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Jul 27, 2010 09:18 PM

What of the following would be something I could not get in New York? - RESTAURANTS

Hello everyone!

I've been poring religiously over the many posts here on CH France and I've gotten so much great information from you all. This is probably my 4th or 5th visit to Paris - I will be there probably from 9/1 - 9/10 - and I'm diligently planning what and where I will be eating. Of course. :)

After much research, I've come up with a list of places that I am interested in trying. I will be alone some of the meals and I also don't have a lot of money to spend. That being said, as I always treasure truly great food and experiences, I would consider breaking the bank for something amazing. As you can guess, I live in New York and have, of the haute dining places here, eaten at Per Se, Sushi Yasuda, Eleven Madison Park, Daniel, Momofuku Ko, Marea, Scarpetta, Bouley, etc. etc. We have quite a big selection of top-notch food here, and it's not all haute cuisine either. Many great, less expensive and more casual places. I would like to have one or two nice moderate dinners, PERHAPS an all-out three star lunch if it's truly amazing and worth it, try lots of cheese and charcuterie (I'm happy to go buy it from the source), and of course, countless bakeries/patisseries. With that, here is my list of restaurants and cheese places. Please help me find the ones that would offer stellar food that I couldn't easily find here in New York. If you have other suggestions, please also offer those.

Passage 53
La Bigarrade
Josephine Chez Dumonet
(I would consider Chez l'Ami Jean, but I detest rice pudding....)
La Regalade St. Honore
Bistro Jadis
La Cantine du Trouquet
Hidden Kitchen
Le Chateaubriand
La Cagouille
Les Papilles

Marie Anne Cantin

Thank you so much for all of your help and advice - you really help so many of us create memories that will last a lifetime.

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  1. I think you're mistaken in assuming that because NYC has starred restaurants, fine dining is not what Paris is good for. That's actually quite the contrary. If you ask me at least what are the quintessential, irreplacable French food experience, I would have to go for fine dining. No fine dining I ever tried in the US was a match for the best French ones -- Ledoyen, l'Ambroisie, le Cinq, Pierre Gagnaire, l'Arpège.

    Also, there's really no obligation for you to get rice pudding chez l'Ami Jean. It's so good that people who detest rice puddings usually like it, but there's no obligation to change your mind.

    I don't think la Cantine is worthy to be on your overall excellent list, since it is not excellent. Same for Thoumieux. I have no interest in ZKG and KGB but others differ and I wouldn't say it's jut not good like I would about Thoumieux.

    You need to add Dubois to your list of cheese shops.

    21 Replies
    1. re: souphie

      Ah, thank you souphie - I have enjoyed reading your many posts and also have looked through your Picasa albums for reference.

      This was just the sort of information I was looking for. Of the fine dining in Paris, is your recommendation still for the lunch prix-fixe at Le Cinq? If I am going to go all out, I might as well go all the way, so I'd love to know your recommendations both for the best "deal" and also for the best experience and food without too much consideration on the price.

      Of the more moderate places, what is your pick?

      Thanks so much!

      1. re: j.jessica.lee

        It's a matter of personal taste. Le Cinq and Guy Savoy are the safest bets, because the experience is always great thanks to the setting and, mostly, the wonderful staff. And food is sometimes truly wonderful, though in my opinion more often at Le Cinq than at Guy Savoy.

        But what a blogger once called "ingredientista" will prefer lunch at Ledoyen, which probably has the best food in town today, and an extraordinary setting. However, it's not a fun restaurant. The same is true of La Grande Cascade, but less so.

        For a warm experience and an ancient style of cooking, Rostang, Besson are musts.

        To taste truly personal experience in very special settings, Gagnaire and Passard are two of the most admired chefs anywhere.

        To feel a Paris of legend, Lasserre, Taillevent and Laurent are hard to beat.

        Just to be clear: you can have great food outside of fine dining. I for one think that bistrots are incredibly overrated and overpriced, especially when compared to fine dining. But you definitely need to tour boulangeries, cheese shops, markets, buy fresh fish and vegetables, make up your own mind about the thousands ways a good croissant can be done, etc. All things you won't find in NYC, or SF for that matters.

        1. re: souphie

          Ledoyen, the place, might be unexciting, tired, etc etc, but I find its food to be quite the opposite. I'm not even talking about being amazed by the ingredient's quality, but each and every dish has that "fun/party" factor that the place totally lacks. Of course, in that respect it's no match for Gagnaire (which might be less good) or even l'Arpège, as you pointed out.

          1. re: souphie

            Wow, I am very grateful to all of you for taking the time to help me plan my trip. Thank you so much!

            Hmmm, is it very cold and tired at Ledoyen? I will be dining (most likely) solo (very comfortable doing so as I almost always travel alone). I do enjoy a sense of occasion very much but if the food is really great, I don't mind. I don't need constant attention. What exactly do you mean by "not fun"?

            I am also aware that some of these prix-fixe lunches do not well represent the scope of the restaurant. Do these below represent well the chef and his intention or is it better off going for dinner or doing a slightly more expensive tasting? If I am actually going to spend the money, I would like it to be well worth it even if it means spending a bit more.

            Ledoyen lunch (88E?)
            Le Cinq lunch (or 160E dinner if it's way better? I am a little hesitant, though, because I hear their desserts are not up to par and I love dessert)
            L'Arpege lunch (115E?)
            Pierre Gagnaire lunch (105E? On the fence about this one as I read many reports of the "roller coaster" phenomenon here)

            1. re: j.jessica.lee

              All those are very good lunch menus, and will give you an excellent idea of the talent of the chef and whether you'd want to pay more to have more fancy ingredients. I would advise against dinner in each of these cases, unless money really is no object.

              As for the roller coaster at Gagnaire, it's true that some meals are wonderful, other plain bad. But at the same time, they're always fascinating. And, in general, anybody who tells you that top restaurants operate at the same level every night and for every customer is not telling the truth. The best restaurants deliver their best maybe slightly more than 50% of the time, just like the great actors, musicians, etc.

              1. re: souphie

                Okay, I think now I've whittled it down to a choice between Ledoyen lunch and Pierre Gagnaire lunch. Yikes, this will be hard.

                As for the more moderate dinner, I am trying to choose now between CAJ, JCD, Passage, and Le Regalade St. Honore. I probably will be going to Lyon to visit a friend for one day and will try to go somewhere there, but I would like to have something that might be not exactly the same vein as my fancy pants lunch. For instance, I cannot decide (when thinking of CAJ and JCD) whether I want to go for the very traditional "French" meal or something more exciting at CAJ. It's a tough call.... Wish I lived there! Any further advice?

                1. re: j.jessica.lee

                  Honestly, the classics are what CAJ does best : cote de boeuf, turbot, homard, pigeon, riz au lait, etc. And it won't feel like the fine dining you have in mind. The places you're considering all offer lots of food, except for Passage.

                  1. re: souphie

                    "The places you're considering all offer lots of food"

                    Frenchie does not make an exactly gut-busting meal. I mean you feel full alright as you leave the resto, not overwhelmed and. However I remember more than once after a lunch aux Papilles I just skipped dinner. What the French would call "s'empiffrer grave".

                    1. re: Parigi

                      Frenchie was in the list? Definitely not lots of food.

                      In fact, who cares about food reviews. Let's just weigh the plates.

                      1. re: souphie

                        I always feel cranky when I leave a restaurant still hungry. But I've always thought I'm more of a glutton than a gourmet... and crepes and kebab stands are open late, so...

                        1. re: olivierb

                          As I have already expained above: you won't leave Frenchie hungry. You just won't leave feeling overwhelmed and in pain.

                          1. re: Parigi

                            Oh yeah, this post Régalade or l'Ami Jean feeling of "let's have foie gras and foie gras and then foie gras and then try to finish this riz au lait at all costs"...

                            1. re: olivierb

                              Once in a ferme-auberge in Dordogne we had foie gras poêlé followed by multiple aiguillettes and pommes salardaises. We had hesitated ordering this celebration of cholesterom and had asked the patron if that was not overdosing. I will never forget what he said: "vous allez voir: ça se digère très bien."
                              Tu parles.
                              We moaned all night. In abject pain.
                              The next day we could only think of one thing: get back to the ferme-auberge and have the same meal.

                  2. re: j.jessica.lee

                    Has anyone done the 105E prix-fixe lunch at Pierre Gagnaire? Is there a great choice or is it disappointing compared to the grand tasting? Is it still possible to be amazing? Has anyone done this? How many desserts?

                    1. re: j.jessica.lee

                      I don't think Gagnaire lunch si sub par compared to the tasting. And it is a manageable amount of food. The number of desserts is lower than the number of stars in the sky, but only by a small margin.

                      1. re: j.jessica.lee

                        Pierre Gagnaire's 105e prix-fixe lunch has no choices but I think it is a great value. It consists of four courses: first course is a tasting of 5 or 6 small dishes all serve at the same time. There is no theme but it shows what Gagnaire does with various ingredients. Some are room temperature while others are warm. A second course is a poultry or seafood course served room temperature then follow by a hot service of fish or meat. The dessert is an another 5 or 6 tasting of sweets served as a single course, a miniature version of his Grande Dessert Pierre Gagnaire. This is the course that is always terrific: no roller coaster ride. For the prix fixed menu, the two main plats are the least interesting to me, sometimes very good, other times just ordinary. One reason is that the main ingredient, though source impeccably is more humble. They do not come close to what he can do on his tasting menu or his a la carte offerings of variations on lobster, turbot, squab which are amazing. I know there are a lot of comment on his food being a roller coaster ride but I have never had a bad dish, just some are better and more interesting than other. And despite his "craziness" and how he transform ingredients, he always source the best regardless if it is lobster or lentils.
                        He has one of the best serving staff in Paris, a perfect balance of formality and playfulness. And one of the most pleasant dining room: modern and comfortable, a large room with a small alcove where each table has a view of the whole restaurant.

                        1. re: PBSF

                          This goes on the list for next time. Thanks for pointing it out.

                      2. re: j.jessica.lee

                        In Lyon, I like les Adrets - you can find restaurants that look a little like it in NYC but none with the quality of food at such reasonable cost.

                        1. re: j.jessica.lee

                          If I was a solo diner, I'm not sure I'd opt for CAJ. I'm not an expert on the entire menu like many of the others, but a number of the best a la carte items seem to me to be quite large, too much for one person. On my last Paris trip, I found JCD much more convivial and the food as excellent as anything I've had at CAJ (if different), with less harried service. Overall it was a more pleasant experience and, being a New Yorker also, I reckon JCD is experientially more unlike anything you'll find in New York.

                2. re: souphie

                  <No fine dining I ever tried in the US was a match for the best French ones >

                  That's the same thing I thought when I read OP's post. New York restaurants (and those in other US cities) are great, but they (imho) they lack the "sensibility" I find in France.

                  1. re: ChefJune

                    Aha, good to be getting all this feedback - thank you!

                    What would your choice(s) be personally?

                3. The original comment has been removed
                  1. j.j.l.-

                    You listed a number of tasty places in your list of NYC places you eaten, but I didn't get a sense of what you particularly liked from the list and why...?

                    1. I've done some more searching and reading on previous threads and have a few more questions.

                      Of the so-called "discount fine dining" places like La Régalade (St. Honore) and Chez L'Ami Jean, what is the difference between the two?

                      Of the "traditional bistrots" like Josephine Chez Dumonet, Chez Denise, Chez Georges, which best represents the so-called traditional cuisine and of course, which presents the most delicious food?

                      Still trying to decide between Ledoyen and Pierre Gagnaire for lunch.... At both, I would do the set lunch menu. From what I've read, it seems as if Ledoyen presents the best food and that PIerre Gagnaire COULD provide an amazing meal but that the chances of that are very slim. Is it possible to get a spectacular meal from the set lunch menu at Pierre Gagnaire or are the chances better if I go ALC (which I cannot do)?

                      Thanks again, everyone.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: j.jessica.lee

                        This may not fully address your most recent question (we've loved CJD, Régalade (original) was good but the service very very slow, and we've yet to try CLJ), but I'll say this: Back in February of this year -- and at Souphie's suggestion -- we had the lunch menu at Leyoyen. We loved it, and the setting (and by the way a single diner was doing the same, apparently quite pleased at a table near us). I've since thought that those with a interest in such matters should experience Ledoyen at least once. (And we'll do it again -- but after we experience a few more others in the same category first.) -- Jake

                        1. re: j.jessica.lee

                          La Régalade is more consistent than CAJ, which really is all about the chef (Jégo) and his envies or inspirations. It's a place that is focused on excellent food, but sometimes tries things that don't necessarily work. I'd say CAJ is more in movement, with a higher potential and a higher risk. For instance, in September, Jégo already announced he's hoping to get some two month aged Wagyu beef. This kind of thing cannot happen at Régalade.

                          As for the traditional bistrots, the best food is probably Joséphine or Quincy. But Denise and Georges are great fun too. Joséphine is the most upscale, Quincy is "canaille, Denise is working class, Georges porte Maillot is plain fancy, brasserie-like, l'Auberge Bressane is all about the cream and butter (and I mean that as a great thing).

                          I responded to your Gagnaire/Ledoyen hesitation somewhere else. Gagnaire is more creative, more expensive, more risky. Ledoyen is about perfection of food in a spectacular and tired setting.

                          1. re: souphie

                            " Quincy is "canaille" "
                            Too funny.
                            Allow this translator to butt in. Canaille means slumming.
                            Canaille, boui boui, complicité are my 3 fave words in French.

                          2. re: j.jessica.lee

                            I recommend eating lunch at l'Arpege as well, if you've never been and want to eat somewhere high-end. Say you're happy to go carte blanche and eat whatever they give you. The vegetable basis of much of the menu is refreshing. Aesthetically I think everything is done almost perfectly (the plates and silver, the restaurant interior, the huge millefeuille they cut up...).

                            1. re: johannabanana

                              That millefeuille has some of the most extraordinary puff pastry I've ever seen.