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Jan 31, 2009 07:59 AM

Le Cinq vs. Guy Savoy - Engagement Dinner!

Hi everyone! So I’m a long time lurker, first time poster. I’ve been reading the various chowhound forums for a while and love the advice everyone has given me (albeit indirectly) for a number of trips. The reason I’m posting is that I’m having quite a dilemma picking a restaurant for an upcoming trip to Paris in a few months. I’ve been reading the forums religiously for a while and have used everyone’s advice to select a number of other restaurants for our trip but need help with the biggest decision.

Let me first set the scene: I’ll be traveling to Paris with my girlfriend in a few months and it’ll be first time there for both of us. We’re both young, in our late 20s, love food but are by no means “foodies.” We love a great meal but also a good drink and restaurants where service is fun and lively and not stuffy. We will eat basically all types of food so there are no real dietary restrictions. My girlfriend is particularly fond of excellent service, sometimes even more than the food! So the situation is this, I plan on surprising my girlfriend with a wedding proposal on a weekend night (either Friday or Saturday) and then want to whisk her to an absolutely fabulous meal to celebrate. Like I said before, neither of us have really been to anything approaching the ultimate 2 and 3-star fine dining of Paris, but for this meal, price is truly no object (seeing as how it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience). I think I’ve narrowed my choices down to Le Cinq vs Guy Savoy. I’ve read reviews of both and think they can both offer what we’re looking for, but they definitely have different personalities as restaurants. We’ll both be having the tasting menus plus accompanying wine to get a sense of what they offer and a truly memorable dining experience. I was hoping to get people’s input regarding the two choices and pros and cons of each regarding our specific situation.

Are these places the best to go for tasting menus? Is one better than the other? Is there anything they can add to the service to make it extra memorable? Will the head chefs be present in the kitchen on a weekend night (or does it even matter)? And in the end, which restaurant would offer an experience that she will remember for the rest of her life?

Thanks so much for everyone’s input!

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  1. A friend just ate Le Cinq, and it looks incredible. The new chef is dominating over there. Great seafood, some Italian touches.

    If money were not an object, L'arpege is tops.

    5 Replies
    1. re: gastrognome

      Forgot to mention a relative of mine enjoyed her engagement dinner at L'arpege and was blown away. You have to be willing to shell out some serious cash for a meal based mostly on vegetables.

      1. re: gastrognome

        I haven't eaten at l'Arpège, but from what I gather, I'm not sure the decor is really top for an engagement dinner.
        On the opposite, Le Cinq's dining room is really grand and gorgeous and the atmosphere must be incredible at night.

        1. re: olivierb

          Well I guess you are right in terms of grandness, L'arpege can not compete with Le Cinq.

        2. re: gastrognome

          i would have to say that i enjoyed l'arpege but found it to be the most outrageous gouge job from a restaurant ever. don't get me wrong, the dinner was outstanding, the service was very good. not as good as others but good. the presentation of the turbot was beautiful. but i have never spent more on food (just food) in my life. the menu was 344 euros!! are you kidding me?? vegetables! i've been to dinners for charity that cost less!!

          1. re: cockscomb

            That's because it IS a charity dinner. Half the diners in that room are part of the Chef's court and are not paying.

      2. It's a style issue. Both are great places, both will have the staff taking special care of you. Food is probably a tad better at le Cinq but that's not automatic. Le Cinq has much better value for dinner (if you go for one of the prix fixes). The main difference is, Savoy is a windowless, contemporary space with art from all over the globe and all eras, while le Cinq is a typical palace room, high ceiling, huge space, fancy flowers, deep carpets... On the whole, le Cinq is more oriented towards exception, Savoy towards conviviality (defines itself as a "guest house of the 21st century").

        Both may have too much food for a meal dedicated to love. Le Meurice also has world class, extraordinary services, wonderful desserts, and a room that is copied on the Versailles castle.

        1. I am going to throw out another idea for your consideration. I am terribly delinquent in my review of my marvelous Paris dining adventures over the holidays, but my husband, two friends and I had the meal of a lifetime at La Grande Cascade (this is after an excellent meal at Le Cinq and a crazy good meal (although a much less formal one) at Chez l'Ami Jean. The restaurant is incredibly lovely - as our own souphie noted, in the city yet in the woods. The meal was exceptional, but what made me mention it is your girlfriend's love of excellent service. It was extremely competent but not at all stuffy. In fact, the staff's wonderful sense of humor made the meal. They were so much fun, but unobtrusive. I think it would be the most perfect setting in the world for a post-proposal celebratory dinner. We had the tasting menu and wine pairings, and we all agreed it was worth every penny.

          6 Replies
          1. re: txgrl99

            I was not sure about the service since I have not been to La Grande Cascade in a while, but I am totally confident about the excellence of food and wine due to my experience with the chef, who is possibly the best perfectionist in town. Now that our Texas Girl vouches for service, I would also second La Grande Cascade.

            Their website is one of the few websites who actually give a good idea of what the restaurant is like (Lasserre's website has the same quality).

            1. re: souphie

              I arranged for my son & wife to have a special dinner at LGC,; they were treated royally and rate the evening as a "Best Ever" experience. However, if great photo ops are important, then go for Le Cinq.

              1. re: Oakglen

                Thanks to everyone so far for their input! I think I'm also leaning toward Le Cinq, since I think it gives us the best chance for not only top notch food and service but for the great photo ops and memories to remember that everyone mentioned. I'll look into LGC as well. How is the tasting menu at Le Cinq? Is this the way to go with the wine pairings to get the most complete meal experience?

                Thanks again to everyone!

                1. re: FoodFan22

                  Wine pairings with tasting menus are the way to go at both le Cinq and LGC. At le Cinq it really is a lot of food, but it is a very good insight into Briffard's talent, more impressive than the already delicious lunch menu.

                  Not sure in what sense le Cinq is better for Photo op than LGC. I mean, one reason would be that, at le Cinq, the waiting staff will volunteer to not only take pictures but will actually print them and bring them to your table momentarily.

                  1. re: souphie

                    Having been to both restaurants recently, I don't think you can really go wrong with either place. I actually think LGC is a prettier restaurant, but part of it is the woodsy location. Le Cinq seems slightly more formal in terms of service and atmosphere, but that is not a criticism, just an observation. The staff did eagerly take our picture at Le Cinq, when I only asked if they minded if we took pictures of the food (which was far more important to me than us - ha!). Your soon-to-be fiancee will be thrilled with either place, I can assure you. And you are a very good husband, Oakglen! : )

                    1. re: txgrl99

                      Maybe it's just me - but I don't enjoy big hotel restaurants as much as smaller, more intimate dining experiences. On that basis, I much preferred L'Astrance to Le Cinq....

          2. I just re-read your post again. First time I had assumed you wanted a restaurant as the venue for the proposal, on re-reading I see you simply want to celebrate the response. But why not propose in the restaurant? After my lunch at Le Cinq last month I am confident the staff would respond really well and possibly even pop open the champagne to celebrate. The FOH team have a great sense of humour and fun so they could make it really memorable.

            4 Replies
            1. re: PhilD

              The reason I wanted a post-engagement dinner was I wouldn't be able to enjoy the fabulous food if I had the question hanging over my head. :) This way, all the stress will be gone and instead we'll just want to celebrate and have (hopefully!) one of the best meals of our lives. I was just interested in hearing people's thoughts for a celebratory dinner.

              1. re: FoodFan22

                I know what you mean....I had to order a second brandy before I did....that raised suspicions as I don't drink brandy.

                1. re: PhilD

                  So you also wanted it to be a surprise? You're putting so much pressure on yourself!

                  1. re: souphie

                    I have just returned from Guy Savoy

                    GO THERE !!!

                    This week my wife and I ate with Souphie at Pierre Gagnaire. We also ate at L'Ami Jean, Le Cinq, Le Timbre, Le Chateaubriand, Thion, Benoit, Paul Bert, La Verande.

                    I agree tha Le Cinq is brilliant. Yes they take your photo and its like eating in an architectural timepiece. The staff aren't over stuffy. The place is palatial and it's hard to beat.

                    However, if you also want a laugh. If you want to feel at home and relaxed; if you want banter; if you want cascades of surprises and gift after gift of amuses bouches and pre-desserts and post desserts and spectacular food I think Guy Savoy wins hands down.

                    on our night at Le Cinq M.Briffard, the chef was in the house. He kept coming out and ppeing around to ensure all was well. At Guy Savoy M. Savoy came to the table to say "Hi". Far more personal and fun.

                    If you want great food in pretty relaxed atmosphere but in smart opulent surroundings and want to wear a suit then go to Le Cinq. If you want to feel as though you could eat there once a month because it's fun and classy go to Guy Savoy.

                    Guy Savoy is all the taste and skill and class without the museum "quality" of Le Cinq

            2. Foodfan22,

              I have been known as a ham to my entire family and all who work for me and my many boarrds of directors, so take this advice with that plus that I''ve been married for 42 years...once you propose marrage it will be difficult to regain her attention. I suggest "sweet" things, like make breakfast yourself, get a picnic (with wine!) together, dodge into whatever bistro is open in a rain storm, do spontaneous things that put her first.. In other words, after the "Will u marry me?" you gotta be flexible and you gotta prove that you love her and big and expensive had better have been in the diamond size. For what it's worth from an old guy that made it work., feed her fine food with your hands while you say "Yes, dear!".

              6 Replies
              1. re: hychka

                Thanks for everyone's wonderful input so far. So I think i've made up my mind and we're gonna try Le Cinq. I appreciate everything kphilbin is saying regarding the differences between the 2 restaurants and I agonized over the decision trust me. For the sake of pure opulent celebration after she hopefully says yes I thought Le Cinq was more appropriate for what i was going for. I appreciate the conviviality that comes with a place like Guy Savoy and I think it would be an amazing place to visit, just not necessarily this trip. I still would love to go to Guy Savoy and hopefully can save it for an anniversary perhaps!

                As for hychka, thanks for the tips! I've actually already planned a picnic in paris during our trip and we're keeping the rest of the trip mostly spontaneous. Lots of good food and good wine! The dinner was solely meant as a celebration and is not part of the actual proposal, it is after. I plan on that being simple and personal in a beautiful corner of the city (I can't give away all my secrets!). After that, then we celebrate!!!

                1. re: FoodFan22

                  Make sure to eat light before, ideally several days before -- is all I have to add.

                  1. re: souphie

                    Good advice. Just got back from lunch at Le Cinq last Friday, it was a spectacular meal, and very friendly service. My only regret was not having enough room to finish the food - I was pretty much winded after the entree and half of the main course (after 2/3 amuses and a basket of fresh friend calamari and shrimp they offered us as a pre-meal snack). They even took a photo for us and gave us a printout after our meal as we told them we were celebrating our anniversary, and the staff were warm and cracked a few jokes with us throughout the meal.

                    We did also try the Guy Savoy 100 Euro lunch menu on our honeymoon a year ago, and it was fabulous as well. Overall I liked the food better on average at Le Cinq, but the artichoke-truffle soup at Guy Savoy was a much more memorable dish for me than anything I had at Le Cinq.

                    I'd say the sense of surprise and joy was still greater at Guy Savoy than Le Cinq, but that Le Cinq would be a better place to celebrate post-wedding if you're looking for a grander celebration.

                  2. re: FoodFan22

                    Have you looked at L'Ambroisie? From everything I've read, it sounds like the food experience of a lifetime, although un peu chere.

                    1. re: cpearson

                      L'Ambroisie was the food experience of a lifetime for me the first time I went. Then never again, and it stayed not only very expensive, but also extremely sad with staff that is oftentimes snutty.

                      Oh, and about Savoy bistrots: their list change all the time as Savoy favours the chefs buying them out. Le Chiberta is supposed to be excellent. But you can (should) forget la Butte Chaillot and L'Atelier Maître Albert. Surely Les bouquinistes is as good as ever.

                      For l'Ambroisie, it's a very exclusive experience, with high potential for both food orgasm and major disapointment.

                      1. re: souphie

                        I find it hard to resist chiming in with my two cents of opinion whenever l'Ambroisie is discussed, since no other restaurant in the world has given me so much pleasure. I've been there 6-7 times, always delighted; I remember two times when I arrived with a slightly upset stomach, but left feeling rejuvenated and without a trace of indigestion. Adventurous or thrill-seeking diners may find some of the dishes a bit bland, but they suit my preferences well. The staff is discreet and reserved, but always helpful, for example with choosing cheeses that will suit my taste or accompany whatever wine is left in the bottle. Once they even cleaned up a bone so my wife could take it home as a souvenir candle-holder! I'm always looking forward to my next meal there.