Paris Update This Week’s Events

For full details about an event, click on the title to visit the official Web site (in English when available).

Strange Happenings in St. Germain


The “Cyclops” helmet.

> The exhibition Bizarro, with works by a number of artists, fills seven Left Bank galleries with “Bêtes de Scènes et Sacrés Monstres.” Don’t miss the Meta-perceptual Helmets by the Irish duo Cleary/Connolly at the Librairie Alain Brieux, which allow the viewer to see forward and backward, for example, or the way a cyclops or horse would see. Various locations, Paris, through Oct. 30.

Car-free Paris!
> On the Journée sans Voiture, motor traffic will be banned in a large part of Paris and discouraged in the rest of the city from 11am to 6pm. Sept. 25.

Top of the tower
> The 16th-century Tour St. Jacques in the heart of Paris is temporarily open for guided tours and splendid views of the city. Reservation required. Paris, through Sept. 25.

Nationwide food festival 
> Tastings, special menus in restaurants and more during the Fête de la Gastronomie. Various locations, Sept. 23-25.

Two meals for the price of one
> Restaurants participating in Tous au Restaurant offer a second fixed-price menu for free. Various locations, Paris, through Oct. 2.

> Whisky tastings, food pairings, cocktails and more at the Festival Whisky Live Paris. Les Docks-Cité de la Mode et du Design, Paris, Sept. 24-25.

Feel-good films
> Classic movies starring the Marx Brothers, Peter Sellers, Cary Grant and more are sure to raise a smile at the festival Qu’est-ce qu’on Attend pour Être Heureux!, Forum des Images, Paris, through Oct. 2.

Hitchcock’s silent films
> The festival Les Neufs Films Muets d’Alfred Hitchcock presents all the silent movies by the master of suspense. Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé, Paris, through Sept. 27.

Indian films
> Indian film festival. Musée Guimet, Paris, through Sept. 30.

Chanson française
> L’Estival features singers performing in French. Various locations, Saint Germain-en-Laye, Sept. 23-Oct. 8.

Antique fair in a bucolic setting
> A visit to the Foire de Chatou antique market and regional products fair makes a great weekend outing. Chatou, Sept. 23-Oct. 2.

Contemporary arts festival
> The Festival d’Automne presents leading talents in art, dance, film, theater and more from around the world. Various venues, Paris, through Dec. 31.

Free outdoor opera
> Opéra Côté Cour puts on live performances at 3:30pm and 5pm. Bercy Village, Paris, Sept. 25.

Classical, world, jazz & electronic
> The Festival d’Ile de France holds concerts in various locations in Paris and elsewhere, through Oct. 9.

Music & more in park bandstands
Kiosques en Fête brings life to the bandstands in Paris’s parks with concerts, writing workshops, club meetings and even a square dance. Various locations, Paris, through Dec. 31.

Music on the beach
> Sandy beach and nightly concerts or DJs at La Plage de Glaz’Art. Paris, through Oct. 1.

Garden festival
> Meet the gardeners and landscape architects, take a gardening class, listen to music, etc. at the Fête des Jardins. Various locations, Paris, Sept. 24-25.

Amazing gardens
> The popular Festival International des Jardins de Chaumont-sur-Loireis held annually in the park of the Château de Chaumont in Chaumont-sur-Loire, through Nov. 2.

Especially for kids
> The Festival les Pestacles offers concerts and other activities for kiddies age five and up. Parc Floral, Paris, through Sept. 28.


Restaurants - Bistro


Chez Arthur

The Arthurian Experience
Chez Arthur is “simple, straightforward and absolutely pretense-free.”

Chez Arthur is a place my girlfriend, Katherine, has had her eye on for a while: It looks dog-friendly and has a pleasant, boxy dining room with a reasonable amount of space for diners, plus dozens of black-and-white photos of French actors on the walls. When I couldn’t get a booking for the place I had set my heart on, Benoît (watch this space), Plan B was rolled out, and the three of us (Bertie the gastro-hound came along, too) tootled over the Boulevard Sébastopol to the 10th arrondissement.

Chez Arthur is located near several theaters and is popular with the acting crowd after they’ve removed their make-up and feel that ravening hunger you get after a performance. Theater-goers like the place because they can rub shoulders with actors. The fact that the restaurant is owned by Michel Sardou, a popular crooner and actor, may influence its popularity. He also owns the nearby Théâtre de la Porte Saint Martin, where Edmond Rostand’s much-loved Cyrano de Bergerac was premiered in 1897. The word on the block is that Sardou can often be seen propping up Chez Arthur’s bar of an evening.

We hit the lull between the pre- and post-theater crowds, so the place was relatively calm and unsmoky (although there is no non-smoking area). The basic menu offers a starter and main course or main course and dessert for €22: Arthur clearly knows what his customers want.

While no one could call this bistronomie – the langoustines in Katherine’s langoustine and avocado salade folle, served in a pastry tulip, were undoubtedly hauled out of the freezer, and my jambon persillé (cooked ham in jelly with parsley and garlic) might not have been lovingly crafted on-site over a 24-hour period from organic pig and fixings – but the restaurant doesn’t give itself airs and graces or making any inflated claims. The service, from old-school French waiters, was attentive and courteous.

My main course was fillet of beef, façon Rossini, which means that after it had been properly warmed through, it was cut open and a slice of foie gras inserted (Wikipedia tells me that the original tournedos Rossini was created for the bon viveur composer, who had his own table at La Tour d’Argent and Bofinger – again, watch this space – by chef Casimir Moisson of the Maison Dorée). The foie gras adds depth to a cut that makes up in tenderness and texture for what it lacks in richness of flavor.

Katherine went for the day’s special, pintade au chou (guinea fowl with cabbage, a traditional favorite). She interpreted this as a sign of a serious chef making good use of the previous day’s unsold roast, and very pleasant it was, served off the bone and nestled fetchingly under a very green leaf of crinkly Savoy cabbage.

We finished up with a pear sorbet drenched in eau de vie de poire. No complaints there, either.

I’ve just finished reading Kitchen Confidential (2001), by Anthony Bourdain, who writes that our cynical world-weariness can drop away as if by magic when we’re “confronted with something as simple as a plate of food.” He is talking about the kind of food cooks understand: “simple, straightforward and absolutely pretense-free,” as he says elsewhere. Chez Arthur is like that. It’s not the sort of place that makes it into the guidebooks, and it’s in a grimy, unfashionable part of town – the garment district for children's wear – but it does give you a taste of that French love affair with dining out among friends. The Arthurian experience is about as French as it gets.

Chez Arthur: 25, rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin, 75010 Paris. Métro: Strasbourg-Saint Denis. Tel: 01 42 08 34 33 (best to reserve for late meals). Fixed-price menu (two courses, without wine): €22. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Friday, lunch only on Monday, dinner only on Saturday. Closed Sundays and in August. Service until 11:30 p.m.

Richard Hesse

© 2007 Paris Update

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