A waiter on the run at Savy in Paris’s eighth arrondissement.
Pros: Old-fashioned brasserie decor; fast, friendly, efficient service; good, solid food
Cons: A bit pricey
How many times have I complained that there are no decent restaurants on or around the Champs-Elysées? Many, many times, as my weary friends will attest. The complaining will have to stop, however, because I now know of at least three such places: the Mini Palais, where the food is wonderful; the basement restaurant in the Théâtre du Rond Point, where the food is only acceptable but the ambiance is New-York lively and the service friendly; and the Savy, to which I was introduced the other night by a fellow journalist who has worked in the area and knows his way around it.
Savy is one of the last of an endangered species: an authentic old-fashioned Paris brasserie, complete with booths with red-upholstered banquettes, overhead brass racks for gentlemen’s hats, mirrored walls infinitely reflecting the interior and the customers, and black-bow-tied waiters with long aprons who do not walk but run to serve you, and remain friendly and reactive even at the height of the dinner-hour rush.
This is the bistro tourists dream of but are hard-pressed to find in these days of designer decor and fusion cuisine. At Savy, you won’t find any lemongrass or ginger, just the basics: various steaks, prime rib, veal chops, tripe and so on.
We were immediately given a little pot of rillettes and a basket of bread to fend off starvation while our waiter rushed around taking care of other customers. The glass of champagne and bottle of fizzy water we ordered also came right away.
We started the meal with a poached egg in Roquefort sauce – rich, creamy and flavorful – and a pig’s-foot terrine with ravigote sauce (made with onions, capers, chervil, parsley, chives, tarragon, vinegar and oil) that had my friend swooning with delight, especially since the fiddly little bones had been removed from the pig’s foot, leaving only the tasty chunks of meat and fat.
The main courses were simplicity itself: a luscious, perfectly browned veal chop served with a big heap of Vichy carrots, and an entrecôte with a big marrow-filled bone and a mountain of crispy, super-thin, non-greasy matchstick fries. The steak was so big that I asked for a doggy bag – the first time in my life I have requested such a thing in a French restaurant (la honte!), but the good-natured waiter immediately complied without so much as flinching.
After that, we were far too full for dessert – such classics as crème caramel were on offer – but I will go back and try them next time. We were satisfied with the chocolate and little cookie that came with the coffee.
Another nice touch: many of the wines on the list are available by the glass or in carafes.
This is the eighth arrondissement, and Savy’s prices are not cheap, but neither are they outrageous. This little slice of old Paris is a fun place to eat good, solid French food. Get there before it disappears.
Savy: 23, rue Bayard, 75008 Paris. Métro: Franklin D. Roosevelt. Tel.: 01 47 23 46 98. Open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner. Fixed-price lunch menu: €30.50. A la carte: €45-€50.
Reader Harriet Welty Rochefort writes: “I read your column on Savy and it made me want to go. I am tired of ‘sophisticated’ fare and New Yorky looking restaurants!”
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