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Flying to Paris For One Blow-Out Meal

Jim Leff Jun 9, 2009 09:16 AM

A friend tipped me to a company called SIGA a few years ago when its stock was $2/share. I had very high hopes for it. And I bought an extra $500 worth, and told my friend that if the stock ever went to $10/share, I'd use that stake (which would have grown to $2500) to buy him dinner in Paris by way of thanks.

Well, the stock price is now near $9 (if curious, read about it in my Slog....URL is in my profile page), so it looks like I'll soon have to pay up.

Assuming airfare will cost about $1000, that leaves $1500 for hotel and dinner. My friend is a big wine connoisseur, so we should have no problem spending it all. Can anyone recommend a really great venue to suit this bill? Preferably with nice lodgings close nearby? Little gems would be as suitable as big name places. And we're not looking for ostentation to justify the price. We're both chowhounds. We want as much deliciousness as money can buy, period.

We don't want to do multiple venues....will definitely stick to one restaurant for the night (though breakfast tips for the next morning would be appreciated).

I don't want to screw this up, because I've, obviously, never done anything like this before...and may never again! Actually, I've never eaten a real dinner in France (just scarfed sandwiches backstage before lots of jazz festival gigs). And have never eaten in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Europe. So this is sort of a big deal....

  1. f
    FattyDumplin Sep 5, 2012 01:00 PM

    Being a finance guy, of course I couldn't resist read Jim's blog and then tracking the stock price since June 2009. Looks like the company has fallen on some hard times since then. I'd love the post-mortem on whether Jim ever had his blowout meal or never sold the stock...

    3 Replies
    1. re: FattyDumplin
      Jim Leff Sep 5, 2012 01:37 PM

      FD, see my reply, above. I'm hoping not to digress into an investment discussion, cuz smallpox is really unappetizing! :)

      1. re: Jim Leff
        f
        FattyDumplin Sep 5, 2012 02:35 PM

        Haha! I actually did read through your blog and found it really interesting. I'm actually pretty interested in small cap biotech / life sciences plays, so will have to take a deeper dive on this.

        1. re: FattyDumplin
          Jim Leff Sep 5, 2012 03:12 PM

          I'd wait. Nothing material expected in foreseeable future. Monitor the appeal on Lexus/Nexus.

          My last posting on SIGA.....please, let's stick to chow! :)

    2. p
      porkpa Sep 5, 2012 03:09 AM

      Jim,
      Based on your statement that you would be won over by a taste of exquiste foie gras and amazing roast chicken, there is one place that would fill your bill. That's the ultra expensive bistro Chez l'Ami Louis. Their foie gras is delicious and is a huge portion of three large slabs. Its enough for four people. The two of you would not have a problem. As for their roast chicken, if there is a better one anywhere, I've never come even close to finding it. I would add an appetizer of their amazing escargots(enough for two and the best to found anywhere) and a side order of the pommes galette and you have the perfect meal. Their wine list is extensive and is particularly strong in burgundies. The only negative is that the place is somewhat of a dump in a seedy neighborhood.

      8 Replies
      1. re: porkpa
        Parigi Sep 5, 2012 03:27 AM

        "The only negative is that the place is somewhat of a dump in a seedy neighborhood."

        You're kidding. The upper Marais is one of the most fashionable hoods of Paris, with premium real estate to match.
        Rue Vertbois, "somewhat of a dump in a seedy neighborhood", is a street of such slumming chic that Chirac, back he was prez, took Clinton and Helmut Kohl there (on separate dinners).

        1. re: Parigi
          John Talbott Sep 5, 2012 06:47 AM

          "The only negative is that the place is somewhat of a dump in a seedy neighborhood."
          I would characterize it as yesterday or yesterdecade's joint now thoroughly Americanized in an OK/going Bobo neighborhood.

          1. re: John Talbott
            p
            porkpa Sep 5, 2012 12:00 PM

            I stand by my statement. The fact that Chirac took Clinton there does not make the neighborhood beautiful or even nice. Perhaps I should not have characterized the restaurant as a dump. It is clean and the food is well presented. The feeling that one gets when entering it is that one might be entering a restaurant as if one were in the 30s or 40s. Actually it probably hasn't changed much in appearance since then.
            John, what is a "Bobo"?
            The fact that probably hundreds of luminaries in addition to Chirac, Clinton and Kohl have dined there is not a reflection of the neighborhood, but rather of the restaurant and the experience of dining there.

            1. re: porkpa
              John Talbott Sep 5, 2012 12:17 PM

              John, what is a "Bobo"?
              A Bourgeois Bohemian - a phrase used here for years but popularized in America by my favorite left-wing-right-winger David Brooks in 2000 in "Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There."

              1. re: porkpa
                Parigi Sep 5, 2012 12:38 PM

                Bourgeois bohème.
                One stands by whatever one wants. Knowing Paris is not a requirement for anything.

            2. re: Parigi
              Parnassien Sep 5, 2012 04:01 PM

              Strangely, the only thing about l'Ami Louis that i like is the location.

              1. re: Parnassien
                Parigi Sep 5, 2012 04:51 PM

                Of course, it is one of the most desirable corners of Paris.

            3. re: porkpa
              Delucacheesemonger Sep 5, 2012 12:41 PM

              The restaurant is one and one half blocks from Place Republic, one km. from Place des Vosges, and a hundred meters from Rue Bretagne. Yes the street is trafficless and has many small private, read wholesale stores, which makes it quiet and more favored to me. l wish l could afford that neighborhood.

            4. a
              acidity Jun 15, 2009 03:03 PM

              I'm going to go for "different" sort of advice, analyzing this more along the lines of "what can I get in Paris that I can't get in NYC." NY has high end restaurants with French chefs and Michelin stars. If that's what you're looking for, OK, no prob. I go to Paris at least annually, and I'm spendy; Paris is certainly up there with NY for plentiful overpriced food and disappointing meals.

              The restaurant in France that has impressed me most is La Regalade in the 14th arrdt.

              In NY, we don't have country style restaurants that bring to your table a whole huge terrine of foie gras (like for a party), from which as an appetizer you are invited to start at one end as you will, and it's excellent delicious terrine for a foie gras lover (and I don't like terrine) and you gorge yourself like a dog you can't stop, and only after you scream "mon oncle" do they take it away. Then you have foolishly ordered the actual foie gras and you are presented with a Flintstone's dinosaur foie gras steak seared perfectly which you gamely finish, only toward the end of which do you realize you just pled guilty and are awaiting execution of your sentence because you also opted to go on and share the cotes de boeuf for two and it is also Flintstonian and cooked /a point/. And everything else is as it should be, potatoes, asparagus, soupes, etc.

              It's nowhere near expensive enough to kill your budget, but that leaves you room for fabulous wine, which to me is worth it. I'm an American wine snob who prefers European traditional style wine. Frankly, I find it easier to get good wine and good wine service in NY than in Paris*, so I'd contact the restaurant in advance or ask a friend Parisien to help, and make sure they have a nice champagne and a bottle that's just what you are looking for.

              It's not a good neighborhood to stay in. I'd recommend you stay in the 6th if you plan to spend the most minimal amount of time strolling about.

              *ah, a rare internet footnote... two reasons: (1) we are generally richer and spend more on wine which they export to us (as Mondovino points out, the British market created the Bordeaux haute wine industry) while at the same time they have access to better-buy low end wine which doesn't pay to ship and (2) the average French person is born inheriting a legacy of wine taste and knowledge and unfortunately these things are not inherited, they are cultivated so the avg. tastebud and advice you'll get could fall short of what you are used to, and a lot moreso if you prefer new world wines.

              22 Replies
              1. re: acidity
                a
                acidity Jun 15, 2009 06:36 PM

                small correction, i "overedited" that and wound up saying something I didn't mean. I meant that I find Paris similar to NYC in that there are a good number of gems, but the percentage is low, and there are a lot of mediocre, overpriced, etc. restaurants. I didn't mean to imply that going after a high end meal was going to be correlated with not getting one.

                1. re: acidity
                  rjkaneda Jun 15, 2009 10:36 PM

                  Regalade's appetizer is not foie gras. More like pâté de campagne.

                  1. re: rjkaneda
                    PhilD Jun 15, 2009 11:01 PM

                    I was going to make the same point, a foie gras pate is very different to a regular terrine (which Regalade has as the "free" starter): it is odd that acidity didn't spot it.

                    I also don't agree with the sweeping statement about the quality of wine and wine service in France. Many restaurants have exceptional lists, and the sommeliers will really know their stuff. Wine culture may not be inherited but is is quite easily absorbed in France where there is a strong food/wine culture and in a country that produces/consumes so much wine (per capita) there are many more opportunities for a career in wine than many other countries, as there are many more opportunities to drink god wine.

                    1. re: PhilD
                      a
                      acidity Jun 16, 2009 09:18 AM

                      Oh, my mistake, you are absolutely correct. My memory is clear (where clear means clear, may not mean accurate), but I was not paying attention to what I was writing. To clarify, what I should have written is that it was a terrine of liver pate (rather than whole foie gras's packed in a terrine). In terms of the ingredients, it was "liver-y" tasting and unctuous and rich, is what I'll say; I make no claim to be able to identify in pate goose vs duck vs gras vs even chopped chicken liver with a liberal dose of shmaltz. (When you have a foie gras, sear it, anything else is a waste of that beautiful "meat jello.") In terms of "de campagne", I'm not a fan of a really rough hewn de campagne which goes in the direction of chunky or variegated, so in my memory this would have been more pate than de compagne, dark and more like a coarse ground mustard in texture, rather than a completely smooth and lighter colored pate.

                      In terms of the generalization, listen, if we don't accept generalizations, we need to say "too much" in order to make a point, and that's boring. I think it is interesting to distill ideas down to the interesting part, the unexpected part. If you want to say the expected, just don't say anything, just say "as expected".

                      So, as expected, French restaurants would be filled with verticals of great wine, striking in comparison to American winelists; your French dining companions would be knowledgeable about wine; and your sommelier would astonish you with his breadth of knowledge and open mindedness to understanding you. Unfortunately, in my experience it does not happen this way. I've gotten truly silly advice that I should be drinking a bordeaux because burgundy is trop fort. The French make the finest wine in the world (to my palate) and I'm certain the finest sommeliers in the world (with knowledge of the wine I like) are in France. However, the French wine industry is not the finest in the world; the vast middle underwhelms, and the average Frenchman doesn't drink great wine and moreover if he lives outside the cities, drinks what's local, and if you are a wine buff or looking to improve, their advice you'll get is of limited value: my opinion, my experience. I probably look for a different sort of conversation than you, as we see here.

                      But the conversation here should not be about my experience, you didn't comment on your opinion of the restaurant, whether you think Regalade is a worthy choice for Jim's trip to Paris, or if you like the basic idea but have a worthier candidate.

                      I think the ambiance of the place, the wonderful people who run it, the more homestyle, traditional style, country manor style cooking, along with total dedication to food (and a budget open to better wine) will leave a very strong sense of being culturally transported--"Wow, we are not in NY!"--and experiencing something truly French.

                      1. re: acidity
                        PhilD Jun 16, 2009 09:48 AM

                        On Le Regalade: no I don't think it is a good "blow out" venue. It produces good food, in a nice atmosphere. It isn't grand, and the cooking isn't sophisticated. On my last two visits the service was dire, and it now seems they are turning tables in the evening. Thus I wouldn't recommend it for Jim.

                        What would I recommend? Simple: follow Souphie's advice, he knows that end of Paris very well, and is more up to date than me.

                        What sort of pate is it? It is a Pate de Campagne i.e. not smooth but with pieces of meat, and no it isn't doesn't have large chunks of meat, that would be a Terrine.

                        Looks like we have had very different experiences with wine in France. On the whole our experiences was good, both at home in Paris and when we travelled throughout the country. The wine shops we visited helped us understand the broad range of French wines, my colleagues would guide me to interesting selections on wine lists, and many sommeliers helped recommend well priced gems. Looks like I have been lucky, I hope you have better luck than you have had in the past.

                        1. re: PhilD
                          Jim Leff Jun 16, 2009 10:36 AM

                          FWIW, the stock price just took a big dip, so I've got lots of time to mull this over! :)

                          1. re: PhilD
                            a
                            acidity Jun 16, 2009 11:28 AM

                            I went back and read Jim's criteria ("little gem ok" and "not looking for ostentation"), and as per your suggestion I read Souphie's advice, and his advice was all haute, and what he suggested he said was a compromise.

                            Given Jim's love of the Arepa lady and long track record of seeking out trancendent food wherever it may be found, I think Jim would appreciate suggestions that were actually blowout-category-killers within the terms of his bet/budget. I am happy to trust Souphie's (and the community's) knowledge and judgement of restuarants, I just want to make sure that the terms are understood, and he's was not limping toward a weak version of a different idea.

                            We in America do not often get a shot at the depth of authentic "slow food" because it is based on a whole fabric and infrastructure of tradition. We do have haute food. So, I'm trying to sell the idea that an amazing version of a lower but traditional cuisine might be a lot more fun for Jim who confesses he's never done France's restaurants. And in terms of "haute advice", highly respected people in NYC will swear up and down that foodies should go to Per Se, and I think the place is bad joke. I'd rather go to a place that got more unanimous plaudits rather than one that has detractors. For example, one meal in NY, while most people would guess per se, if you study it, Jean Georges has fewer detractors, it's a safer bet for a "this has got to go right" night, so there is room to mull over any suggestions here.

                            I am sorry to hear that Regalade has gone downhill a tad, but I will reiterate that if you look at people's reactions to it here (which is where I heard about it, thanks chowhound!) it does provide an experience that is a positive shock to the senses. I introduced my Parisien friends to it and they go back all the time because it fills a sense of something of France that has been lost in modern Paris. I'm not touting that one restaurant (it's just one that I know), I'm actually touting that sort of experience.

                            In terms of the "terrine", we are using the word differently. I cook some, so to me, "terrine" is the ceramic dish, regardless of what is served in it. I realize now that you are using the more "restauranty" pattern that "terrine" means a way of serving foie gras. In term of what is in the terrine, I introduced an error by abbreviating the foreign phrase "pate de foie gras" as "foie gras" when I meant to abbreviate it as "pate", and then I said terrine which it absolutely is, but this is what led to you being misled. The restaurant was dark and it was a while ago, but and whatever chunks there were, were soft spreadable chunks, as opposed to may de compagnes which contain a suspension of unspreadable chunks in fat. Sorry for the misunderstanding, but it was cooked and mixed fat+liver spread.

                            I need to say one more thing about wine, just to clarify, you say you hope I have better luck, which is fine as a polite and friendly thing to say (thanks, sentiment appreciated!). But as a realistic and factual thing to say, it falls short in a way that I will put as "you chalking my experience up to bad luck does not recognize the amount of time, attention and study I devote to wine and for my experiences to be due to probability would have required a highly unlikely series of events. I have drawn a conclusion based on a lot of history which you are rejecting. It is fine that we disagree, you can disagree with me. But what you said can be interpreted as being dismissed which I don't enjoy so much."

                            1. re: acidity
                              souphie Jun 17, 2009 02:06 AM

                              I'm sorry, my recommendations were not all "haute". I mentioned Chez l'Ami Jean (which is very similar to Régalade in many ways) and Joséphine as actually being the best deliciousness for value ratios and the places I would chose with that budget and that constraint. A lot in the wording of the initial request ("Michelin starred") suggested a bias towards the best restaurants in town, and I'm sorry to say, they're not the little bistrots, as much as we love them and as much as they may be great value. If this is something Jim thinks he won't do again (or even at all, it seems), then it seems fair to assume that a place with a 34e prixfixe menu is not that unreachable an experience. In fact if it were me I would probably go for l'Ambroisie as a teetotaler, but that's because wine is not essential to my happiness whereas extraordinary food is.

                              1. re: souphie
                                Jim Leff Jun 17, 2009 08:24 AM

                                Souphie, price, status, and quality don't inextricably intertwine for me in the way they do for you. We have fundamentally different - and likely irreconcilable - views. But the beauty of Chowhound is that very different sorts of voices mingle, even if they don't always emulsify! So it's great to get your suggestions, and I appreciate your postings to this thread!

                                1. re: Jim Leff
                                  souphie Jun 17, 2009 10:53 AM

                                  It is remarkable that you know so much about my taste and views while not knowing the places I recommend.

                                  1. re: souphie
                                    a
                                    acidity Jun 17, 2009 11:11 AM

                                    I can't speak for Jim, but Jim looks for that indefinable quality that he often calls "soul" or "soulful". I don't think he was trying to put you down or define you, Souphie, I think he was influenced by what you wrote. If you look at what you say here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6264... you seem to say pretty clearly that more money means better food. If that's not the case and it didn't really reflect how you feel, that's cool!

                                    Jim probably set the whole thing off wrong when he talked about stars and a big budget, as you pointed out, but then you did rise to the bait. I'm thinking that what he'd like are places that get one maybe two stars for the food, and particularly somewhat old school style or at least been around long enough to pick up the star, and has no pretentions to go higher, and where nobody mentions that it's less than the most expensive because it is just soooo good at what it is.

                                    I think you are saying that you already did suggest some of these, it might have worked better if you gave them more of a backstory and less about price etc. which was admittedly not your fault. That's what I tried to do with my original post about Regalade and I'm serious, I've been to some haute places in Paris and I have to say they are not the most memorable experiences, what are memorable to me are the more down to earth culturally French places. Jim, I think you might be well served to find somebody French to dine with BTW, it can shoehorn the experience for you.

                                    Also I think bear in mind what I have mentioned, that to a person who does not have experience dining French, some little traditional things can make a bigger impression than grand things. The people who run Regalade for example, seem to do a good job of endearing people. Another restaurant that has a good spirit (though I think the food would not be right for this occasion except maybe if you call ahead and do something) are those two over toward the Eiffel Tower, l'os a moelle or something? I have no time to look sorry. That's what pops into my head as having a certain indescribable quality.

                                    My tastes run somewhere between the two ideas, and it's somewhat in line with what you said: Paris is much like NYC as being a modern cosmopolitan city, and the idea of artisanal restaurants where generations of experience go into the handmade food can's survive in the face of high rents. Soul is better, but if there is no soul around, money can buy food that is a good substitute for soul, and money can bring variation and newness which are nice for their own sake (and which does not explain why Per Se and Jean Georges and Nougatine just keep the same old standbys on the menu for soooo long, they do get boring even the things I like, and for price sure ingredients but I expect some effort too.)

                                    1. re: souphie
                                      Jim Leff Jun 17, 2009 07:39 PM

                                      Wow. Where'd that come from? Souphie, we have very different perspectives....but that's ok, isn't it?

                                      Anyway, if you don't think it possible to gauge where someone's coming from after reading hundreds of words of detailed exposition, then....well, hey, that's just more proof we're very different people!

                                      Acidity, I appreciate your efforts, but I prefer to explain myself myself....and do so when it's useful (e.g. won't veer a thread off-topic). Souphie's advice is an outstanding contribution to this thread - which is of interest to many more people than just me. The particulars of the (firmly irresolvable) disjoint are really irrelevant.

                      2. re: acidity
                        a
                        acidity Jun 17, 2009 02:52 PM

                        just wanted to refine what I said about La Regalade so as not to give the wrong impression: I was dining as a couple with a Parisian couple and the parisienne eats more fat and meat than her husband and ditto me, so the two of us went a little crazy ordering foie gras and meat, and too much. That is not what the restaurant is about, and it's not what I'm about, but it is what I did that night.

                        Of course French food is not shy about fat or meat, but I'm not recommending this place because it was a fat carnivore's dream, it's just a French restaurant that is charming.

                        1. re: acidity
                          q
                          quddous Sep 4, 2012 06:12 PM

                          I am really disappointed by chowhound replies sometimes. There are too many replies that are just negative and have nothing to add to the conversation. I am not saying not to critique a reply but if you are not adding some knowledge into the conversation then you should not bother replying.

                          Jim: I've spent quite a bit of time travelling. Maybe not as much as some on these boards, but enough to know how to spend my money eating - because that's what all my are - food vacations. I agree, if you could find one fantastic meal to blow myself away then I would take it as well. Do I think there are fantastic meals out there that will blow you away? Yes. But will that one meal you have be that fantastic meal? Possibly and possibly not. I think the better way of having a fantastic trip is by having a fantastic trip. Have one meal that breaks the bank more than the others, but also save money for the rest of your meals and plan for other things that will make your short trip amazing. Paris is an expensive city but it is also a large city and there are exceptional restaurants at all price points.

                          Find recommendations of restaurants on chowhound. Read up on the restaurants you think will be good. See who the chefs are. See what kind of food they cook. Look at their menus and see if they entice your palate. Get excited about eating there.

                          Meals that are expensive are not necessarily the best meals you will have. I have had meals at Michelin starred restaurants where I wanted to end the meal halfway because the food was so bad. Many of my favourite meals are those I've had at small restaurants or patisseries. One of my fondest memories of Paris was eating three cakes from Pascal Caffet (which I had never heard of at the time and had walked into just because we were passing by it). We had a few Michelin meals that trip and some other delicious foods but this is the one food memory that I remember clearly and vibrantly and it cost me a total of $25.

                          With regards to wine - If you are looking to drink amazing wine then buy a few bottles at a liquor store where it will cost you half the amount of drinking that same wine and buy some cheese from a cheese store and go have a picnic with it (or back to your hotel room). I'm not saying don't drink a good wine to match your food at a restaurant - I'm just saying that you can ask the sommelier to pair something with your food and that they will select you something delicious and not overpriced as some posters have said earlier.

                          One replier said that you 24 hours on the ground is never enough. I would have to agree with this person. I would spend *at least* 48 hours. You will have more memories to take back with you this way. Paris is such a large city and even 48 hours will only get you the smallest glimpse.

                          I realize this is quite a late reply to this. Have you gone on your trip yet?

                          1. re: quddous
                            Veggo Sep 4, 2012 06:30 PM

                            The stock price today is $3.06, so maybe a corned beef on rye and a bowl of borscht.

                            1. re: quddous
                              ChefJune Sep 5, 2012 09:48 AM

                              I'm guessing Jim has had his meal. This thread is more than three years old!

                              1. re: ChefJune
                                Jim Leff Sep 5, 2012 01:34 PM

                                Hey, guys, thanks for the renewed attention!

                                An update. My friend was super busy at work when the stock hit $10, so he was unable to travel. We resolved to do something even crazier to celebrate when it reached $20. The price actually made it to $15, but then a combination of factors brought it down to less than I paid for it. It will languish here for a while, but none of the factors are permanent, so I'm still expecting $20 (though not for at least a year or two).

                                quddous - I thoroughly agree. In fact I was an early/strong advocate for precisely that same attitude toward food. The cliche of demanding to be recommended a surefire sock-knocker-offer is practically against my religion - as is the notion that you can spend your way to success. But this is a unique situation. I figured most hounds would recognize that, as the founder of this site, I'm a staunch Chowhound, and would forgive this one atypical query! But, again: I agree on all counts...strongly!

                                porkpa - I'm not sure an "ultra expensive" place would fit this budget (what's a typical dinner cost?)

                                1. re: Jim Leff
                                  ChefJune Sep 5, 2012 02:06 PM

                                  Jim: what's a "typical dinner?"

                                  1. re: ChefJune
                                    Jim Leff Sep 5, 2012 02:11 PM

                                    Liverwurst sandwich and a medium orange juice.

                              2. re: quddous
                                PhilD Sep 5, 2012 03:34 PM

                                Of course the OP did ask for one big blow out, and did ask for Michelin so whilst the suggestions are OK they don't really answer the OP.

                                Note, on the wine from a bottle shop, yes you can buy current vintages at better prices retail in Paris but good luck trying to buy aged vintages especially from good estates at retail shops. The best hunting ground for these (for the casual visitor) is going to be a top restaurants extensive cellar - remember it is a meal to thank a wine nut so that is important.

                                1. re: PhilD
                                  q
                                  quddous Sep 5, 2012 03:55 PM

                                  I agree on those points but I still feel mine are valid also.

                                  I think the OP could definitely have a blowout meal with $500 and with $300 and with $200. There are amazing meals to be had at every price level.

                                  I was just discussing in the Japan forum and remembered that one of my favourite meals in Kyoto was under $50 pp (and it was a multicourse meal).

                                  1. re: quddous
                                    PhilD Sep 5, 2012 04:46 PM

                                    I agree that price does not always correlate with quality or enjoyment. For me time and place add a lot to the meal. However, the thread was about a blow-out meal in Paris and I assume that as Jim founded Chowhound he was looking for the OTT Paris experience to reward his friend rather than follow his usual MO (which is sort of the advice you gave).

                          2. Busk Jun 14, 2009 09:55 AM

                            Take the TGV to Burgundy and hire a driver. Drink too much good wine to drive legally and check the talent out there for a couple days. You'll probably get two or three meals as good as the Paris fare.

                            1. purplescout Jun 12, 2009 04:27 PM

                              Are you really set on Paris as your destination? could another food extravaganza in France work for you (possibly requiring a connecting flight or train)?

                              Some of the finest tables in France include hotels, and the whole package experience is quite heavenly. Again, Souphie might have some worthy advice.

                              Based on my own admittedly limited dabbling, you might consider:

                              Michel Bras - Amazing food, stunning location, beautiful hotel. The main drawback is the difficulty of getting there. http://www.michel-bras.com/

                              Bastide de Moustiers - Alain Ducasse's country restaurant. Not a bad drive if you fly into Nice.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: purplescout
                                souphie Jun 13, 2009 02:33 AM

                                That's a good point. I know les Crayères has deals that are amazing and it is an amazing place, there might even be direct trains from Roissy to Reims.

                                1. re: purplescout
                                  Jim Leff Jun 13, 2009 11:38 PM

                                  The deal is literally dinner in Paris. Out and back, swoosh. Under those constraints, it'd be best not to add extra complexity/travel!

                                2. r
                                  rswatkins Jun 10, 2009 05:47 AM

                                  Another possibility, a little more reasonable in price than some of those already mentioned: the one-star Gerard Besson, with classic cuisine perfectly executed in a style that has pretty much vanished in Paris. Excellent wine list, that the owner-chef (always in the kitchen) has been putting together for the past 30 years.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: rswatkins
                                    Jim Leff Jun 10, 2009 02:54 PM

                                    Wow, if we don't go there this time, that'll definitely be tops on my list some other time. Thanks!

                                    1. re: Jim Leff
                                      rjkaneda Jun 10, 2009 02:58 PM

                                      Don't get me wrong -- la Fontaine de Mars is a nice place, but if you're going to spend hundreds, if not thousands, you have many many many options aside from la Fontaine de Mars.

                                      1. re: Jim Leff
                                        k
                                        kikisakura Jun 10, 2009 05:38 PM

                                        Jim Leff, were you thinking about going to Paris, stay for a day, then come right back?

                                        I don't have any scientific evidence to back up my theory but I think our senses need at least 24 hours on the ground to recover from air travel. Unless time is that tight for you two, I'd at least stay for 48 hours. I normally skip all the airplane food, eat light on the first day then really dig in on the second day. It might not apply to everyone but I would NOT spend $1000 on a meal straight off the plane or even after a nap.

                                        1. re: kikisakura
                                          fanoffrance Jun 11, 2009 06:36 AM

                                          I think different people's appetites work differently. I always have a big appetite upon landing from a transatlantic flight. I also find it impossible to sleep on airplanes (can't afford first class recliner-beds)--could that have anything to do with it?

                                          1. re: fanoffrance
                                            k
                                            kikisakura Jun 11, 2009 09:38 AM

                                            I am starving every time I get off the plane. My appetite never is a problem. :D

                                            After spending hours inside a pressurized metal tube, my senses become less keen and nothing tastes quite the same and that's probably due to lack of oxygen. On top of that, our body gets bloated from all the pressurization. My system then needs some time to feel "normal" and I wouldn't go to a higher-end restaurant within 24 or really 48 hours if I could help it.

                                    2. Beach Chick Jun 9, 2009 02:43 PM

                                      How about a great bistro like La Fontaine de Mars in the 7th..its where the Obama's just dined at last week..its a classic bistro..you can stay at the quaint and lovely Relais Bosquet hotel and shop at the famous Rue Cler..great farmers market and a crepe maker.
                                      fly out on Friday morning and leave on Sunday..$1,500 would cover the 2 rooms, food and wine for the weekend!
                                      Definitely go to Jazz Club Lionel Hampton in the 17th.

                                      www.fontainedemars.com
                                      www.relaisbosquet.com

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: Beach Chick
                                        PhilD Jun 9, 2009 11:25 PM

                                        Wow, Presidential endorsement turns a mid level bistro into a must go gourmet destination....!

                                        Isn't it strange how this influences people in different ways. Whenever I eat at a restaurant with picture of renowned politicians on the wall my heart tends to sink a little.

                                        1. re: PhilD
                                          rjkaneda Jun 10, 2009 01:55 AM

                                          La Fontaine de Mars is a nice bistro, with plenty of Parisian charm, and it provided a nice night out for the Obamas, but I would agree that in terms of cuisine, it is strictly mid-level. As I mentioned in another thread, the reason the restaurant was chosen for the presidential outing was only partly based on the food.

                                          1. re: PhilD
                                            Jim Leff Jun 10, 2009 02:53 PM

                                            It's even worse when they're actually in the restaurant. I was once trying to really get down with a soulful plate of feijoada in Manhattan when Madonna walked in and sucked all the air out of the place. Pretty upsetting, though the other patrons seemed thrilled.

                                            One exception to your photo rule: Bernadette Peters. Places with photos of Bernadette Peters are always real good. No idea why.

                                            1. re: Jim Leff
                                              Beach Chick Jun 11, 2009 08:15 AM

                                              Note to self...Never offer Jim Leff advice again!

                                              FYI..La Fontaine de Mars has been around since 1908

                                              1. re: Beach Chick
                                                PhilD Jun 11, 2009 11:07 PM

                                                ....and it was closed for approx 6 months 3 years ago for a complete refurbishment. Every time we walked past it looked like they were ripping out the old interior and were putting a new one in. It may have the patina of age but everything is not as it seems.

                                                1. re: Beach Chick
                                                  Jim Leff Jun 12, 2009 08:02 AM

                                                  Beach Chick, sorry, I wasn't rejecting your tip, just riffing, generally, on the celeb-in-restaurant thing. And your lodging/shopping/clubbing advice was great and well-noted....I just hate to clog up threads with personalized "thank yous" in reply to each posting.

                                              2. re: PhilD
                                                d
                                                dietndesire Jun 10, 2009 03:29 PM

                                                It is, unfortunately, not strange or uncommon but it is still very sad, every time.
                                                This is why I am not a proponent of every voice. What good is a judgement if the judge is clueless?

                                                BLOWOUT EXTRAVAGANZA MEAL IN PARIS=..I cannot even repeat it

                                                I hope instead of becoming defensive about an answer that is completely off, one would learn to improve their knowledge base.

                                                Unfortunately for J Leff, it is as Souphie and later, PhilD,say. A true blowout would be more than the budget in Paris. That should not damper anything since $1500 is enough to have quite the meal.

                                                Why would one eat feijoada in Manhattan? Unless you are making your own.

                                            2. souphie Jun 9, 2009 01:41 PM

                                              First, I'm not sure the best use of your money is one one splurge meal. If I was flying to Paris with that budget, I would probably forget about great wines, and get one fancy lunch and one or two excellent lower-range restaurant. At Joséphine you can have Doisy-Daësne 1969 for less than 100eur. At Chez l'Ami Jean, there are also extraordinary bottles (Pétrus, DRC) whose prices I don't know. This is probably the best value for deliciousness. But it's a packed little bistrot with no elbow room.

                                              Excuse my bluntness, but 1500$ (1100eur) don't buy you a once-in-a-lifetime-never-again-never-before meal for two. It buys you a standard meal at l'Ambroisie, l'Arpège or Le Cinq or another top restaurant in town, assuming you don't go for prixfixe, which some don't really have. Tasting menu at l'Arpège, for instance, is 360eur, which basically leaves some room for one very good bottle, not an extraordinary one.

                                              To give you an idea, Il Vino has an exceptional wines menu -- with Yquem, Romanée-Conti, Pétrus... for 1000eur pp.

                                              La Tour d'Argent has the best wine list in the world. Taillevent is good too. Both are spectacularly Parisian. None of them can be considered a top restaurant food wise.

                                              I'll tell you what I tell everyone: the best compromise is probably Le Cinq, or La Grande Cascade. The places with the highest potentials are Gagnaire, Arpège and Ambroisie (in no particular order) but they're extraordinarily expensive and always a gamble.

                                              9 Replies
                                              1. re: souphie
                                                Jim Leff Jun 9, 2009 02:16 PM

                                                It's funny how relative everything is! To some people (and yes, I excuse your bluntness), $1500 for dinner's mid-range. To others, my having put aside $500 to finance this whole thing in the first place sounds unthinkably regal!

                                                For me, this is going to feel like unbridled luxury even if I have just a few bites of exquisite foie gras, a tender, perfectly browned, richly-flavored half roast chicken, and an evocative few glasses of $400 Bordeaux (emphasis, of course, being on the adjectives, rather than the nouns).

                                                The whole point of chowhounding is to aspire to make out smashingly under whatever the given circumstance and budget. So...thanks to you and the others for the advice!

                                                1. re: Jim Leff
                                                  PhilD Jun 9, 2009 11:19 PM

                                                  Jim, I think what Souphie is saying is that you still need to be careful with that budget and relative expectations in Paris. It is a very, very expensive city.

                                                  You have approx €1,000 to spend; B&B in a top hotel like the George V hotel is €830 for a "moderate" (their words) room, and even the Le Meridian 's basic room is €200. If you then allow €100 each for two good but average priced bottles of wine that leaves you €300 each for food, you will get a great meal for that money, but it won't be dinner at a 3 star restaurant.

                                                  IMO Lunch is by far the best option, as it usually gives you a more cost effective menu, and allows plenty of time to savour the wine. You can then head off to some of the better wine bars to continue sampling and have a light supper.

                                                  1. re: Jim Leff
                                                    souphie Jun 11, 2009 07:19 AM

                                                    Just trying to give you an idea of your actual choices, Jim. Of course you can have a great meal for the 800eur or so that you budgeted. The question for you is whether you'd like a place with extraordinary food that won't let you money for great wines, or something else -- and if so, what? If wine is important, as you suggest, then the choice is different and there are many places that have extraordinary wine and decent food, in different situations of comfort. Also mark-ups are very different from one restaurant to the other, so a 400$ bottle of Bordeaux is very different at l'Arpège and at, say, Joséphine or Taillevent.

                                                    What I would do with your constraint is eat at Joséphine. It is typically Parisian, excellent, ridiculously generous, you'll pay less than 200eur for food and can go to town on their extraordinary list of Bordeaux.

                                                    1. re: souphie
                                                      lisavf Jun 18, 2009 12:13 PM

                                                      Jim, I am by no means an expert on Paris, but recently spent 16 days and did lots of eating there. I would strongly second Souphie's recommendation of Joséphine - Chez Dumonet. I had my most memorable dish there, a pigeon mille-feuilles, which was tender rare pigeon layered with crispy potatoes in a delicate brown sauce. To this day my mouth waters just thinking about it. (Sorry I can't be more descriptive. In my dreams I can still relive my delight with every bite.) My husband had a luscious beef bourguignon. The beef was fall-apart tender and the sauce was rich and flavorful. I don't know a lot about wines, but we had a wonderful bottle, and the servers were perfect - polite and friendly but very, very French. To me it seemed the quintessential bistro taken to perfection. And as it is located in the 6th, you should find plenty of affordable lodgings in the vicinity, as well as numerous boulangeries to get your morning meal of baguette or croissants. After 24 hours here, you will know you were in Paris.

                                                      Let me add another suggestion, if you are looking for Michelin starred: Guy Savoy. It was to me less pretentious than many higher-end restaurants, lots of great food, great wine, and a fabulous staff. Every bite of food was a delight, and if you reserve online for lunch, they have a 100 euro special, which allows you to get an incredible bottle of wine. I'm not sure this is what you're looking for, but it's worth considering.

                                                      I will disagree with the recommendations for La Regalade, based only on my experience (of course, what else could I base it on?). The atmosphere was everything we expected - closely spaced tables, delightful service, generous terrine of country pate placed on the table as a starter, but the food was just so-so. I ordered the highly touted pork belly, and what I was served was just fatty pork. There was no searing, no soft, delicate fat. It was just fatty pork, with very little flavor. The rest of the meal was just not memorable. Perhaps it was due to the fact that it was the last day they were going to be open before the holidays; maybe it was just an off night for some other reason. Based on my experience, I would not recommend La Regalade if you plan to only have one meal.

                                                      Whatever you decide, I am sure you will make the most of your windfall and enjoy to the fullest.

                                                      1. re: lisavf
                                                        Jim Leff Jun 18, 2009 04:19 PM

                                                        Thanks, yeah Dumonet does sound good!

                                                        OTOH, the stock price, since I started this thread, has plunged to $7.23! I'm starting to wonder if maybe this cursed it! So...this all might be a tad premature after all....

                                                  2. re: souphie
                                                    o
                                                    Oakglen Jun 10, 2009 07:35 AM

                                                    The Vin Carte at Vin Sur Vin is quite impressive, And Tan Dinh has a hugh collection and prices to match.

                                                    1. re: Oakglen
                                                      fanoffrance Jun 11, 2009 06:21 AM

                                                      I thought Vin sur Vin closed a few months ago. Has it reopened?

                                                      1. re: fanoffrance
                                                        souphie Jun 11, 2009 07:13 AM

                                                        Vin sur Vin never closed. Some incompetent journalist noticed that Firmin le barbier opened at the same address and therefore announced that Vin sur Vin had closed. That just never happened (there's one restaurant on each side of the door).

                                                        That said, my opinion is that it is utter expensive crap and that you'll have a considerably better and better value experience a few meters away, at Au Bon Accueil.

                                                    2. re: souphie
                                                      Splendid Wine Snob Aug 5, 2009 03:02 PM

                                                      I firmly agree with Souphie and PhilD's recommendations/advice. Your dollar will stretch further by having a blow-out lunch (which is the strategy I took during my 3 weeks there 2 years ago), and that food trip still cost me an absurd amount of money. Worth every penny however.

                                                      Josephine would be the place to go if not choosing a Michelin starred restaurant.

                                                      SWS

                                                    3. fanoffrance Jun 9, 2009 01:09 PM

                                                      Sounds like fun! The greatest concentration of deliciousness I've ever come across is L'Ambroisie, where I've dined several times. It's located on the beautiful Place des Vosges, just across from Pavillon de la Reine, a hotel regarded by most as charming as well as luxurious (I've never stayed there--I save my money for restaurants!).

                                                      1. r
                                                        rswatkins Jun 9, 2009 12:47 PM

                                                        Would agree that if the wine is the most important part of the meal, the now two-star Taillevent can't be beat. A small selection of their wine list can be seen on their web site, and the prices for older bottles are more reasonable than elsewhere. They do an excellent job of making Americans and newcomers to the Michelin experience feel comfortable.

                                                        Robert

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: rswatkins
                                                          s
                                                          sethd Jun 9, 2009 01:26 PM

                                                          Actually, Taillevent has a much different reputation concerning Americans: It has been known to keep a quota of foreign guests, especially americans. In addition, you can get a much better experience at most of the other 2 and 3 star restaurants in Paris.

                                                        2. Delucacheesemonger Jun 9, 2009 11:23 AM

                                                          Probably should defer to Souphie on this one, but for wines, any of the 2 or 3 stars Michelin will dazzle you, especially 3 star Taillevant, or 2 star Tour D'Argent. Food, different, loved Le Cinq, wine list was very good but not as deep as others mentioned.
                                                          If you were taking me, as l have not been there would try Arpege or L'Ambroisie.

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