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15th Anniversary Dinner - Which 2 star?

Oh, help. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by all the information. I'm hoping that if I am specific and detailed, you can help me sort things out.

We will be in Paris for a 15th anniversary trip during Christmas week. I want to put on a pretty, dressy dress, get my husband to put on a suit and go somewhere very special. We honeymooned in Paris and went to Lucas Carton. 3 star restaurants have apparently crossed my personal threshhold for just too much money for a meal. The 2 star restaurants make me gasp, but not automatically refuse, so let's start there.

I know lunch is generally much more reasonable and serves the same food, but right now we're leaning strongly towards dinner, as we are more inclined to devote days to sightseeing with our 8 year old (he's not coming to dinner) and casual lunches.

We're looking, obviously, for delicious food and just generally a wonderful experience. I would somehow simultaneously like the fanciness and formality of fine Parisian dining, but without stiffness. A little romance would be nice. I've seen L'Ambroisie described as serious and solemn and that didn't appeal. We each like a wide range of things, but on the other hand, have pretty serious lists of dislikes, so a place like Helene Darroze didn't appeal just because the menu was so limited. With enough choices, we'll be very happy. I don't speak French and my husband speaks only the tiniest bit, so some place with a menu in English or waiters who are happy to translate and answer questions would be wonderful. Between our fussiness and the fact that we don't have matching fussiness (much of the stuff I don't like, he does and vice versa) I expect that we'll very likely be ordering a la carte. I love cheese and haven't paid it enough attention on past visits to Paris. It would be wonderful if the restaurant had a cheese course and waiters who would be happy to guide me if I need to make choices.

After going through Michelin's list and eliminating several for various reasons (some are closed while we're there, a couple have more or less gotten a thumbs down on here, I will not enjoy sitting on a stool) I have left:

L'Espadon - Menu looks delicious. Prices are what I've come to expect.

Les Ambassadeurs - I can't find a menu on the website. I have no idea what to expect.

Lasserre - none of the entrees on the menu really appeal to me, but I know this restaurant is spoken of highly here and a number of the plats look really delicious. No cheese?

Le Cinq - The menu looks good, but maybe a little limited. I know the menu on the website is a sample menu, so I'm wondering if the real menu has more choices. No prices. Are they in line with the others? Cheese? I know this is souphie's usual choice for a special meal.

Michel Rostang - This also looks wonderful and the prices seem to be generally in line with the others.

Le Table de JR - The menu has a very different feel from most of the others and the tapas-y sort of option at the top of the menu (if I'm understanding properly) seems fun and interesting and a chance to try several things and experiment a bit. It also looks very good, but in a different way. Cheese? Prices?

We had originally been planning our dinner for Saturday, 12/26 and the next two are closed on the weekends. We can certainly rething our schedule, but Saturday just worked well for us, so there would have to be a really, really good reason. And actually, a good question would be whether the day after Christmas is not a good day to be going out for this sort of meal. Will the best people in the kitchen have been given the weekend off?

Apicius - beautiful pictures of the building, but no menu, so I have no idea what to expect.

Taillevent - menu looks delicious. No prices. Are they in line with others?

I could just eliminate the 2 who don't post menus, purely as an easy way of narrowing the list a bit, but what if I'm missing something amazing?

I'm hoping you can help me sort through these. Thank you very, very much.

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  1. Hard to beat Carre des Feuillantes in wineter. Especially if you like game.

    1. Have you considered La Grande Cascade? Open everyday, very good, with a choice of 3 set menus + a la carte, about half the cost of the usual parisian 3* and perfect setting for the occasion! Only drawback: they have a wide range of cheeses, but they're not particularly impressive. Apart from that, it may be one of your best bets.
      http://www.grandecascade.com

      If you go to Le Cinq, in your price range, you'll only have access to one menu with limited choice.
      Not been to the others, but La Table de JR seems to be really interesting for its lunch deal, not particularly so for dinner.

      I don't know what your threshold is exactly, but I have one suggestion. It's absolutely not the restaurant any one in its right mind would recommend to someone looking for something not utterly expensive, but if you're being really careful, l'Arpège could almost fit.
      There, you'd be able to taste some of the most amazing cheeses you'll ever have. But we're talking 200 EUR/pp for food alone, and being cautious in a 3* is not fun (even impossible, for me).

      1 Reply
      1. re: olivierb

        Remember you were going to L'Arpege recently. Did you ever report, l am going tomorrow and would like to hear what happened, thanks.

      2. Le Cinq, Rostang, L'Espadon are not less expensive than the *** in this town. In general, it is wrong to assume that ** is less expensive than *** (especially 33% less...). ALC fine dining prices are very high -- count 250 pp for food only. For that price, you can have tasting menus almost anywhere but Gagnaire, and l'Arpège.

        Apicius is less expensive, the setting is indeed gorgeous, but it is a very nouveau riche experience and the food, while decent, is far from great. It's a good place for people who don't like fine dining and its general sophistication.

        In terms of good ALC dinner prices, I think Taillevent and La Grande Cascade are your best calls. Lasserre is nice too. All have extraordinary settings.

        For great cheese and food, there is also Ledoyen.

        6 Replies
        1. re: souphie

          This has been helpful. I have a few more questions, if you don't mind.

          Olivier, you said Le Table de JR is more interesting for lunch than dinner. Do you mean just that it's a better value or is the food actually somehow different?

          I've been assuming we'll order ALC for 2 reasons. First, I haven't actually seen a menu where I liked everything. Can you say that you would like the menu but don't care for a particular dish and discuss a substitute? At what point does this become obnoxious?
          Second, it seems that menus are often served only for the entire table. Trying to come up with a menu of several courses that both my husband and I will like will be a challenge, to put it gently. If we're both getting the menu in a place where the whole table has to order it, can we each make different substitutions?

          1. re: marcia2

            Sorry, this wasn't really clear: I haven't been to La Table de JR, so I can't comment. I guess it's just better value at lunch, but wait for other's answers.

            Substituting items from a set menu is perfectly fine in most restaurants (in my limited experience), but I never asked to change more than one dish.
            Maybe you could try to call a few of them to see what's doable and what's not, maybe even arrange something in advance.

            1. re: marcia2

              No, the whole table doesn't need to be on the same menu, it is quite acceptable to choose different menu's or one on a menu and one on ALC. If it was an extensive tasting menu (10+ courses) and a set 3 course menu then it may not be possible as you can see the logistics would be terrible.

              Menu's are good value, with lots of top restaurants having reasonable choices €80 to €120 range, but if you choose ALC you can find each course can be €80+.

              Lunch is also far better value than dinner and there is nothing wrong with dressing up for lunch (we do it all the time), it may also be nice to be in a grand dining room being pampered when it is cold and wintery outside. I also find it is more relaxing to have a long meal during the day than when I am tired in the evening.

              1. re: PhilD

                >>No, the whole table doesn't need to be on the same menu, it is quite acceptable to choose different menu's or one on a menu and one on ALC. If it was an extensive tasting menu (10+ courses) and a set 3 course menu then it may not be possible as you can see the logistics would be terrible.

                But there are some restaurants such as Le Cing, whose menus say that the menu is only available for the entire table. I've assume that at such a restaurant, it's not acceptable for me to order, say, the Fall Menu, while my husband orders a la carte. Am I mistaken?

                1. re: marcia2

                  I think it still broadly fits my example. The set menus on the website are multi-course tasting menus rather than a traditional French (set) menu; they will also come with various amuses bouches, pre desserts and petit fours.

                  IIRC at Le Cinq you also get a couple of additional three/four course menus to choose from when you get to thetable (of course this may only be lunch), the web only has examples. So yes if you are going for the full multi course blow out then the whole table probably has to order it, and as others have said they will substitute the odd course (especially if you have allergies or a dislike).

                  That said I always find that I try things that I think I won't like on tasting menus are I am usually pleasantly surprised. For example I had been put of sweetbreads (riz de veau) for life after a bad initial experience, but a tasting menu opened my eyes to them as a dish and I have been a convert ever since.

                  1. re: marcia2

                    You are mistaken, but most restaurant say that about their tasting menu -- and the reason is what PhilD mentioned. But Le Cinq, like any top restaurant, is here to please you so they will arrange things anyway you like. It still needs to be asked politely, but I'd be surprised if they refused.

            2. Don't count out La Grande Cascade...beautiful, romantic setting and an excellent chef.

              3 Replies
                  1. re: John Talbott

                    So I'm reading happily through the menu for Le Table de JR and I get to the desserts.

                    The chocolate dessert includes sorbet cacao au biscuit Oreo. He's stomping all over Nabisco's trademark and making some very deluxe, luxury, high end version of a chocolate sandwich cookie with cream in the middle, right? Right???? Cause he's not putting a cheap supermarket cookie with greasy filling and so many crappy artifiical ingredients that I won't keep them in the house in his very refined, very fancy, very expensive haute cuisine dessert? Because the French are far too sophisticated and have palates far too educated to be swayed by the fact that these cookies are exotically American and cost an arm and a leg in Paris, right????

                    And there's no way that coulis multivitamine means what it looks like to an English speaker, right? This is one of those funny instances where it looks like a cognate but isn't really. I just know it is. Because I take a multivitamin every day and it's not for the taste. And my son takes a fruit flavored multivitamin every day and it makes his breath smell like junky artifical fruit flavor. And no one wants a dessert that tastes like either of those things.

              1. For the best meal of your life (or mine at least!) go to Pierre Gagnaire. He is a chef's chef. You better be into molecular gastronomy though. For a more classic meal in a stunning setting, go to Le Grand Vefour. Fantasic food, beautiful setting. Avoid Les Ambassadeur's. I went there for my 5th wedding anniversary. The room is very pretty but the food was not up to par.

                Pierre Gagnaire

                6 Rue Balzac

                Paris , 75008, FR

                Phone +33-1-5836-1250

                Le Grand Vefour

                17 Rue De Beaujolais

                Paris , 75001, FR

                Phone 33-1-4296-5627

                4 Replies
                1. re: gabo1967

                  Les Amabassdeurs will be easy to avoid as, according to an email I received today from the food and beverage manager at the hotel, the chef left in August and the restaurant has been closed since then, with no reopening date in sight.

                  Molecular gastronomy is one of those things I'd like to try, but which I'm really dubious about at the same time. It's certainly interesting to read about, but I always wonder if I'll walk out of the restaurant having enjoyed a delicious meal or merely having had an interesting intellectual exercise.

                  Off to look at Le Grand Vefour, but I keep finding myself drawn back to either Le Cinq because of Souphie's strong recommendations or Le Table de JR, despite the silliness that has invaded the dessert menu, because it sounds interesting and I like the tapas type opportunity to try a whole bunch of things that I get to pick and choose.

                  But then all the other menus sound good, too.

                  Maybe I should drop Taillevent off the list on the grounds that it's closed Saturday, which would really be the most convenient night for us and a relatively recent post in which Souphie and someone else agreed that it's a bit over the hill.

                  I will go mull somewhere else and come back when I have an actual question. Thanks for you patience, everyone.

                  1. re: marcia2

                    <Le Grand Vefour. Fantasic food, beautiful setting> ?????

                    I have not seen nor heard "Fantastic Food" in connection with Le Grand Vefour in EEEEEons! beautiful room, definitely. Historic significance, absolutely. I wouldn't choose it for a special meal, tho. I'd be reserving at Le Cinq.

                    1. re: marcia2

                      I don't understand why Le Bristol, which now has 3 Michelin rosettes, is ignored.. Also
                      Alain Ducasse at the Plaza-Athenee.

                      1. re: amrx

                        I can't speak to why le Bristol is ignored in general, but I can tell you that I ignore it because it is extremely expensive and not nearly as good as it was ten years ago, with only a few courses shining here and there (eg chicken, sweetbread, hare). As for ADPA, it is also extremely expensive and if it ever was very good, I did not get the memo. It does deliver on high luxury and exclusivity. All in all, I like le Bristol better.

                        Neither is particularly attractive given the budgetary constraints mentioned by the OP.