Paris Trip Reviews
Again, i'd like to thank everyone who helped w/ my selections. Also a general thanks to everyone who adds to this board. I took a lot of info w/ me on my trip that I felt was invaluable while there.
Taillevent, lunch, Tuesday, November 13th.
First, i'd like to make it clear that this was my new wife and my first 2/3 star meal. So i'm going to go into some detail of what my experience was as a complete newbie.
From the moment we walked in, we felt somewhat nervous and overwhelmed by the attention. Our reservation was for 12:30pm and we arrived a few minutes early. We were greeted by 4 people. One woman who took our coats, another asked for our names for the reservation and then we were led to our seats. We had a nice table for 2 near the window in the first room. We were at this point, the only diners in the room (probably the restaurant), though i couldn't see all the tables in the 2nd room. We were asked if we wanted an aperitif and were presented w/ a small plate of delightfully light puffs of cheese bread. Mr. Vrinat then came and presented us w/ the a la carte menu and our waiter came and brought us the 3 set menus available. One was the 70 euro lunch menu, one was a 6 course degustation menu (140 euros) and an even more impressive 190 euro menu. We selected the degustation menu (we went well over my original budget when I was asking for suggestions on this board).
It is going to be quite difficult for me to describe all the food, so i'll stick to my experience more than anything. The food was all excellent. I am in agreement with what i have read that nothing that i ate was particularly special. The amuse was a light cream of mushroom w/ an artichoke flavored creme fresh to top. The first course was a crab salad topped w/ thinly sliced radishes. I tasted dill, chives, and some pepper powder sprinkled over the sides to add some heat. The next course was a wheat prepared rissotto style w/ frog legs. The third course were seared scallops over some sort of puree which i missed and a parsley/oil emulsion. Next came the main plate which was duck and a mix of fruits and vegetables (fig, dates, squash). the duck was topped w/ a really well done jus. The 5th course was a fresh goat cheese w/ herbs topped with an extremely thin cracker and dried olive tapenade and a small mesclun salad. There were 2 desserts. A chocolate mille feuille pastry with layers of mouses and ganache. There was also a fig dessert w/ caramelized fresh figs in a sabayon, and topped w/ a thin cookie and a fig foam. There also came a plate of 5 petit fours.
Everything was quite meticulously prepared and great tasting. Nothing, was new or out of the ordinary. New ground was definately not being broken, but it was truly a wonderful dining experience.
The service was impeccable. At one point when we finished our champagne, it took about 10minutes to be offered some wine. When the sommelier came over after ordering our meal, he asked if we wanted wine and i told him we would order by the glass after the aperitif. This stood out to me because it was the only time in the meal we felt we were somehow missing something, or that every tiny detail wasn't being taken care of.
The total bill came in at 353 euros. 2 degustation menus, 2 glasses of champagne, 2 glasses of wine, and a liter of water. I left a 20 euro tip on top of that. We left at about 2:45pm for about a 2.5 hour dining experience.
Lunch at Pierre Gagnaire to come later in the day.
ok next up was
Pierre Gagnaire, lunch, Thursday the 15th of November
again we had a 12:30 reservation and were greated by a number of individuals to take our coats and to seat us. The maitre d' was a short adorable man w/ a mustache curled up at the ends.
We were again it seems the first in the restaurant. He quipped that we had a private dining hall for the meal. I counted 12 tables total (of which 5 never filled). 5 tables of 2, 1 table of 3 and one table of 5. Right off the bat you can see a huge difference in the restaurant. The plates, glasses, and flatware were all very modern as was the decor, vs. the very traditional and elegant Taillevent. It was really something to see the small army moving around in what was perfect precision at every instance. The food reflected the decor as well.
We were handed the menus. The one with prices to me and without to my wife. The degustation menu was 245 euros and the lunch menu (almost an aside) was 95 euros. The entrees ranged from about 100 to 125 euros and the main plates a little more. We were going to stick w/ the lunch menu on this occassion, but i wanted a little extra so I ordered an entree of the Langoustines to share. This seemed to throw the waiter for a bit of a loop but he quickly recovered it was not a problem (i hope it wasn't too much of a faux pas for me to add an item off the la carte menu to the fixed lunch menu). The langoustines were 122 euros.
We started w/ champagne for the apperitif. We were then brought about 4 small tiny pre-amouses. A plate w/ 4 candied hazelnuts and 4 tiny shortbread type crackers. A small little pedestal w/ a tiny cracker w/ avocado and a roe of some sort. Another small plate w/ octopus and pine nuts in a little shell, etc. The breads were also beautiful and distict vs. the very basic french crusty bread at Taillevent.
Next came the amuses... 5 in all placed in front of you together w/ direction to eat in a particular order... clockwise starting w/ the salade de champignons de paris...
I'll copy directly from the menu because a few items escaped me:
Salade de champignons de paris; jus a la grecque, lichettes de dorade sauvage.
Mais frais au Laguiole, wurtz a la gentaine; une gougere.
Oefs de saumon organique, gras de seiche; poivrons verts et moules de bouchot.
Terrine de queue de boeuf aux escargots, chutney d'automne.
Mousseline de vitelote, choucroute de Monsieur Herrcher.
It seemed like each plate played on a particular taste... sweet, sour, bitter, salty. The presentation was gorgeous. i have a picture of us seated at the table w/ the Amouses laid out before us. I'll post it so that you can see.
Next came (again from the menu)... Beurre mousseux aux jambon cru, olives vertes de Lucques, soja frais, blac de poireaux equartiers de legumes racine. Everything on this plate was swimming in butter. It was pretty delicious I must say. Great combo of tastes in this dish.
Next up was the entree of Langoustines. There were 6 preparations of them. Grilled, pan fried, a mousse, a consomme, a tartare, and a langoustine encased in what seemed like a potato chip. Each was about 2 bites worth which was perfect to share. I'm not sure how they would serve two people entrees at the same time. There were about 8 plates in front of us, several that required some table side finishes.
Next came the main plate:
Saupiquet minute de lapin Rex du Poitou.
Socca, gousses d'ail sablee, Ajo Blanco preque sevillan.
This was the worst dish of the lunch. It was good... it just seemed somewhat out of place and plain compared to everything else. The rabbit was great as was the little Ajo Blanco garlic/milk infusion drink that came with it.
Finally the desserts... there were 5 main desserts which were introduced w/ a plate of 5 petit fours. There was one petit four which was amazing. It was a small little cookie type shell filled w/ a reddish dust. Upon sticking it in your mouth it literally exploded w/ flavor. Like a super fine dusting of pop rocks is the best way for me to describe it. The desserts overall were very good and interesting. A carrot themed dessert w/ a vanilla carrot ice cream; a tiramisu dessert w/ coffee flavored ice cream; a mojito dessert drink w/ lime sorbet and a gelee of some sort that had cucumbers in it (interesting) topped with a lime foam; an odd dessert salad w/a sorbet; and a plate of candied citrus.
The meal was finished off w/ two fine chocolates... one dark, and one milk filled w/ an excellent ganache.
Total price: 378 euros. for the 2 lunches, the langoustine entree 2 glasses of champagne and 2 glasses of wine. Again i left a 20 euro extra tip.
Everything about this restaurant was very modern; the decoration, the flatware, the presentations, and the food. He definately takes chances... some of the plates just didn't quite work for me. One of the amousses was extremely bitter. The dessert salad and the carrot themed dessert where quite odd as well.
All in all both were great but very different eating experiences.
Your welcome... i'll post some other food places we tried while there as soon as I get a chance. given the $1,100 or spent on these two meals we tried to save money on other food while on the trip.
We did eat a lot of pastries... Pierre Herme, Laduree, and La Maison du Chocolat along w/ a lot of miscellanous small pastry shops. My wife had Steak Frites at about 4 different places.
I found it interesting that everywhere we ordered beef, the waiters (who obviously picked up we were American) asked us right off if we wanted it cooked well done. Me an my wife both like our steaks medium rare and we ordered them that way. They were more often than not overcooked coming to the table more or less medium once coming rare (which is more like what i expected since i had heard pariseans like their beef rarer than typical).
Great reports, my husband will be glad to hear about being able to have his steak well done.. I love it medium rare myself. Would love to hear about your other experiences as well as which place your wife liked best for her steak frites as tips for your January 08 trip!
The best fries were at L'Entrecote in the St. Germain area... 1 block west of the Place St. Germain. We ended up in that area 3 times because right on the Blvd there it was easy to catch a cab (not a small feat during the transportation strike). All they serve there is Steak Frites so when you walk in they just ask you how you want it. I requested a point... but they were both definately medium w/ just some nice pink in the center (no red). I expected them very medium rare to rare, but they were still tasty.
I th ink the best steak by american standards was at a place called Cafe Lateral which is just off the circle around the Arc. It was near our hotel and we ate 3 meals there. It felt very American. The portions were generally quite large and there were some American items on the menu. There was also a good assortment of typical Paris food. The cut was a ribeye there if i recall correctly and it was served w/ a side of sea salt to season but no sauce. The steak frite at L'Entrecote had a very good herb butter sauce.
I travel to Paris once or twice a year and usually end up at Relais de l'Entrecote once each trip. If my wife is along its a definite for supper, usually the first night, she considers it comfort food. If on my own its usually a lunch spot. In 10+ years of going there I can't recall being seated in the "American section". If you go late for lunch, after 2 the non smoking area is closed and your choices are smoking or outside, after 9 at night the place is crowded with Francophones, I have seen a line at the door at 1130 on a weekend night in February. Anyway, fair salad, decent steak, good sauce, great frites, seconds on the steak [they carve your steak and keep half of it warm on a sideboard and bring out fresh frites with it], get dessert at Herme on Rue Bonaparte or Bonbonerie on the Rue Buci.
The three of us had lunch at TAILLEVENT this past Friday. It is my 3rd time dining here (previous 2 were dinners), but first time for my 2 friends.
We were seated in the 2nd floor. We had the 70 Euros lunch menu. Among the 3 of us, we had the egg with lobster and foie gras ravioli as starters, the sea scallops and lamb as main courses, mango and chocolate as desserts.
Although all of these dishes were very nicely cooked and presented, we did not feel that we had a very special dining experience. Very good food, but not especially memorable.
I do hope one day we'll get to try L'Astrance, Le Meurice or Gagnaire for lunch (dinner is out of the question) -- but alas, our next 2 trips to Paris over the next 3 times fall on the weekends, when these restaurants close for lunch :-(