Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > France >
Mar 24, 2011 01:11 PM

Please help me choose my Paris restaurants - a slightly different twist :)

I am traveling to Paris in late April and have been reading the boards, obviously people have different favorites for different reasons.

I thought maybe people could help me out if I told them which places I prefer in to eat at in New York and why.

For example:
Per Se - food did nothing for me, they couldn't have been more attentive, etc not unpleasant but would never go back especially for the price.
Daniel - again lovely, but food did nothing for me, and I have been several times but wouldn't go by choice
Le Bernadin - some of the best food ever, I wish the dining room's style was less business lunch, but I will always return
Jean George - love, love, love the $32.00 lunch, (yes, i spend the cash I save on good wine) beautiful room, lovely treatment, food sometimes great sometimes a miss but the price is so good it doesn't really matter
Marea - all Michael White restaurants are overrated in my opinion, it was about the scene not the food, and they tried hard (was there with someone with connections)
Blue Hill (Stone Barns) - love the food, sometime pure genius, atmosphere is fine
Babbo - nice evening, some great pasta, not always sure what the fuss was about
Peter Luger - it is all about the great steak
La Grenouille - loved the atmosphere, lovely meal, food beautifully done but not earth shattering
Gramercy Tavern - never like my meals here, even though I "know" it is a good restaurant, I don't know why
L'Atelier - was mediocre at best
Cafe Boulud - was just there recently, totally uninspired food - not bad just nothing memorable about the evening at all. I'm glad I wasn't paying!
Union Square Cafe - I like to eat at the bar
Milos Estarios - delicious but ridiculously expensive

I've never really had the opportunity to eat well in Paris only due to circumstances beyond my control. (traveling with young children and/or in-laws, alone young and broke, etc).

If I didn't have only 4 full days in Paris I would just experiment, but with such limited time and not knowing when I will return, I'd like to be more careful.

So if the above is any help I am looking to have lunch at one or two of the 1, 2 or 3 star restaurants. The choice of lunch is in part cost related. Dinner is an option as long as it isn't hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of euros.

Which fine dining experiences do you think are a good fit for me?

On the more casual side Chez Dumonet is on my list. I've given up at even trying to get a reservation at Frenchie. :)

I'm on purpose not filling in what restaurants I have in mind as to not influence anyone's response. If you would like more information I'd be happy to add some restaurants that I've been pondering.

Also, I'm going with my boyfriend, so romance is a factor in the decision.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Lived in NY for 6 months each of the last 3 of 5 years. Know your restaurants, or most of them well. We agree on many, especially Marea, Babbo, Luger, Grenouille,Gramercy. If you want Luger go to Le Grand Pan or L'Ami Louis, both have awesome hunks of perfect meat. If you want Bernadin, go to Le Dome or Divillec, simple wonderfully sourced and non-diddled with seafood. Atelier du Robuchon off St Germain l would go to as it shows many times just how good Robuchon can be. l get his squab stuffed with fois gras, wrapped in cabbage with coarse salt sprinkled on it TWICE and each time it comes with his pommes puree which really are magical. That is all l get there. Dumonet is wonderful as are Quincy and Chez Denise, various treatments of a theme.
    You will find also that sourcing in Paris for cheeses, breads, veggies, meat, ice cream, whatever is so far superior to NY in ease and little cost, you may skip a few meals out and picnic instead

    9 Replies
    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

      Thanks for the tips.

      Nothing would make me happier than to go to the restaurant with the finest cheese trolley in Paris, park myself at the bar and make a whole meal of the cheese and a beautiful bottle of wine. I get the impression that one can't really do that in Paris.
      If I can do that somewhere let me know!

      I'm hoping April wont be too cold for a picnic but I'm not holding my breath.
      I'm investigating Le Dome as per your suggestion.

      What do you think of Pierre Gagnaire given my likes and dislikes?

      1. re: gowest

        l will be at Gagnaire in mid-April. If you have not been think molecular without the molecular. Very interesting combinations of ingredients served in most unusual ways. He is unique.
        Actually there is a Michelin 2 star whose quality of food has been dropping over the last decade or so, Le Grand Vefour. However the room is fabulous, service extraordinary and the cheese cart unequalled, IMHO, in Paris. Funny best cheese cart ever had was in USA, Providence in LA.

        1. re: gowest

          "Nothing would make me happier than to go to the restaurant with the finest cheese trolley in Paris, park myself at the bar and make a whole meal of the cheese and a beautiful bottle of wine."
          Easier than you think. Go in person in advance to the establishment(s) of interest and talk to the Maitre d'Hotel" about what you want. A fine bottle of wine is generally more profitable than food.. Obviously the wine list and cheese selection are to be viewed and discussed. If you're easily intimidated my advice is worthless. If you exhibit gastronomic knowledge they will welcome you as a client.

          1. re: amrx

            I am neither intimidated nor shy and I actually know my cheese. I worked in high school in the 80's at one of the first "cheese gourmet stores" in Manhattan and learned a tremendous amount.
            I have a family member in the restaurant business and realize that the alcohol is usually where the profits are earned. Ingredients are expensive and if you keep things fresh throwing food out can be a real problem in terms of the profit margins.
            I will try to do this.

            1. re: gowest

              There are still quite a few high-end restaurants that still have an excellent cheese cart. The above mentioned Le Grand Vefour has one of the best. So is Taillevent, Pierre Gagnaire (usually not included in any of his set menus), Guy Savoy, Le Meurice.. Though the cart is not as popular as once was, it seems that it is still a must to have at any of the top restaurants. L'Astrance might be one of the exception since I did not see one the only time I dined there.
              The food at Le Grand Vefour has never been the great, even when it had three stars a couple years ago. I would definitely not spend 500E pp to dine there in the evening. But I think it is truly a wonderful experience for their three course prix fixed (believe still at 85E) that includes the cheese cart and all the bells and whistles. The service is terrific and friendly while still has a bit that French charm. The interior is historic and maintained beautifully with windows looking out into the Palais Royal.

              1. re: PBSF

                I was born in the wrong time; I love the cheese cart.
                Sounds like lunch there might just fit the bill especially when you factor in the old world romance aspect of the restaurant.

              2. re: gowest

                Cheese, wine, bread represent a wonderful lunch to me. That's what scored in your message. And Paris is the place to do it. I'm looking forward to your report.
                The current manager at Le Cinq was the sommelier when I first dined there and he treated me beautifully with his wine selections. I believe he, if talked to in advance, would be accommodating.

          2. re: Delucacheesemonger

            Great commentary here. I would add lunch at Arpege (nothing like it in NYC), lunch at Pre Catelan, Lasserre (for the theatricality) and one of the luxe hotel venues like Bar Vendome in the Ritz. Avoid steak dishes and high-end seafood (none can equal Le Bernadin, IMO).

            1. re: Oakglen

              I think my boyfriend would like the theatricality of Lasserre. He is the "romantic" type :)
              Maybe we will stick to oysters. I hope they are still great in late April.
              He still has never been to Le Bernadin; I need to get him there.

          3. Amazing how your comments about the NYC restaurants mimic mine. I'm not a fan of lunch, but for dinner, by picks for my upcoming holiday in July are Frenchie, Spring, Saturne, Passage 53 and maybe Kei or Jean Francois Piege. As you can see, I don't prefer hearty and migrate towards modern.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Nancy S.

              It falls under the heading of if I ask your opinion I need to know that we are starting off from a similar spot. Not because someone is wrong if they don't agree with me, but because I really know what I like.

              Favorite restaurant in San Francisco is Range!

              I like modern but I also like a traditional meal if it is good. I can't really put my finger on exactly what makes a meal work or not work for me. I don't mind if the chef misses occasionally but there have to be some parts of the meal that I think are truly delicious. I think I'd pick inconsistency, some courses fabulous and some really not, over uninspiring but competent he whole way through.

              I've read about Passage 53. It looked very appealing but I think my boyfriend has been and I'm trying not to duplicate if I can. Spring looks interesting too.

              I wish I had more time in Paris. I'd hit the wine bars, oyster bars, cheese shops, and still have time for a couple of the old school 2-3 star venues and more modern restaurants.

            2. For fine dining, L'Ambroisie, l'Arpege and Pierre Gagnaire:
              Besides serving some of the best food in Paris, ech of these three chef-owned restaurants offers a unique dining experience. All three have strong believe at their cooking style and philosophy.
              Pacaud of L'Ambroisie is the last of the great nouvelle cuisine still at top of his game. The best ingredients; straight forward yet exact cooking; strong sauces that unify and make each dish complete. Some would say he is conservative. My problem is usually with the ambience service; formal somewhat unbending, and at times joyless, it is L'Ambroisie's way. If it is base on food, this would be my choice. Unfortunately, no less expensive lunch menu.
              Passard at L'Arpege is a minimalist. His cooking method is slow and gentle heat with lots of butter and rich stock. His monkfish might cook for 45 minutes yet it is perfectly done and the texture is silky. His tomato dessert is basted constantly for hours in a slow oven until it is soft yet holds it shape perfectly. Some of the best puff pastry anyway. His plates are minimal and austere, nothing extra to detract. His produce are from his garden or grown especially for him and shipped to Paris daily. They don't hit refrigeration. Therefore, not everything is at peak or ripeness and something his palette is limited but that is his philosophy. . Besides vegetables being a big part of his menu, he has seafood, something poultry and pork. The dining room fits perfectly with his cooking, small, minimal except for the beautiful Lalique glass etched on the walls.
              Pierre Gagnaire is the mad genius. He favors contrast more than harmony; different flavor combinations, sweet with bitter, constrast in texture, smooth and crispy are often in a single dish. There is always surprises in every bowl or plate. The service is a perfect balance of friendly and formality. The dining room is modern and spacious but not cold, unlike Le Bernadine.
              I don't know if you will enjoy any of the above but in my opinion are unique to Paris with the best food.
              Since the Le Coze left Paris, there has not been a seafood restaurant good enough to replace them. Le Divellec has the similar philosophy of using the best and freshest seafood and cooking it perfectly without masking their inherent flavor. But Divellec's cooking and presentation are old-fashioned compared to Ripert at Le Bernardin. I have not been to Le Divellec in many years. And only once at Le Bernardin but can still remember his sea bass seviche, the baked sea urchin and his barely cooked salmon with peas.
              I don't have deep knowledge of NYC restaurant, having spend a few days there each year. From my experience, Jean George is problem the best restaurant in NYC: beautiful prepared food, the best run dining room, simple elegant flattering decor. Every detail is perfect.
              I like the food at Daniel, deeply flavor and somewhat rustic.
              Both are excellent French restaurants but neither can compare what some of the top Parian restaurants. Part of the reason is that Americans are a different public and another is that both Jean George and Daniel are much larger then most 3 star restaurants in Paris with seating for around 45. It is easier to do such a small number. But the cost of dining at a 3 star in Paris is astronomical.
              Daniel Meyer's restaurants are very American; the food very accessible and everyone is make to feel welcome. Except for Eleven Madison, I wouldn't classify his restaurants has fine dining.
              There have been a couple of interesting thread on fine dining in Paris. One is 'Pierre Gagnaire Again' and another is 'Best of the Best'. Scroll down and search for them.

              5 Replies
              1. re: PBSF

                Thanks for reminding me. Went to Arpege for the cost saving lunch. They would not serve me the dessert tomato, even when l offered to pay more. That was just one of the many gaffs there.

                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  Given your experience at Arpege, and your appreciation of the cheese (and not much else) at the Le Grand Vefour, do you think Le Grand Vefour would be amenable to amrx's suggestion?

                  1. re: gowest

                    That is a tough one. Because like most 3 star restaurants, Le Grand Vefour is small and seems to be always booked out for lunch (the times I've eaten there), it might be difficult. One can always inquire and with a good story of why you only want to sample their cheese course with a good bottle of red wine, they might seat you.
                    My advice is to to dine at one top restaurants of your choice that has a good cheese cart and add the cheese course as a supplement if necessary. Or ask them if it can be substituted for the dessert course. It shouldn't set you back more than 25E.

                    1. re: gowest

                      Had a big birthday at Le Grand Vefour by myself. The day could have not been better. Yes, the food was just OK, but the cheeseguy sat with me for 45 minutes, shared my wine and all treated me better than my family ever had. So, yes do it, loved every second.
                      l think lunch is now 88 Euros with cheese course and the whole shebang. Ask for Colette's table. You can see the whole main room from that 2 top.

                    2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                      For years, Passard's signature dessert was his tomato with sweet spices and seem to be always on the menu. I have never eaten there during the colder months nor have I eaten there in 3 years, therefore, can't tell if it is a seasonal thing. Or that he just wants to move on. Currently, he is not buying any produce other than what his garden provides or grown especially for him, therefore, if there is no tomato, he will not source it from somewhere else.

                  2. The original comment has been removed
                    1. If you're going to do a "cheesy" lunch, don't miss Dubois Fromagerie at Maubert. Maybe the best collection I've ever seen/tasted (with the possible exception of R. Richard in Lyon).

                      ...and please spell Le BernaRdin right.