Benoit, on the edge of the uber-trendy Marais neighbourhood, totally ticked all the boxes of a Parisian bistro. Aside from the its one Michelin-star, owned by the legendary Alain Ducasse and been in business since 1912, it serves up classic and refined French fare with a few surprises. (Note: the word refined was intentionally. Wait till you see what the rustic Lyonnaise food is like…) Benoit was everything I imagined of a Parisian bistro. We had a lovely dinner there one evening. Honestly, I was lured to Benoit solely for its plates…
We visited Benoit one evening after another long day of walking and needed dinner that was close to our hotel. We arrived without a reservation but right at the start of the dinner service at 7.30pm (the French eat dinner very late btw). It was our lucky evening. We were immediately ushered to a table. It was a good move for us Asian women eat fast and well.
Benoit’s interior was right out of a movie scene. I felt like I walked into the set of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Squeezy spaces and small tables that could not hold all our dishes; utterly charming.
After placing our orders, we were served six complimentary golden-brown Parmesan Gougeres to wheat our appetites. Just off the oven, it was airy and cheesy. Delicious.
The usual Bread Basket with a big slab of butter was nothing fancy but it came in helpful later to mop up the awesome herb-olive oil marinate of the snails and our Cassoulet.
Unfortunately my two dining companions were not impressed with Benoit’s 9 snails garlic butter and herbs (22 euros). They had eaten many more escargots than me and found these to be lackluster. I had no problem taking the complimentary bread to mop up the well-seasoned herby-olive oil mixture.
Our next dish fared much better with my friends. The Crayfish and green asparagus soufflé was exceptional! The crayfish sauce was only poured upon arrival on our table.
With its cheesy pillowy texture paired with the crunchy green asparagus, we were swooning at every bite! I reckoned this savoury soufflé alone made the trip to Paris worth it.
The other special of the season, warm white asparagus from les Landes, maltaise sauce (34 euros) fared less well with my dining companions. The citrusy maltaise sauce was a tad sourish but I liked the sturdy asparagus. They felt the white asparagus could have been crunchier.
Our final savory was the home-made Cassoulet white beans (36 euros) and had to be served in a plate for us as the small table could not contain the casserole pot. Containing an assortment of meat that were all juicy through and through like duck, lamb and pork with mushy white beans, the thick mixture was joyous and comforting against the cold weather outside. It warmed our bellies measurably.
We skipped desserts as we were stuffed to the brim at that point and called for the bill. But the wonderfully friendly waitress came around with complimentary Madeleine’s and we could not say no.
The vanilla-studded buttery Madeleine’s would have been more perfect if warm but the French’s way of cold bread and desserts needs some taking used to.
At the same time, we were served complimentary little cute Hazelnut Financiers and Chocolate Pralines. Both delicious and the perfect sweet endings to the long day of walking.
We brought our food coma selves back to the hotel satisfied and ready for a good night of sleep. Benoit was a wonderful experience that I still think about since being back. Visually pleasing at every angle with some unforgettable French food, Benoit is perfect to experience a classic Parisian bistro. However I do advise going with friends as sharing the slightly pricey dishes makes it more value-for-money.
Address: 20 rue Saint-Martin, 75004
Nearest transport: Hotel de Ville (1, 11)
Hours: Open every day for lunch & dinner
Reservations: Book a few days in advance
Telephone: 01 58 00 22 05
Average price for lunch: 40-59€
Average price for dinner: 60-100€
Style of cuisine: Classic French