Wine, Wine and more Wine
More restaurant questions for those on the ground in Paris:
1. Has anyone been to Il Vino yet? I've read a couple of things about it and the concept is very interesting to me (you pick the wine, they pick the food). Any impressions?
2. From what I have heard, it seems like much of the buzz around both L'Astrance and Senderens is that they have great, creative cuisine, but also that they go out of their way to match it with excellent wine. If I can't get into L'Astrance (and I'm taking this as a given), is Senderens a good alternative?
3. Recommendations for good wine shops around the 7th where I can buy a relatively cheap bottle for a picnic lunch?
IMO L'Astrance has far superior food to Senderens, which we found to be good but not exciting. If you cannot get a reservation at L'Astrance I would keep on looking for alternatives. I don't know when you are going, but it is much easier to get reservations for lunch than dinner, and is also much less expensive.
We had a very enjoyable meal at Senderens last April and chose the wine pairing option. Both food and wine were good, the room has a lots of style and overall it was a really good evening. I doubt you will be disappointed.
Wine in the 7eme is more tricky as it is a big arrondissement, I used to live on the eastern side and tended to use Le Dernier Gout (rue Jacob?), I liked it because is specialised in wines from independent producers rather than the mass produced, factory wines, all the staff speak English (owned by Juan who is originally from the US). As a good example of what they stock at the moment I am enjoying the last bottles of a case of a particularly good '04 Bourgogne from Ghislaine Barthod, and on my last visit they had some really good organic Beaujolais Nouveau - a very pleasant surprise. Whilst they are not expensive, they are not going to be the cheapest - lots of wine in the €15 range.
If you want rock bottom prices the chain "Nicolas" isn't bad, they have shops almost on every corner. The reason we liked our local shop (rue de Grenelle) is that they had a very helpful assistant who guided us to some good cheap bargains when we needed an emergency bottle.
You're near food heaven. Do not miss Anne-Marie Cantin on Rue du Champ-de-Mars for cheeses. Outstanding.
Other than that, you'll have a Nicolas shop and another a bit more exclusive wine shop on Rue Cler (Le Repaire de Bacchus or something).
Clos des Gourmets is fine. Just pay attention to the supplements on the fixed-price menu. It's small, so a reservation is almost a must and is appreciated. Classic French cuisine.
BTW, lots of wonderful small bistrots in that neighbourhood like Le Florimond, Pasco, Le Maupertu, Le Sancerre, etc. and all the Constant's places (Violon d'Ingres, Café Constant, Les Cocottes, Les Fables de la Fontaine).
Place de l'Ecole Militaire is a perfect and busy hub. Excellent for people watching (La Terrasse, Le Tourville, etc.) and superb to catch a bus to wherever.
You are on the western side of the 7eme so it is a bit of a trek. There is a good bus that goes from the Champ-de-Mars across to Saint Germain which will help you explore (sorry can't remember the number - but the RATP website has a great bus route planner - you see much more of the city on a bus than the metro).
Recommend you head for La Grand Epicerie at Le Bon Marche department store, it is a great food hall with lots of great things for a picnic under one roof - although I never really rated the wine section. It has recently been refurbished which makes it even better.
As Dodo says you are in a good area and the shopping streets around Rue Cler are good.
Senderens has actually more sophisticated pairings, because the courses do not change evryday and there is one wine per course (vs. two or three courses for l'Astrance) and the food is designed to be adapted to the wine (modify the spices blend and seasoning, the side dishes, looking for the perfect match). Il vino of course has great wine but much more standard food, good but standard (haven't been but my good friend GoT has alreday been twice): pasta, ham, etc... In my book -- but that's only my personal preferences -- Senderens is more interesting than l'Astrance. But l'Astrance is fancier and younger, higher end foodwise. The wine guy, Alexandre, is former Lucas Carton (now Senderens). But in any case, no one has pairings as sophisticated as Senderens'.