[Paris] Chez Denise: Old-time Paris Bistro

Hello! Things have been quiet around here but if you have been following me on my IG, you can see I was in Paris and Lyon for the past one and a half weeks. What a holiday! Out of all my recent travels, this trip to Paris was my least favourite. It was a tough country marked by unreliable and flaky systems (we experienced three strikes: an oil refinery strike causing only 20% of petrol stations in France to be stocked with fuel, inter-city train strikes and the staff at Palace of Versailles went on strike for two hours on the day we visited) and some unfriendly people (I faced two racist incidents). I am not one who cares much about hotels but we stayed in three hotels and faced problems in all three… WTH man! However we did have plentiful good food and much to chronicle here.

We stayed in Les Halles, Paris for the first four nights of our trip and had our first meal at the four-minute-walk-away Chez Denise. The area of Les Halles was Paris’s central fresh food market and demolished in 1971. The market at Les Halles may be long gone but its legacy is still in evidence at Chez Denise. The restaurant is an old-school meat joint that is one of the rare ones that open late. We were told to “come hungry, and don’t expect to be fussed over.” That was indeed true. The portions were HUGE and the wait staff were nice but generally left us to our own defences. At least they weren’t terrible and deserved the 10% service charge. Although I did experience my first racist incident here. Ah wells, another day another time. Food served at Chez Denise was hearty and classically French. We really really enjoyed the food here and for the first few minutes of eating, we were silent. Perhaps it was the long flight for the huge portions did not deter us and we finished every plate.

The interior of Chez Denise was very much a case of traditional meets modern with the contemporary art paintings hanging on the walls. The art pieces were most interesting and everywhere I looked, I got a different view.

No paper menus here. This wooden board was brought to every table. Don’t even think about English menus. Thank goodness one of my girl friend understands French and could roughly translate the items to us.

After ordering, we were served complimentary slices of (cold) bread with a huge chunk of butter.

House wine that we could drink however much we wanted and charged accordingly.

We ordered three dishes and proceeded to clean plate. Tomato Farcies (23 euros) or stuffed tomatoes. Two huge tomatoes were stuffed with a delightful well-seasoned and heavily-herb minced pork mixture.

Tripes au Calvados (23 euros) served in a copper pot – classically French. This huge pot of tender beef tripe accompanied with potatoes was simply belly-warming in the cold weather. 

The highlight of the trip was seeing how the French effortlessly handled tripe. In fact almost every meal, we ordered a tripe dish. Tripe is a tough organ to cook due to the inherent toughness but every tripe we had in France, no matter stewed or deep-fried, tasted clean and was wonderfully tender and juicy.

For our third main: Onglet de boeuf Griffe. Onglet is French for hanger steak and our huge slab was served with caramelized onions and French fries. Another dish we thoroughly enjoyed.

Meat in France is very very good especially their pigs. I found myself craving meat for every meal. In fact, I actually preferred their savoury meat courses to pastries (that, the Japanese still triumphs). Although at Chez Denise we never figured out what the rice was to accompany with…

It was a feast. Chez Denise for the great start to our gastronomic adventure.

Address: 5 rue des Prouvaires, 75001
Nearest transport: Les Halles (4, RER A, B)
Hours: Closed Saturday and Sunday; Open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner till 5am
Reservations: Book a day or two in advance
Telephone: 01 42 36 21 82
Average price for lunch: 35-49€
Average price for dinner: 35-49€
Style of cuisine: Classic French

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