I have been reading for the last 2 days all your great comments about the Paris dining scene, and have decided to throw my request in the ring for consideration.
I'm a 50 year old chef and pretty savvy wine lover who will be visiting Paris for a week 25 May through 2 June, staying at the Marriott Champs Elysee. My partner and I have traveled in France and Europe before but this is our first visit to Paris. We have dined at George Blanc and several other Michelin starred restaurants, and though they are nice, we seem to gravitate to more personal experiences, still with great cuisine and top ingredients but less formal.
Currently, I have lunch reservations at Taillevent, and a farewell dinner scheduled at Altitude 95 for the 2nd seating to watch the sunset and lights come on. I'm pretty certain Au Trou Gascon is in the picture (confit, cassoulet.) I'm thinking also of Bofinger for the Brasserie experience. I'm hoping for a miracle from Hidden Kitchen.
SVP all you kind folks and give me your thoughts for great food at more modest prices but still French (regional is fine) and fun, friendly. Is Le Comptoir du Relais Saint-Germain worth a visit?
Milles Mercis! (or a bunch of 'em at least!)
Moderate-priced places I have enjoyed:
L'Os a Moelle
Ze Kitchen Galerie
Le W (a little pricier, with a Michelin star)
Le Dome du Marais
Taillevent has gotten less-than-stellar comments on this board recently. I would go for L'Astrance if you can get a lunch reservation.
I agree with rrems' list for L'os a Moelle. I go there whenever I visit Paris. It's closed Sun's & Mon's and make sure you make a reservation. In April this year, it was about $38 euros for a 4 or 5 course menu (several choices for each course). They have a nice wine menu and it's a fabulous, relaxed experience.
Another restaurant that we've enjoyed several times is Monsieur Lapin. Decorated with rabbits, the food goes well beyond simple fare. I still dream of the intermezzo of prune/armagnac sorbet, but the last time I was there, they regretably did not offer a chef's tasting menu.
You will love Taillevent!!!!!! Went there and to Alan Ducasse's restaurant at Plaza Atheneé and while they were both outstanding, my heart belongs to Taillevent for their cozy room and astonishingly friendly service.
My default restaurant is Fish e Boissonerie at 69 Rue de Seine. Small room, wonderful (small and well-chosen) wine list and an ever changing menu that is fresh, inviting and has NEVER disappointed me. The owners/bartenders are fab - I was there last December and had a brutal chest cold. The bartender (a really handsome Aussie) asked if he could make me a hot toddy. I drank three. Slept like a baby that night :)
Le Comptir is good - but books up months in advance for dinner. They do a brasserie style "no reservation" service for lunch and Saturday/Sunday dinner but it isn't really the same as the weekday dinner which is the reason for the reputation. If you are really interested in getting a feel for the range of modern French food (i.e., as a chef) then do try at least one of the "new" bistros good alternatives to Le Comptoir are Chez L'Ami Jean, Le Regalade, or one of Christian Constants places.
To me the concept of Hidden Kitchen is strange, I personally don't travel to spend time with people from my own country. I remember some of the original "Hidden Kitchens" in Hong Kong, these were run by local's who cooked home style Cantonese food which was very different to restaurants. The Parisian version seems to be Americans cooking French food for other Americans (although I suppose you do get to see the inside of an apartment).
If you're only in Paris for a week is this a good option? If you want to see a fellow American chef who is gaining a good local reputation in Paris try to get into "Spring" and eat Daniel Roses food - lunch on Thursday/Friday is easier than dinner he books out for dinner and it is tiny.
Food at Bofinger is pretty average, although the architecture is classic
I highly recommend Fontaine de Mars (7th arr), warm, cosy atmosphere, excellent traditional French food, confit, cassoulet. We were first taken there by locals 2 years ago and returned last month. It was just as good the second time. Hidden Kitchen was fun and a good value but don't expect a French experience or traditional French food.
Taillevent has a great wine list, but it is very stuffy and not very personal cuisine. Less formal and more personal: Pierre Gagnaire, l'Astrance, Senderens, Robuchon also have great wines. La Régalade or Chez l'Ami Jean are, imho, much better than le Comptoir. Camdeborde is a great chef and he can do the best food. But he does not, at least not for regular clients. I'm just back from Spring and found it pleasant but not worth the houlala.
I am crazy about roast chicken so I almost always try to get a meal at Chez L'ami Louis in the 4th on rue Vertbois. They serve roast chicken for 2 and it will knock your socks off!
Roast chicken is one of the best litmus tests for chefs as there is no place to hide second rate ingredients or technique.
If they have any 2000 Beaujolais left have it!
I haven't had a starter there for probably 20 years as I am unable to Hoover the quantities of food I could when I was in my gustatory prime. However, I remember a scallop starter that was simple (garlic and butter) and astonishingly good, and Foie Gras de Landes served with a mountain of grilled bread - but be warned the serving is easily half a pound so share (or take tupperware!)
I have been lucky enough to visit Paris 25-30 times over the last 30 years and have dined at most of the top restos in that time. I find my enjoyment of these places somewhat tempered now because they are so expensive. Furthermore, I can no longer sit down to a degustation at 8pm and slurp my last espresso at 11:30pm and feel comfortable going home to bed. Happily many of the top restos offer a relatively reasonable lunch prix fixe. Beware though, I took my then 13 year old son to Senderens for lunch on a hot day and he managed to drink 2 litres of water at a cost of $40. I laughed about it then gave him a straw and pointed at the Seine!!