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I'm looking for the best food of my life in Paris

mlukan Jan 29, 2010 07:16 PM

OK, so I'm going to be in the city of lights for my first time on my honeymoon in October and I need recommendations for amazing food experiences. High and low price range is fine and any cuisine I'm willing to try and small bites and course dinners, doesn't matter. I just want to walk out of a couple of restaurants and say "Ive never had such a great experience as a foodie.

I know I know, this type of threat has been done to death and Ive been trying to find direction by reading many different threads but I'm having trouble coming up with a definitive list. If you could point me towards another thread you think I would appreciate or tell me about one of your own amazing experiences I would be so grateful, Thanks so much in advance:)

  1. souphie Jan 29, 2010 11:14 PM

    Well, the problem is that, when it comes to best of your life, there is a subjective component -- so we can give you lists, but you'll need to make up your mind based on reports and pictures and to take your chances. Speaking of which, there is a risk component, as I discussed in a recent thread. Just like Maria Callas was not wonderful every night, the best food makers are human and doing something very difficult, so there wll be some better and worse days.

    That being said, the restaurants that may provide the best food of your life, in my opinion, include L'Arpège, l'Ambroisie, Pierre Gagnaire, Ledoyen, Le Cinq and Senderens. All are risky and you need to find what attracts you more because the styles are different. Senderens is riskier and less expensive than the others. In the bistrot category I'll push Chez l'Ami Jean and La Régalade with the caveat to focus on simple, "traditional" preparations. Then there are the bakeries and pastries -- I would list Bosson, e.Mayeur, Kayser. For fancy cakes, I suppose you must visit Hermé (I hate it), Ladurée, Des Gateaux et Du Pain. For chocolates Christian Constant, Grégory Renard and Jacques Génin.

    8 Replies
    1. re: mlukan
      Parigi Jan 30, 2010 12:22 PM

      Whoa, before we get too vehement here...
      I too was waiting for clarifications from the OP and am not at all withholding sharing. I get the OP wants to be wowed by virtuoso food. But it's still abstract. For example, should we recommend Le Cinq, L'Ami Jean, Rostang, all of the above? The safest is to recommend all above; one or more must hit the target. Then our recs are like a zillion other threads on this forum. It's we who sound and act lazy, without meaning to, if we don't have more to go on.

      1. re: mlukan
        PhilD Jan 30, 2010 12:28 PM

        It is a lot easier for us to suggest and answer questions if you are specific. Give us an insight into what you like, get a list of possible together and ask questions. For example if you really want traditional, classic French cuisine you will get one set of answers, than if you want an avant-garde molecular gastronomy blow out.

        It helps if we know how experienced a diner you are, for example if your best meal has been at your local suburban restaurant, ot have you travelled extensively, for example: How many Michelin restaurants have you ticked off? Are they one stars or three?

        What is your budget? Are you really happy to spend CAD1,200 plus on a meal for two (this is a real number), or are you more comfortable in median point of the Paris market at CAD300?

        Paris has approx 65 Michelin starred restaurants, 10 with three stars and 14 with two. That means there are lots of places that could easily give you the best meal of your life (and also a lot that may not and significantly lighten your wallet at the same time). Sharing info with us, helps us share with you.

        1. re: PhilD
          mlukan Jan 30, 2010 12:58 PM

          Thanks for that. I understand the problem with my original post:)
          Maybe some info about me will help you narrow down a recommendation. I am not an experienced diner, but I'm completely open minded to trying new things. I'm not that big of a fan of pretentious food, but I think that may be because the only fancy restaurants I have been to were not up to par(not even close to a 3 Michelin star in Paris). I have never been to Europe nor have I ever been to a Michelin star restaurant, but I guess I am only 20.
          My budget is pretty open as it is my honeymoon and don't feel like its the time to be cheap but would also like to try the cheap eats of Paris.
          I am willing to pay 1,200 plus on a couple of meals.
          I still feel like I am being too broad. I guess I was sort of looking for what your desert island Paris food/restaurant experience would be regardless of your taste because even if it isn't mine, I would like to know regardless so I could draw from your experience. Perhaps I will keep reading threads and someday come back and post something a little more specific.

          1. re: mlukan
            Parigi Jan 30, 2010 02:08 PM

            We are getting somewhere...
            If you are open-minded and adventuresme about food, I recommend a recent playlist by Gman here:
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/683452

            Wait! Before anyone beats me up for laziness, I want to point out that Gman's list is after all based on this board's fave recs. We all contributed to that long list that included fancy digs and bistros, sophisticated elitist dens as well as casual walkins, the light fares and the pigouts. Although I don't like every resto on the list, I like the mix and the balance reflecting a true open-mind. Most of all I like Gman's infectious sense of adventure and capacity for enjoyment.

            I think you should have a virtuoso elegant experience at least once, say, at Le Cinq. Paris does this kind of thing so well, you should have that memory.
            And some noisy bistros too, like Les Papilles. Again, sooo Paris. Gman's list has them all.
            Lastly, it is true that the kind of question phrased as "what is the best xxx" always confuses me. I always think I can't say it is the best baguette or best macaron or best ministrone unless I have tasted them all.
            Many years ago when I was starting to travel independently at an age that was slightly younger than mlukan, I forgot if I had read this or if someone had taught me: "always ask for recs from locals, but don't ask: "which is the best restaurant here?"; instead, ask: "what is YOUR favorite?"
            And don't roget to write back to us and give us your list of faves.

        2. re: souphie
          m
          moiraw Feb 25, 2010 06:43 AM

          Souphie: Are there any strategies, say in ordering, that may mitigate risk at a place like L'Arpège (I ask because I know you worked an internship there), or is it simply a lottery--or a matter of being a friend of Passard--as to whether one gets the best food the kitchen is capable of? I guess I'm also responding to your riff on "seriousness", or the lack thereof, in Paris kitchens these days. Along those lines, who is most likely to deliver the obsessive perfectionism of a Jamin-era Robuchon?

          1. re: moiraw
            souphie Feb 25, 2010 09:46 AM

            Man, Jamin-era Robuchon! My first move would be to say "no one". My second would be Frédéric Robert at La Grande Cascade, best perfectionnist in town in my opinion. Others are to be separated between places that have become lotteries (Passard, Pacaud used to be on top much more often -- they were once truly wonderful and Jamin-era Robuchonesques) and places that are industrialised (Ducasse, Lasserre, the latter having clearly my preference).

            The best strategy, to my knowledge, for them to take the best possible care of you is to sympathize, talk about food and wine, and word any complaint/critic you may have, as soon as it happens, not in a recriminating way, but like a foodista looking for perfection and who knows they are too.

            Some people also manage to make them believe they're major food critics by having a little notebook and a pencil.

            If you manage to get Briffard's personnal attention, at le Cinq, you'll get Jamin-era Robuchon, since he was running that very kitchen for a while. Or at worst you'll get that level of perfection once you'll have sent back an unperfect dish (I remember him doing the fritter amuse several times because, when he asked, I had justified criticism). In the case of Le Cinq, imperfection does not come from their attitude or a judgement they'd pass about you, just from the risks induced by having a hundred cooks in there.

            1. re: souphie
              m
              moiraw Feb 25, 2010 11:45 AM

              Is Le Squer at Ledoyen in this conversation these days?

              1. re: moiraw
                souphie Feb 25, 2010 08:00 PM

                Yes. Don't know why I forgot him. He definitely should have come on top of the list, just after "no one".

        3. beaulieu Jan 30, 2010 08:29 AM

          I certainly agree with the comments above about different tastes, off-nights etc. But IMHO your best odds for saying "I've never had such a great experience as a foodie" are with the big menu at Pierre Gagnaire. It will not be consistently great, but it will all be an experience.

          2 Replies
          1. re: beaulieu
            souphie Jan 30, 2010 09:44 AM

            I agree. But the OP asked for "best food", which is actually a very specific and narrow request.

            1. re: souphie
              p
              plafield Jan 30, 2010 12:37 PM

              Well of course it's all very subjective but I understand wanting to know what others might consider their top food experiences although unless you really do your research to understand if you can relate to that particular person, you can't know if what they loved would appeal to you at all. A good example is that many, many folks rave about Chez L'ami Jean and I was totally underwhelmed and will likely never return.

              But I'll share one time I walked out of a restaurant in Paris and said, "Ive never had such a great experience as a foodie." That would be one dinner at La Regalade (where I've actually had a number of simply fantastic meals) when I ate too much of the fantastic pate that they slap on your table to begin with, followed by the special entree of foie gras for 2, followed by a plat of pork belly, and finished with a dessert of rice pudding with caramel sauce. Every bite was heaven but I couldn't eat for almost 2 days afterwards I was so full so I missed out on a couple of other possibly wonderful meals in Paris. (La Régalade 49 av. Jean-Moulin, 14e (Gare Montparnasse/Denfert-Rochereau) Métro: Alésia (Street runs directly off metro exit) 01-45-45-68-58 Fixed-price menu 34E Tues-Fri noon-2pm; Mon-Fri 7-11pm MC, V, reservations necessary!)

              Another top but very different experience was lunch at Le Cinq. 3 Michelin stars (and I suspect well on their way to the third) Beyond elegant but warm surroundings, fabulous service, and exquisitely prepared and presented food. Rediculous value for the 85E special lunch menu. (Le Cinq 31, avenue George V (8th) 33 (0) 1 49 52 70 00 )

          2. Delucacheesemonger Jan 30, 2010 08:38 PM

            One man's opinion, mine, but here is a link to an earlier post l started on my favorite food items on my trip of 2009.
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/668880

            1 Reply
            1. re: Delucacheesemonger
              menton1 Feb 1, 2010 01:36 PM

              It's pretty hard to go wrong with your first time in Paris, as far as "best food of your life" is concerned. Just keep eating while you are in Paris, and your wish will come true. No lists required.

            2. estufarian Feb 21, 2010 11:20 AM

              Hi Mlukan,
              First of all congratulations.
              Second - take this opportunity to update your profile to show your favourite places in Toronto. That will give many of us clues to what to recommend.

              As a 'wanderer' from the Toronto Board, I'm speculating that you will be happiest in the Bistro and Brasserie categories, but if you go upscale than they'd better deliver - especially on service. Also, you seem to have quite a 'home cooking' bent, so will also be interested in that area.

              I can't really help with the Bistros - as my experience s are about 3 years back and others can give more up-to-date reviews.
              I don't recall you showing enthusiam for Colborne Lane, so I'd avoid Gagnaire - maybe dip into that style a little bit by trying, say, Biggarade (1*, maybe 2* by October).
              For the 3* an option is to try lunch - you can then perhaps try a couple. Although I haven't been (yet) L'Astrance is top of my list to try (book MANY months in advance). I'm speculating that you want 'some' Ambiance but won't be over-wowed by dining in the most spectacular places - it's the food. I find Paris reviewers seem overly impressed by the surroundings (not implying that that prevents superb food - just read between the lines a little). Similarly there are several reviewers on this Board that are superb and trustworthy - but take care that you don't count these many times (as it's easy to read recommendations from the same person over several threads).
              And incidentally I find the service at both Nota Bene and Splendido in Toronto to be better overall than most starred places in Paris.

              Of course, you have to try macarons: The francophones seem to recommend Laduree (most) and Renard (for chocolate). But I head straight for the chocolate selection at A l'Etoile d'Or (they have the Henri Le Roux salted caramel tarts, which I put above EVERY macaron I've ever had; but lots of choice there too).

              If you like my comments on the Toronto Board then, in Paris, my tastes lead to Rostang, Atelier du Robuchon and Les Magnolias (on the starred side). Otherwise, of course, these are places to avoid!

              2 Replies
              1. re: estufarian
                f
                f2dat06 Feb 21, 2010 08:05 PM

                you can't book Astrance many months in advance, they only take them 30 days out.

                1. re: f2dat06
                  estufarian Feb 22, 2010 05:54 AM

                  Yes, I realized that after I posted - last time I went it was 60 days advance.

              2. p
                phoenikia Feb 23, 2010 07:27 AM

                Try to find some Kouign Amann- a Breton specialty, but it can be found in some Parisian patisseries.
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/662759

                For an affordable 3 course prix fixe (30 Euro for 3 courses), I recommend La Folle Avoine. Casual atmosphere, interesting menu. I'd say the quality level is similar to what one would find at Wine Bar (formerly known as JKWB) in Toronto, although the space at La Folle Avoine is more bohemian, and the service is a little bit more laidback.
                http://www.lafolleavoine.fr/NosFormules.html

                Another economical option I liked was Chez Flottes on Rue Cambon. It's a brasserie that's usually quite busy. While the food served at Chez Flottes isn't wow-worthy, and it isn't worth a trip across Paris, if you're looking for a decent brasserie meal on the Right Bank (the 3 course prix fixe at dinner is 29.50 Eu), it's a good one to keep on the list. The food is roughly the same quality level as Beerbistro in Toronto.
                http://www.flottes.fr/

                1 Reply
                1. re: phoenikia
                  z
                  zumosa Feb 23, 2010 05:51 PM

                  In terms of faintingly good food and a lovely experience, especially for two, at an outrageously good price, Guy Savoy has a 100 Euro lunch that must be booked ahead online that took us more than three hours to complete and knocked our socks off. We loved that lunch gave us the same incredible experience for less money while leaving us time for um, more amorous pursuits later in the evening..dancing outside along the Seine...watching sunsets...seeing the Eiffel Tower light up...I've eaten at many, many good restaurants in my life, this was food as art.

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