Paris Trip Report: including Pierre Gagnaire, Chez Josephine Dumonet, Spring, Le Baron Rouge, Rubis, Huitrerie Regis, Les Coccottes, Le Tastevin and others
I promise to write a detailed report over the weekend.
I just wanted to stress, because it was brought up some on the board in the weeks before I left, that I ate incredibly well and I did not experience one iota of "attitude" that people discuss. So many people seem so concerned about it and really I am here to tell everyone to relax and just enjoy their trip. For the record I don't speak French at all. I can "get through" a menu but that is it.
I've never had a problem in Paris and I continue to not have any problems in Paris. I hope travelers to Paris will enjoy the wonderful city without so much apprehension before they go.
If you want to eat with the "locals" try to eat at 9pm or later; for most of our meals we were surrounded by the sound of French being spoken. Another idea is to hit the residential neighborhoods for lunch, it is very very easy to pick out the cafe that is the "real deal" so to speak.
I will say that we were involved in at least 4 different conversations, in english, started by various Parisians sitting next to us. People couldn't have been friendlier, and if you do want to have a chat be prepared to brush up on your politics.
I promise to write in detail about the food. I'm pretty picky but I'd say in general we were happy with our meals. I will say that the "ambiance" factored into the equation more than I would have anticipated. I didn't think our meals were crazy expensive either, but that could be because I live in NY.
More tomorrow as I'm wiped out! Please excuse any typos/grammatical errors.
We, also, have never had a "problem" and find the people in Paris generally very friendly and helpful. Perhaps more polite than Americans, which can seem less friendly but it's not. I'm looking forward to your report about htese restaurants.
I am up reasonably early thanks to jet lag and will try to get started on a report. Just so you have an idea of who we are and interpret our recommendations and comments. In our 40s, boyfriend and girlfriend, on vacation for romance and relaxation and a little culture - we had both been to Paris before but not in years and never had been to Europe together. I have family in the restaurant business, and am a moderate foodie (my kids would disagree and say I am really serious foodie as we were nearly car-jacked in Naples trying to find some pizza restaurant that I had eaten at when I was 18). Let's just say I know what "good is" but every meal does not have to be exquisite. I won't eat at a bad restaurant if I am hungry, as I'd rather just run into a bakery and eat a loaf of bread plain than suffer a really mediocre meal.
We arrived in Paris at 8am on sunday morning, our room was not ready so we changed headed out for the day. We were tired but the weather was spectacular.
We went to the markets around the Bastille and the Marche d'Aligre for which I have attached the website: http://marchedaligre.free.fr/legume.htm
A great early morning foodie activity if the weather is good.
Le Baron Rouge: Our first official stop was Le Baron Rouge a wine bar right near the marche d'Aligre. For those looking for an authentic feeling experience I highly recommend this wine bar. I had a lovely demi-sec vouvray and my other half had some red. Casual, quaint, friendly it is worth a trip but I believe it is a day or morning place only so check. The selection of wines by the glass was tremendous and they were all only a couple or Euros each. An older Parisian woman struck up a conversation with us, wanting to discuss Obama and various other topics.
Le Bar a Huitres: We walked around a lot considering we had only slept for a couple of hours. At around 1:30 we were hungry and after hours on our feet we found ourselves in front of the above restaurant on the left bank not far from Notre Dame. It is a "chain". I had read about it before we left and knew it wasn't necessarily the best but would be decent as long as we ate the cold shellfish platters. A note: I love shellfish - To me we don't have the opportunity to eat it in the states the way you can in europe, especially France and Spain. If you don't like cold shellfish platters don't go here as the "regular" food did not look special from what I could tell. Everybody was having the oysters and LES PLATEAUX DE FRUITS DE MER. We were the only Americans. There were a couple of British tables, one table of Russians and the rest of the restaurant was filled with people speaking French. They sat us at a table for 4 even though we were only 2 people and gave us French menus. Waiter couldn't have been nicer. We were having some issues trying to figure out what some of the items were and so he brought out English menus. I still don't know what "dog cockles" are. Our Plateaux was delicious - the quality was good and most of the platters come with a crab or lobster which we also love. They had a number of wines by the half bottle so we ordered a chablis. The sliced brown bread was from Poilane. They were very attentive to things such as giving us more water which we were drinking like crazy to rehydrate after the plane ride. Later in the report I will talk about Huitrerie Regis which is better in terms of quality but a very different type of restaurant. I wouldn't make a special trip here like I would for Regis but if you are in the mood for a platter and find yourself in front of one of the 4 restaurants it is absolutely a nice experience.
We wandered back to the hotel around 3:30pm for a nap.
Le Tastevin: On the Ile St. Louis -This was an interesting experience. My boyfriend insisted that we go here as he had gone many times years ago when he used to be in Paris on business. I was not convinced that we were going to have a good meal in such a touristy spot. We had walked by in the morning popped our head in and made a reservation in person. The woman who runs the restaurant is charming and graciously said whatever time we wanted for the evening would be fine. We chose 7:30 (and then later called and moved it to 8:30 which was not a problem). She saved us a table by an open window with a small lamp on the table. Very romantic. Very charming. In terms of all of our meals this was in some ways the most surprising to me because of how much I enjoyed it. Was it because of the service and the atmosphere? To be honest I can't quite tease out how good the food was or was not. We had escargot to start and then he had sole and I had the house langoustine. (I wasn't kidding about how much I love shellfish and you never/rarely see langoustine in the USA) His meal was part of a set menu and mine was not. For 60ish Euros his meal came with starter, meal, cheese and desert and she always brought an extra set of plates and silverware so that we could share. Although the owner is probably in her 60s she was the main hostess and waitress of the restaurant with her son helping her out. She cares, it is her livelihood and while it had a "homey" feel to it she was incredibly attentive making sure we had enough wine and water. The escargot were terrific, my langoustine were great - steamed in a very light sauce of some kind which added just a hint of flavor without masking the taste of the shellfish - cheeses were good and ripe (a reblochon, a goat and a hard cheese) and the profiteroles for desert were truly delicious. They were better done than most with the pastry being exactly the correct texture and the chocolate sauce was divine. Very romantic meal - so while I don't think the food was necessarily the "best" we ate it was good and we had such a lovely experience. Also it was EXPENSIVE but we didn't care. They have several set menus as well as the carte so if you order carefully you don't have to spend as much as we did :) The other tables consisted of Americans, French and an Italian couple. The restaurant is tiny so you do notice your fellow diners. I'd say this is ideal for romance with good food, it was perfect for our first night in Paris.
re: Rio Yeti
I hear you, but compared to so many on this board I really don't qualify even a little. I went to at least a museum a day, sometimes two, but I think you aren't really supposed to talk about that stuff on this board and I'm not a big shopper.
Also, I was traveling with a new companion and didn't want him standing on a street corner furious with me because he was hungry and I wanted to walk another 3 miles to get to the perfect spot which may or may not be open. :0 My children will vouch that this experience is not fun!
Really compared to so many people my knowledge is not that deep. I also really used this board to pick my restaurants and I wanted to share back because we ate incredibly well AND had a very good "mix" of traditional, modern, casual, fancy, no-name, well-known etc and that was a key to us enjoying our experiences.
As a "tourist" the mix is what made our time so special. We had meals in many different parts of the city even though we were staying in the 1rst arr. and the walks home after those meals were really nice.
The wine bars we stumbled upon, Rubis at least, I had read about Baron Rouge and was standing at the Bastille market googling it to see if that was the market it was near.
Also, there are certain cities like Paris (and New York) where I think it can really make a difference to have some of your eating planned out ahead of time - otherwise restaurants can be completely booked. There is nothing worse to be standing on a busy block where 3 of the restaurants are packed with no tables available and the other 5 are vacant. You don't have to be a world traveler to understand where you should be eating!
There are other cities like Venice, that I know very very well and can go to with no reservations and no plans and not have problems or a bad meal.
I only had 4 reservations before I left, everything else was left up to chance. 1 dinner and 3 lunches - I've been working really hard all year and we literally slept in everyday until 10:45, got up, had coffee and went to lunch. I didn't have a single croissant the entire time I was there - that fact alone disqualifies me from true "foodie-hood"
I actually liked that schedule - we would lunch 12:30, museum, rest, museum, dinner 9:30pm, walk the streets of Paris until 1:00am and do it all again.
It was a really nice evening.
I'd say what I was trying to express is that if you compared it to some of my other meals -- for example did a pure taste test in sterile environment with no "atmosphere" - the food wasn't as "good" all on its own.
The vegetables that accompanied my boyfriends fish were really pedestrian/cafeteria pedestrian. They weren't however part of my meal, and he didn't seem bothered by it.
So depending on who you are and what you are looking for - a beautiful evening vs. truly stellar food where every morsel is perfect the restaurant may or may not be for you.
Would I have enjoyed it as much if I had been with my mother vs. my boyfriend? Maybe not! Since romance was on our list the evening was influenced in a positive way because of the general ambience.
<So depending on who you are and what you are looking for - a beautiful evening vs. truly stellar food where every morsel is perfect the restaurant may or may not be for you.>
Gowest, I think everyone on this board would classify me as a "really serious foodie," but I will take that beautiful evening over "truly stellar food" at least 98% of the time. It's the total experience.
And I am LOVING your running commentary, and getting really antsy for my october trip!
Monday the only reservation I had made was for dinner.
Chez Josephine Dumonet:
First things first, we were not seated by the kitchen :)
We ate at 9:30pm - no rush - etc
Seriously, it was beautiful in Paris and they had tables outside and we chose to eat there next to two other tables of "regulars". I knew they were regulars because of the way they interacted with the waiters and the kitchen staff as they left towards the end of the evening. Also, the young couple next to us engaged us in conversation for a while, it was very interesting, they definitely eat there regularly.
Second: the service was perfectly acceptable but not "fine dining" service don't expect that here and you won't be disappointed. I would describe it as very haphazard but extremely accommodating. They came to take our order and we weren't ready so they came back. Our wine and water glasses were always filled, our courses came out to the table in appropriate spacing/timing.
Third: the food was delicious. Had a demi-portion of the foie gras to share to start, a canard confit and a demi-portion of the boeuf bourguignon as mains. I have to say that the sauce for the boeuf was phenomenal - really the best I've ever had. The confit was really good but not "the best" per se. I thought the potatoes with the duck were yummy but don't see why everyone raves about them specifically. French man next to us ordered the cepes filled with foie and the pigeon which also looked fantastic. I did think the meal over all was delicious and I would go back in a heartbeat.
Only cons: we didn't get desert it was late and they didn't really take our desert order before the meal. They were perfectly willing to stay to cook us a desert (20 minutes) but we were full and tired as it was after midnight so we didn't really care.
A note about the wine - this is for Ptipois as per your advice on the other thread, I tried to order a demi-bottle of an old Barzac !983, but they were "out". They gave me a 1983 Sauternes priced at a higher price point for the same price as a substitute. The only issue I had is that the bottle was already open when they brought it to the table, the label "fell off" in the bucket of ice water pretty quickly, and it made me suspicious. If it is undeserved I apologize to the restaurant. I grew up in a household where my father was always soaking bottles of wine in the bathroom sinks to remove the labels and paste them in a book with his comments. I've never seen a label fall off so quickly in cold water, even on an old bottle. I am truly not knowledgeable enough to compare the taste to other Sauternes I've had before but as I said I decided not to let it bother me.
I know others would be up in arms. It just didn't bother me other than for tasting purposes as I was curious. The meal with great food, great atmosphere, and the demi-bottle of whatever it was plus 2 or 3 glasses of red for my boyfriend cost under 120 Euros for the two of us.
If you go please go with realistic expectations. This is not "3 star fine dining" experience but a completely different type of meal. If you need "perfection" this restaurant is not for you. If you are willing to be surprised and stay relaxed despite minor "bumps" it is a unique experience. We had a wonderful evening and would absolutely go back.
One funny aside, I did use the bathroom just as the two Amreicans at the "bathroom table" were asking the waiters what cheeses were on their cheese plate. Just as discussed in the the other thread the waiters had no clue. It was funny and made me giggle. It just isn't that kind of restaurant. My family member sits down with his staff before service and explains all the nuances of the day's menu, this is NOT that kind of place. Doesn't mean it isn't good, just it is what it is.
And if you don't want to be rushed and don't want to eat with Americans don't go at 7:30pm.
"The only issue I had is that the bottle was already open when they brought it to the table, the label "fell off" in the bucket of ice water pretty quickly, and it made me suspicious. "
The label coming off is not unusual. Back then the glues used were less tenacious.
Bringing the bottle already opened is inexcusable!
Other eating on Monday:
lunch: "take away" sandwich from http://www.mavrommatis.fr/
DELICIOUS quick bite to eat in a high tourist area.
I of course was dragging my boyfriend to another museum with out lunch. He was starving and getting cranky but we were not in a great area (near madeleine) and he was eyeing some yucky looking sandwich at another spot.
They made the most delicious sandwich with "greek salad" and chicken on a very thin wrap (not the kind we get here in the states more "flaky") which they heated up for a second in a panini maker. YUM. On a side street right off the madeleine - real restaurant upstairs with a small counter downstairs.
Eric Kayser: Tip if you are near Place Vendome outpost at the end of the day, they put out all of their "little pastries" the bite size ones, I'm sorry I don't know what they are called, as "free samples" when you buy a baguette. They encouraged us to have a lot of them - we tried a many for "free" with our baguette :)
Le Rubis: wine bar near the Louvre 10 Rue du Marché Saint-Honoré
We stopped in for a drink or two around 7:30 before our dinner at Dumonet.
Again classic style wine bar with barrels outside, a ton of different wines by the glass all for just under or just over 2 euros. They will give you plates of cheese or meat on bread for snacking.
Charming, fun, they spoke no English and we spoke no French, they didn't care - we were the only tourists in the place.
If you want a more hip local vibe all the "younger" after work set seemed to be having drinks at the cafes that circle the square with the glass building in it right up the block a little from Rubis. A parisian will know what I'm talking about it or look for it on your map. Great outdoor seating, hidden from tourists, right in the thick of things with no real traffic on the square at all.
Great report. I wish all travellers have your standard of palette, your open-mind and your capacity for enjoyment.
"If you want a more hip local vibe all the "younger" after work set seemed to be having drinks at the cafes that circle the square with the glass building in it right up the block a little from Rubis. A parisian will know what I'm talking about it"
You mean the Place du Marché Saint-Honoré, a very hip area indeed.
In fact the restaurant "l'Absinthe" on the square was one of my faves once. Then it went downhill. But recently hounds and friends report that it is back en forme...