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Suggestion for good eats in Paris

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Hi, all. I'm going to Paris in January and would like to have one or two REALLY good dinners. I've been to some of the old stand-bys already and want to try a new one. These are the ones I'm thinking of: Lucas Carton, Taillevent (I'm leaning towards this one), Pierre Gagnaire, Ledoyen, and Le Grand Vefour.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

TIA...

Adlai

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  1. Jacques Cagna (rue des Grands-Augustins, Paris 5) -- in an old house near the Seine. Lovely ambiance, three-star nouvelle cuisine kitchen, and marvelous service. A dinner, several years ago: my husband had, for his appetizer, a cassoulet of lobster and oysters on a bed of fresh spinach. His main course was filet mignon with truffles or, as he put it, truffles with a side order of beef. My appetizer consisted of two puff pastry shells—one filled with lobster meat and the other with fresh asparagus—in a heavenly cream sauce. Next, poached chicken breast with thin slices of foie gras and truffles under the skin. Our wine was Pouilly Fuissé. After the main course, green salad. After the salad, a cheese tray. And, after the cheese tray, dessert! My husband’s was a puff pastry basked filled with fresh fruit salad, topped with a cage of spun sugar. Mine was fraises des bois (wild strawberries) with crème fraîche. And a couple of snifters of Hennessey X.O. -- a meal to be remembered.

    Jules Verne (in the Eiffel Tower). Beautiful restaurant, amazing service, and the view, even with the grey skies and the light drizzle that was falling the day we lunched there, was most impressive. I ordered smoked salmon for an appetizer and an entrée of sautéed sweetbreads on a bed of spinach. My husband was suffering with a bad cold and had little to no appetite. He didn’t have an appetizer, but ordered a gorgeous veal dish with roasted potatoes and roasted shallots and then couldn’t force himself to eat more than a single bite. I couldn’t say which dish was better, but I ended up eating both of our lunches and drinking half a bottle of Pouilly Fuissé while my husband, the maître d’, and several waiters watched in amazement.

    On another trip, I took my niece to lunch there. We started off with a couple of kirs and ordered our main courses and a half-bottle of Sancerre. We were given little amuse bouches to accompany our kirs: a couple of tiny puff pastry shells stuffed with cheese, a couple with salmon, and a tiny ramekin of salmon rillettes and toast. Our green salad was composed of bite-sized leaves of mixed lettuces—-curly endive, red leaf, lots of others—-with delicious mustard vinaigrette dressing. For her main course, my niece had scallops with baby vegetables and a mound of puréed sweet potatoes. I had sautéed sweetbreads (again!) with baby vegetables and potatoes au gratin. It was an enormous portion and I was unable to do it complete justice, but it was excellent. For dessert, I had three small scoops of homemade sorbets. My niece ordered the “special,” having no idea of what that would be. When the plate was brought to the table, there were small servings of five different chocolate desserts, from which she assumed she was to choose. Mais, non! All five were for her! I can’t say what they were, specifically, but they were beautiful and wonderful. When we were both absolutely satisfied, not to mention stuffed, we were presented with a small dish of chocolate truffles and almond/pistachio tuiles to accompany our coffee.

    The Espadon, at the Hotel Ritz, on the place Vendôme. Talk about classy! I can only imagine what the rooms must look like. The lobby and restaurant were absolutely grand — opulent — well, ritzy! For his appetizer, my husband had risotto with chicken wings and truffles. I think I got a taste of his rice, but I was so involved in my dish that I really didn’t care: soupe de volaille, which translates as chicken soup. It was chicken broth, but it was thickened with chestnut flour and had little bits of smoked ham floating in it. I’ve never tasted anything like it. For his main dish, my husband had something that was described as “boneless spare ribs, caramelized with soy sauce, and lentils” and what came out I can only describe as ambrosial. The meat looked like thick slabs of bacon, but the texture was amazing. The outside was crisp and salty-sweet and the inside was fork tender. I did get a bite of that before the protective wall went up around his plate. My dish was filet mignon with truffle sauce and tiny vegetables. We had a bottle of Sancerre with our meal and it was the ideal wine. This was followed by the cheese course and, according to the receipt, we shared one dessert called Farandole, but I can’t remember what it was.

    L’Ami Louis (32, rue du Vertbois, Paris 3) has been open since some time in the early 1900s and has been run by the same family all this time. The original owner died in the late ‘80s and his legions of fans were terrified that change might come. According to all my reading and going by our lunch, I would venture a guess that nothing has changed. The place is small, crowded and informal. The service, while excellent, seems a little brusque, but I get the feeling that it’s an act. If you go in winter and have a coat, it’s taken from you and tossed over your head onto a rack, whether it's fur or leather or army/navy surplus.

    The foie gras appetizer! At $50 a serving, it had to be something really special and it was the reason we were there. We ordered that and a roast chicken to share, as well as a bottle of the house Bordeaux. Shortly thereafter, the waiter presented us with a stack of grilled bread and three incredibly generous slices of cold foie gras, surrounded by beautiful, golden duck fat. The liver was exceptional-—luxurious and velvety—-but we couldn’t finish it. In the end, we had about $8-$10 worth left and handed it over to the folks at the next table, who received it gratefully and finished it off in no time.

    The chicken was presented to us in a round copper baking dish, perfectly crisped and browned, swimming in a rich brown sauce of stock, butter and chicken fat, with plenty of watercress garnish., as well as a huge mound of matchstick potatoes! Incroyable! And worth every penny.

    Just thinking about these meals has me ready to make my flight reservations! Hope you have a great trip and eat well.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dena

      Had a wonderful 4 hour lunch at the Grand Vefour last January. It is an absolutely gorgeous room full with a rich history and a wonderful location behind the Palais Royal. Maybe because of the history, I feared that the meal may have been less than stellar and that the restaurant may have rested on its past greatness. However, nothing could have been further from the truth. The meal was truly inspired, from the wonderful foie gras ravioli with black truffles, to an amazing piece of salmon with roe and wilted greens (I generally find salmon at restaurants tired and boring, but this was a wonderful exception) and finally, the single best dessert that I have ever tasted. It was some kind of chocolate cake/souffle with a layer of dark chocolate (not cake, but simply pure chocalate), with grapefruit and on the side (or on top) avacado ice cream. I know it sounds like a nightmare combination, especially the avocado ice cream, but it was pure bliss. We ended with exceptional cheeses, including L'Ami Chambertin from Burgundy (one of my all time favorites).

      The wine list was excellent as was the service. Very professional, curteous. They seemed to appreciate how much we were enjoying our meal and made us feel comfortable lingering over our feast.

      P.S. The chef was voted Chef of the Year by Gualt Mileau for 1998.

    2. I just got back from Paris this weekend.

      Had T-giving dinner at A. Ducasse - it was wonderful. Dinner there is more than a meal - an event. Food was terrific, the place spectacular, great service, etc...While I've better individual dishes at different restaurants, overall it was one of my favorite dining experiences.
      Also ate at L'Epi Dupin in the 6th. Incredible food (and for only 175 francs!).
      Ate at Tallievent last year. It was also excellent, but I like Ducasse much more (prettier restaurant, slightly better food).
      I've heard mixed things about L. Carton, but good things about the others you mentioned.
      Bon ap...

      1. j
        Jonathan Sibley

        I had lunch at Pierre Gagnaire soon after it moved to Paris, and found the menu quite interesting, and the food quite tasty. I followed the suggestions of the sommelier, and one choice was unusual and extremely good, and the other was classic and, as it turned out, a poor choice (the wine was too young and still extremely closed). All in all, though, an exceptional meal (and when I complained, they comped me the second wine).

        Taillevent is not always the most exciting food, in my opinion (although it can be fantastic), but the overall experience is close to perfection. Could be a good counterpoint to something like Gagnaire.

        I had an incredible meal at a lesser-known restaurant, la Table d'Anvers, where they do some very unusual pairings of flavors at times. They also have a great wine list, and some excellent values. However, the second time I went there, it was less stellar. Don't know if I hit an off night, or my expectations were too high based on the first visit, though.

        Just some quick thoughts.