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Jan 28, 2009 05:20 AM

4 Days in Paris in Feb for 1st Anniversary - restaurant help please

Salut! This is my first time posting, so I apologize in advance for any chowhound mishaps. My husband and I will be in Paris for four days in February (Friday, Feb 13 - Tues, Feb 17) to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. I have been reading the Paris restaurant postings for days, and I am still having some trouble deciding. I love food, and my husband does love it but is mostly along for the ride. To give you a sense of me, here is some info: I love amazing food - it need not have trapezoids or be blatantly simple (but I am okay with either end of the spectrum as long as the food creates that 'aha' moment). I have lived in France as a starving student and then a starving 20-something, and have since visited for work and play with a larger budget - and I've had wonderful meals at all price ranges. I have been to three 3-stars in France and a number of 2-stars - I thought Taillevant, while perfectly lovely and flawless did not excite me; Pierre Gagnaire, while inventive and delicious, did not inspire a revelatory experience as I expected; and Bernard Loiseau (when he was still around and greeting people for breakfast) was simply amazingly perfectly wonderful - by far my favorite of the three. I have really enjoyed meals at L'Angle du Faubourg, l'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, and le Comptoir. This time in Paris, I am looking to not kill our budget and to not kill our stomachs - so I'm trying to avoid very expensive 3-star dinners and also very heavy food at every single meal. I am also sometimes less excited to see a menu that is trying too hard - whether it's too fusion-y or too many savory things mixed in with my chocolate (it's all good, but I'm tired of it! For instance, I have never had and still have no desire to try Ze Kitchen Gallerie, though I'm sure it's great).

Here is what I have come up with so far - please help! Thank you! Be as harsh as you like, and I don't mind changing reservations.

Importantly, where are some amazing croissants and pains au chocolat for breakfast? I've had great ones and always forget to write down the spots. Staying in the 1er, but will travel for food. Poujauran maybe?

Friday lunch - we'll have arrived that morning, so we'll just play it by ear
Friday dinner - ??? Maybe l'escalier du bistrot. (I thought Bistrot Paul Bert was great fun a few years ago). Maybe not?

Saturday lunch - either cooking class or La Table de JR (maybe too much like l'Atelier?, though we both enjoyed l'Atelier). Or maybe le Comptoir (i've never been able to get a reservation at le Comptoir as my Paris trips are never planned 6 mos in advance, so this would be my second time having a weekend meal there). No reservations yet.
Saturday dinner - l'Ami Jean - I have reservations.

Sunday lunch - reservations at le Cinq
Sunday dinner - reservations at Sederens. I think this is too much for one day and too much before a big Monday lunch. And I'm beginning to think that Sederens might not be my favorite kind of place anyway.

Monday lunch - l'arpege. I have reservations. What's this I hear about Passard not being there on Mondays? Do you think that, given my above-stated tastes, this is a good choice? I'm honestly never crazy about eating in a Four Seasons, but pompous decor has never stopped me before.
Monday dinner - ??? something light in central Paris (think 1er,4e,6e, etc.) - need to recover before Tuesday morning flight. Can play it be ear if you have no recommendations.

Missing from my list and places I'd also like to try are Guy Savoy and Le Bristol.

Thank you very much!

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  1. Although, I haven't eaten at Le Cinq with Briffard as chef, they are those on this board (especially souphie, who will be commenting on this post shortly i bet) that Le Cinq with Briffard is the best restaurant in Paris. The room at Le Cinq is absolutely beautiful and adds to the experience of your meal.
    Arpege is a wonderful meal. Not heavy at all: I would recommend the tasting menu at lunch, which even in winter is very much vegetable driven. I hope the scallops with black truffle dish is still on the menu. Superb.
    I would go to Le Bristol over Sederens for sunday dinner.

    1. From your description it is clear what you like, thanks. It makes it much easier for us to give you advice. If you liked Loiseau (as did I), then probably the two closest things there is in town are Ledoyen and La Grande Cascade. In fact, in my book , they are the only two restaurants that still try to give you the best of the best everytime. As much as I love Briffard and le Cinq, if you want the wow you are talking about, maybe your sunday would be better spent at La Grande Cascade.

      L'écailler (from écailles, scales) du Bistrot is an excellent choice for simple well made seafood. I wouldn't cross town for it, but if it's not too far for you, it's a very good choice. Le Duc, la Cagouille, l'Uitr, have comparable offers.

      La Table de JR is not similar to l'Atelier, contrariwise to what people with no palate and people who haven't been to both may say. Of course the menus are very similar but they are very different experiences, because la Table is actually a restaurant, whereas l'Atelier is a high-end snackery. Beware that, on a saturday, there won't be the fabulous 55€ lunch menu bargain.

      L'Ami Jean is a must, it will be packed on a saturday night. Make sure to get the veal chop or foie gras for two if you like that. And of course don't miss the riz au lait (only order one).

      Sunday -- indeed your planning is too much, and maybe not perfectly suited to your taste, as I argued before. I would argue for La Grande Cascade on sunday lunch, though there again I don't think they have wallet-friendly menu. You don't have that many options for lunch on sundays.

      Senderens. I love everyone there but honestly forces me to admit that the food is not up to what it should be. As I always say, go to Senderens for dessert only, those days. But you can have two and make sure you get the wine pairings with them. That's really great and you can do it any night after dinner.

      Still on sunday, if you don't want to go for a meal the price of La Grande Cascade, I would mention the excellent Christophe, a real bistronomique on the place de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève, for people who come for food only (ambiance and setting are pretty sad, food and wine are excellent and cheap).

      Alain Passard is not there on mondays for lunch -- not back from his weekend yet. That does not imply that the food will be less good. Even when he is here, you chances that he actually cooks for you are, say, 20%.

      Savoy and Bristol will not match your need for wow in the food. Well, the poularde dish at le Bristol would, but that's not enough.

      You are right to leave room for improvisation for some meal.

      For pains et croissants, why don't you check my map of bakeries?

      Poujauran does not have a bakery anymore. You can only have his bread from selected restaurants (such as Stella Maris, Rostang, La Régalade maybe...). Maison Kayser sure has a branch near you. In the first, there is Jullien, and also Gosselin (only for the baguette tradition) both on rue Saint-Honoré.

      Edited to add: l'Ambroisie also has a good chance of producing wow. It is very, very expensive, but some dishes like the Feuilleté Belle Humeur, the Escalopines de bar au caviar, the Tarte au Chocolat, are up to their legend.

      9 Replies
      1. re: souphie

        Just curious, souphie, have you been to Il Baratin in Belleville? It was featured in Gourmet magazine a few months ago.

        1. re: sarah galvin

          I haven't. It's one of the stars of the bistrot franzy, a very uncomfortable place with nice food and wine at very low prices. As I'm not coming from far away I see no reason to go in the 20th to sit in an ugly place. But everybody says it's good and I believe them. I'll seize the opportunity to go when it arises.

          1. re: sarah galvin

            beratin is in a rought neighborhood, the place is tiny and dingy. the owner is arrogant, condescending and downright rude. you do what he says or else! that said, the food is good the wines are good and the prices right.

            not too far away at quedubon the food is excellent, the wines good, the people very friendly and the prices even better.

            1. re: jock

              I did walk past it when I was in Paris at Christmas time. It is a rough neighbourhood - home of Edith Piaf! - but the Chinese food buffets looked amazingly fresh. I was too early for lunch and was not even sure it was opening for lunch. At 11:30 am the chairs were still on the tables from the night before. It didn't look that 'ugly' but, I agree, there is no room for arrogance and rudeness in my lunchtimes.

            2. re: sarah galvin

              Went to Baratin in Sept ,just after getting to Paris, for lunch. As other posters said, not pretty or comfortable, but service was fine , owner lovely and food good. Did not return as have cooked the same food and location was pretty far out. Glad l did it, but no need for return.

            3. re: souphie

              Souphie, where exactly is Christolphe? I am in Paris now and would like to check it out. I think I may have gone there last April with a friend but I am not certain. I think the place I went was near Place Monge. TIA.

              1. re: jock

                Place de la Montagne Saint Geneviève. It is just by the Panthéon.

                The exact address is 8, rue Descartes.

              2. re: souphie

                I'll second souphie's recommendation of Christophe. We were in Paris a couple of months ago and dinner there was one of the highlights of our trip. Also, old standby, Moissonnier, in the 5th. Don't think you can get a better quenelle de brochet anywhere!

              3. Just don't go to Helene Darroze - a waste of time. Overhyped, over priced and zero wow factor...

                7 Replies
                1. re: jrrugby

                  Thank you all very much for the help - especially Souphie! L'Ambroisie would be my first choice, if price were not an issue. I will definitely try your suggested boulangeries, and look forward to trying dessert (but not a meal) at Sederens. I now have a reservation at La Table de JR on Friday for lunch - thank you for the note about the weekday only 55E's a deal I cannot pass up and hopefully our jet-lag will have worn off a bit by then. It appears that Ledoyen's schedule does not fit mine very well, as the only slot it could fit is Saturday dinner which is expensive and in any case is reserved for l'Ami Jean (we'll follow your advice on dishes to order). Thank you also for your l'Ecallier alternatives - it will be nice not to travel so far.

                  I have a couple of follow-up questions, and I would greatly appreciate your thoughts:

                  Do you think that Arpege is a good choice for our Monday lunch?

                  It appears that La Grande Cascade has a menu du marche that is only 85E with wine and water and 65E without drinks. Would you suggest going for lunch to take advantage of being there during daylight (although it is winter and perhaps not as pretty as spring)?

                  I am very excited to try Christophe. It is possible that we will skip La Grande Cascade this trip and just do Christophe as our one planned meal on Sunday, but in the event that we need to pair it with another restaurant, which of the following do you think is a better stomach survival plan: Saturday - Christophe for lunch and l'Ami Jean for dinner; or Sunday - La Grande Cascade & Christophe (not sure which will be lunch/dinner)?

                  Thank you!

                  1. re: jodim

                    Did you make your reservation for La Table JR online on the site or by telly?
                    Trying to book lunch but it only allows you to select dinner times.

                    1. re: dietndesire

                      I ran into that same problem, so I called. I speak French and therefore didn't test out their English.

                      1. re: jodim

                        Y, no matter the language, the internet is just much easier and more reliable.

                        1. re: dietndesire

                          Easier? Maybe. More reliable? In France?!?! Hah!

                          And yes, they have people who speak excellent English there. On a visit there a while ago, in an attempt to make an Italian dining companion of mine feel more at ease (her French is not so great), the server switched to English, which he clearly spoke very well. When he saw that she did not speak English, the server switched back to a very nicely enunciated, slow, clear French. I don't think you'll have communication problems there.

                          1. re: dietndesire

                            I speak little French and had no problem, much to my surprise. I would not trust the internet reservations as much as a simple phone call - I agree with tmso.

                      2. re: jodim

                        Arpège is a good place. It's frightingly expensive but also very generous.

                        I'm not sure that the menu du marché at la Grande Cascade applies on weekends.

                        Your saturday plan is slightly less crazy than your sunday plan.

                        About Internet reservations, dietndesire: they just don't work in France, in general, despite a growing number of exceptions. You can try using for example, but calling is the safe bet.

                    2. Drouant. Consistent, great staff, Antione the chef/owner is a sweetheart and comes to the tables to make sure everything is good. Soft lighting and the ivory interior is very nice and romantic. Simple but ample menu, Perfect portions as well. Less expensive than Gaya or L'Atelier.

                      1. How did you make your reservations for I'Ami Jean? Want to do that for our trip in april.

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