As chance would have it, I am currently organizing a dinner at Le Bar à Huîtres in Montparnasse. If you like plateau de fruits de mer (cascading shellfish), this is the place for you. Their most expensive meal (including service and everything but drinks) is about $35 at present exchange rates.
Also you might want to subscribe to the "Bonjour Paris" newsletter. Sign up at email@example.com. Here is an article from it.
Where The Oyster Is My World
by David Outerbridge
December 2001 Submit Comments / Read Comments
The northwest coast of France has long been a source for the world's most succulent oysters, and one of the pleasures of the country is sampling the different types, which also are graded into different sizes.
A wonderful way to enjoy this mollusk is to eat at Le Bar à Huîtres. There are four locations in Paris. You may, if you choose, order a single oyster, but that would defeat the purpose. Order a platter of mixed varieties, the green Marenne, the Portuguese (which look like the cold-water U.S. types) the Belon (flat and rich in iodine). Because transporting oysters in hot weather was foolish - they are very perishable - traditionally they were not eaten in months whose names did not contain an r. With modern refrigeration, that is no longer a problem, but the warm months are also the reproductive ones, and oysters are less interesting at that time.
In France, oysters are traditionally served with a wedge of lemon, brown bread, sweet butter and a mignonette sauce made of red-wine vinegar, minced shallots and pepper. Do not look for the vile red cocktail sauce we produce.
If you are new to oysters, order the papillons which are small. In fact, order them in any case because they are delicious.
Because oysters at Le Bar à Huîtres are opened to order, they not only are fresh, but along with the flesh of the bivalve will be its briny juices. There is also a gigantic platter of fruits de mer which will, in addition to oysters, contain crab, clams of various types, and a variety of other shellfish.
For a main course at these restaurants stick to grilled fish, and eat your dessert elsewhere.
The white wines of the Loire are the choice to accompany oysters.
There's nothing in the world like Pierre Gagnaire (the stratosphere of great dining, if you can get a reservation -- small chance; I suspect he holds the number of Americans down to cultivate his local clientele). It's a $500 per person evening and worth every penny. Mssr Gagnaire is the true chef other better known celebrity "cooks" want to be. Here, it's all about the food. Ah, heaven on earth.
The Jules Verne is also a pleasant surprise. The food is B+ to A- and the view is spectacular.
Elyesee du Vernet does bread (and pigeon) to die for (reservations required but, you never know until you ask -- I got in as a walk-in one night).
Laurent is a touch more classy (and expensive), but the location and ambience are worth it (reservations required).
Amphycles (78, ave des Ternes, 17th arr.) is "nice," the food is "good," and the price is accordingly. We were there in '99.
The restaurant in the Musee d'Orsay is cheap, good, and the setting is great fun.
Dalloyau isn't much for food, but taking chocolat or desert at the sidewalk tables (the one by the Palais du Luxemburg) is sooooo Parisian.
Just off the Left Bank up toward Notre Dame, Rue de la Huchette is a strip of "hole-in-the-wall" multi-cultural bistros that can be surprisingly good.
Stay away from the places right on the Left Bank. the food is awful, the prices are high and the waitrons are nasty.
And, don't overlook the pleasures of "Gargantua," the Paris chain of counter-type eateries. Sort of what the American Diner would be if it were invented in Paris. The food is good, the wine is passable, and the counter help is nice. You never know who'll be on the next stool.
Violon d'Ingris in the 7th Arr is my favorite restaurant in the world. The two Michelin starred restaurant is run by a husband and wife team, Christian and Catherine Constant. She is the absolute best of anyone I have ever met at making them feel special in their 50 seat dining room. She is English and is just supurb. He is one of France's greatest chefs opening this, his own restaurant four years ago, after a decade at Les Ambassadeurs at the Hotel Crillon. You must go. You must order his pan fried foie gras (don't be put off-this is extraordinary!), roast veal and baked Alaska. His lobster salad is extraordinary also. Also, off the menu he does a crab and truffle risotto that is the equal of anything in Italy. For the quality and depth of flavor of what you will have this restaurant is an absolute bargain.
I have had eight meals there over the past three years and my wife and I would seriously consider flying there just for dinner.
How good is it? It is far superior to anything south of New York with only one or two New York restaurants challenging it. The Inn at Little Washington cannot even begin to approach the sublime food served here.
The Michelin star system, if you are familiar with it, also has three star restaurants. Paris has several of these. You should look at the International board on Chowhound where, about three weeks back, there was a lengthy discussion of all of them and various contributors favorites. I am fortunate to have been to most of them. We still like Violon d'Ingris better.
A three Michelin star restaurant (Taillevent, L'Ambrosie, Arpege, etc.) generally is about $200 to 250 per person including a modestly priced bottle of wine. Some such as Alain Ducasse are more. Violon d'Ingris is about $200 to 250 for two but can be less depending on how you order. But this is NOT a restaurant to eliminate a course. This IS a restaurant to"order for the table," i.e. to order extra dishes just to sample.
For a Friday or Saturday night you must reserve at least a month in advance. For a weeknight at least a week, perhaps longer. Their telephone number is 01133145551505. The address is 135 Rue Saint Dominique in the 7th. (This is near the center of the city.)
Another outstanding and personal favorite of ours is the two star Astor in the 8th Arr. The chef here is the former sous chef for the famed Joel Rubochon who has been called the greatest chef ever. Some of his dishes are still available at Astor but this is an outstanding restaurant in its own right. The price is about the same as Violon d'Ingris.
Also, a GREAT website is www.bparis.com (Bonjour Paris this is all in English.). Then go to gourmet, then to restaurants. There is a long thread on Violon d'Ingris here with recent updates. The restaurant is a favorite of the webmaster and many of the contributors. There are many Americans who post on this board.
I would actually post your very same message on the Bonjour Paris board that you have placed on here.
Have a safe trip and invest your calories wisely!
Hi Winnie, There's a thread that just started about Paris bistros on the International board. Check it out. So far as I know, our search feature for the International board is working on the homepage, so you could also do a search. May I also suggest that you post your question to that board; it will get much more attention there. If you know where you'll be staying let us know. The more information you provide, the better. Good luck! pat