With no stars attached to it, Le Relais de l'Isle in a most humble way creates both meals and memories that you will want to go back to over and over. A tiny place on Ile Saint Louis (it only seats 24), it is capable of making your mouth dance with delight no matter what you order. Stumbling upon it on my last day in Paris, I wasn't so sure what to expect but had walked through the entire city, breathing everything in and at this point found myself famished. I know I ordered the déjeuner formule and all I can without question recall is the entree (appetizer). Described as 'mille feuille tomate', I was envisioning thin layers of puff pastry with tomatoes worked in somehow. Oh no. A bit too simple and obvious that would be. Instead the tomatoes were the mille feuille--thinly sliced tomatoes layered with delicate greens in a perfect dressing. Have you ever tried cutting a tomato to about 1/16th of an inch? It was crazy and beautiful and art and all part of a relatively inexpensive lunch menu. I have been back numerous times and have never been disappointed.
This also happens to be a fairly popular jazz haunt for those of you looking for that. I helped friends put together their first trip to Paris a few months ago who are jazz lovers and suggested they start here over their first weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday are music nights) as I knew the food was tremendous but had never taken advantage of the entertainment. They did just that, had a great meal and were directed towards all sorts of late night haunts that kept them up until the wee hours.
The proprietress is lovely and it is her husband working in a tiny second level kitchen that creates such beauty on a plate. It is clear that all things at Le Relais de l'Isle come from the heart, not the stars.
37 rue St-Louis-en-l'Ile 75004
Photo credit: Francis Demange