It's possible to just happen upon a place the whole world knows about except you. It was lunch time and we were walking and beginning to get irritated by the modesty of viable choices. But then, in passing, I looked into the window of a bistro to find that sought-after allure. We went in, not reading the name of the place on the door, not knowing where we were. I asked for a table for two. They had it. We took it.
It was Chez Julien—it seemed to me I'd heard of that! But I didn't know that was were we were until I glanced to my right and read the name off the plate of the charming contented lady dining to my right. Had we come upon the place from the angle shown above I might have noticed the restaurant's name across the awning. But we approached it unawares via the narrow street to the right.
Chez Julien, bought a couple of years back by the Costes brothers, is in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, near the Hotel de Ville and not far from Notre-Dame cathedral. The listed building originally had a bakery in the ground floor space. It was the wise decision of its owners to leave things pretty much as they were while making it new at the same time. Gaze at that gorgeous ceiling, below.
The St Jacques were small and fresh—they're dotted with sea urchin and tiny smoked shrimps, and set upon a rich jus de veau lie.
We had no first course, and after the scallops merely said, une assiette de fromage! A sampling of three lovely pieces came round in perfect room-temperature-consistency.
The lady to my right said, "Have that if you like cream!" I did.
Gil chose brioche, warmed and caramelized in a pan and served with caramel ice cream in a cup.
Here's Gil dining in duplicate—he's having a wonderful time. He's beside himself!
Upstairs, there's a lavish lounge where the truly chic meet and drink and dine. You're no longer in a bistro here—it's clubby.
We went back a few days later with friends and they loved it too.