Metro Station: Opéra (Lines 3, 7, 8)
Type of cuisine: French
Days & hours of operation: Mon-Fri 12:00-2:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m.-10:30 p.m.
Credit card: Visa, Amex, MasterCard
Bistro Volnay opened in early 2009 under the direction of two young women, Magali Marian and Delphine Alcover. We had the pleasure of dining there on a recent Friday evening.
The restaurant stands on a little-frequented side street, rue Volney, tucked discreetly between rue des Capucines and rue Daunou. We entered the restaurant and noted that it was bright and open, with a great Art Deco light fixture hanging from the ceiling. Large mirrors on the walls accentuated the feeling of spaciousness. Over the dark wood-paneled bar hung a row of little spheres of light, each with a band around the middle, giving the impression that the planet Saturn has a place of honor there. White tablecloths grace the tables, around which are placed suede-covered chairs and plump, velour-covered benches. The floor displays tiny black tiles, offsetting the brilliant white tablecloths. For musical ambiance, the sound system played Dave Brubeck, Jacques Brel, and Louis Armstrong. With its spacious Art Deco ambiance, this place was no ordinary bistrot!
Dinner service opened with a glass of crisp Billecart Salmon champagne, served with a pâté of duck called Grattons de canard. But what really caught our fancy were the individually wrapped pats of Beurre cru à la baratte bois by Pascal Beillevaire, a butter made from raw cream churned in a wooden butter churn. Spread on generous chunks of baguette, this was an authentic old-time treat!
For the starter, I ordered a dish of oysters from Utah Beach in Normandy and Breton scallops that had been prepared in frothy, light cream. Two scallops and two oysters were served in a shallow, wide-brimmed bowl. The pan-fried scallops were big, plump, and juicy, and the cooked oysters still briny, succulent, and delicious. My partner ordered Pâté en croûte fois gras de canard, endive et mâche à la noix. Rounds of duck foie gras were embedded in a lusty, mouth-watering pâté seasoned with cracked peppercorns. A small, crisp salad of endive, radicchio, and lamb’s lettuce was served alongside. This was an entirely satisfying dish in terms of flavor and portion size, and my partner looked forward to receiving her main course.
Finding the seafood starter so appetizing, I continued in the same vein for the main course. My Noix de Saint Jacques des côtes bretonnes poêlées, gnocchis de pomme de terre, râpée de truffe were served in truffle juice with gnocchi (dumplings made out of potato flour). The two scallop dishes, one after the other, were a wonderful seafood feast!
My partner opted for the Canette en magret rôtie au sautoir, piment d’Esplette, navets glacés au jambon ibérique. She was pleased that the duck breast was served medium-rare, just as she had ordered it. The button turnips were slightly sweet, and a round of pan-fried polenta finished the dish.
For dessert, I had ordered the Souflé tradition chocolate “à la minute” in advance. The souflé was served steaming hot in a small crock pot. Chocolaty, fluffy, and moist, it was a delectable treat. My partner selected the Pomme confite des demoiselles Tatin. Served with a small bowl of crème fraîche alongside, this generously-portioned dessert was warm through and through. My partner is somewhat of a connoisseur of Tarte Tatin, and declared that this one was excellent.
To accompany the meal, Magali recommended a glass of Bachelet Montrachet, a white wine from the Côte d’Or. It was light with notes of mineral and honey. For my partner, she suggested a Chambolle Musigny, also from the Côte d’Or. The medium-bodied Pinot Noir exuded animal notes at first, evolving into ripe, red fruits and earthy aromas.
Long slices of thick-cut, chewy, alveoli-riddled baguette, cut at a sharp diagonal, were served alongside in a basket.
Espresso coffee was served with cubes of marshmallow that had been dusted in coconut. Finally, we were served madeleines, flavored with orange, hot out of the oven.
The service was helpful, friendly, and efficient.
The bill for two, including two champagne apéritifs, two starters, two main courses, two desserts, two glasses of wine, a bottle of mineral water, and one espresso came to 113.00€.
Although located on a side street, the restaurant is only a few minutes’ walk from the Opéra metro station. It is a place worth seeking out (and then returning to again and again)!
Tom Reeves has been a confirmed Francophile since he first traveled to France in 1975. A native of northern California, he moved to France permanently in 1992. Reeves’ love of French language and culture inspired him to create Discover Paris!, a travel planning service that caters to Americans interested in cultural travel to Paris. His book, Paris Insights – An Anthology, has been called “the kind of insider’s view of the French capital…that first or even second time visitors pine for.” He publishes a monthly newsletter entitled Paris Insights about history, culture, and contemporary life in the City of Light, and posts daily information about the French capital on Facebook.