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Matters of taste: What is a bistro?

Finding the perfect Parisian eatery

By Wendell Steavenson  

In June I moved back to Paris after an absence of four years. I had some misgivings about the food. Although there have always been extraordinary French chefs doing extraordinary things, my heart was heavy with the memory of too many mediocre mid-range meals. I was not the only one to have noticed; newspapers had reported an epidemic of ready-meals and pre-prepared frozen food in French restaurants. The neighbourhood stalwart bistro—introduced to France it is thought, among other possible explanations, by the Cossacks in the early 19th century and named after the Russian word for “quickly”—has indeed in many cases…

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