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Apr 26, 2010 05:54 PM

Top 5 restaurant recommendations for Paris for a discriminating chef

Hello Chowhounders,

I will be travelling with my bro/sis-in-law to Paris for 6 days at the end of May.
My sister-in-law is a top chef here in SF. She's a master taster as well, so she has a very discriminating palate. Her preferences are for non-fussy or "over-worked" food. Seafood and meat are both greatly loved by her.

Can any of you recommend your top 5 restaurants (varied cuisine is open). Price points can vary. Perhaps 1 restaurant in the top tier ($100/per person) and a few in the mid-range ($35/per person)

We will be staying in Le Marais and we're thinking of trying Bourdain's recommendation Chez Robert et Louise. (Would love your thoughts on that as well).

We have a table booked at Jules Verne at the Eiffel for lunch. (Is it worth it? or is just the experience?)

Thanks for your recs!

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  1. Robert et Louise and Jules Verne are both great experiences, but I wouldn't recommend them for "discriminating" palates. One is on top of the world, the other feels like an isolated countryside house with its drafts, but that's what they're about, not exceptional food.

    Your budget is short, especially for dinner. Make your dollar euros and you have more options.

    One restaurant in the top tier for a master taster and within 100€ pp, in my opinion, can only be lunch at Ledoyen -- 88€ last I checked, make sure to order tap water if you don't want to add 30% for water. This is one of the few restaurants in town I consider serious about food.

    We're waiting to see what the new chef at les Ambassadeurs does. Their less than 70€ lunch deal might be a good option.

    In general, French fine dining is not about overworked food. Quite the contrary, since the nouvelle cuisine days. At least when it's well made, it about emphasizing sublime ingredients.

    35€ is about the average price of the menu-carte in most bistronomiques. Again for a master taster I'd put forward Chez l'Ami Jean, La Régalade, Le Comptoir, le Grand Pan, le Bistral... what I recently decided to call "discount fine dining" rather than bistronomique.

    In the traditional area, 100$ (not€) is actually the price of a meal at Joséphine, which I would say is one of the best in that style. John said Bouclard is good if you like granma's cooking, and I believe him -- there again, 35€ menu-carte. Chez Denise is an old fav of many. L'Auberge Bressane for cream and butter, soufflé and crêpes suzettes.

    I also like l'Acajou a lot, for a discriminating palate. Great chef, ingredients. Look it up.

    12 Replies
    1. re: souphie

      Have you been to Acajou since the switch to one long common table? I find it so less enjoyable than before.

      1. re: souphie

        True "John said Bouclard is good if you like granma's cooking," but I don't think I'd put it on a SF top-chef's discriminating list. Soup, shouldn't we list Jadis for a chef?

        1. re: John Talbott

          I would list "Jadis" although it is hit and miss, Guillaume is very talented and when he gets it right it is great. He is also ploughing a new furrow (backwards) for modern French cooking. I would also add "Le Chateaubriand" as that is very much a chefs restaurant, seeing what for Inaki manages to turn out for €45 is interesting, ad it is a good exposure to modern Basque flavour profiles.

          I would include one of the last wave of bistros like Comptoir, Regalade or Chez L'Ami Jean, as it is very traditional/rustic food cooked by young chefs.

          Obviously also good to include one of the Soup's palaces to experience decadent French food at its best.

          I would also drop "Robert et Louise" the food isn't great, I never understand the rave reviews, is it the perceived "romance" of old Paris...?

          1. re: PhilD

            "I would also drop "Robert et Louise" the food isn't great, I never understand the rave reviews, is it the perceived "romance" of old Paris...?" Agreed Phil

            Also if they want "the old Paris" a place like La Grille which just reopened under new mgmt but with the same menu, walls and fortress fascade. It's not fussy or overworked - my green aspargus with mousseline sauce and cod with zucchini as well as strawberries with Cantilly yesterday were plain, good product, well-cooked. It's not great cooking but is honest "old Paris."

            1. re: PhilD

              With Chateaubriand having just been named the top restaurant in Paris/France (#11) on the "Top 50 Restaurants in the World" list, a reservation may be hard to come by, at least for the time being.

              1. re: ChefJune

                Our friend Francois Simon just Facebook'd this "WORLD'S BEST? THAT'S UP TO YOU.
                I love the hype surrounding the announcement of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants* – it somehow points out how goofy and subjective it is to rank them while reminding us how wonderful they are."

                1. re: ChefJune

                  I think highly of Chateaubriand, but making it the best restaurant in France is just ridiculous. Subjectivity has nothing to do with it -- it's plain irrelevance at that point.

                  1. re: souphie

                    Soup; shall we start a new thread on Chow as to what is the best and if so how would we parse it out as to haute, gastro, product, conception, delivery, prix-qualite? Was it you or Phil who said asking about the best was silly?
                    I'm basic: Where am I eating tmrw, will Colette be with me and can I write up something new/different/interesting?

                    1. re: souphie

                      I wish I had the lofty status of Souphie.
                      I basically stated the same in another post but not using Chateaubriand.
                      Silence and/or laughs were the result. The list is fraught with examples.
                      At some point, it is no longer a matter of opinion, there is better/worse.

                      1. re: dietndesire

                        It is interesting to listen René Redzepi talk about the list (, he views it as a good yardstick to judge what is happening at the leading edge of cooking, I think his words are along the lines of it isn't an award that looks backwards. I also see it is interesting how seriously top chefs take it, if the number who attend the event is anything to go by.

                        Using René's interpretation I can see why Chateaubriand comes in where it is, after all many of the top restaurants are about classical technique and tradition rather than pushing boundaries (and there is nothing wrong with that). So IMO this an award for restaurants that innovate, Michelin is a better guide for (France and) the classics i.e. the indy chart vs. the billboard top 50.

                2. re: John Talbott

                  My point about Bouclard was that, if you have five meals, you probably wants to have one that is true traditional Parisian, and I think Joséphine is over budget, so are Georges porte Maillot, Quincy, La Grille (unless you only get one dish). If not Bouclard, what's a truly excellent, totally traditional Parisian bistrot with a bill under 40€ pp?

                  We definitely should list Jadis, despite the risk and the tiny portions. We probably should also list Cristal de Sel, while we're in the 15th.

                  Laidback: no, I haven't been to Acajou since the switch. It's now on my list. I think highly of the chef, though.

                3. re: souphie

                  "Your budget is short, especially for dinner. Make your dollar euros and you have more options."

                  On reflection, I think Soup has a point. $35 = 25 €. That's tight. Bouclard does have a 19 € lunch menu but with any liquid, the bill will climb.

                4. Thank you EVERYONE for excellent recommendations.

                  I will look over the menus and make some thoughts on them.

                  We are staying in an apartment in Le Marais, can anyone recommend some excellent markets aside from the 17th on Boulevard de Batignolles on Saturdays and another in the 6th on Boulevard Raspail on Sundays?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: berfahEATS

                    Bastille market is biggest and is open Thursday and Sunday morning, Enfants rouges is open Tuesday and Saturday, and here is a list of others:

                  2. I would have a talk with your travel mates. Since your s-i-l cooks in SF, she is aware of the cost of a good meal here and should be (made) aware that a comparable meal will be at least as expensive in Paris. I know that I can't eat a good meal with wine, coffee and dessert in town (SF) for $25 nor a fine one for $75.

                    As I have often counseled traveling companions, when you consider the cost of your transportation to and lodging in Paris, adding $50 or so a day will only add $350 to a week's stay. Not much when you consider the difference it will make to your experience.

                    2 Replies
                      1. re: mangeur

                        Thanks Mangeur, we will consider your thoughts to that!