Just returned from our trip in Paris. We are happy, relaxed, and fat. Here’s a report of our eats, with many thanks to Chowhounders for their great recommendations.
Chez Michel – Absolutely fantastic in all respects. Food was amazing. We had an egg poached in some cream with morels that was transformative. So simple yet so rich and flavorful. We also had a braised beef cheek that was impossibly tender and confit pigeon with bacon that was quite flavorful. I ended the meal with the Paris-Brest (delicious and so big!) while my husband had the cheese plate (delicious and all you can eat!). Unlike what was reported in the NY Times, the service was friendly and attentive.
Chez Renee – We sat at a corner booth overlooking a packed restaurant full of French people and felt blissfully happy that we were in Paris. The service was attentive even though the waiter was taking care of at least eight tables. We had the salad with chevre (delicious) and the smoke duck rillettes (fantastic) to start. My husband loves to smoke poultry and make rillettes so he was particularly excited about the smoked duck rillettes which married two of his favorite things. We had the coq au vin and the beef bourginon as mains. Both were delicious, but perhaps too similar. It was our mistake. We should have realized two braised meats in red wine would taste similar but perhaps failed to do so because we were so excited to see both on the menu. We had a fantastic St. Marcellin from Quatrehomme that was rich, unctuous, and mouth filling for dessert.
Chez Dumonet –The food here (stuffed morels, duck confit, and another main that escapes me right now, and warm apple tart) was perfectly fine with the duck confit being outstanding, but the service was atrocious. We had to wait almost half an hour after our starters arrived for the wine and had to ask several times for simple things like water, etc. The waiters weren’t so much rude as just inattentive. I speak a passable amount of French and made the effort to engage them in French, but to no avail. We were ignored the whole night. Perhaps if we lived in Paris, we would give Chez Dumonet another chance because the food was good. As a visitor with limited meals, however, we will not return.
Auberge Bressane – The food was extremely rich and comforting and just plain delicious. We had poached eggs in red wine sauce and a comte cheese soufflé to start. Both were executed perfectly. My husband had a gargantuan plate of veal sweetbreads and morels and I had the fish quenelles. Like the starters, both main plates were great. The service was attentive and friendly. The one drawback was that we were there on a Sunday evening and it was empty but for three other tables which made the environment too quiet for our liking.
Chez L’Ami Jean – Amazing, amazing, amazing. Really amazing. We had the house pate campagne, which came in this huge ceramic dish plunked right in the middle of our table with a jar of the BEST cornichons I’ve ever had. And the roasted bone marrow which caused my husband to moan every time he had a bite. For the main plates, we had braised rabbit with amazingly fresh and ripe tomatoes and grilled stone fruit and juicy suckling pork. And a pot of mashed potatoes that were infinitely better than the mashed potatoes we had at Joel Robuchon. For dessert we had incredibly ripe and flavorful strawberries in a strawberry soup with ice cream. As full as I was, I could have eaten five more of these desserts. It tasted like the most perfect way strawberries should taste. Phenomenal.
L’Atelier de Joel Robucon – We had lunch here. I had the tasting menu which numerous dishes including crab, eggs poached with morels, an excellent asparagus soup, braised beef cheek, and a couple of other dishes I can’t recall. My husband constructed his own tasting menu of sardines, foie gras with morels and chicken oysters (this was excellent), spring lamb, and several other dishes (that I can’t again remember – sorry). The staff was attentive and friendly and even funny at times and the sommelier chose great wines by the glass with our meals. Overall, a positive experience, but we left somewhat disappointed having been wowed by our other meals in Paris, which were half the price. I don’t regret coming here as it was a unique experience given the level of refinement in the food, but I don’t think I will return when visiting Paris again.
Chez Georges – We had our last dinner in Paris here and it was absolutely perfect. We started with the complimentary pork rilettes which were very tasty. Then we moved to some gargantuan snails that were tender and brimming with the taste of butter and parsley and garlic, along with eggs poached in red wine sauce with chunks of bacon and perfectly cooked pearl onions. My husband had the entrecote with frites and I had the roast chicken (the Sunday night special) in a reduction sauce. Both were delicious. Instead of fries, I ordered a green salad with one of the most delicious shallot vinaigrettes I’ve ever tasted. The salad was simple and perfect. We ended with profiteroles (I couldn’t help but clap when the waiter swaddled the profiteroles in a blanket of melted chocolate) and the pot de crème trio, which was excellent. We definitely had more exquisite food while in Paris (e.g., Chez L’Ami Jean) but overall, this was one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had in my life time given the level of service (friendly, attentive), the atmosphere (surrounded by Parisians happily enjoying a Sunday dinner), and the food (comfort, comfort, comfort), and the city (oh Paris!).
In addition to these places, we visited Rue Cler (great food stores especially Davila, very touristy atmosphere), the Saxe Bretuil outdoor market (very fun and a beautiful setting), and the Gran Epicerie (really great cheese selection) for our lunch provisions.
Also, I selflessly took it upon myself to discover the best chocolate éclair and mille fuille in Paris (my two favorite sweet treats). For me, the winner was Jacques Genin in the 3rd for both items. The choux pastry for the éclair was spot on, but what made the éclair superb was the quality of chocolate in the pastry cream. It was unbelievable. And they made the mille fuille to order, which resulted in impossibly crisp layers of pastry with rich pastry cream perfectly punctuated by Tahitian vanilla. But Paris has an embarrassment of riches that I am envious of. Even if I could not have the éclairs at Jacques Genin, I would be more than happy with the éclairs at Gerard Mulot (and the strawberry tart), Lenotre, and Arnuad Delmontel, and the mille fuille at Pierre Herme. (The chocolate mousse dome at PH was killer as well.) The only disappointment of all the pastries I consumed (I consumed a lot) was a mille fuille at GM that was plain soggy. As for bread, we loved the pain levain at Max Poilane and the Renaissance baguette at Arnaud Delmontel. Also, I want to recommend Fougasse bakery in the Third. We rented an apartment near there so this was our first stop each morning. The croissants and pains au chocolat were excellent!
That’s the report. Thanks again for all the wonderful suggestions. We can’t wait to return to Paris!
This reads like a near complete what's what and where's where of the Paris food scene. your selections are classics. Anyone going to Paris right now would do well to just take your list and follow it. There could be additions, but no one could quarrel with your selections as a great way to experience the best of the city. You chose quintessential Paris. Glad it paid off for you. Thanks for a swell report.
Sorry for the delay. Since we returned, I haven't checked the board for a while. We went to Chez Georges in the 17th. As noted in my original post, our meal was absolutely perfect.
As for macaroons, I had them at Gerard Mulot, Pierre Herme, and Lenotre. They were all excellent, but the ones at Pierre Herme were easily the best. They practically melted as soon as I put them in my mouth. I couldn't believe something so light and airy could exist in a solid state. I didn't mention them in my original post because my lengthy description of the other pastries made me too sad that I was back in the U.S.! If you stop by Pierre Herme, check out the icecream too. My husband and I split a cup of Caramel Fluer de Sel ice cream that was divine.
You did classically well!
One thing I'd add for your next trip are "real" Paris markets and food streets - eg Marche Aligre, or rue Montorgeuil and environs.
There are two sorts of markets in Paris - local covered markets (we have one very close here in Passy and - joy!! - it's open six days a week) and "marchés volants (flying markets) which are open in particular locations two days a week until 1pm. Examples are the Marche Grenelle (Wednesdays and Sundays under the overhead metro line between Lamotte-Piquet-Grenelle and Dupleix metro stations) and the Marche St Charles (Tuesdays and Fridays on rue St Charles south of Charles Michels metro station) - both in the 15th arrondissement. Most of these markets will have a "food street" with permanent shops close by - for example the rue Cler in the 7th, the rue d'Annunciation at Passy, the rue Lourmel at Dupleix.
Another suggestion would be to try French regional cuisines - for example, Breton (seafood), Basque (more seafood, and piments d'Espelette (mild chiles), Normandie (seafood, cream and apple); Sud-Ouest (foie gras, confit de canard) and I could go on.... Paris abounds in excellent examples of all these and more.
And above all, don't try to do too much and don't waste your holiday in queues! Enjoy!
Don't forget Chez Janou in the Marais -- amazing food and spectacular ambiance -- and also Florence Kahn (it was Florence Finklesztain) on the rue des Rosiers in the Marais. There, don't miss the super pletzel sandwiches (among their many wonders), and have everything wrapped to go, and walk over to Place des Vosges and picnic on the grass.