(somewhat) Informal gourmet experience in Paris
I am currently i Paris and have been tasked with selecting a restaurant for the visit of 8 friends in mid October. In other words there will be 9 guys dining on a Friday night and we are looking for a gourmet eperience without (completely) blowing the bank. Hopefully there is someone out there who will be able to help!
Most of us live in Oslo so we are used to high prices, but I think we would like to limit the food portion of the meal to €100ish +/-
An ideal place for us would have little or no dress code, allow people to talk above a whisper, have creative food, accept reservations for 9, and offer degustation (or equivalent) menus. We are looking for more dishes than entrée, plat, dessert.
Current options that I am investigating are:
le violon d'ingres
L'atelier Joel Robuchon
Pierre Gagnaire (too expensive I believe...)
Chez les anges
L'Astrance (too expensive I believe...)
Comments on these or other suggestions would be much appreciated! Thanks!
While I wish your group a great meal and a evening of joyous comaraderie, you would do well to think in terms of speaking in a whisper or your table of 9 guys will overwhelm the room. Other diners paying €100 +/- are going to have the big beak if they can't hear each other talking across the table because of your enthusiasm. ;)
In a perfect world, you would find a place with a private room.
Souphie, I hope you don't mind if I address this to you. I follow the Bonjour Paris boards, as well as Chowhound, and the advice you give seems to fill my needs best. So, I hope you have time to answer this rather large request. (Anyone else wishing to join in would be more than welcome.)
My husband and I will be in Paris second week in October celebrating a very special occasion, this time, so I don't want to leave much to chance. In the past, we've enjoyed turning a corner and discovering a gem of a bistro. But I'm researching the dining options more carefully for this trip. The following places seem like possibilities, but I really would like to have validation by someone who knows them. Some will be for dinner, others for lunch.
Also, please tell if reservations this early are a good idea. I truly appreciate any thoughts you may have on the following. Or any suggestion for restaurants not on the list. We are staying in the 7th and prefer not to stray much beyond the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 1st.
Au Bon Acueil
Le Ferme St Simon
Le Vieux Bistro (near Notre Dame" -- because my husband loved their Boeuf Bourguinon
Bistro de Breteuil
Le Violon d'Ingres -- this was our first choice for a "special" dinner, but have heard everything from "Terrific" to "Terrible" on the boards. Would you make the final decision on this one?
Thank you for what I know will be a very helpful response.
Violon d'Ingres is definitely not terrible. But, I would not necessarily put it in the category of a special dinner either. At VDI you get very reasonably priced, somewhat common menu items, that are prepared with a high level of technical proficiency. The staff is highly professional and the wines are reasonably priced. If you are familiar with NYC it reminds me of Union Square Cafe or Daniel Boulud's DB Bistro Moderne, both solid places that do not disappoint but not really destination restaurants either.
But, for only 49e for three courses at dinner, VDI is an excellent choice, just do not go thinking you will get something that approximates a 3 star.
Not sure if you know the history of this place, but Christian Constant was chef at the Hotel Crillion where he had 2 stars. He left there about 1997 or 98 and opened VDI. Initially VDI was pretty much a replica of the cooking Constant did at the Crillion. He quickly earned 2 stars at VDI but did not hold on to them for long. I think in 2001 Michelin cut him to one star.
About 3 years ago Constant reworked VDI to a more casual format and cut prices significantly. It is no longer a gastronomic restaurant but the things that come out of the kitchen are always tasty, nicely prepared and show evidence of the technical skills one would expect from a chef as influential as Constant.
Another thing I like about VDI, every time I have been there Constant has always been present. He certainly does not cook any more but is not off in Las Vegas or Tokyo with attention diverted to some far flung venture.
I'm entirely with f2dat06 about VDI -- professional, good value, doesn't disappoint, doesn't do wonder (except maybe their vanilla and caramel soufflé). The rest of your list if pretty decent, though les Cocottes+VDI makes two Constant places. I'm really not sure les Cocottes is very interesting. But that depends on what defines a great place for you.
It's never too early to start reservations.
In general, it's difficult to advise you if we don't have a better idea of your taste and expectations -- and how you came up with that list.
Agreed about Souffle; we ate there in March with two of our grandkids and had a (surprisingly) good meal recorded on John Talbott's Paris; as for
le violon d'ingres -Terrific
L'atelier Joel Robuchon - Not for over 2-3
Pierre Gagnaire (too expensive I believe...) yup
Le sévero - good, very good, cote de boeuf a must
Chez les anges - fallen off
L'Astrance - faggitaboudid
If it was lunch, Pierre Gagnaire would be a possibility (stretching your budget but less than l'Arpège) as would Le Cinq, La Grance Cascade, Lasserre or Ledoyen, l'Astrance. Le Sévero will give you top meat and fries. I haven't been to chez les Anges but it's the same owner as Au Bon Accueil which is one of my favourite, very well done food but quite classical. L'Atelier for 9 is both impossible and absurd (eating at the bar, no reservation).
You say you want something gourmet, so here are two more ideas -- the best mid-range restaurant that I know in Paris is l'Angle du Faubourg, Taillevent's second restaurant. It is refined and comfortable but not grand circus and in your budget.
Otherwise Le Chateaubriand is, to my taste, the best budget gastronomic experience in town. The setting is totally bistrot but the chef is a genius and a true innovator. At night it is usually five course tasting. And you will save a lot of money on your budget -- I think dinner menu is less than 50e.
Some might also recommend ZKG as fitting your bill.