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Jan 3, 2011 07:30 AM

Expensive Paris Restaurants Really Worth The Money

Hi - I'd like to have some recommendations for a really exceptional meal in Paris -- this is a once-in-a-lifetime type of evening so I am willing to spend money...but I don't want to spend money just for a restaurant's decor or view or past reputation. I want really amazing food (wine and service also important although service is slightly secondary to the food and wine). I was looking at the two and three star Michelins but it does not absolutely have to have two or three stars since I think Michelin is just an indicator, not a failsafe way of choosing. I am really picky about quality ingredients and like creativity but am not very into molecular cuisine or unusual meats. Suggestions would be very welcome!

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  1. It's a question that comes back regularly on this board but it's been a long time. The short answer is: most three and two star restaurants are really worth the money, but in very different ways. Which is why it is very important that you specify what you expect and what you like. And you did.

    If the quality of ingredients is paramount to you, then I would say that l'Ambroisie and Ledoyen are definitely your best calls. Neither is a funny place -- Ledoyen is kinda falling apart and l'Ambroisie is quite austere. But they are the best places in Paris for ingredientista (and I am one). In my not-really-humble-opinion-but-I-can-try-and-fake-it, all others do not play in the same league when it comes to quality, even some of my favourite restaurants like Le Cinq or Guy Savoy. Gagnaire has some wonderful ingredients too, and sometimes he treats them right. But the place is not about that, it's about the crazy genius who runs it.

    As for unusual meats, what do you call that? Veal sweetbreads are ones of the best things at Ledoyen for example, and I suppose they're unusual in many parts of the world.

    2 Replies
    1. re: souphie

      Thank you Souphie - I did see some other replies but as you say, they were old, and things change so much! I don't really know what unusual meats are -- it is almost too difficult to specify so forget it. I was considering L'Arpege because it emphasizes seafood and vegetables, which I love, and I have read that the atmosphere is more relaxed, which is a nice thing sometimes. But I am worried my friend will not be happy that Passard does not serve red meat.

      If I have my perfect meal, it will be the best quality food first. I would have a choice for each course (which is why I am not considering L'Astrance). It will also have really nice service and wines so that the overall experience is fantastic. And ideally, it would not be the most expensive of all the three star restaurants -- price is not important for this meal but if I am choosing between two perfect restaurants and one will cost a lot more than the other, I probably wouldn't choose it.

      Based on that, what are your suggestions?

      1. re: kkstein

        Gagnaire and L'Ambroisie would be my first choices, but they are not ideal for you - one is too crazy, the other doesn't want to see you for a once in a lifetime experience.

        L'Arpege does serve meat - for example they have sweetbreads on the menu right now and often they'll have pigeon or duck, and the food is very good in an understated sort of way. If you mean your friend is interested in red meat as in beef steaks then certainly don't go to three star restaurants - don't even go to Paris.

        I don't personally care for Guy Savoy's cuisine but it may be the best choice if your friend is a conservative diner and you want an overall great experience.

        In terms of prices, I don't know what you like to drink, but consider 500 Euros a person for food & wine, possibly quite a bit more at L'Ambroisie or L'Arpege.

    2. It is worth it because only Paris really does the really grand over the top fine dining with the right level of panache.

      These restaurants do serve fantastic food and to be frank at this level it takes a real expert to discern the difference in quality levels between ingredients as they all use top quality. It is true you don't get the best/finest ingredients in the cheaper set menu's than you do in ALC, but here is is about fewer truffles, fish instead on lobster, and not quite as much foie gras - lesser ingredients but still very good quality ingredients.

      Do Parisian restaurants offer the best food, or the best value for money? I would say they don't. IMO the cooking at some regional restaurants in France and in Michelin starred restaurants in countries like Spain can deliver better food experiences and often at a far lower price. But Paris is Paris and it is worth experiencing a top meal there at least once.

      1. Dominique-Bouchet in the 8th arr. Bouchet was the Chef at Michelin 3 star Tour d'Argent (when it had 3 stars, not sure what the rating is now), worked under Robuchon and was chef other starred establishments (check out the website for the whole story). It was one of the best meals of my life and the cost, though certainly not cheap (90E-100E per person or more depending upon the beverage choices), is still far less than many of the others rated just as highly for food (DB gets a 27 for food, whereas Guy Savoy gets a 28, which is the highest rating for Paris restaurants). We do not speak French, yet the staff was warm and very helpful, and the room was beautiful. I cannot wait to return.

        1. If l had one meal to eat in Paris, and l have eaten at over 20 of the ** and ***, l would pick L'Ami Louis. Choice seems controversial to many, but for me perfect, very not fussy and simple great food.

          4 Replies
            1. re: Parigi

              While great times and meals at Ami Jean, no, not for my one meal.

              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                I did not care for Chez Ami Jean. I would avoid it unless one really desires the specific rustic cuisine that they serve.

          1. I really liked "Passage 53" in november.

            (see images (including Pierre Gagnaire) :


            from limited experience, "expensive" restaurants come with a certain level of "service" and "decor"; and more so in Paris where there is a tradition of luxury; sometimes very luxurious, other time a little less; the weird thing is that most of the time it works very well

            See multiple reviews of "Le Cinq" with its magnificent room (and service and food).

            IMO, one must get into the spirit of being in a luxury ambience and live with it to the fullest.


            3 Replies
            1. re: Maximilien

              "IMO, one must get into the spirit of being in a luxury ambience and live with it to the fullest."

              This is a brilliant observation. It is necessary to enter any major dining room with the resolve to "believe". Go in with a Doubting Thomas or ironic attitude, and you will experience what you expect.

              1. re: mangeur

                Works with little bistrots too.

                1. re: souphie

                  Works with life in general, does it not. Any recent experiences at Taillevent, by any chance?