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Help with where to eat in Paris for 3 days/nights

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My husband and I will be in Paris in late March for 3 days before we leave for Spain. I would really like to lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant as dinner would be too pricey. Despite having trawled the threads and especially because of trawling the threads, I am totally lost. I was thinking of either L'Aperge or L'Astrance. Any advice or other recommendations will be much appreciated!!

I've also been reading a lot about Spring, Frenchie and Saturne, albeit mixed reviews. Should I set aside one lunch or dinner at one of these restaurants?

While we could do one or two fancy meals, it'll be great to just dine at a Parisian cafe/bsitro (steak + frites!) and soak up the culture and atmosphere. From what I've read, I assume we won't need reservations at these more casual eateries? Please advise.

Since this is our first time in Paris, we will obviously be doing the touristy stuff. But we love food so can't pass up on a chance to indulge!

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  1. Chosing a fine dining establishment is mosly a question about your personal preferences, there is almost no right or wrong (some people even like Ducasse!). That said, for your first time, choosing l'Arpège or l'Astrance, especially for lunch, assumes that you're comfortable with a few plates of a handful (not a fist) of vegetables, a very light meal, quite informal service, and some unexpected flavours and combinations thereof.

    For beginners, I would much more likely recommend lunch at Le Cinq, of course -- after all, don't you want to do the touristy stuff?

    Whether you should eat in one of the NYT spots is up to you. Frenchie I can't really talk about, since I haven't been able to get in, but you should not only read reviews, but also check pictures on Blogs, Picasa, Flickr to get a sense of how much it appeals to you. Foodwise, Saturne is very much of a more casual Arpège or Astrance, with a slightly more modern twist. Spring is in a category of its own but prices will take you close to fine dining.

    I've heard about those wonderful Parisian bistrot in which there is great food for cheap and no reservation is needed. Never seen one, though, in almost fourty years of living here. That said, there are decent neighborhood bistrots in many places, it is mostly a question of neighborhood. For me, I like Au Dernier Métro (bd Grenelle) L'Auvergne à Paris (rue Blomet), Brasserie de l'Ile Saint Louis and Saint Régis (both on rue Jean du Bellay), but those are just some random spots not worth crossing town for.

    Café Cartouche is a secret gem, but reservations are needed.

    7 Replies
    1. re: souphie

      I agree that Le Cinq is a great choice for a special lunch for your first time in Paris. Gorgeous setting, superb service that is both welcoming and very professional, and great food. The food may not be life changing, earth shattering, or challenging but it is rich and delicious and the special lunch menu for around 87E (w/out drinks) is not made up of sub-par choices as it is in many of the other multi-starred Michelins. For my money, it's the very best choice one can make for a special experience.

      As for Spring and Frenchie, I think they are both much more hype than substance. While the food may be excellent at both places (I've, myself, only eaten at Spring) there are numerous restaurants in Paris where the food is as good and better where you can actually get a reservation fairly easily. For whatever reason, both these restaurants have a fanatical following and have been hyped no end on the food blogs so what one has to do to get a table (and the price you now pay at Spring) in my opinion isn't worth it.

      You will need to plan ahead and make reservations for any place where the food is really good. Even the casual neighborhood bistros, if they are really good, won't have tables available without reservations. Do yourself a favor and do some research and decide where you'd like to eat ahead of time and make reservations. You can always cancel but you can't always get a table somewhere good.

      1. re: plafield

        <You can always cancel but you can't always get a table somewhere good.>

        AMEN! Imho, it's a good idea to make reservations for all meals. Canceling is so easy if you change your mind -- even 20 minutes before the reservation! I have almost always been disappointed when I have not done this.

        1. re: ChefJune

          I thought Spring was only doing luck on Fridays now? Did it change again?

          1. re: ChefJune

            Nice editing, I meant lunch

            1. re: mick

              I just realised that Le Cinq has changed a few chefs in the last three years. While it has maintained the top spot and it has always been classic French, I do feel like I won't be learning about the chef through his food. That has always appealed to me more. That said, u can't deny excellent food the praise it's due.

              1. re: germaine01

                You mean you have already come to Paris and gone?
                Do tell us about the restos where you ended up going.

                1. re: germaine01

                  Philippe Legendre joined in 1999 and left in 2008 after he lost a star. Then Eric Briffard took over after a short change over period whilst the old sous chef ran the kitchen. So Briffard has been there for four years which definately gives him time to show his style. So not really true that Le Cinq has "changed a few chefs in the last three years".