When I heard of a French restaurant in the heart of East Liberty, I wondered how would a French bistro know what Pittsburghers enjoy? Since visiting Paris a few months ago, I thought Paris 66 surely would fall flat in the face of my expectations. I shuddered at thoughts of any French restaurant sacrificing the gourmet elegance of French cuisine to bring us Pittsburghers what we were used to. I was definitely not going to order pierogies this time around.
The façade of Paris 66 is akin to any French bistro, an open working display of French chefs in their natural environment. Each patron is greeted with a hearty ‘Bonjour’ by the chefs upon entering, and a ready assortment of French pastries and desserts under glass are available to go at anytime. Using my head, I made reservations because I had heard the wait at Paris 66 was almost as long and as painful as the French Revolution. Because of this, we had no problems being seated.
Once situated, the atmosphere was exactly as I had remembered Paris – with close seating arrangements and a bustle of a European café – but Paris 66 was unpredictably more casual than any Parisian upscale fine restaurant. I was quite surprised and happy at the casualness of Paris 66. Families with children sat around us, with people arriving straight from work, even though foodies and couples were also present. This was a good sign.
The first thing I ordered was the soup of the day – A curried mussel seafood soup, topped with a fresh puff pastry. The soup had fabulous taste and texture; mussels were tender yet not overcooked. I was already looking forward to more. My date for the evening ordered La Gallete de St. Michel for her entrée; a flat buckwheat flour crêpe, piled high with crisp greens, crumbled feta, walnuts, apricots and julienned apples. What stood out was the delectable herb dressing that went well with the aforementioned fresh ingredients. For my entrée, I ordered the plat du jour – and this Friday evening was a Seafood Brochette. A Mediterranean skewer including tuna, scallops, shrimp and green peppers – all nestled on a mango sauce. The skewer was cooked perfectly, not overdone, and the dish was sweetened by the puréed salsa. With only one skewer, I had to remember that the portions at Paris 66 are very French, and small by American standards. Almost full, we had to try one of their now famous dessert crêpes.
With a conclusion of their signature dessert, we ordered the Paris 66. This sweet crêpe was served with ice cream, whipped cream, powdered sugar and nutmeg. With a presentation fitting of a Zambelli firework show (minus a Pirates loss), this crêpe was flambéed upon arrival with a warm cup of Grand Marnier (a Paris 66 take on Crêpes Suzette), and the crêpe was alit for ten seconds (much to the amazement of other patrons nearby). It was maybe one of the best tasting dessert crêpes I have had, either here or in Europe.
The most glaring and singular complaint I would make – by far the only negative thing I would say about Paris 66 — was regarding the price of their Plat du Jour. One skewer of seafood (albeit full of flavor and deliciousness) – should not cost $24 – a price that is too Paris, and not enough Pittsburgh, even if it is very French. Other than that slight, the prices at Paris 66 were more reasonable with a wine carafe ($19), sweet dessert crepe ($11), and a hearty soup ($3.50) rounding out the bill.
The service at Paris 66 is not quite American, but better than anything in France. To maximize your experience, I would suggest a variation by ordering a soup, an entrée, a dessert, and a coffee to get a feel of what Paris 66 (and yes Paris too) is all about. I will be the first to say that previously I did not believe that Paris 66, or any French restaurant, could bring the acute likeness of the city of love over to us in the city of steel. I was glad to see a little slice of East Liberty carved with European style our friends across the Atlantic have known about for some time. By mixing Pittsburgh hospitality and French formality, finally a casual bistro emerges with all the benefits of both without any hassle.
After a truly French atmosphere at Paris 66, you may not be transported directly to Paris, but dining there will in fact qualify you to mispronounce North Versailles with a straight face.
What are their hours?
Lunch: Tues – Sat, 11am – 2:30pm
Dinner: Tues – Sat, 5pm – 9:30pm
Brunch: Sun, 10am – 2:30pm