Hélène Darroze is the most famous female chef in Paris, a Basque-born wunderkind whose southwestern French cuisine is a superb modern take on a classic. Be very clear about what you want before entering: The upstairs dining room (Le Restaurant d'Hélène, with elaborately set round tables) is more formal, horrendously expensive, and more sedate than the bistro (Le Salon d'Hélène). In both areas, expect bright, pop-influenced decor and relatively slow service. Upstairs, menus are artfully composed and presented as part of fixed-price meals that contain, among other things, Basque lamb saddle stuffed with chorizo and toasted with fresh bay leaves; wild river salmon grilled just on one side; or pan-fried, milk-fed lamb sweetbreads with tandoori spices. On street level, food focuses on an array of plats du jour (skate Grenobloise with lemon and capers) and tapas, two or three of which can be combined to create a meal. Tapas might include raw marinated tuna with Basque-derived red pepper sauce or cannelloni gratinéed with Basque sheep's milk cheese and smoked Basque ham.
- © Frommer's 2013
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- Very Highly Recommended 2010