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Mar 16, 2007 04:42 PM

April in Paris...any suggestions?

Hi guys we`re food enthusiastics from Monterrey Mexico and will be in paris by the end of april for a week, we have been reading all your valuable posts, and like to ask you for a few things in order to make the most out of our trip, we are planning to have at least 4 or 5 good meals (lunch or dinner) (planning to spend 100 euros for two with wine) and definitely splurge on one fine meal, the rest we are planning street food, baguettes, picnics, cheeses, crepes, the famous falafels in the marais, so we will much appreciate if you could give us your thoughts about:

The best 4 or 5 restos spendind 100 euros with wine.
a good place to splurge (for us at least) ( not going above 400 euros)
good areas to get street food
good place to buy food and wine for a picnic
good places for morning coffee and croissants

we are staying in the 7th, also please;

any thoughts about hiramatsu, les fables and la cagouille?
how to make a resevation to le comptoir du relais,
any hidden gem in versailles after a day at the castle?

thank you very much

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  1. Le Comptoir is a bistro on weekday evenings and you need a reservation (I heard up to a year in advance) and then a brasserie every lunchtime and Saturday evenings (not certain about Sunday). As a brasserie it doesn't take bookings you simply arrive and wait your turn. It is very small so the wait can be long. The menu is very different between the the brasserie and bistro. However the brasserie often has one or two of the bistro dishes as specials and there are some bistro classics always on the regular menu (i.e. foie gras presse with morilles).

    Best place for picnic food in the 7th is Grand Epicerie in Le Bon Marche (Department Strore) they have everything under one roof - a good range and good quality. Obviously there are lots of other small shops in the 7th. Around the corner from Bon Marche is the best cheese shop in Paris "Barthelemy" (51 rue de Grenelle, and the corner of Boulevard Raspail). On the other side there is "rue Cler" which has a good selection of shops - including another great cheese shop "Marie-Anne Cantin" (12 rue de Champ-de-Mars) is just around the corner.

    In the morning simply wander into a local cafe/brasserie, stand by the bar, order a "creme", grab a croissant from the basket on bar and dip it in the coffee, and enjoy. You will find lots of locals doing the same, it is inexpensive and good. OK not the "best of the best" but good fun and tasty. Or simply find a cafe/brasserie with a decent terrace, nice view and watch the world go by (the coffee and croissant will be the same but you pay more to sit, and even more to sit outside). I wouldn't waste effort looking for "the place" with the best coffee or croissant because the location and atmosphere are what is important - if you want the best croissants you need to buy them from a bakery and take them home - the best bakeries generally don't do coffee etc (there business is baking). I also recommend avoiding cafes/brasseries around major tourist spots like the Champs Elysees, Rue de Rivoli (Louvre), instead choose a local spot near a good shopping streets (rue cler 7th, rue du bac 7th, rue Montorgueil 2nd) - cheaper, better and more friendly.

    Street food is an interesting question. Fallafal in rue des Rosiers in the Marais is great and not just at L'as du Fallafel. However, I don't really think of Parisians being big on street food - hence the profusion of cafes, brasseries and bistros. OK there are kebab shops, stands selling crepes etc. But my impression is that the French believe good food is something you sit down and enjoy and street food is only really OK after you stagger out of a nightclub or need to need to feed hungry kids but it isn't really a gourmet experience. It is no coincidence that the highest concentration of "street food" outlets tend to be in tourist areas i.e, the latin quarter in the back street around Boulevard St Michel, or near he bars and nightclubs near Oberkampf - even the Fallafel places in the Marais have tables which are very popular.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PhilD

      My advice for Le Comptoir is to go for a late lunch. We had lunch there at about 2pm and the tables were just turning from the lunch rush. If you are looking for lunch at noon or there abouts you will have to wait. To try for a dinner reservation you might have your hotel call in the afternoon and see if there are any cancellations.

    2. I thought I would hold off on giving my thoughts on 'Les Fables de la Fontaine" (131 rue St-Dominique, 7eme) as we had a table booked for last night, Sat 17th March, and I would be able to give you a fresh perspective.

      First, it is a FISH restaurant, this may seem obvious, however last night the waiter patiently translated the whole menu to an American diner, who then promptly asked for steak! The waiter replied "but sir we are a fish restaurant" to which the diner responded, "no I want a steak, don't you do any meat?" The diner declared (loudly) he would not eat there and simply finish his glass of wine - this took him 45 minutes - not cool in a restaurant that only seats 20 and is so popular. Maybe he thought he was "La Fontaine de Mars" which is next door but closed at the moment for serious renovations.

      OK how was it? This is our fourth visit in the last year, and yes we really, really like it. The menu is quite short, written on a blackboard, and seems to change regularly (no English version, but the waiters are patient, translate and explain). The food in innovative with many dishes served in glasses and consisting of layers of flavor much like an ice cream sundae. Prices are good the meal for two with wine and aperitifs was €130, first courses €12, mains €24 to 30, and deserts €8. The wine list is short but also good value with a Petit Chablis for €26 (most wines are also available by the glass and carafe).

      My wife enjoyed a layered crab starter, topped with a red pepper mouse (a regular on the menu as we have had it before?), I had another layered dish of sheep's cheese sauce with carpacio with with an avocado mouse. For the main course I had Turbot with garlic and my wife had scallops with bacon and asparagus (both dishes served traditionally on flat plates). For desert we had another layered dish of chocolate ganache with poached pears. Every dish was great, the combination of flavors that you get with the way dishes are served in glasses is good and shows real creativity. It is not traditional french cooking, but all the better for that.

      It is a very small restaurant and popular so you need to book even for mid week. There are only 20 covers and the tables that are packed together even more densely than normal in Paris. They do two sittings one at 8:00 and another at 9:30/10:00. Thus the service is quick (but not bad) as they have to turn the first sitting over quickly. I suspect this keeps the prices down. I like to linger over food so prefer the second sitting, but if you like efficient dining the first is fine. Apart from the aforementioned American gentlemen I think we were the only non-French people there, with lots of groups enjoying a family get together.

      Finally - it has just been awarded its first Michelin star in the 2007 guide which came out in February - certain to make it more popular.

      5 Replies
      1. re: PhilD

        I too will be in Paris next month. I have been once before and to be honest, prefer Belgium much more (the people, the food, the chocolate...) I wasn't blown away by the cuisine in Paris, but several people are telling me to give it another shot.

        Thanks for the recommendations and if anyone else has more, please do post!

        Thanks so much,


        1. re: HeatherFL

          I really appreciate Phild for such a valuable information it will help us a lot, Right now i am triyng to make a reservation for lunch at l`angle du faubourg, and the rest of the bistros we are plannig to go i think i will give it a try the day we arrive in Paris and see if we can reserve at least 5 or 6 of them.
          certainly Les Fables sounds very good and will be at the top of my list (by the way, did you have trouble getting a reserve?) we are hoping to have lunch / dinner at any of these, the other days,

          Le Clos des Gourmets
          Le Petit Troquet
          La Régalade
          L’Os a Moelle
          Le Temps au Temps
          Le Comptoir du Relais (quite impossible i know)
          Chez les Anges
          le phamplet
          la cagouille.

          If any of you guys have any fresh comments about these restos of have any other recommendation, as Heather says, please do post!


          1. re: garz

            No problems getting a reservation Les Fables - we booked 3/4 days in advance. We wanted the later sitting but the 8:00 was the only availability.

            Another recommendation for fish is "Gaya Rive Gauche" (rue du Bac, 7eme), it is a Pierre Gagnaire restaurant also with a Michelin star. Like Les Fables the menu is far from traditional, with many of the courses served in "Tapas" sized portions. We tend to sample 5 or 6 dishes and share them all (between 2). This allows us to graze and thus sample a wide variety.

            More expensive than Les Fables but still good value (we are booked in tomorrow).

            1. re: garz

              I know it's a bit late, but I should mention that L'Ourcine has really fallen in quality recently. The last two times that I've been there (February and March) have been nightmares of poor service. Their desserts have become rather banal and tasteless, and they seem to change their menu less often. Unless there's a substantial change (i.e., management), I'm not going back.

              1. re: LMGM

                I live near L'Ourcine and am sorry to say that its quality has indeed declined over the last 2 years.

        2. While not a fancy place, the absolute most fun you would have for dinner is at Nos Ancetres Les Gaulois on Ile Saint Louis. It is about 40Euro for all you can eat and all the wine you can drink. There is a French folk singer who entertains on his guitar. It is lively!
          The first thing you see when you arrive at your table is a huge basket of fresh vegetables and an empty pitcher. You take the pitcher over to the wine barrel and pour away. Then you serve yourself fresh sausages, antipastos, breads. After you are filled to the brim, the waiter will come over and offer you a main course of meat, meat meat or meat (lol) Quality of main course is decent, not great by any stretch!!

          After main course comes a massive cheese tray --- to DIE for!!!--- along with fresh fruits and desert.

          A fun place that I go to every year when I am in Paris!!! Enjoy....

          Cliff_for _food

          1 Reply
          1. Excerpt re Hiramatsu from my Mar 8 review of Paris Decadence
            Well our last night and we had reserved our anniversary dinner at Hiramatsu. A study in perfection. The room is elegant and sparse but what is there is worth looking at and enjoying . Well spaced tables, white linens , blue or red glassware adds accent to an other wise quiet landscape .. some lovely accents all of which are fine Baccarat ..and not, I repeat Not, pretentious atmosphere .. We had the tasting. I have posted here before about a wonderful meal that we had at La Pergolese in the 16th that was until this meal my best memory…Hiramatsu gave it more than a run for its Euros . The tasting was amazing . What I can reconstruct is a pumpkin soup with truffle, a large portion of lobster in a delicious sauce served cold , a perfect scallop , a roasted bar, saddle of venison, and dessert , dessert , dessert . My description does not do it justice as I was not taking notes or thinking about a post .. but rather enjoying the pure pleasure of the night . It was here that we had our most delicious Condrieu and also the most relaxing and savory night of our decadent trip . I apologize for the laspses in memory…they are all due to pure culinary joy… If I remember more I will post. Bonne Nuit

            1. I was in Paris in January and we just walked into Comptoir du Relais for lunch with no problem. Get there early. Dinner might be another story.
              In the 7th, have you been to Robuchon's L'Atelier ? All counter seating. Great fun, most excellent food. No lack of food places in the 6th and 7th. Again, we just wander in, but in January it is probably a different story than May.

              Versailles, forgetaboutit.

              1 Reply
              1. re: julieg

                Robuchons L'Atelier does have a strange booking policy. I believe you can reserve at either 12:00 ot 6:30 pm only. For tables at other times you have to put your name on a list and arrive later. First time we tried the list was full. Next time we were waiting as they unlocked the door and got on the list, arrived at 9:00 and waited 30 mins. All in all it can be a lottery getting a table unless you like eating early (or in January).
                It is good, albeit expensive. However another negatives apart from the booking system is that the service is very speedy - I think they try and turn the tables at least 3 or 4 times a night. We asked them to slow down last visit and the waiter was quite rude. We have even had the next dish bought to us before we had finished the one we were eating.
                I now stick to Gaya which is opposite on Rue du Bac and in my opinion better.