Extra notes: Le Comptoir, Chez Rene, Kayser, Cafe de Flore
Le Comptoir des Relais (6eme) - We went to this restaurant twice during our last visit to Paris in fall 2007. Back then, we just loved it. The food was terrific, the atmosphere and service were spirited. We went again this time hoping to recapture the magic. No dice. It was 3:30 on a Saturday and there was about a 15 minute line-up. OK, fine. But I sensed a slightly factory-like atmosphere to the place which wasn't there last year. There didn't seem to be as much care and attention with the service. We ordered the beef cheeks, which we fell in love with the first time round, and were slightly let down this time. The beef was tougher, and I though the carrots were cut too big. We each ordered a glass of wine, and I think the bill was around 55E (so, not cheap...). We had the most annoying diner next to us, who was whining about how she couldn't understand the menu, didn't know what a plat was, etc. The kind of tourist who gives others a bad rap. Now, I realize the restaurant cannot be blamed for who dines there, but I think that Chowhounders deserve to know who they will be sharing space with. I guess that once you've had a feature story in Bon Appetit, such things are bound to happen....
Chez Rene (5eme) - A very classic French bistro. Nothing modern here. I liked it alright. I had the beef bourguignon, which was excellent, and my husband had the blood sausage. I had the gateau de riz for dessert, which was probably a poor choice after the bourguignon. The gateau had a very heavy sauce on top of it. My husband and I found the food to be a little dense overall, although it was certainly tasty. Bill came to 106E with a bottle of wine, and there is no prix fixe. The crowd here is also a lot older than the other places we went to.
Kayser - Went to the Rue Monge location (s) every day for an entire week. Loved it. Best croissant.
Cafe de Flore - Yes, I hear you all gagging over there. I am gagging, too, because this place was a rip-off and damn it, I knew better!! It was a warm night and we were in the mood for a late glass of champagne. So, we broke down and hit this place. 15E for a glass of champagne. 10E for a lemon tart which really wasn't very good. I found the cigarette butts and croissant flakes at my feet to be less than appetizing (and we weren't on the sidewalk, we were seating in the covered patio area just behind it). Good spot for people watching, I guess, but you can get that at many other places in Paris for a lot less money! If you want entertainment at Cafe de Flore, take a peek at price list....7.20E for hot chocolate, 4.20 for espresso.....give me a break. As a tourist, it is easy to break down because the place is so iconic and there is a sad little part of you that just wants to say that you've been there....it happened to us...but I am telling you, it isn't worth it. I wish I would have just taken a picture from out front and kept walking.
I was at Le Comptoir for lunch a couple of weeks ago and agree it has changed a little. The two women who used to serve have gone, replaced by uniformed waiters. I like the characters of the two lady's: the stern older lady who ran the place with a steely gaze, and the younger one who was more friendly, almost a "bad cop, good cop" act.
Tricky to judge the food, my entree of rillettes of lapin was good, but served with a very aggressive choucroute (too much vinegar), my pied de porc was very good, and I loved my rice pudding. However, the lingering memories were the bill, is that it has got to be very expensive for what it is; and the very loud American party, who were also menu challenged and then failed to even try the selection of comped desserts.
I haven't been for dinner for over a year, so I can't comment on Souphies experience. It is very different in the evenings, more formal with half the covers, more space, table clothes, set 5 course menu etc and thus also different from Chez l'ami Jean, and Le Regalade. We went many times and never had a bad meal - we were locals who could navigate the booking system - thus not wait 6 months for a table.
I only went to Cafe de Flore once and had a similar experience to you, I always preferred "Les Deux Magots" next door, but even here I would stick to a simple drink rather than braving the menu. Expensive, but nice to sit with a beer, glass of wine or a coffee and watch the world go by.....that corner of Bld St Germain is especially good.
That corner of Blvd. St. Germain is a great spot, but getting ripped off by mediocre establishments has a way of souring the experience. If I had known that Cafe de Flore was going to be such a let down, I would have kept my spot along the Seine where my husband and I had a beautiful picnic dinner that evening, which was wonderful...great people watching, gorgeous views of Notre Dame. A great Parisian experience, and I think it cost us about 10E. Once again, though, I have only myself to blame...I knew that both Deux Magots and Flore are tourist traps, and I let myself get trapped. Let that be a lesson to other Chowhounders!!! And in the interest of helping others like me, what is a good place to get a late night drink in Paris with great people watching, where the prices are reasonable?
I an afraid you are subject to the law of supply and demand - the best spots extract the most money. Best way to enjoy them is to order modestly and soak up the early evening atmosphere before heading elswhere to dinner.
I would hesitate to call Flore, Magot and Lipp "tourist traps", OK they attract a lot of tourists, but also al lot of very well healed locals. You are in the middle of a very exclusive residential area on the borders of the 6/7eme - I suspect the "locals" don't find them that expensive.
my husband and i had the WORST experience at chez rene. the service was horrendous, which i would have easily overlooked had the food been good. however, we ordered beef bourguignon and coq a vin, two classics. Both were disgusting. It was like the meat in both had been cooked - way overcooked, tough, and dry - separately, and then thrown into the exact same sauce. It bordered on unedible. Such a disappointment.