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Pick two! -- Pierre Gagnaire, Taillevent, Le Cinq, L'Arpege, others?

I am fortunate enough to be returning to Paris soon.

Paris has been very good to me in the past.
Unlike many other cities, I've really never been truly let down by fine dining in Paris.

I have been to, and LOVED, Lasserre, L'Astrance , L'Ambroisie , and Tour D'Argent. ( I know that some on CH don't regard Tour D'Argent terribly highly, but I had their signature duck, and it was truly memorable, with an exquisite cherry sauce.)

On this trip, we'll have 2 opportunities for long delicious dinners.

Currently, I'm leaning towads Pierre Gagnaire and Taillevent.
But Le Cinq and L'Arpege are strong contenders.
And we're open to other suggestions.

My preference is toward degustation-type menus.
I'd like at least one of the two to be this style.
And ideally, one restaurant would be more traditional, the other more modern/experimental.

Thank you in advance for any help you can offer...

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Taillevent
15 Rue Lamennais, Paris, Île-de-France 75008, FR

L'Ambroisie
9 Place des Vosges, Paris, Île-de-France 75004, FR

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  1. This may be unfair, but here goes...

    My wife and I were in Paris last week. We did the tasting menu at Taillevent. It was a memorable experience and the service was as pitch perfect as everyone says.

    The food was great. The wine list fantastic.

    However, after eating at Spring earlier in the week, I can't shake the feeling that at Taillevent they are simply *preparing* tested favorites, whereas at Spring and places like Les Bistronomes (ate lunch there) they are cooking, inventing, and responding to the market and season.

    So it depends on what you want. We'll never forget our night at Taillevent, but we didn't leave blown away by the food or surprised by the carte. I don't at all regret the money we spent there (and for us it was a significant splurge), but $300 at Spring (for example) was a better return than $800 at Taillevent.

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    Taillevent
    15 Rue Lamennais, Paris, Île-de-France 75008, FR

    1 Reply
    1. re: GyroBall

      Thank you GyroBall. Of course it is fair! It's your opinion and I value it.
      And actually, thank you for reminding me about Spring -- a friend went there last year and had wonderful things to say about it!

    2. If you have never been to Pierre Gagnaire, you should. Have the big menu. You might not like everything, but it will be a great, unique culinary experience you will not forget.

      1. Again, one person's opinion, but my choice would be Gagnaire and Le Cinq. Other options might include Guy Savoy for perhaps not the best food, but the best party. Also just had a perfect meal at Les Ambassadeurs, see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/809790

        10 Replies
        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          Totally agree with Delucacheesemonger that Les Ambassadeurs should be on your list. I too had a stunning meal there last week. Everything was pitch perfect. Exquisite grub + impeccable service + knock-yer-socks-off "cadre"+ glamour (Fashion Week) + somebody else paid the huge bill = total joy. In comparison, a meal at Le Cinq the same week produced a deep sense of well being but no ecstasy.

          1. re: Parnassien

            Parnassien and DCM,

            I actually have reservations for the last Saturday night of the month for both Le Cinq and Les Ambassadeurs. Which would you cancel?

            I'd like it to be a special night. We will be ordering ALC. Which ever one I cancel I will do solo for lunch the following Wednesday and do the tasting menu

            I would really appreciate your thoughts

            1. re: tatuaje68

              IMNSHO, l would keep the evening at Les Ambassadeurs and the lunch at Le Cinq. One of the major differences is the breadth and pricing of the wine list at Le Cinq. It is deep and superb. L A is less so, but many lovely bottles as well. l will be at Le Cinq on Monday for lunch and if any dramatic change, l will post on it.

              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                DCM,

                Thanks for the quick reply. One more question. I have read a couple of posts on the board that Sunday is not a good day for lunch at Le Cinq. I guess Briffard works 6 days a week so I presume that he is off on Sunday. Is this something you have heard as well or do you think it was just an off day for the couple of people that had a less than stellar meal?

                1. re: tatuaje68

                  Aside from the fact you have the wrong chef at the wrong restaurant. Briffard at Le Cinq, and Hache at L A, l would be surprised if you could tell who is in the kitchen and who is not. The staff functions very well. Briffard, for example, oversees a huge catering network as well as all the restaurants at the George V.

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    Sorry, I guess that is what they call having a senior moment. I realized my mistake and came back to correct it but you had already answered. Thank you so much for replying so quickly. I think I will do Les Amb Sat night and Le Cinq Sunday for lunch. That way I can Ledoyen on Wednesday

                    1. re: tatuaje68

                      " Les Amb Sat night and Le Cinq Sunday for lunch"

                      Does not leave much time for digestion...

          2. re: Delucacheesemonger

            While I truly loved L'Arpege, it was not the same "EXPERIENCE" as Le Cinq - that over-the-top service, incredible dining room, and the feeling of being king of the room for 3+ hours. L'Arpege makes slightly better food - especially if you are fond of vegetables and highly nuanced minimalistic cuisine....but it is also almost twice the price as Le Cinq.

            Gagnaire is the best meal I've ever had. I know some people don't like what he does, but for me when he is "on," as he was the night I ate there with Delucacheesemonger, he is the most interesting chef in the world. He doesn't NEED gimmicks like 'mg' to wow you - his technique and flavor profiles do it my themselves. Add in the impeccable service and the fact that he truly does seem to love what he is doing.......the moment I left I wanted to go back.

            http://endoedibles.com

            1. re: uhockey

              Thanks, uhockey!

              Looks like Gagnaire is definite, if I can swing the reservation for the night I want. (which will be a sunday, a little over a month from now, so I'll be sending that email at midnight and calling at the first possible moment)!)

              For whatever reason I've had a resistance to Le Cinq over the years. Maybe it is time to get over that block...

              1. re: pauliface

                It MIGHT be the best service in the world. Even the impressive friendly yet professional service at the Thomas Keller and Danny Meyer spots stateside can't compare - you really do feel like EVERYONE in the restaurant is there to make sure you have an awesome time.

                Guy Savoy is similar.

                They make you wish you could afford to be a "regular."

                http://endoedibles.com

          3. Definitely Pierre Gagnaire; opinion differs but if one is interested in food, one cannot ignore him.
            The other choice: if it is base on food, I would pick L'Arpege over the others. And it cannot be more different from Pierre Gagnaire.
            Tailllevent: it hasn't change in decades except that Mr. Vrinat is no longer in the dining room. The cooking has somewhat been updated but it is still Taillevent. No surprises; it is always a comforting and generous place, especially the wood paneled second room. This is about as 'traditional' one get for high-end dining in Paris.
            For me, Le Cinq is an updated version of Taillevent. Great service; beautiful room; very good but not stellar food.

            -----
            Taillevent
            15 Rue Lamennais, Paris, Île-de-France 75008, FR

            1 Reply
            1. re: PBSF

              Thank you PBSF.
              This is useful.
              Pierre Gagnaire is my first choice, and for the second restaurant, I am looking for excellent food and a contrast. So perhaps Gagnaire/L'Arpege is the preferred pair.

            2. I'm thinking of L'Ambroisie now as the second (along with Pierre Gagnaire). It was a looong time I ago that I went there (1995). It was so amazing I'm thinking it may merit a return?
              Or am I crazy not to try L'Arpege, Le Cinq, or Taillevent for the first time instead?

              -----
              Taillevent
              15 Rue Lamennais, Paris, Île-de-France 75008, FR

              L'Ambroisie
              9 Place des Vosges, Paris, Île-de-France 75004, FR

              13 Replies
              1. re: pauliface

                Since you've seem to have some knowledge of each of the restaurants, it is one of those decisions that only you can make. Depends on what you want to experience. Since you stated your preference for a degustation-type menu, I am sure you know that L'Ambrosie doesn't offer that.

                1. re: PBSF

                  I've also read that L'Ambroisie will do it upon request. Do yu think this might be a good or bad idea?

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                  L'Ambroisie
                  9 Place des Vosges, Paris, Île-de-France 75004, FR

                  1. re: pauliface

                    L'Ambroisie does not do any type of degustation menu. They will be happy to offer you half portions of most items on the menu. I don't think Pacaud has change since my last visit 3 years ago. Good or bad idea to ask? never a bad idea to ask if that is what you might want. Charm goes a long way, even at L'Ambrosie.

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                    L'Ambroisie
                    9 Place des Vosges, Paris, Île-de-France 75004, FR

                    1. re: PBSF

                      I've read three persons say that unless you speak excellent French or are with someone who does they will not even offer halves. No idea if true, but I know at least one famous blog that cites this to be fact.

                      To pauliface, my thought is that you've been to L'Ambroisie and you'd be foolish to pass up a new experience when the other places are arguably as good or better for less cost. :-)

                      http://endoedibles.com

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                      L'Ambroisie
                      9 Place des Vosges, Paris, Île-de-France 75004, FR

                      1. re: uhockey

                        L'Ambroise did served me half portions the last time I ate there and I know they do not consider me a regular. Despite some of the best food that I've ever had, it is a difficult for me to dine there. I just don't have a good time overall. Beside great food, I think three restaurants should have a generosity of spirit and it never shows at L'Ambroisie. Pacaud is unique that he is the last of great nouvelle cuisine chef cooking in Paris.The other, Guy Savoy, has evolved into somewhat of a hybrid and as much I love his current restaurant, he was cooking better food at his one star on r. Duret in the 80's. Other then the legendary name, I don't feel Taillvent merits a visit if it comes down to food. I would definitely do Le Cinq before it. And for food, Ledoyen as Uhockey recommended.

                        -----
                        L'Ambroisie
                        9 Place des Vosges, Paris, Île-de-France 75004, FR

                        1. re: uhockey

                          Very good. I'm getting somewhere, I supposed.

                          L'Ambroisie is out. PBSF's comment about 'generosity of spirit' reminds me that I did feel a little intimidated when i was there in 95. I chalked it up to lack of experience, but really perhaps it was not that. Plus, yes, uhockey is right, I should try somewhere new. And I really do prefer a tasting menu of surprises to a la carte.

                          The friend with whom I'm traveling has always wanted to try Le Cinq. And uhockey's got me bending towards LeDoyen. And I suppose I should look up Les Ambassadeurs even though I fear further confusion.

                          Right now I'm down to either:

                          Gagnaire + Le Cinq

                          or

                          Gagnqire + LeDoyen.

                          with the possibility of a suprise entry from Les Ambassadeurs...

                          Such wonderful decisions to have to make. :-)

                          On another note: it's almost a month before the trip. Gagnaire takes reservations 1 month ahead. The night for them is a Sunday. To they book up immediately 1 month before? Do I need to worry about calling at the first possible moment?

                          1. re: pauliface

                            With the choices you have made, you cannot get hurt. Ledoyen's food was perfect, as was Les Ambassadeurs, the latter being a huge bargain. Le Cinq will be this Monday for me. While l am sure you can reserve for Gagnaire in the future, there is no harm in doing it faster, avoiding disappointment is a good thing.

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                              Spoke with my traveling companion this AM.
                              He really wants to finally go to Le Cinq.
                              I think we're going to do this:
                              Pierre Gagnaire + Le Cinq.

                              Next trip (!!), if nothing changes, we'll go for Les Ambassadeurs and (Ledoyen or L'Arpege).

                            2. re: pauliface

                              E-mail Gagnaire. I made all reservations with them via E-mail and we had a great table on a Sunday evening.

                              http://endoedibles.com

                          2. re: PBSF

                            Thank you for this. I am reticent to push a restaurant away from what they prefer towards what I desire, even if they are accommodating and I am charming.

                            And you have reminded me that above all, I want the best most interesting food, and that I do prefer a variety and procession of smaller plates in a well-thought-out progression.

                            The trick is to research this without actually finding out what the dishes might be or lookiing at pictures, to increase the element of surprise. :-)

                            (And to remember that I can hardly go wrong with any of the places I'm considering. Eventually over the years I hope to dine at each of them!)

                            1. re: pauliface

                              To be fair, if I could only do two meals over again from Paris it would be Gagnaire and LeDoyen - but even so, I'd go to the other 3*s first.

                              http://endoedibles.com

                              1. re: uhockey

                                In return for your wonderful help, I offer a little bit of memory of LeDoyen collected from my parents this weekend...

                                I visited my parents this weekend. They related a story of their first trip to Paris in the early 70's.
                                They went for one splurge meal -- which at that time meant spending the ungodly amount of $100 on dinner for 2.
                                They chose LeDoyen.
                                The room was gorgeous.
                                They were struck when the staff took their coats and did not give them a coat check.
                                But when they left, of course, their correct coats were being held for them as they approached the door.

                                My mother's menu had no prices, my father's did.
                                My mother ordered chicken for a main coarse, and also a chicken soup.
                                The waiter said "Non non, Madame. If you are having the chicken for an entree, you should have the lobster bisque instead of the chicken soup."
                                So my mother took his advice.
                                When the waiter came, he poured the soup into the bowl from a great height.
                                It was, of course, indescribably delicious.
                                My father asked to try it like this: "May I have a taste of your $25 soup?"
                                Last off, this was where my father had profiteroles, which to this day is his favorite dessert he ever had (aside from my Mom's cooking, of course)

                                1. re: pauliface

                                  Nice report - and just FYI the ladies menu still lacks prices - and their chicken is still fantastic. :-)

                                  The desserts - lets just say they're no longer doing anything as simple as a profiterole (though if they did them I'm sure they would be impressive.)

                                  Have a great time at Gagnaire and Le Cinq and report back.

                                  http://endoedibles.com

                    2. Update:
                      Final decisions have been made and reservations are in place.

                      Pierre Gagnaire and Le Cinq.

                      Thank you all so much for you assistance.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: pauliface

                        No doubt you will dine happily and well. Bon Appetit!