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Marseille!

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I've been living in Marseille for the past two months, and as I've seen the recommendations on this board tend to repeat each other, and are also geared towards the more michelin-starred type places, I thought I'd add my two cents, since I'm on a chowbudget.

I live right by the Vieux Port, which is, as people say, dominated by tourist-friendly restaurants serving unexceptional food (the exception might be the very famous le Miramar, which is very expensive). But! A great place to check out just a few steps up on the southern bank is Rue Sainte. There's a great, casual wine bar called 'La Part des Anges' which serves great food, and has been shaking up the low-key culinary marseillais culinary scene recently. It's also one of the few places you can get a decent glass of wine, as opposed to a bottle. Also just a good wine store in general, very friendly owner.

For the even more budget minded, down the street is 'L'Ambassade de Bretagne' which is cheap and great, serves crepes but also has daily specials according to the season. A notch up in prices from La Part is l'Aromat', supposed to be great, I'm meaning to check it out.

If you go a little farther out, to the Cours Julien and La Plaine, there's a ton of great places to grab a beer and hang out. It's the young and cool place in Marseille. The other night I went to a tapas place called 'La Cercle Rouge' which was really good, we had like three tapas each and a few bottles of wine, came to 30 euro each. There's a cafe at Cours Julien called l'Equitable, it's a type of coop café, they also have fresh produce sometimes, you have to buy a membership (it's like a euro), but great hippie crowd. Another sweet bar is Au Petit Nice, at La Plaine.

That reminds me - there's the Marché des Paysans (farmer's market) every wednesday morning in the cours julien - way better stuff than you'll find at Noailles (ie organic). You can find all types of terrines, exotic eggs, confitures à la maison, eggs, juices as well. The other organic supermarket I've found is called the 'biocoop' or something like that, the address if 87 rue de l'Italie.

I also checked out 'Le Côte de Boeuf' which famously has the 'best' - or at least the oldest - cave (wine cellar) in Marseille. If you're in Marseille and you don't like fish, it's a step away from the Vieux Port and very intimate. The meat (steeaaak!) is definitely up to par, la moêle (bone marrow) was delicious. More expensive though for sure.

A few cafés that I'd like to give shout outs to - Café de la Banque, around the corner from the American embassy and the Préfécture, serves decent food and great coffee. Probably my favorite parisian style brasserie so far. While you're in town a nice little quarter to explore is the Panier, just above the Northern bank of the Vieux Port. There's a cute little café called 'Cup of Tea' overlooking a very picturesque square, a really great salon du thé, more for the tea lovers out there obviously, but nice for the location as well. Around the corner from there is a store called 'Places aux Huiles' where you can buy some nice AOC olive oil to bring back home.

For drinks at night, I also like Bar de la Marine on the port, it's a very old, famous bar, the setting for some Marcel Pagnol films. It even has it's own wikipedia page (in French)! You can drink outside on the port, in my opinion the best place for a drink when the weather suits. Make sure to try the city's specialty, Pastis.

And of course if you're in Marseille you've got to stop at La Samaritaine for a café, great historic spot, very Marseille. Another café by the opéra is Cafés Débout, which serves great coffée, a cut above. Not the best view however.

Someone else mentioned Sylvain Depuichaffray, amazing creative patisserie that makes these great green tea/rasberry tarts, they also have new creations everyday. For more traditional pastries, across from the Opéra is 'le Pain de l'Opera' which has great tarts, sandwiches, cakes, everything really. Macarons!

For great chocolate there's always the classic Puyricard - the chocolates are the same as you'll get in Aix. I REALLY have been meaning to go to this place called Xocoatl which has more creative/modern/international style chocolate. The other Marseille specialty you should get while in town are called 'navettes,' you can get them at more boulangeries, but if you want them straight out of the oven head up Rue Sainte to Les Fours des Navettes - it actually predates the French revolution. Buy a few, I prefer them when they're warm straight out of the oven. They're essentially long skinny sort of crunchy biscuits, not very sweet, but made with a flavor of fleur d'oranger, essentially the flowers from a bitter orange tree. I don't like orange even but I love these biscuits.

Oh and finally this has been mentioned to death, but there's the fish market every morning in front of the Vieux Port, from around 8 until 1pm, though I would suggest getting there before 10am if possible, that's when the fish are the freshest.

If someone knows of something great that I'm missing - and that won't break the bank - let me know! I've been meaning to check out La Lauracée close to where I live (close the Sylvain), but it's kind of expensive. Supposed to be really good though, Provencal style bistro food. Also of course Le Petit Nice Passédat, Café des Épices, l'Epuisette... but those are malheureusement kind of out of my price range. I'm probably forgetting some great stuff I've tried as well. If you're coming though I might reconsider if I can find someone game! My roommates are also all poor students.

Non-food type stuff that you should do in Marseille: walk from the Vieux Port along the Corniche to the Parc Borély. A bit of a hike but definitely worth it, the best scenery doesn't start until you pass the little cluster of bars and shops jutting out around Le Petit Nice Passédat (the famous three star Michelin place). Actually, a great thing to do (that's free!) is to go down towards the restaurant, and then turn right towards this little overlook, and bring a little picnic basket out onto the rocks overlooking the ocean from there. There's always a nice little crowd of French sun worshippers hanging out at that spot. Message me if those directions were not clear enough - it's really the best place to enjoy a nice day in Marseille in my opinion.

I would suggest also this useful little guide (in French) for all of Provence:
http://www.guidegantie.com/fr/

The French version of Yelp/Chowhound is cityvox.fr, also very helpful and obviously always up to date. French Elle also has a nice city guide for restuarants, food stores, everything:
http://www.elle.fr/elle/recherche/rec...

If people find this helpful, I can also post some things I've found in Aix en Provence, as I've been heading up there pretty frequently as well. By the way if you're heading to Aix out of Marseille, take the bus not the train. It's like 20 min versus an hour.

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  1. Thanks for all the ideas for where to eat and drink in Marseille. We own a home in the Vaucluse northeast of Avignon and I would really like to get to know Marseille. I find it quite intimidating and will keep your post for when we are back in a few weeks. I have been to Chez Fonfon at Vallon des Auffes off the Corniche for wonderful but expensive (doesn't include the cost of what I lost when my car was broken into while I was eating) Bouillabaisse. Any suggestions for someplace less expensive for Bouillabaisse?

    7 Replies
    1. re: Pammel

      Chez Fonfon & Chez Michel have great bouillabaisse, but certainly are not cheap. Personally I don't love the dish, but what I truly love is a good soupe de poissons with rouille - to me it's the best part of bouillabaisse without (boring) boiled fish. So.....I recommend a restaurant we found on the Place Thiers - l'Esquinade. Whenever we're in Marseille, we have a great lunch starting with oysters & then I have delicious soupe (even in hot weather!), while my husband enjoys his moules frites. I'd be happy just eating toasts & rouille (theirs is so yummy), but I don't think I could get them to serve me just that. Just thought I'd throw the idea out to you, since it's much less expensive than bouillabaisse, and maybe, maybe you'll find soupe de poissons to be as great a substitute as I do.

      1. re: boredough

        Totally agree. Bouillabaisse (and thanx, everyone, for spelling it right, whew) is not bad but is overrated. A good fish soup, a good bourride, now you're talkin...

        1. re: Parigi

          Don't know what you mean by "overrated".

          If you've ever sat down at Chez Fonfon on a sunny spring afternoon and had the bouillabaisse, it's just a piece of heaven, lingering on for close to 3 hours! Add a nice Sauvignon Blanc, and... nirvana!

          Sure, it's pricey, but this is what some of us work for! Definitely NOT overrated!

          1. re: menton1

            Bouillabaisse preferences not withstanding, I agree about a meal at Chez Fonfon (where the soupe de poissons & rouille are also great). For us it's always been dinner when it stays light fairly late, watching the glorious sunset as it peeks under the overpass (Corniche JFK?), shining on the beautifully colored houses in the Vallon des Auffes. Don't know why, but we've always been lucky enough to get a window table. Gee, right now I'd love to be at the Château d'If.........

            1. re: menton1

              I said Bouillabaisse, not Chez Fonfon, was overrated. In fact I have enjoyed and recommended chez Fonfon on this board.

              1. re: Parigi

                Yes, I meant how could bouillabaisse be "overrated"? It's pure heaven for me. Fonfon is just an example of the BEST bouillabaisse.

        2. re: Pammel

          Hey, sorry just came back to check out responses.

          Anyways - yes! I do know a place to get cheaper bouillabaisse, but still very good. It's called 'Les Deux Soeurs' and it's essentially two women (sisters) cooking out of their kitchen. Very old place, extremely homey, very traditional food. I think it might be what you're looking for. If you don't have a car, you should take the metro to Chartreux and walk from there. Let me know how it is!

        3. i loved 'La Part des Anges" when i was in marseille last spring.

          also for a great cheap meal - Sur Le Pouce for north african food. YUM

          for an expensive blowout meal i found une table au sud to be unbeatable

          1. What a great post! I spent two weeks in Marseille in December -- wish I had seen this before my visit. While I was there, I liked the bright plate of salads and falafel from Au Falafel on rue Lulli. And I loved the adorable salon du thé, Café Lulli, which has delicious quiche and tarts. Another great wine bar is l'Enoteka (28 bd Notre Dame), with simple meals and a wide selection of bottles or wines by the glass. Here are some pictures on my blog: http://annmah.net/2010/12/09/adventur...

            P.S. I'm sorry to be pedantic but it's the American Consulate, not embassy, that is near the Préfecture. My husband worked there and I've been caught too many times making that mistake!

            1. I wanted to update this post, as I've now been in Marseille for four months, and have since visited a bunch of great spots that I didn't mention in the previous post. I'll try to make this more organized than last time.

              Restaurants
              - L'Aromat: Has a menu at 36 euros, they do their fish of the day (peche du jour) very well. A fairly sophisticated, 'gastronomique' menu for the comparatively low price and relaxed atmosphere. Service 'correcte' as the French say
              - Le Côte de Boeuf: More expensive, very good for the namesake dish and literally what may (or may not?) be the most extensive wine cellar in France
              - La Marche à Suivre: Off of the Cour Julien (and open on Sundays!), this place also does a decent Côte de Boeuf, as well as other cuts of meat. The salads are nice as well. Less expensive than the Côte de Boeuf at d'Estienne d'Orves, wine cellar less impressive
              - Ummagumma: Also at the Cour Julien, a pretty casual place with Pink Floyd-inspired decor. A convivial spot with better than average, classic, fresh food
              - L'Ambassade de Bretagne: Surprisingly good plats du jour, considering the prices and the fact that the rest of the menu is only crepes. Very inexpensive, obviously Breton food.
              - Au Falafel: I know Cookingthebooks said she liked this place, and all my (French) friends did too. But I'm from New York, so paying 8 bucks for a mediocre falafel sandwich does not impress me. Everyone in Marseille seems to really like this place, but honestly I don't think the falafel bar is very high.
              - Café Thai: Everyone in Marseille raves about this place. Do NOT be fooled. Unless this is your first taste of Thai food, you will be underwhelmed at best. The prices are ridiculously high for a notoriously cheap cuisine, the restaurant is huge for Marseille, with little thai statues all over the place. Well, to be honest, the ambience is nice. But listen, there are no Thai people in Marseille. As a general rule, avoid any and all Asian food in Marseille, even if a French person is assuring you it's great. It is not great. In fact it is the opposite of great.
              - Le Gout des Choses: A néo-type bistrot just south of the Cour Julien, for 26 euro the menu is a great deal. Very solid food.
              - La Poule Noire: Saucy, traditional cuisine very well done on the Rue Sainte, with very reasonable prices.
              - Sports Beach: Down at the Escale Borély, I got brunch here. I would honestly say the brunch was mediocre, especially considering the price (30 euro!). However, the location is great, you can see the ocean, there's a pool that everyone is welcome to swim in, and as the brunch is all you can eat (sadly, a brunch tradition that has passed us by in the States it seems), you can try lots of cheeses, pates, tarts, omelettes, sausages. It's a pleasant brunch experience
              - Club House: Also on the Vieux Port, my (French) friend is constantly raving about the buffet here. I think it's 18 euro in the afternoon and 28 euro at night, something like that. Also all you can eat, I haven't been yet, but she swears it's better than Sports Beach. Maybe not a bad idea if you want to try a lot of traditional French stuff at the same time.

              Tapas / Wine Bars
              - La Tasca: Extremely popular Spanish tapas place, kind of a cool (slash a little ridiculously over the top) ambience, with huge piles of melting candles everywhere. There's a tented outdoor area with a music set up in the back, so they may have concerts or something. Decent and better than decent classic spanish tapas, good seafood depending on what you get (don't get salmon or tuna, they're probably not local), prices a smidge higher than I would like
              - Dos Hermanas: I have to give this place a good review because the barman is kind of a friend of mine. Well, more of a friend of a friend. In any case, one of the few places you can get wine and food at all hours of the day. The spanish style tapas are fine, the atmosphere is good, the wine is cheap. A solid pick.
              - La Botte Rouge: It's only stools at this wine bar slash tapas joint at La Plaine. The wine we got was more than decent, the cheese plate very copious, the French-style tapas kind of just ok. A nice, relaxed spot nonetheless.
              - La Cercle Rouge: It's a tapas place, but they're French tapas. They're also really good. Around 6-7 euro a piece. Nice, friendly place also near La Plaine
              - Le Debouché: Open for lunch essentially everyday, but apparently only open on Friday night as a wine bar? It's confusing, but every Friday it's jam packed, the wine's are really good, the charcuterie top notch. The location is sort of... not as great, but it's sort of a cool, older crowd. A lot of high school teachers hang out here for whatever reason.
              - La Part des Anges: I saved the best for last! The Part des Anges is great. Great wine, great atmosphere, right by the port, very good food. No tapas, though, it's all real assiettes. There's almost always a wait.

              Bars / Cafés
              - La Caravelle: Probably my favorite bar in Marseille. On the Panier side of the Vieux Port, it's actually in a hotel, on the second (or first, if you're French) floor. Compared to the rest of Marseille, the atmosphere here is a tad on the 'bourgeois' side, but with a terrace overlooking the port, great wine and beer, decent cocktails (extremely rare in Marseille) and frequent live music, this place cannot be beat
              - Exit: Not very chic or even that comfortable (the terrace is small and perpetually crammed), if you can get a table you're privy to the best happy hour in Marseille. 4 euro caipirinhas! Also a view of the port.
              - La Samaritaine: The classic Marseille bar, better during the afternoon than at night. Occupies probably the best real estate in Marseille. Also makes a decent Italian hot chocolate.
              - Bar de la Marine: The famous, historic bar home to Marcel Pagnol characters of yesterday and today. Great views, as it's on the port, a younger, slightly 'chic' (for Marseille) crowd
              - Le Locarno: Also on the Panier side of the port, I kind of hate the barman here, but the view plus the pillowy chairs make this a perennial haunt of mine on sunny afternoons
              - L'Equitable: Hippie bar with live music, films, occasional random produce for sale. A cool spot at the Cour Julien
              - Au Petit Nice: At La Plaine, a huge terrace and a nice inside area as well. Apparently serves some of the cheapest beer in Marseille, A mixed, fairly attractive crowd too. Probably my favorite place in the area
              - La Passerelle: A wine bar, but I don't think they really serve any food. Also a 'cave' but it's really more of a bar. I think the main attraction is the room in the back that sells bandes-dessinés (comic books), although how or why you would want that in a wine bar is beyond me. I think they may do exhibitions. A pretty bare-bones atmosphere, but the wine is good and cheap, the crowd and barmen are friendly.
              - Le Trianon: A random bar on the Rue Sainte that I sometimes end up at. Really nothing great.
              - L'Unic Bar: Well... I almost don't like to admit that I've been here. It's open later than most places in Marseille... like 5 am or something. The decor is sort of... random shit everywhere. The place kind of smells. Very 'populaire' as they say in France. That being said, at 4am it's not a bad place to be.
              - Le Pointu: Across from L'Unic, at the Cours d'Estienne d'Orves, a very large terrace spilling out into the rather unspectacular but agreeable plaza. A sunny place for a café, seems popular for lunch as well.
              - Bar de la Plaine: A seriously Marseillais bar. Full of 'colorful characters,' and/or alcoholics, I like this place because everyone is basically just talking to everyone else. A very working class place, easy to meet people
              - Bar Martin: My roommate's bar of choice, as he's tight with the barman. If you liked Bar de la Plaine you will LOVE Bar Martin. Even more working class and Marseillais, if possible, than bar de la Plaine, this place is off the Vieux Port on the Quai Rive Neuve. Very small, I would assume English is not spoken at all, but if you want to meet locals you can't miss here.
              - Les Danaïdes: A brasserie/cafe, I've heard the food is very 'correcte' but I've only been here for cafés... oh, only like a hundred times. Very pleasant, leafy, open terrace at the top of the Canebière, one of the favorite bars in Marseille even if there is no view of the ocean.
              - Café de la Banque: A Parisian-style brasserie/cafe, again I've only been here for coffee. The only place like it in Marseille, a historic place that despite its location and name attracts an eclectic (in the best sense) crowd. More French than Marseillais, in that it's clean, for one thing.
              - Cup of Tea: In the Panier, with a very pretty little terrace looking onto a pretty little church, this place mostly does tea, as the name would imply. The inside is a little dark, but the terrace is great, seems almost Aixois.
              - Téavora: A relaxing place with lots of teas, a sort of buddhist / beach inspired atmosphere. I typically don't like any place where I have to remove my shoes, but they do make smoothies.
              - Biscuit & Biscuit: A sort of English place, they make cookies if you're longing for shortbread or something while in Marseille. They also have pottery painting or something. It's like ok.

              Boulangeries / Patisseries / other sweets
              - Sylvain Depuichaffray: Like I said in my last post, in my opinion the best patisserie in Marseille. Creative, a little pricey, a little salon du thé inside as well. I would get one of the inspired tarts, or those large macaron pastry things, I forget what they're called.
              - Le Pain de l'Opéra: The best boulangerie that I've found still, they make good macarons, bread, sandwiches and tarts.
              - La Boulangerie Aixoise: Just down the block from le Pain de l'Opéra, smaller and not as good, but still one of the better boulangeries in Marseille
              - Le Four des Navettes: My to-go place for the Marseillais specialty, the crunchy, lightly orange flower flavored biscuit
              - Les Navettes des Acoules: The other famous bakery that makes navettes, as these guys are on the other side of the port it is not my place of choice, but many prefer to le Four on rue Sainte. It's the Pierre Hermé / La Durée feud of Marseille, so you better check both out and decide for yourself
              - Le Fournil des Rois: Also on the Rue Sainte, a very decent, larger boulangerie that is open on Sundays!
              - Patisserie Orientale: The best Tunisian pastries in the city, according to my Tunisian friend (and me). I get the ones that look like egg rolls. If you like almond paste get ready for a treat.
              - Le Glacier du Roi: An ice cream shop in the Panier, in fact THE ice cream shop, the best in Marseille, and named accordingly. Traditional French-style 'glaces,' they're only 2 euro apiece!
              - Puyricard: The famous Aixois chocolatier, I love their chocolates, although my friend the French 'expert' deemed them not 'le top' as the ganache had butter in it. As I like butter I was not put off by this.
              - Xocoatl: A less traditional chocolatier, they do interesting, different flavors I think once a week. I tried Szechuan Pepper, gingerbread, olive oil, others like honey, cinnamon, rose, lavender. I think there was no butter...
              - Riederer: Situated in Les Galeries Lafayette, a department store that happens to house the best gourmet supermarket in Marseille, they have great specialty baguettes with olives, raisins; also really good macarons, pastries, chocolates. Worth a visit for sure especially as the Lafayette Galleries are a must if you're living in Marseille for the best gourmet foods (not as much if you've been to the ones in Paris, as they're essentially a mini version of those).

              Markets
              - Marché des Paysans: Cours Julien every Wednesday morning, all organic (bio) products
              - Marché des Paysans: Place de Castellane, every Friday morning, also with a flower market
              - Canebière market: On Saturday morning, it seems to be getting bigger each week. Antiques, books, flowers at the top in front of les Danaïdes, cheeses, other things as well.
              - Aix: Simply the best open air market I've ever been to. It's Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, sprawling over numerous places (squares) in Aix-en-Provence. Everything that comes from Provence. Extremely good. About 30 minutes from Marseille by the bus (5 euro)
              - Marché aux Poissons: Every morning except Sunday in front of the Port in Marseille. Fresh fresh fish!
              - Noailles - The opposite of organic, the cheapest produce you can find in the central city. In the little streets spreading out from the central square, there are tons of stalls overflowing with dates, olives, fish, spices. As this is in an Arab part of town, there are tons of Northern African products (including buttermilk, which I could find nowhere else, called Leben or Laban)

              If anyone has any comments and/or thoughts feel free to message me!

              4 Replies
              1. re: sarah2k

                sarah2k should get an award for this! Coming to Marseille with my daughter in a week, then onto Nice, and excited. will report back if I find anything

                1. re: sarah2k

                  Thanks again to sarah2k. Club House was phenomenal: I don't expect a buffet to have first rate rillete, chocolate mousse on a par with any I have tasted or made, gravy that was created from carefully reduced stock and bones, fruit at its peak of ripenes, lovely baveuse (oozy)cheeses, a host of cured meats and well seasoned salads. At 18 euros for lunch, it's a steal.

                  I'll ask my daughter to write about our meal at L'Aromat.

                  1. re: sarah2k

                    One piece of trivia concerning the Bar de la Marine, of Marcel Pagnol fame. It is also where Jamie proposes to Aurélia in one of my favorite movies "Love Actually". A memorably touching scene.

                    1. re: sarah2k

                      Thanks for this great list - I'm certainly keeping it for reference. I was glad to see you mention L"Aromat - we had a lovely meal there a couple of years ago. Good food, good service, a young and energetic staff. Your post lead me to look at their web site, and I was delighted to see that they post a recipe of the month!

                    2. The food at L'Aromat is fantabulous! My father and I arrived there starving and a little bit grumpy, and were treated to an amazing assortment of textures and tastes. The set meal is about 30 euros, and I got foie gras in the deal. The foie gras, almost always wonderful came with a spiced apple goo which balanced the richness well. The next course I got was a briefly smoked steak with potatoes 3 ways. The thick steak came in a mason jar with herbes de provence that had been lit on fire. The result was a somewhat tough but incredibly flavorful smokey steak. The potatoes were caramelized french fries, which were a lovely dark brown colour without being burnt tasting, a layer of whipped potatoes with tons of cream, and a bottom layer of smashed potatoes and leeks, all of this served in a tall cocktail glass with a side shot glass of gravy. It was a spectacular presentation, and the variety kept my taste buds guessing. The final course was a variety of desserts after "mon ami Thomas". The desserts were hard to remember after all the food, but there were a lot of them.

                      1. Alright Sarah2k, great posts but I still don't know where to go when in Marseille on Tues., July 19th and Wed. 20th? My gf and I love fish and really thought that we should do the bouillabaisse thing (you know...when in Rome). However, we are not married to that idea and a simple fish soup or bourride would be great also. Hell we would even love a fresh, grilled whole fish of some sort. Price is a bit of an issue (we are teachers) but will pay for it if we have to and means higher quality. Ambiance is less important although looking out at the Port or sea is great. Do you see my confusion? Where do w go?
                        Thanks

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: kingkolo

                          for a more modern spluge meal - Table au Sud.
                          for great CHEAP north african - Sur la Pouce
                          for a more local/ pubish/wine bar feel - La Part des Anges
                          for a more old school stuffyish (but not really) bouillebaise etc - l'Epuisette

                          1. re: thew

                            My vote is for Chez Fonfon over l'Epuisette. Not stuffy at all. The view of the Vallon des Auffes and the colorful houses across the way, the Château d'If in the distance, the setting sun "under" the overpass cannot be beat. (L'Epuisette - on the edge of the Vallon - looks out on the Mediterranean, which is certainly lovely but not nearly as special.) If their websites are up to date, Fonfon's bouillabaisse is considerably less expensive (46€) than l'Epuisette (60€).

                            1. re: boredough

                              l'Epuisette isn't really stuffy, just relies on a level of formality. the staff was very nice, our waiter liked AMerican basketball, so he kept coming to our table to talk about players and teams.

                              and the view of the ocean crashing on the rocks was quite lovely. That said - i didnt go to Fonfon, and it may well be superior in every way

                              1. re: thew

                                I'm not sure that Fonfon is superior to l'Epuisette (having gone to the latter once about 12 years ago), but I personally prefer the overall experience there. OTOH l'Epuisette has a Michelin star, so there are others who agree with you!

                            2. re: thew

                              Thanks thew! I am gong ot take you up on these suggestions although I think I still may book at Fonfon (less money sounds good to me). The other night will be one of the other 3 suggestions...I am leaning towards the north African but will research the menus.