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May 19, 2009 01:09 PM

If you had to choose... of the following for a special lunch in Paris, which would it be?

Pierre Gagniard
Guy Savoy
Le Grande Cascade

I have been researching and reading about these (and others recommended by souphie) so much that I think I've got analysis paralysis. I just cannot pull the trigger - and I must because I need to make a reservation ASAP.

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  1. Of those five, I've only been to Pierre Gagnaire, so I would not pretend being able to answer this question, but anyway nobody really could, as we need to know your preferences regarding food, ambiance, etc.

    One thing, though, if you're planning to go to lunch in the hope it will be cheaper yet excellent, you can take l'Ambroisie off your list, as I believe they only serve "à la carte", even at lunch.

    1 Reply
    1. re: olivierb

      First, olivierb is correct. L'ambroisie does only serve a la carte at lunch. Second, I have eaten at four of the five restaurants on your list. My choice would be L'arpege, for the same reasons expressed by souphie.

    2. It isn't on your list but one of the best special splurge lunches in Paris hands down is at Le Meurice, market fresh, 90 e.

      1. I'm sorry but it really depends on what you like and expect. If you're a fanatic of perfect ingredients and preparations, then l'Ambroisie is unbeatable. Like with any top restaurant, there's never a guarantee it will be wonderful but there is a good chance. If you want to eat like you never ate, try Pierre Gagnaire. If you want to feel special like inside a broadway show, go to Savoy. La Cascade is a very special location with the best technician in town running the show. L'Arpège is a relaxed but sophisticated place.

        You can find pictures of all of them on my Picasa gallery:

        My advice to you after you did a lot of research is just pick the one that pops up in your mind. That's how I chose from a menu -- I close it and I order what I remember.

        Another factor of course is that lunch at any of those can be kept under 150/200€ pp except for l'Ambroisie that has no lunch deal.

        I don't think Le Meurice's lunch deal is a particularly good one because it is very subpar compareed to their regular cooking (which I find particularly boring anyway). Les Ambassadeurs (which I don't particularly like either) probably has a better deal but I bet there is a reason you did not pick any hotel in your list.

        Finally, I should respond to your question, right? Well, my response today is l'Arpège -- there is a good likelihood that it'll be wonderful (risk is lower than at Gagnaire), and it won't be sad like l'Ambroisie is. For me food is just not good enough at Guy Savoy (but that is because I am a food nerd), and Robert at La Grande Cascade will, in my opinion, get even better.

        5 Replies
        1. re: souphie

          Thanks, all. Souphie: I did look at your gallery before I posted. It only futher served to add to my paralysis as everything that I saw looked wonderful! I think I'm getting closer but have a few of my remaining questions...

          I did purposely avoid restaurants which are located in hotels. That's an American bias but perhaps one that's not relevant in Europe?

          I'm wondering - how would eating at Pierre Gagniere compare to having dined at Grant Ashatz's Alinea in Chicago? I've never had a more "knock your socks off" meal than that - so perhaps Gagniere would pale in comparison?

          I'm drawn to La Grande Cascade largely due to its location - but am afraid the food would not live up to the setting.

          I like the idea of Passard's locally grown produce - but am wondering if I would be missing something with the animal proteins being limited to fish and fowl.

          See what I mean about analysis paralysis?

          1. re: HungryLetsEat

            I don't know Achatz but Gagnaire sure has the potential to knock your socks off. The only problem is, there's no guarantee and sometimes it's plain bad.

            La Grande Cascade is better than you think ( I know, not helping).

            As for hotels, you have at least one criteria, stick to it or you'll make your like more difficult.What hotel offer that independent restaurants can't offer is extreme luxury.

            But again: stop analysing and pick the one that pops up in your mind. They're all good, and none of them can guarantee a wonderful experience.

            1. re: souphie

              In your place, I would go for the prix-fixe at Guy Savoy, and then opt for some great wines, or ask them to select for you. It will be memorable, and won't break the bank. Being no longer on expense account, these are important considerations, at least to me.

          2. re: souphie

            Are there others that you would add to this list? What would you choose -- if food quality and creativity was important -- if you could choose just one lunch in Paris. I had lunch at Le Cinq last month and it was fabulous. Both the food and the wines that were matched were great. I'm heading back to Paris next month and want to try somewhere else that will be memorable.

            1. re: mhecho

              I don't think I would pick out of this list, no -- La Grande Cascade, l'Arpège are the places I would qualify as having both creativity and quality. L'Ambroisie is not creative, Gagnaire not reliable. Of course I don't know all restaurants but it seems to me that this is about it as far as the list of really exciting fine dining goes.

              L'Astrance should obviously be added to the list, come to think of it.

              It's not fine dining, but le Chateaubriand has creativity and quality. So does le Bistral.

          3. What aspects of the meal at Grant Achatz's Alinea that "knock your socks off"? the molecular technique, the ingredients, the taste combinations, the sheer number of small tastings, the various presentations? The restaurants on your list have been thoroughly written about and dissected. And each has it's own unique style, therefore, you should have a pretty good idea what each has to offer. If you are looking for similar style to Alinea, Pierre Gagnaire would be the only one you should be considering. As for Arpege, it might not be the lack of animal proteins that might disappoint you, but the precise minimalist approach of Passard's cooking might. Le Grande Cascade may not have 3 star in the Michelin guide, but I think the cooking at this moment is better than many 3 stars. As Souphie stated, there is no guarantee of a perfect meal. My approach has been, enjoy the restaurant on it's own term because that is what makes them wonderful and unique.
            Also, if you are considering the more "reasonable" prix fixe lunch at some of the places, you might want to take that into your decision.

            1. I've been to all 5 on your list, twice to Savoy and Cascade, 6-7 times at L'Ambroisie. L'Ambroisie is my favorite. Souphie calls it sad; I say the food there is so good that I feel sad every time I take the last bite of something and realize there's no more left! Anyway, Cascade was also delightful and delicious the last time I was there; compared to L'Ambroisie, it costs less, has a more festive and informal atmosphere, and offers a bit more adventurous/mediterranean food without being avant-garde. (The walk in the park to get there is also a plus, weather permitting.)

              The other three really aren't to my liking, although they might be to yours. L'Arpège is quite minimalist. Savoy can be sloppy and second-rate. The eccentric Gagnaire offers some very interesting tidbits, but in such a jumbled order and large number that you end up feeling like a mystified ant contemplating the motorway... or perhaps like someone who loaded his plate with a bite of everything from a high-end buffet. I've also tried L'Astrance (mentioned in another post in this thread), which I would call a good compromise between L'Arpège's austerity and Gagnaire's bewildering arrays.

              5 Replies
              1. re: fanoffrance

                What can I expect to be on the menu at L'ambrosie in four weeks when I return to have lunch there?

                1. re: sethd

                  lobster, girolles, morels, and the classics.

                  1. re: souphie

                    if any informed person knows, please would they reveal what the rough prices are at l'Arpège for lunch (is there a lunch prix fixe that isn't the tasting menu?), dinner and their least expensive bottles of wine?

                    1. re: johannabanana

                      There is a 145 (maybe 135?) lunch prix fixe menu. Dinner is 360 (tasting) or maybe a bit less if you go very carefully ALC. The cheapest bottles must be in the 45/50e area, I think.

                      1. re: souphie

                        Michelin says 135 for the lunch menu.

                        About dinner, I studied the carte a bit as I'm going there next week, and it seems like a "standard" 3-course meal would set you back something like 200 EUR instead of the 360 EUR of the menu.
                        That said, who goes to a 3-star restaurant to eat "only" 3 courses? I know I don't!