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Nov 27, 2008 11:01 AM

Foodie suggestions for Paris - late notice - unlimited $$

I know there is already another thread about splurge suggestions in Paris, however that thread seemed to have focused on cost being a concern.

I will be in Paris this Saturday the 29th (then off surfing for a week in Morocco) followed by two more days in Paris the following week.

Pierre Gagnaire, Joel Robuchon, Tallievent have all come to mind. I have emails out to them.

I'm far more concerned about food/wine than setting. Tasting menu rather than a la carte. As mentioned in the title, cost isn't a limiting factor.

late notice, but any suggestions would be very welcome.

Thanks so much!!

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  1. I haven't been to many of the very high end places Paris has to offer, but Gagnaire seems a good choice. Be aware that I'm being very partial here, I'm nowhere near as knowledgeable as some other people who post there. Still, my dinner there a few months ago was almost life-changing.
    Probably not the best food I ever ate, not the best service, not the best setting... but it was very special nonetheless.
    The chef is of the generous type, and the tasting menu has often been compared to a roller coaster, with good reason. It can also be crazy expensive or just very very expensive depending on the wine you'll chose...

    Just speaking about it makes me want to phone them and book a table!

    1. None of your choices would be mine. I will be in Paris for 10 days in early December which includes the time of your last two days. My choices are Le Meurice and Le Cinq with one repeat of the better of the two if I want yet another grand meal. I didn't care for Le Cinq when Legendre was the chef. I also didn't think much of him when he was at Taillevent. before that. Solvieres was poor at L'Elysees-Vernet and is now at Taillevent. Briffard who suceeded him at L'Elysees-Vernet was excellent there and is now at Le Cinq.. Among the other three Michelin stars I like L' Ambroisie best but not enough to want to go this time. I'm spoiled by Tokyo. Last month I dined at the three Michelin starred L'Osier there and thought it was superior overall to any of the Paris 3-stars.

      1. It's been a long time since we last discussed this particular question and indeed it is time for an update. Let's be straight: the five best restaurants in town if cost is not an issue are, in no particular order, le Cinq, l'Ambroisie, l'Arpège, Ledoyen and Gagnaire. As food and wine are your only concern, I am not listing Savoy which is a wonderful restaurant but not on par with the best on that issue. Now the choice between those five is a question of style, preference, expectation and particular taste. All others, including le Meurice are just overall less good (though le Meurice has the most wonderful pastry chef and desserts are to die for).

        Pierre Gagnaire is unquestionably a jazzy genius. Many people say they had the best meal of their life there (and I believe them), but I personally did not have a good meal in seven tries and stopped trying. A meal at Gagnaire is usually a roller coaster but is always fascinating and interesting. It is without question the most modern grand chef in Paris. You can see great reviews of Gagnaire on Chuck's blog ( and also on Trine's (

        L'Ambroisie, on the place des Vosges, is kind of a temple, serves a cuisine that is very simple (seabass with artichoke and caviar/truffle in puff pastry/chocolate tart/strawberries with ice cream, etc.) but has absolutely orgasmic potential through very perfect execution and truly exceptional ingredients... most of the time. There is something profoundly not feasty about the place, something ceremony-like, but it can be wonderful. I reviewed l'Ambroisie recently with bitter sweet feelings but it no doubt remains a national treasure and if you measure a place by the best it can do, no one beats l'Ambroisie. See

        Alain Passard's l'Arpège is a chef focused on vegetables and moreover on the streamlining of the cook's "gesture". He will serves you almost ridiculously minimalistic food with a tremendous amount of skills and talent, even genius if you are lucky enough that he actually prepares your plate (chances are not null since he is there everyday and actually is one of eight cooks). You have to be ready for onion gratin for example -- just onions cooked in butter, with confit lemon, pepper and some parmesan on top. You can see reviews of l'Arpège on Lizziee's (, Chuck's ( and Steve's ( blogs that are all pretty explicit.

        Ledoyen also has the best ingredients there is and refined techniques. They also have generous servings and a magical setting that you don't care about, in the park of the Champs Elysées). Le Squer uses modern, molecular, techniques at the service of a very traditional dining experience. Also there is a great work on wine pairings, continuing the Lucas Carton tradition. I don't even know why I'm not a fan. See for another brilliant review (Chuck also has some good ones).

        As amrx says, Briffard at le Cinq is a truly excellent chef. Actually, I'd say he's the best we have. He's not nearly as crazy as Pacaud, Passard or Gagnaire, he's just a very, very brilliant chef. In my opinion he is the true heir to Robuchon. Also he's the only one in the list to be in one of the palace restaurants, which means that he (and you too) is subsidized by the hotel. Also the setting is very glorious as you'll see in pictures, very palace-y. And the wine list is no less so, and service is extremly friendly and professional, with one of the best captains there is. This place is just striving to be the best in everything, and I think they come pretty close to succeeding. (OK, I actually think the succeed, but that's me. Truth be told, there still are some imperfections, many of them flows from the 365/7 model). I wrote some reviews of Les Elysées when Briffard was there but I would direct you firstly to my PIcasa gallery bringing together pictures of les Elysées and le Cinq. (pictures at the end of the gallerie are from Le Cinq).

        I brought together all my blog posts and pics about fine dining in one map:

        That's all for now but feel free to contact me at

        6 Replies
        1. re: souphie

          Souphie made a point which I had in mind in my choices. I quote
          "Also he's the only one in the list to be in one of the palace restaurants, which means that he (and you too) is subsidized by the hotel." The closest I've been to a matchup between Alleno and Briffard was a couple or so years ago with successive lunches at Le Meurice and Elysees-Vernet when both had two Michelin stars. The main dish had the same principal ingredient,
          belly of red tuna. I gave Briffard the edge. By the way the Four Seasons Hotel, home of Le Cinq, is the only one in Paris that matches the best( several) hotels in Tokyo. The location is poor for me though.

          1. re: amrx

            I have managed to book le Cinq and l'Arpège for the Sunday and Monday on my return to Paris.

            I'm still working on tomorrow night (more difficult task) again, this input is wonderful.


            1. re: brianmac8500

              You have to hope Passard is there on a Monday.. He is the guru for the Brise Verte restaurant in the Prince Park Tower Hotel in Tokyo and spends some long weekends there. The restaurant itself is not very good. I wouldn't return. However it did have one big plus. A marvelous champagne from a very snall producer, I didn't record the name.. I suspect L'Arpege has it, too.. You should consult the sommelier..

          2. re: souphie

            Thank you so very much!!

            This is exactly what I was hoping for. L'Ambroisie and Ledoyen both look wonderful, well, they all do.

            Sadly Gagnaire is only available for lunch when we are there (just heard back) so will work through your list in an attempt to see whats available (really should have done this weeks ago....).

            I managed to book Le Cinq!

            Still working on the others.

            1. re: brianmac8500

              Brianmac8500, it would be great to hear how things went in Paris, but also in Morocco. The Morocco (ME & Africa) board doesn't have anything really. I go there in early January, so, if you are back, could you post any recommendations as soon as you can? Thanks.

              1. re: ponocat

                Sorry for the late reply, I completly missed your question.

                Unfotunately, we had very little chance to eat in restaurants in Morocco. We particiapted in a surf camp that took care of all the food. That said, the food was wonderful. My word between couscous and tajhins it really was spectacular.

                We had someone cook for us a number of times who was local and it was truely worth the trip. The rest of the time we ate a lot of fresh fish, did the "buy the fish and salad in the market and let them cook it for you" in Essouria. Wow. I mean wow. Fresh really puts a different spin on things.

                When we were in a fishing villiage (Imssouan) that had the second longest break in Africa (has to be seen to be believed) we had fish cooked over coals that came straight from the boat. What can I say, it was astonishing.

                So for me, eating in Morroco was all about locals, villages, souks and Argan oil. What was funny that that at L'Arpege we had a vegetable dish made with Argan oil, they were all very excited about it. We were able to smile and share their excitement as we had been to ground zero for Argan oil north of Taghazout.

                The beauty of the surfing is we had unfettered access to locals who could make sure we had a great time.

                Best of luck and enjoy your time there!!


          3. Go to Ze Kitchen Gallerie, it is a recent Michelin star recipient, but heads and shoulders above any of those stuffy restaurants. Brilliant, asian inspired, light and delicious. Great atmosphere. Get the tasting menu.
            Less pricey(although pricey) but fresh ingredients and worth every penny.
            Tell them carol sent you.

            2 Replies
            1. re: liberty19

              You can't be serious. Head and shoulders? A place that has such poor execution quality and mediocre ingredients? Brilliant and inspired it is, no doubt about it.

              1. re: souphie

                Souphie, I must disagree. It is not "Brilliant and inspired" I found it to be average and a very poor pastiche of fusion cooking. But you are 100% spot on in your other comments.

                None of the dishes I tried worked. To me it is a chef who doesn't really understand flavour combinations at all resulting in jarring tastes on the plate. I also find the room to be austere - it always reminds me of the breakfast buffet in a low cost mid-west hotel chain. Carol is right about one thing it is pricey (although the set lunch is reasonable). I actually went twice, the first time I didn't like it at all, but with lots of positive comments about it I went back. It was as bad as I remembered.

                Why did Michelin award a star last year? I can only assume because they felt they needed to include an innovative chef. One of their rare mistakes IMO.

            2. First and foremost I want to thank everyone for the thoughts and suggestions. We managed to have three wonderful meals in Paris.

              So, we ended up going to Le Chiberta (tough finding a place for Saturday night), Le Cinq and L'Arpege. It was a wonderful cross section of french cuisine, with some truely inspired dishes, fabulous and I mean fabulous, professional service (I'm not sure why this is surprising) and I think a good sample of what excellent Paris restaurants have to offer.

              For the Saturday night, we ended up at Le Chiberta. My initial feel was one of professionalism mixed with charm. I love the practice of champagne as you walk through the door, while we might often do this anyway, it's a tremendous way to start of the meal. We had the degustastion menu which included 3 courses; an amazing tuna belly, scallops and beef with foie gras poached in broth. Uniformly excellent. The beef dish reminded me of one I had in Lyons, rich, perfect balance with the fois gras. Overall they did an excellent job combining a short tasting menu, with good wine parings (Loire white and possibly Southwest of Rhone red). We certainly left the place happy.

              On our return from a week of surfing our next stop was Le Cinq. Thank you so much soupie for the suggestion. There is something magical about Georges V, Christmas, evening, the lights the lobby and the restaurant. While our original plan was to put food first, wow, it was amazing to be able to have a spectacular setting at the same time. From the beginning to end, the staff did everything they could to make our time there enjoyable. It was fun to go with the tasting menu which put us in their hands. Special note goes out to the Sommelier. We ended up with an Alsatian Riesling (some single vineyard thing that was astonishing) and an Hermitage. He seemed geneuinely thrilled to be able to share some great wine with us.

              The food. Fun calamari to start. Charred scallops. Some interesting use of modern techniques (crackling sugar in the tomato/basil), amazing vension wrapped in polenta/proscuitto. A chocolate souffle thing. Standard, exceptional cheese choices. My general impression was one of a classic French meal with some excllent modern and charming offerings. Not science food by any means, just smart and a little fun. I can't say enough about how well they treated us, not in a goofy over the top way, but in a "we are proud of our kitchen and really honestly enjoy doing this".

              L'Arpege was next up. If we had more time I would have liked a day in between to, well, digest. Ah well. So L'Arpege seems to aim the highest of the three. Great little space, tons and tons of folks to help out. They seemed a little more serious than the others yet never over bearing. Having basic Canadian (non-Quebecois) French helped somewhat, still I think professionalism was again paramount. So what was fabulous? The poached egg in the shell with maple syrup was one of the better things I've had. The approach to vegetables was superb. There was an onion dish that was excellent, the lobster was very good (though growing up with easy access to East Coast Canadian lobster spoils me somewhat) and an incredible, simple chicken dish to finish. For dessert there was a series of vegetable mixed with sweet options. Were they incredible.. I don't know, felt like they were reaching more than doing something beyond the pale. We had an excellent Nuits St Georges though the sommelier did not have the sheer passion of the one at Le Cinq. The chef was there at the end (yeah, we pretty much closed the place) and it was nice to have him so open, welcoming and passionate.

              In conclusion, I'd say we had three incredible meals. We weren't expecting to have a life changing experience, what I can say is that I left Paris with enormous smiles on both of our faces. The only thing we missed was the weeks we would need to see the rest of Paris.

              Thanks again everyone!!

              2 Replies
              1. re: brianmac8500

                Enjoyed your comments... and thanks... too often people don't report back.

                Your comments on L'Arpege bring back memories of many great meals there. I can't recall how many times I've enjoyed that egg starter he likes to do so much... and I can just see Passard in the dining room at the end of the night... just hanging out. I remember one night when he was having so much fun he asked us if we wanted to go with him to the food markets (Rungis).. I was so tired and satisfied I went to sleep but a couple of my friends went with him and had a great time.

                ... and, as has been mentioned many times on this board, the wine program at Le Cinq IS special. Glad you had such a good time. Here's a tip... sometimes when Im not in the mood for such an elaborate meal but want some since wine.. I just hang out in the lobby bar area... with the nice seating arrangements... and order a bottle from the list at Le Cinq. They also have a small food menu that you can order from. It's a nice way to enjoy a great bottle in a casual setting (with or w/o food).

                1. re: WineAG

                  Not on my trip earlier this month but on a previous trip, I ate at La Galerie at the Four Seasons and enjoyed a delicious and unusual lobster club sandwich with a beer. Their menu online is attractive. I believe Le Bar has the same menu.