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Oct 7, 2011 10:48 AM

3 fancy lunches sans enfant-please pick from my iist

We are headed to Paris for a two week visit in November. I have been doing lots of restaurant research including the archives here, Paris by mouth and French language sites, esp le Figaro. I am looking for help in choosing where to dine for the three LUNCHES that we will have a babysitter, all during the week. We will be staying near the Invalides.

Ideally we would like to do one traditional, one seafood and one modern and/or romantic (my birthday).

I have been debating whether or not to go to l’Arpege, Gagnaire, etc. It seems that for every glowing review there is a very disappointed one. I’m not sure I want to take that risk. I am over seeking out the best this that or the other and am just looking for enjoyable.

I don’t want to spend more than 30 minutes getting there either on foot or metro.

While I have no problem spending money on food I am concerned about wine list prices because super expensive bottles are wasted on me. Another reason why I’m not sure about l’Arpege et cie.

The menu needs to have choices. I prefer not to eat meat when possible although I know it won’t be avoidable in some cases.

This is my list so far: Please pick one each.

Le Marcab (was a favorite here the last time we went to Paris but I don’t see much talk about it now)
Le Grand Vefour (I am a sucker for a gorgeous room and we love cheese but I know it gets mixed reviews)
Passage 53
J-F Piege

Chez L’Ami Jean is the obvious choice but on an earlier thread someone said they thought it would be okay with a kid in which case I don’t want to use babysitting time. Le Paul Bert , Chez Denise or La Regalade would be my second choice. If a single well-behaved toddler would be fine at these places also please pick from the other categories.

Le Divellec
La Cagouille (I know it’s a current favorite but I’m wondering if “simply prepared” means boring. For me food excitement comes from the preparation, rather than the sourcing).
Les Fables de la Fontaine

Thanks for looking over my choices. And thanks to the core group of Paris hounds who keep this board going.

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  1. Modern -- Neither JF Piege nor Passage 53 offers choices, so these may be problematic. Passage 53, however, is mostly fish. Traditional -- I find La Regalade in the 1st disappointing, both in food and atmosphere. Seafood -- I have been disappointed more that once at Les Fables de la Fontaine (not fresh enough, poor cooking, etc.) as well as at La Cagouille (on my last and final visit I had a dead bug -- 1 cm big -- on my plate, and I find the cooking, as you surmise, boring).

    If I were you, for my three picks, I would go to Septime, Agape Substance and Chez L'Ami Jean (you'll have a much better time there without a child -- this coming from a fearless traveler with 2 children who eat everything from sweetbreads and foie gras to squab and duck heart). As an aside, I have been searching for an excellent and somewhat modern fish restaurant in Paris for over a decade, only to be more or less disappointed at each experience. Agape Substance does fish particularly well, as does Passage 53, but, of course, neither is a "seafood" venue.

    1. Divellec would be a good choice for a luncheon, tres expensive (excluding the prix-fixe) and most regulars are gov. types from across the Invalides. Gaya and Goumard would be somewhat more reasonable price-wise; all of the above can take you close to The best NYC has to offer.

      1. Thanks for the comments. Looks like Chez L'Ami Jean will definitely be in. I was planning to avoid Septime since I saw the discussion of the NYT mention and thought it might be too hard to get in. I would love to hear some other opinions as well. I was thinking that making a list rather than asking an open ended question would make it easier to respond. Thanks.

        2 Replies
        1. re: shellymck

          While not on your list, for myself, I would choose lunch at Le Cinq for my special/romantic occasion. Especially if you're 'over" searching for the "best." The room is gorgeous, the service is amazing, and if you tell them when you make the reservation that it's your birthday celebration, they will make sure the event is unforgettable. The food is fantastic even though it's not ground breaking. It is consistently delicious and impeccably prepared. The 85E lunch menu has at least 2 choices per course so you can easily avoid meat and the sommelier will happily help you choose affordable wine, either a bottle or by the glass. Simply tell him your budget and he'll find you something appropriate. Just be sure to pass up the champagne cart at the beginning if you're looking to be frugal or don't really have the refined palette for it, as you say. To my mind, there's no better place to celebrate a special occasion with really fine food in a gorgeous setting for amazing value and very low risk.

          1. re: shellymck

            Chez l'Ami Jean, where Parisjo and I had a stratospheric experience last Friday, and Saturne are about par in the hard-to-get-in factor. If you book adequately in advance (to be sure, 1 week in advance for lunch, 10 days for dinner, or more if Friday dinner;

          2. Was at CLAJ last year with a 18 MO toddler, extremely well behaved, no issue, Had the child been active, could have been a nightmare as NO space to run around, would have been very disruptive. La Regalade in 14th and Chez Denise are both great in IMHO, l never eat at Paul Bert and is a block away from my flat. Gaya is not too great, not bad, middle of the road. Gagnaire is a wonderful adventure, even if everything does not work, it is still quite interesting. For the cheese tray alone, LG Vefour is a worthwhile trip , food is OK. Reserve for Colette's table and you have a great view of a beautiful room. l would agree with lunch at Le Cinq, l will be there today with an American chef. l go every trip at least once. Les Ambassadeurs is another magnificent room with perfect food for lunch at very affordable prices. While Septime gets NYT great reviews it is sort of a Brooklyn resto with large space and nice food. It is one of the current places with smallish portions, but enough food, that are chef driven. When there twice in last few weeks, of a total of 7 dishes 2 were wows, 2 were good, and 3 were misses. Of this new breed Saturne has a stunning wine list of small producers all over France and the room is great as well.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              Sorriest, I think I might have been the one who said it was ok to bring a child, however noisy, to chez l'Ami Jean. It was meant to be a boutade. I think I said no child could possibly outscream the chef, something like that.
              Indeed chez l'Ami Jean has closely spaced tables. The service is excellent but the meal lasts about 2 hours plus. I remember once the staff apologized to me abjectly because it needed the table back in 2.5 hours, as the Basque rugby team was taking over the resto for a post-game midnight meal.
              If the child can sit still for 2 hours plus and not want to get up and run around in a space that has no space, then ok.

            2. Thanks for all those helpful comments. I think we'll try to get reservations at Le Cinq, Chez L'ami Jean and either Septime or L'Agape Substance. Thanks plafield for mentioning Le Cinq. I'm not sure why it dropped off my radar but that's exactly what I was looking for a celebration meal and the recent thread on the 12 course lunch made my mouth water.

              L'ami Jean
              27 Rue Malar, Paris, Île-de-France 75007, FR