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Apr 26, 2011 12:51 PM

Returning to my beautiful, beloved Paris...

Bonjour tout le monde! I have been spending a tremendous amount of time on this board in preparation for my upcoming getaway to wonderful Paris. I go to sleep at night with almost-edible visions of multi-course feasts and wake up with thoughts of freshly baked pastries and crunchy warm baguettes. Add to that a small daily prayer to be able to eat like uhockey while maintaining some semblance of my figure, never mind his BMI, and I am all but set.

By way of quick background - I'm a Toronto chowhound who first fell in love with Paris in the late 80's. Over the course of several extended backpacking adventures, I had many wonderful visits to Paris, the highlight of which was a 2 month stay in the summer of the bicentenaire. For as long as I live, I will never forget the incredible dishes I created at my week-long course at Le Cordon Bleu - returning on my own each evening to my small Marais hotel with a pot full of civet de canard or a tarte tatin and other treats that made me very popular with the proprietor's family - and, of course, the incredible celebrations, especially the fireworks by the Eiffel Tower. I was in my early 20's but even then, my love of food was well established - twice weekly, I'd make my way to the American Express office to pick up my mail from home and while I excitedly held the mail in my hand, I'd first make my way to this little chocolate shop that I discovered by chance one day - La Maison du Chocolat - painstakingly pick out 2 chocolates (different ones each time) and then find my way to a cafe where I would drink an espresso, eat my chocolates (hidden under a napkin on my lap) and catch up on the news at home from my family and friends.

I returned to Paris in the late 90's with my then boyfriend (now husband) and again in 2001 for a "choose anywhere you want to go for our aunt/niece getaway" trip with my then 14 year old niece.

And now...10 years later, my husband and I are looking forward to a short, but oh so decadent, 4 day getaway. We are joyfully exhausted parents of young children who work hard at our jobs and we are headed your way to relax, romance, meander and partake in the pleasures of great food and drink. To add to the experience, we have been gifted 2 nights at Hotel George V - not our normal snack bracket but only too happy to indulge. To say we are excited would be an understatement in the extreme.

So here's the scoop - although I started my research about a month ago, some unexpected work deadlines and then a virus that rotated through our house threw me off track. So here I am, with just over a week to go and I have no reservations anywhere. I'm way too excited for this journey to get stressed out about not being able to get into any given place, though I am now looking to make a couple of dinner reservations plus another for a special multi-course lunch. Beyond that, I plan to arm myself with a list of restaurants, divided by arrondisements, where we can generally get in without a reservation, or perhaps with a day or two's notice so we can be spontaneous. Add to that some market walks (I've been in touch with souphie for one of his walking tours!), a list of boulangeries and patisseries for breakfasts and picnic supplies, a good pair of walking shoes -and voila, what can be bad?

We gravitate to smaller restaurants with warm service, fresh ingredients, boisterous and friendly atmosphere, interactions with the kitchen, favoured by locals, generally a more modern approach in the kitchen (though we would also enjoy a classic bistro). We gravitate away from places that are stuffy, hushed atmosphere, unfriendly, etc. My French is more than adequate to get by and I have only ever had the warmest and friendliest of experiences with Parisians so no apprehensions there.

Here is a short-ish list of places that we are considering - would so very much appreciate your input on how likely or unlikely our prospects are given our lack of reservation at this stage, which places sound more or less like the places we'd enjoy, any suggestions for places not on the list. It's a short getaway - I know we won't even be scratching the surface that Paris has to offer and I don't even need "the best" - just a lovely selection of complementary places where we can nourish our bodies while we nourish our souls.

Fancy lunch - Le Cinq, La Bigarrade, Spring (I know, Spring is probably hopeless at this stage but man, it sounds good)

Dinners - Dans Les Landes, Rino, Chez L'Ami Jean, La Regelade (original or St. Honore), Passage 53, Philou, Claude Colliot, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Breizh Cafe, Le Verre Vole, Le Pre Verre, Saturne, Les Cocottes.

Also thinking about Le Bal Cafe for brunch on the week-end (if there's time) and am quite excited about the recent proliferation of great coffee places - Kooka Boora, Le Cafeotheque, Espresso and Ristretto, Coutume Cafe. I LOVE great coffee.

I have a few other questions but since you've already indulged me in an epically long introductory note, I think I'll simply say...merci d'avance et bonne journee...:)

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  1. All your addresses are good. Try to reserve as early as possible. You will have a great time.

    1. Well it may not be too late to book a table if you are willing to take the 10:30 PM seating at some places. Good luck!

      1. Contact George V and give them a list of your restaurants. Include which ones you'd like lunch vs. dinner and let them call for you. Also list them in order of priority of where you'd most like to eat. Give them times too: lunch 12:30 and dinner 9:30 etc. We found after big lunches we were not even remotely interested in food until 9:30pm at the earliest.

        We didn't stay somewhere that upscale but our concierge made all of our reservations for us.
        Also, I would suggest that you "over reserve" and then cancel with notice.

        We got our reservation at Spring for a fabulous lunch with out much notice. Maybe 2 weeks and if your concierge has the freedom to say "hi they really want to eat at your restaurant here are all the possible free days" you have a better shot at it.

        Also, don't bother with Les Cocottes, I really didn't think the food was worth it even though the atmosphere was fun and our waitress was lovely

        1. Thank you all for your notes - much appreciated. In terms of Sunday and Monday meals, from the names on my list (and a few extras) does this list look right...?

          Sunday - Breizh Cafe and La Verre Vole - leaning towards La Verre Vole - looks very intimate and charming...
          Monday - La Verre Vole, Saturne, Jeanne A, Regelade St. Honore, Frenchie, L'Atelier du Joel Robuchon.

          Our last dinner will be on the Monday evening - assuming I can get a reservation, which of those would offer the loveliest farewell to Paris - again, prefer a fun energy in the room, warm and friendly service, some buzz and, bien sur, great food.

          And for our first evening (with the caveat that if I can magically get into Spring, I'll take it!), is there a preference among Dans Les Landes, Rino, Passage 53 and Philou - using the same criteria?

          Thanks so much again - I know that you are bombarded with these requests and I so appreciate you taking the time to share your recommendations with all of us nomads.

          ps - gowest, I LOVED your trip reports - beautiful, delicious, inspiring.

          5 Replies
          1. re: peppermint pate

            "Dans Les Landes, Rino, Passage 53 and Philou"

            They are very different in cuisine type and in ambiance. They are all good, ranging from B+ to B++. Since you are running out of time, just go to whichever resto that accepts your reservation at this point, and you will be happy with your choice. If you still wait around and not make your reservation you will be like the dude on the Spain board who did not want to make reservation and came home saying he was disappointed with Spanish food and that the only way to eat well in Spain was to go to Chinese restaurants !

            1. re: Parigi

              Ha - I haven't been on the Spain board lately but I take your point. Let me try and reserve first and see if I even have the option of choosing. That said, I can all but guarantee you that I won't be reporting on my lack of good food experiences in Paris...

              1. re: peppermint pate

                Of the 4,
                Passage 53 being starred, may be the hardest to reserve. Also has the most formal setting.
                Dans Les Landes has the most flexible eating style: you can order a lot - or not a lot - of small servings of tapas. A good place to go before or after a pigout. You can reserve 1 or 2 days in advance, but don't try to go at the last minute. The last two times I ate there, I see a lot of people turned away.Sorriest to harass you again: make your resa !

            2. re: peppermint pate

              Why would you want to pass up lunch at Le Cinq -- one of the best tables and best deals in Paris? And you're staying right there!

              1. re: ChefJune

                Definitely not passing it last note was just trying to sort through some dinner options, especially the elusive Sunday/Monday spots. We are absolutely going to Le Cinq for lunch one day, and very much looking forward to it. Thanks.

            3. We were at Passage 53 a few weeks ago. it wasn't formal at all,nor were the guests. I love the space,which had the feel of a 'cave' but whitewashed. very unusual food. We also went to Kei which was more formal . full of French people,enjoying themselves at tables that were not too close together.

              1 Reply
              1. re: pammi

                I was saying it was more formal of the 4. For example, last week at Dans Les Landes we were screaming and dancing (and then crying) over the Barça-Réal game. That's what I meant by not formal.