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Feb 26, 2008 12:11 AM

Seeking impulsive, flippant Paris advice...please help!

Hello fellow 'hounds. Next month I'll be making my very first trip to Paris. I've done loads of research over the past months -- here on Chowhound, on other websites, everywhere. One thing I would certainly like to try for is regional variety in the foods we try: Brittany, Lyon, Alsace, Basque, Gascony, etc have all been areas that have popped up in our Paris restaurant research. We'll be staying in the 1st arrondisement, but the purpose of the trip is solely for the food, so we're certainly willing to travel. And aside from the 3* splurges, we're trying to keep an eye on prices at least somewhat. But really first and foremost is the food quality, as always. At this point, I've come to the realization that choosing among such great options is basically impossible -- and I need help!

I just want to get people's gut reactions to my list of more casual, (relatively) cheaper places. They're grouped only by arrondisement, not by preference. Do you happen to really hate a place on my list? Please tell me. Love a place? Please let me know! Think one of the recommendations is like 10 years out-dated? Say the word, and I'll scrap it. I am at your mercy, fellow 'hounds. Please help me eat as well as possible on this trip. In return, I'll be sure to report back on each and every meal! Hopefully even with pictures! Thanks, all.

Pierre Gagnaire
Au Trou Gascon
L'Os à Moelle

Chez Denise
Le Soufflé

Aux Lyonnais
Le Pamphlet
Chez Jenny

Mon Vieil Ami

Le Comptoir
L’Epi Dupin

Chez L’Ami Jean
Le Violon d’Ingres
Gaya Rive Gauche
Le Bamboche

Les Saveurs de Flora

Chez Michel
Brasserie Flo
Bistro Paul Bert
L’Ecailler du Bistrot

L'Avant Goût

Le Sèvero
Le Regalade

Beurre Noisette

Le Relais de Venise (L'Entrecôte)
Chez Georges
Le Flaubert

Au Boeuf Couronné

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  1. I have been to about a third of the list - 11 out of 34. I loved some and others were OK, but none that I wasn't happy to have tried (Aux Lyonnais, Le Pamphlet, Mon Vieil Ami, Benoit, Le Comptoir, L’Epi Dupin, Chez L’Ami Jean, Le Violon d’Ingres, Gaya Rive Gauche, Le Relais de Venise (L'Entrecôte), and Le Flaubert).

    A couple I think are missing are Spring (if you can get in - Daniel is in Japan for some time and when he is back it will book out quickly), and Senderens.

    8 Replies
    1. re: PhilD

      sorry I am a bit confused. The ones in parentheses you like?

      This list sounds exhausting. I have been researching so much ..and some of these I have not heard of!

      I feel I am getting overwhelmed and panicking about not having reservations!

      1. re: butterbutt

        No those are the ones I have personally been to. As I said in my reply they are all fine and will meet the OP's criteria - I would say if I thought one was bad.

        I deliberately haven't ranked them because taste is so personal - for example I didn't really rate "Mon Viel Ami", nothing dramatically wrong with it, and lots of others love it, so I respect their opinion, but I wouldn't rush back. However, if "Les Deux Maggots" was on the list I would have to say - avoid the food, it is dire, simply have a drink and enjoy the view.

        1. re: PhilD

          In defense of Les Deux Magots, we went to midnight mass at Saint Germain des Prés this year, and for convenience sake, we had dinner at one of our favorite "stop in for a drink and stay for hours watching people walk by cafés", and we really enjoyed our meal, everything was good from start to finish, and our waiter was so sweet that we left with big smiles on our faces. It would not be where we would normally go for dinner, but we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of our meal.

      2. re: PhilD

        Thanks, PhilD! I've actually got Senderens on my list as well, but in a different sort of price bracket. My pricier list of "maybe" places is:
        Le Bristol
        Carré de Feuillants
        Le Grand Véfour
        Le Meurice
        Any thoughts on these would certainly be appreciated as well.

        1. re: tupac17616

          I would pick Carre des Feuillants over Senderens. It will be cheaper at lunch, more expensive at dinner (Senderens does not have a prix fixe menu). I think the food at C des F was superior, and Senderens was overpriced, for both food and wine.

          1. re: rrems

            I was under the impression that Senderens does have a tasting available at lunch or dinner for 110E without wines or 150E with. Is this information from their website out-dated?
            I've heard good things from a trusted friend of mine about Carre des Feuillants, and in fact, his opinion on Senderens seems to be right in line with yours.
            It just seemed to me that Senderens might be the best of the haute-cuisine-chef-renounces-his-stars-and-goes-casual places in Paris. But maybe that's not actually the case.

            1. re: tupac17616

              I was there over a year ago, so perhaps they have added a prix-fixe since. It may be the best of the chef-goes-casual places but I think you can find better casual places for less money.

      3. Very good choices. But AVOID Chez Jenny. Part of the Flo group; chain restaurant, mediocre choucroute, awful the rest.

        5 Replies
        1. re: sjb7501

          I keep hearing this about Chez Jenny, but still I know folks who know food who still like the place!

          1. re: ChefJune

            Thanks for the heads up on Chez Jenny. I had read a few good things here and there, but there it sounds like there are probably much better choices to get my choucroute fix. I suppose I should have been immediately turned off by Fodor's online description anyway: "staff in regional dress and woodwork by Charles Spindler add a charming Alsatian touch".

          2. re: sjb7501

            I've dropped both Flo and Chez Jenny from my list, and put in L'Alsaco instead. So it will be either that or Mon Vieil Ami for Alsatian cuisine, it looks like.

            1. re: tupac17616

              L'Alsaco enjoys a poor reputation...

              1. re: ChefJune

                D'oh! I had read otherwise here on Chowhound. Where would one go in Paris for good Alsation cuisine?

          3. What do people think about the following schedule?

            MONDAY MARCH 24
            DINNER Au Trou Gascon (Gascony)

            TUESDAY MARCH 25
            LUNCH Chez Michel (Brittany)
            DINNER Le Sèvero

            WEDNESDAY MARCH 26
            LUNCH Pierre Gagnaire

            THURSDAY MARCH 27
            LUNCH Chez L'Ami Jean (Basque)

            FRIDAY MARCH 28
            LUNCH L'Astrance

            SATURDAY MARCH 29
            DINNER L'Os a Moelle

            SUNDAY MARCH 30
            DINNER Mon Vieil Ami (Alsatian)

            MONDAY MARCH 31
            DINNER L’Arpege

            I also thought about trying to work in L'Avant Goût (closed Sat/Sun/Mon) and/or L'Ardoise (closed Sun(L)/Mon) somehow. Though I worry about the former being too touristy, and the latter perhaps not providing much substantially different from others on the list.
            Also, what do people think about Le Severo versus Au Boeuf Couronné for Le Severo? Severo seemed to be the overall better choice, but again, I'm a bit lost on this one.
            Lastly, while Aux Lyonnais would provide the opportunity to taste another regional cuisine, how do you think it fits in (or not) on the list I've provided.
            Definitely would like to work in a dinner or two prepared back at the apartment with goods procured from markets? Which day might be good for this (based on the markets, and perhaps on the above schedule)?
            Thanks for all of the help!

            11 Replies
            1. re: tupac17616

              I think it's good that you're not trying to cram in two meals a day...

              As for the markets, depends where you're staying, unless you go to covered markets (i.e. Le Marché des Enfants Rouges on the rue de Bretagne in the 3rd, etc.).

              I haven't been to Aux Lyonnais for a couple of years, but I love it... best salad with chunks of bacon and lamb's foot and a poached egg over céleri rémoulade... and great quenelles de brochet.

              Why, out of curiosity, do you think L'Avant-Goût is touristy?

              1. re: sjb7501

                We'll be staying in the 1st. I really want to see if Joël Thiébault's vegetables are what they are cracked up to be. So was thinking of heading out to the 16th for either the Gros-La-Fontaine Market or the President Wilson Market.
                Also heard good things about Beauvau Market, Bastille Market, and Belleville Market.
                Thanks for the feedback on Aux Lyonnais. Both Benoit and Aux Lyonnais had caught my eye as being pretty classic bistros overseen by the Ducasse group, which hopefully would ensure a certain level of quality. The latter of the two had the additional advantage of allowing me to sample yet another regional cuisine of France, which is why I am thinking about it.
                And re: L'Avant-Goût. I realize this may sound stupid. But the website complete with cute little pig icon and English menu was the first thing I reacted to. Also the presence of a "signature dish" (the pot au feu de cochon aux epices) is sometimes a good thing, sometimes not. I've read reports that it's frequented more by tourists than by locals, as evidenced by the amount of English spoken rather than French. But when it really comes down to it, I really have no way of knowing whether or not my hesitations are justified, which is why I figured I'd come to Chowhound for help! :)

                1. re: tupac17616

                  Interesting and understandable, given the presentation. But actually, the restaurant is situated in one of the least touristy places in Paris (off the Place d'Italie in the 13th). I have bought wine at the wine store "annex" across the street, but haven't eaten at the restaurant.

                  Why not throw in Ribouldingue instead of Aux Lyonnais? Not Lyonnais food per se but really great offal... and very "soigné" (i.e. white tablecloths, amuse-bouche, etc.) for just 27 euros prix fixe.

                  Of the markets you mention, I would avoid the Belleville market (very cheap, and quality suffers, though more North African and Asian produce than in other markets; didn't find any good fish or meat around there). Consider also the rue des Martyrs in the 9th (a market street).

                  1. re: sjb7501

                    Ribouldingue is a name that had not yet popped up in my research. Thanks very much for this recommendation! It looks right up my alley.
                    Thanks also for the advice on avoiding the Belleville market. And I'll look into the Rue des Martyrs for sure. Great stuff!

                    1. re: tupac17616

                      Three of us had a good meal at Ribouldingue two weeks ago. I had the lamb brains for an entree and the veal kidney for the plat, both very good. My friends are not offal eaters but found food to their liking and we all liked the desserts. I like their rice pudding with orange marmalade and usually order that.

                      1. re: JimD

                        Thank you, Jim. I'm not sure how keen my two friends will be on eating offal, either. So I'm glad to hear all three of us would eat well at Ribouldingue.
                        I love brains when they are cooked properly, and it looks like they've got several other nice offal options as well. Looking forward to this place.

                    2. re: sjb7501

                      My wife and I eat at L'Avant Goût each time we visit Paris ( semi-annually) because we love it. Can't say I've heard a lot of English there and the waitress definitely struggles to explain the menu to us as we speak no French. We'll be there next two weeks after you have left. After all your writing, maybe you will share your impressions of all these places in time for our trip. Good luck!!

                    3. re: tupac17616

                      Joel doesn't have much nowadays. It is wintery and the veggies aren't out yet.
                      As you might know, he is at the Wilson market on wed/sat.. and la fountain on tues/friday.
                      I would skip Benoit/ expensive for nothing.

                      1. re: happytoo

                        I have eaten at Benoit many times and it matches Tupacs expectations exactly - "being pretty classic bistros overseen by the Ducasse group, which hopefully would ensure a certain level of quality".

                        It s a good classic room, the service is impeccable, the menu is not to expensive although you can spend more if you go â la carte, the quality of the cooking is good, and the wine list is very reasonable with a knowledgable sommeliar to help you navigate to list.

                        There are quite a number of restaurants that do similar food, but not that many that bring all the elements together as well even at this price point. I tend to go to Benoit for a treat and for a relaxed Sunday lunch - it always hits the spot. I could eat cheaper but it wouldn't be the same.

                  2. re: tupac17616


                    I see you have a couple of trous "holes" at lunch on Saturday and Monday. If you're
                    staying in the 1st, you could do worse than try the Rubis, 10, rue du Marché-Saint-Honoré. They are closed on Sundays.

                    My work often brings me to this chic and expensive right bank area - the concept store Colette where Karl Largefeld and other fashion people can often be spied is just around the corner, the Costes hotel is here, there's the Roberto Cavali flagship store, etc, etc.

                    I came across the Rubis by accident. On another occassion I had tried the other "authentic" (note the different use of inverted commas around the same word as above) bistrot just across the street, and left feeling fleeced, harried, and slightly ill.

                    Le Runis is the kind of place that up until now I have wanted to recommend to friends when they've asked me for a typical parisian bistrot, but have always come up stumped.

                    It's cheap (think 15 euros ahead), parisian (the waitresses are middle-aged natives who take your order as they remove the paper table-cloth from the previous order and are direct and polite without trying to become your friend) and quite old-school (the down stairs bar/ eating area is what one imagines a parisian café should be like. The upstairs dining room, where it's more than likely you'll be sat is straight out of the fifties, with authentic wallpaper and furnishings.)

                    For a starter, go for oeufs mayonaise, (a local take on devilled eggs) or some charcuterie,

                    For mains, they have steaks and the like, but having an affection for such things, I always go for the bits and and bobs of animals that its really difficult to find now in restaurants here, but that I believe show the talent of a cook. Tête de veau (slow cooked meat from a calf's head and Jacques Chirac's favourite dish) I have always found to be as vile as it sounds. But here it was meltingly good, and served with an authentic "sauce gribiche" made with soft boiled eggs and gherkins, instead of the more usual bottled mayonaise. I've also had and loved the stuffed pigs feet (they're deboned and mixed with something green before being wrapped in caul and fried), the black pudding with apples and potatoes, and the "petit salé" (salt pork and lentils.) For wine, I've always gone for the house red - a beaujolais, Chiboulles, I think. The desserts, tarts, mousses, flans, cremes, are homemade, unsubtle, and taste like they should. I've never had the cheese here, but as I could smell another patrons Camembert from a table from across the room, it should be alright.

                    I'm almost certain that the waiting staff doesn't speak much English, but as the menu is written on small blackboards, you just have to point.

                    I've been to many of the restaurants that you've put in your list, but having shared a meal similar to the one that you can finds at the Rubis, in a now defunct establishment with Pascal Barbot (the wunderkind from l'Astrance(sorry, couldn't help name-dropping)) I think he'd agree with me that your Paris visit won't be complete without a visit to an establishment like this.

                    As I mentioned above, at the Rubis, the service is good, but fast as they keep the prices down by getting the clients in (there are lots of very chic men from the nearby BNP bank headquarters, and ladies who shop) and this isn't the sort of place that you're going to spend all afternoon in. The cooking won't be like some of the more expensive establishments on your list, but you should have the sort of enjoyable time that is unique, but unfortunately becoming rare, in Paris.

                    Other places in the 1st. The bar at the Hotel Meurice for a cocktail. Same at Hemmingway bar of Ritz,
                    Also, if you like tea and cakes, tea at Angelina, on the rue de Rivoli. Lots of people, most people (?) would disagree with me, but I love Angelina. I don't l really like their famous cloyingly rich too much cream hot chocolate, but their teas, and the mont-blanc (meringue, chestnut purée, clotted cream) are fantastic, and the decor (faux uphoslstered second empire) clientele (feminine, snobby, Parisian, middle-aged, face-lifts, lapdogs) waitresses (same a clientele) can only be found in this particular corner of the right-bank.

                    It's not too far from where you're staying, but the bottom section of the rue du Faubourg St Denis (metro Strasbourg St Denis) is good for market shopping. There's Julhès, a very good cheese and wine shop at numbers 54-58. On Fridays, Saturdays and on Sunday Mornings they do wine/champagne/spirits tastings, often with people who made the liquids being tasted. Good greengrocers.

                    Hope this is of some use.

                    1. re: vielleanglaise

                      Wow. That will definitely be of some use. Thank you for all of the recommendations.
                      I'll see what I can find on Rubis.
                      The cocktail suggestions, in particular, are also very helpful.
                      I've heard a lot of Angelina (both good and bad), and we may stop by there anyway as I'll be on a hot chocolate hunt for my mother anyway. She remembers a wonderful cup of hot chocolate that she had somewhere near the Louvre, and she wants me to find the nameless place and steal their ideas to reproduce it at home!
                      The cheese/wine shop on Rue du Faubourg St Denis might also come in handy, as we'll be sure to cook at my friend's apartment at least one evening.
                      Thanks again!

                  3. We go to Chez Georges (the one on Rue de Mail) everytime we do Paris.
                    Its a really great authentic bistro. You will LOVE it.

                    1. Here's the most current incarnation of our itinerary. Do any days look particularly insane? (Wednesday/Thursday look that way to me!)

                      We sort of lost the whole 1-meal-per-day thing, but we'll take it one day at a time, and we can always cancel certain reservations if we're just not feeling up to it. I'm looking forward to a great food week!

                      MONDAY MARCH 24
                      DINNER Chez Michel (Brittany)

                      TUESDAY MARCH 25
                      LUNCH Aux Lyonnais
                      DINNER Chez L'Ami Jean (Basque)

                      WEDNESDAY MARCH 26
                      LUNCH Pierre Gagnaire
                      DINNER Mon Vieil Ami (Alsatian)

                      THURSDAY MARCH 27
                      LUNCH Le Pamphlet
                      DINNER Au Trou Gascon (Gascony)

                      FRIDAY MARCH 28
                      LUNCH L'Astrance
                      DINNER Le Sèvero

                      SATURDAY MARCH 29
                      LUNCH Ribouldingue
                      DINNER L'Os a Moelle

                      SUNDAY MARCH 30
                      DINNER L'Ardoise

                      MONDAY MARCH 31
                      LUNCH L’Arpege

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: tupac17616

                        I endorse Le Rubis 100 percent, a delightful, oh-so-Parisian place. Get the duck rillettes (which they have as a snack even when not serving hot food). And I have have the cheese there, mine was a fresh and zesty Cantal.

                        I ate a late lunch and lingered over cheese and several glasses of wine ... I think I was there for 2.5-3 hours and it was a pleasure every minute. Le patron's wife waited on me and could not have been more gracious.

                        The house Beaujolais Crus are quite tasty, if not as good as those at Le Duc de Richelieu, say. The house Champagne is magnificent though.

                        I would try and sit downstairs; more character and the street scene is lively.