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Paris 3-stars

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  • Willy Wilson Dec 28, 2002 10:52 AM
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Two of us are visiting Paris next July. I've been all over the world and have eaten some great meals, but have not been in a 3-star restaurant in Paris. I currently have a reservation at Taillevent, but I'd like some opinions from others.

I'm not a culinary "adventurer" in the sense of doing highly unusual things with food, but when a restaurant has 3 stars and is regarded (and priced) to be elite, then I have high expectations. The fact that something is a "standard" is no excuse for it being boring or tired. Same for the service and ambiance. I'm not expecting bowing and scraping, but I want to be treated well. I'm hoping for, and frankly expecting, a memorable experience and I have the background to make that judgment.

Is Taillevent the best choice, or could there be a different 3-star that would be better? I'd hate to pick something on the basis of its name, only to find out that "everyone (but me) knows" that it's long since past its prime. The person I'm taking is less experienced with restaurants than me, but not a hick from the provinces either. I want this meal to be high point of our visit to Paris.

One other question: I've made the reservation for 7:30 p.m., and am thinking that maybe this is ridiculously early by Paris standards. I'd hate to eat in a place that's 20% full. On the other hand, it occurs to me that if we come slightly early we've got a better chance at a better table. I read a review here from someone who got a horrible table and bad food.

Any and all thoughts would be most appreciated.

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  1. My husband and I have enjoyed two dinners at Taillevent. The first time I choose it because we wanted to experience a 3 star restaurant but were unsure of attitudes towards Americans (didn't want any snooty waiters). We had a wonderful time. The owner and the staff are wonderfully gracious and welcoming. On our second visit we were seated between a table with two Americans (who had (with what I consider 'nerve') asked that the little cookies and bonbon given with coffee to be boxed for the plane ride home (It was done graciously)) and a table with two French couples and a little girl around 5 (the owner came over and discussed menu options for the child-plain white fish with rice). These are two examples of how welcoming and accomodating the staff can be. Since our main concern in dining out is the food, that too is wonderful. If you are looking for a very creative on the edge kind of menu and food this is not the place to go. Expect well prepared French cuisine which is what they serve. We had a wild mushroom ravioli with a mushroom cream sauce that must have been steamed-it had that frothy texture but was the essence of mushroom-terrific! The wine list is amazing of course. Since I like quality wine but not quantity we were pleased to see some wonderful half bottles especially some red burgundies which are my favorite. My husband was taken with their selection of Armagnacs. All in all we have had two wonderful experiences there and hope you enjoy it as well.

    6 Replies
    1. re: AGM/Cape Cod

      Thanks for the reply, it helps a lot. Yes, I agree heartily with you regaring the two Americans at your second visit. Perhaps they were the Clampetts of Beverly Hills? I once stayed at the Crillon hotel in Paris and cringed as a husband and wife from Texas checked in, he wearing a cowboy hat and sweats, fresh off the plane, bellowing about the long flight, and somehow taking up three times as much space as anyone else in the lobby. Oh well.

      One other question for you and/or others. One of my favorite restaurants in Boston is L'Espalier, and at that establishment you can order a 5-course degustation meal including wines at each course selected by the restaurant. I think it's a great option when there are only two of you, as will be the case in Paris.

      Does Taillevent do anything like this, and is it a good idea? I am semi-knowledgeable about wine, but a babe in the woods by the standards of a 3-star Paris restaurant. I would just as well be happy if they selected the wines, because I'm sure they would do a much better job. The way I see it, food and wine are their life, and they are one of the best in the world.

      Also, do you think it would be polite to ask the names of the wines and discreetly write them down? I don't want to be the Clampetts at Taillevent, but I have a lousy memory and would hate to forget the name of a wonderful wine I might drink there.

      1. re: Willy Wilson

        Willy- I know they have a prix fixe menu of some number of courses but we never go that route because we would both have to have it. We want to try as many dishes as we can. We usually order two first courses and switch in the middle so we each eat half of them, the same with the remaining courses. My husband is knowledgeable about wines, especially French wines, so he ordered the wine. The sommelier was very nice and helpful. He suggested another wine which was less than the one my husband inquired about (my sign of a good sommelier). So I would trust him to help about wines. Don't worry about remembering anything about the menu or wine list. Do what I do and ask to take the menu with you. It has the wine list in the middle. Then you can always remember what you ate and drank. I am so jealous. We decided to put hard wood floors and heat on the second floor of our house and not to go to Paris next year. You will have to report back to us so we can live vicariously through you.

        1. re: AGM/Cape Cod

          Trust me, I'm not filthy rich or anything, but this is long-planned, special trip. I figure, why wait until we're 75 years old and can't taste anything?

        2. re: Willy Wilson

          Taillivent will have wines by the glass but not the perfectly matched things you mention from L'espelier. But great wines (their house sweet white to serve with foie gras was a 1967 Barsac when I was there in 2001). Taillivent is a great place in my opinion for a first three star, very classic, very gracious. Another tip would be Lucas Carton. Also, classic food and the service is gracious but a little less formal. And wine is a big thing with the selected wine listed first on the menu now before the food (see my recent post from about 1 month ago, search for Lucas Carton). But Lucas Carton is about 50% more expensive in my estimate. But both will surely please, just decide which is more of the style you want for this visit. I believe both have menus on the internet as well. I know Lucas does anyways. Enjoy. PS if you go to Lucas Carton say your friend Marc who grew up in Boston (I did) but now lives in Sweden suggested you go and ask for Jerome Moreau the sommelier, Jerome knows me and will treat you extra special, especially if you like to talk wine.

          1. re: mdibiaso

            Thanks for your reply. We're going to be in Paris for at least five nights, so maybe we'll try both of them. This will, of course, cause us one of those crisis of the liver things that seems to afflict the French. As afflictions go, I can think of some that are a lot worse.

          2. re: Willy Wilson

            Sorry to jump in late (I was perusing the lists for Basque restaurants). We had dinner at Taillevent in November and dinner a year before at Lucas Carton. We both felt that Taillevent blew the doors off of Lucas Carton in every way, decor, service, food, attentiveness. While I found Lucas Carton very uptight and snobby, not so at Taillevent. If they have the tasting menu at lunch, I would selct that and put myself in the hadn of the chef. The portions were by no means small but we were able to taste five different courses -- those at other tables who ordered a la carte just had larger portions and fewer items. The sommelier was very helpful. I thought we would enjoy the wine pairings at Lucas Carton until I did not pay attention while I was ordering and wound up with food that was paired with three diferent Banyuls -- when I asked that the thir Bayul (enough already) be changed to a glass of Bordeaux or other wine, the waiter looked stricken.
            Stick with Taillevent, skip Lucas Carton and if you are so inclined to dine at two michelin ***'s in one trip, try Pierre Gagnierre.

        3. I ate at Taillevent in Nov. for lunch- it truly was memorable in every way. The service was perfect without being stuffy or intimidating. They were friendly and seemed to match whatever level of formality you wanted. Food was excellent but the overall experience is most important.

          The friend who took me there said it is something you must do once in a lifetime and I agree. Enjoy!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Parisphile

            Thanks for your reply. I'll look forward to Taillevent.

          2. Willy,

            Can I ask how you made the reservations? Is there a website? We're going in April (only 3 months away!).

            Thanks in advance,
            Spike

            P.S. We had a dog named Willy Wilson (Wilson being our last name as well). No offense I hope.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Spike

              Taillevent has a web site, and I made the reservations by e-mail.

            2. Four of us from NY and Florida had dinner at Taillevent in Oct 2006. One of our party is a professional chef whose restaurant is highly rated in Zagat. For all of us, the dinner was a once-in-a-lifetime fabulous experience. We are all still talking about it. If you can go, do it.

              1. Just a point-if you are referring to the Michelin guide, Taillevent now has 2 stars.
                That said, I think it's a wonderful place to dine, and highly recommend it.

                1. hi,
                  Taillevent is now 2-stars, try Grand Vefour or L'Ambroisie.
                  It is early to dine at 7.30 in Paris; 9.00 is a better time more with the locals.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: chocqueen

                    Reports from recent visitors say that Taillevent, even tho only 2 stars now, is way better than Grand Vefour with its 3.

                    Stars don't make a place better.... even if they should.

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      No doubt that Taillevent is better than Véfour. I call it the mistery three star. It is better than les Elysées? Stay tuned for I an trying both lunch menus this week.

                      I don't know if stars should make a place better. A three stars is not necessariily better than a two stars -- as you often argued, better is, to some extent, a matter of personal preferences (eventhough the quality of products and cooking is rather objective). A three star is a place that is unique -- no one does what they do better, they're one of a (great) place . Hence it is worth a trip. Two stars are excellent restaurants.

                      1. re: souphie

                        I agree with ChefJune and souphie...but the OP seemed intent on a 3-star restaurant. Oh, but I just noticed the OP posted in 2002-so I guess he had his 3-star experience after all!