As a transplanted Californian in Paris, I tend to appreciate kitchens that offer both high-quality, beautifully presented cuisine and a relatively casual ambiance. I was expecting full pomp and formality at the Opera Garnier's recently opened on-site restaurant, L'Opera, since the palace and home to France's national ballet is a posh place, to say the least.
However, lunching outside on the restaurant's large terrace, I was pleasantly surprised to find that, at least during lunch, there's zero stiffness to be had here. Instead, dishes from chef Stéphane Bidi, featuring notably fresh ingredients and lovely presentation, were served in a setting of warm chatter, and patrons were dressed in everything from jeans to suits, making for a relaxing and pleasant meal. Whether you see a show at the Opera before or after a meal, or plan to hit the Grands Boulevards shopping district to browse the aisles at Paris department stores Galeries Lafayette or Printemps, this is a nice spot for a light or full meal.
L'Opera Restaurant At a Glance
- High-quality fare, semi-casual dining
- Some vegetarian options (mostly starters)
- Extensive wine list
- Elegant setting; enjoy details of the Palais Garnier and its architecture
- Attentive and friendly staff
- Fixed-price set menu available during limited hours at dinner
- Terrace adjacent to busy boulevard: not for the bustle-shy
Location and Contact Information
- Address: Palais Garnier, Place Jacques Rouché, 9th arrondissement
- Metro: Opera or Havre-Caumartin (lines 3, 7, 9)
- Tel: +33 (0)1 42 68 86 80
- Reservations: By telephone or book online here.
- Languages spoken: English spoken by staff
- Cuisine: Traditional French/fusion, with a focus on seasonal local vegetables and meat and Asian-inspired flavors.
- Menu options: Breakfast served from 7:00 am to 11:00 am. Daily fixed-price menu (lunch from 12pm-3pm and dinner from 6pm-7pm); a la carte available outside of these hours. Bar menu available for light meals outside of lunch and dinner hours.
- Payment Options: All major credit cards accepted
- Dress code: None enforced: casual to business casual. I observed diners at lunch in jeans; others were more formally dressed. Avoid jeans and t-shirts at dinner.
- Visit the Official Website
Tucked into the eastern corner of the sumptuous Palais Garnier, L'Opera restaurant's decor is decidedly contemporary, featuring bright red and white and seeming to allude to a theatrical ambiance. Sober, minimalist design abounds, and the dining room is low-lit. This ultramodern vibe is tempered, though, by the presence of statuary and sculpted details of the operahouse itself. It makes for a nice contrast.
Outside on the large covered terrace, you're sheltered from the bustling boulevard, but there's also a sense that you're steeped in the action and excitement of the city. A bar area outside lets you relax (and people-watch) on large divans.
The Menu and the Fare
The fixed-price lunch menu at 36 Euros included a starter and main course or starter and dessert, plus mineral water, but since my companion and I wanted to get a representative sense of the menu, we decided to order a la carte.
Fresh beginningsLunch began with two summery, cold soups, one traditional and the other eclectic. I ordered a creamy pea soup with poached egg, wonderfully fragrant girolle mushrooms, and shavings of yuzu (an especially tart Japanese variety of lime). My companion ordered gazpacho with green and roasted tomatoes and cider vinegar. We agreed that both were impressive for their fresh, bold flavors, with each easy to distinguish. I was pleasantly surprised by the citrus note, which made a dish that I associate with winter (pea soup) seem entirely summery.
Chef Stéphane Bidi, a Frenchman with cultural roots in the Ivory Coast, explained that in designing the menu, he strove to create light dishes with fresh, complementary flavors that sometimes surprise. He also likes to bring in ingredients from cuisines around the world, including Japanese, to add some originality to classic dishes. "The yuzu in the cold pea soup adds character to a dish that otherwise might have been bland or ordinary, without this tart note. I also like the freshness it brings to the palate".
The Main CourseMoving on to the main course, I was presented with a delicate portion of king-crab risotto, seasoned with marjoram, basil and parmesan. It was just creamy enough, while retaining the delicate flavors and freshness of the crab and basil. The portion was small enough that I could still comfortably look forward to dessert.
The other dish, one of the vegetarian entrees, stood in as a main course, and featured a remarkably fresh-tasting block of bufala mozzarella, beefheart tomato, accompanied with pesto and caramelized tomato. We were taken aback by the pure flavors of this simple dish, perfect for a light summer meal. It underlines the importance of top-quality ingredients.