smitten the first time I went to Violon and found it to be the best food I had ever eaten in Paris, or anywhere else in the world. I could go to Violon every time and never get tired of Constant’s cuisine, which is sufficiently diverse with seafood, game, fowl and beef. Indeed, Constant upsets me a bit because I feel so attached to his cuisine that every time I go elsewhere I feel I am cheating on him – but truthfully I am cheating myself from another great meal. This is the problem with Paris. There are so many great restaurants to choose from, even when you have a favorite you feel compelled to try something else.
Chef Constant may have a reputation for his seafood but, let’s be honest, nothing on his menu falls short. He offers classics like cassoulet, which seduces with its fragrant aromas. His almond encrusted sea bass, the house specialty, is simply superb. The côte de beouf, which may seem simple, is richly flavorful and comes with warm flowerlets of green lettuce, which offer a surprising nice complement to the dish. The goose foie gras in brioche is also excellent, but don’t miss the seared foie gras (poelé), if on the menu, as it is brilliant.
The decor is modern, and the clientele is smartly dressed, though you can get away with jeans and a polo if you dare. The staff are always friendly and his Maître d’Hotel, Alexandre Lallemode, puts spells on the ladies. Chef Constant’s single Michelin star is practically a throw-away. The food is so good he cannot be ignored, and a single star is almost embarrassing given his innovativeness has remained since he left Les Ambassadeurs.
Contant’s flagship never disappoints, and it is a must destination for anyone desiring a superb meal just slightly above bistro prices.
More information may be found here : http://www.leviolondingres.com/fr_reserve.htm.
The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday for dinner and Tuesday through Saturday for lunch.
135, rue Saint-Dominique,
Contact Information :
Tél. : 01 45 55 15 05
Fax : 01 45 55 48 42.