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Paris Itinerary Help - Primary question Le Cinq or Guy Savoy for lunch

Bonsoir Chowhounders,

My girlfriend and I are travelling from New York City to Paris for the very first time. We are arriving early Thursday March 29th and depart on the following Tuesday. I have tried to do my due diligence in reviewing past threads here, Paris by Mouth, Hungry for Paris, Fodor's, Trip Advisor, etc. etc etc., in order to avoid a thread like this, but I just can't help it!

My reason for starting this thread is to gain some specific insight on how to best maximize the best that Paris has to offer in terms of ambiance and food quality (most important) relative to its location. Because it is our first time, i'd like to sync up nice areas for strolling, wandering, sight-seeing with where we eat, especially for lunch. We hope to see the Musee D'Orsay and Louvre museums, Montmarte, the catacombs perhaps, the Tour Eifell of course, and wherever else can be deemed a must-visit spot. Also, I'd like to get a somewhat varying sample of the restaurants Paris has to offer from small bistros and boulangeries to the Michelin-starred places. Also, I'd like a cross-section of classic French, provincial cuisine, and modern French, not too slanted one way or another.

We are adventurous eaters and we've saved up for this trip so the budget is a concern but should not be a deciding factor in choosing comparable places. We are staying in the 6th, near Brasserie Lipp (which I understand I should avoid!)

For now, here is what I've come up with. Please chime in with suggestions and comments:

Lunch - Play by ear, we will likely be tired from our overnight flight and I'd prefer not to have my first few hours of Paris be beholden to a lunch reservation. Maybe Laduree in the 6th for macaroons and the famous club sandwich.

Dinner - Currently, I have dinner at Le Gaigne reserved. Is that area of the Marais nice to walk around at night? Is this an especially romantic place? I'd like our first meal to be really special, quaint, romantic, "classic Paris." I also would like to avoid an extremely spendy place because our next meal is....

Lunch - Guy Savoy (110e internet special) I am very excited for this meall. Older reports indicate that the deal does not mean we will receive second class citzen status. Does that remain true? How is the area around Guy Savoy? Is there much to see or do nearby? Is this an especially filling meal? I am unsure whether to count on being full all day.

Friday Dinner - Currently open. I am unsure how hungry we will be after Guy Savoy. Some options I've looked at, that have availability, are Ze Kitchen Galerie, Benoit, Saturne, or Regis Hutierie. I have not looked into the availability of Josephine Chez Dumonet or Mon Ami Jean yet, fearing that I will not want such a rich meal after Guy Savoy. Anything else that I may be missing?

Saturday lunch - I would love to have a picnic. I will look for boulangeries and cheese shops near our hotel in other threads. What is considered the best area to picnic?

Saturday Dinner - Also open.

Sunday Lunch - Le Cinq If I have a panic attack about the money I am going to spend on meals on this trip, which would you cancel Le Cinq or Guy Savoy? Would doing both be overkill? I know the likely answer is only we could decide, but I just wanted to hear some insight. Are they similar at all? I have some concerns with spenidng 2 of our 5 daytimes indoors and not seeing the sights, but I couldn't decide between the two high-end places.

Sunday Dinner - Open (perhaps Fish,

Monday Lunch - Daytriip to Versaille.

Monday Dinner - Considering Josephine Chez Dumonet or Mon Ami Jean for here. Other thoughts, Gaya and/or

Other places I've looked at include Les Bistronomes, Chateaubriand (what is the best way to get a table?), L'Agape Substance (but I think I've ruled it out because backless chairs kill me), and Le39V.

Any help would be extremely appreciated. If my post is a little to meandering and rambling, please let me know. I have a lot of thoughts and concerns and I'm trying to piece this all together for an unforgettable trip.

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  1. If I were choosing between Guy Savoy and Le Cinq for lunch, having been to both, I would go to Le Cinq. But it's a very personal choice. I think the quality of the food is fairly equal with Le Cinq maybe shining a bit more on one of Briffard's more stellar days but both offer a similar style of updated classic French cuisine. Neither place is the highest of the high in terms of food but both offer an incredible dining experience of the Michelin starred kind and both offer an excellent special lunch menu. Both have great service. The ambiance, however is very different. Le Cinq is palatial with gorgeous light, extravagant floral arrangements and a sense of being pampered in every way. Savoy is clubbier, dark and cave like and more of a party in an exclusive club atmosphere as opposed to Le Cinq's erudite elegance. And unless you have an amazing appetite, no real dinner will be wanted after a lunch at either place. Maybe some oysters or a crepe late in the evening, but I couldn't so a sit down dinner after that kind of lunch.

    1. Regarding Le Cinq and Guy Savoy, if you are serious enough to use the research you are using l would go to both. For me two of three of my favorite lunches in Paris for many of the reasons Plafield mentions above. Afterwards find someone to pound your stomachs if you want to think about eating any more that day.
      For romance consider Le Petrelle, good food in quiet atmosphere with very roomy tables and auction, thus unusual, wine list.
      Closest great cheese shops to Bd St Germain are Barthelemy, closed midday, and Dubois, open midday. Place to picnic is at west end of park off Pont Neuf on the Ille Cite.
      Monday dinner , your choices are perfect, either one, l would reserve quickly.
      Consider Saturne a wild card, almost NY in attitude, in a good way. Phenomenal wine list and always very interesting food, with a great comte and finest bread in Paris,IMVHO.

      1. Definitely consider Le Regalade St. Honore for one of your open meals. We thought the food was excellent and the service was great as well. The duck for two supplement was worth every penny (16E supplement). Two large pieces of duck breast topped with black truffles and a whole lobe of foie gras and served over a sweet potato puree with a parsley salad. The thigh and leg were also included. I almost forgot, this was just my portion.

        6 Replies
        1. re: miltronix

          As for picnicing, there are so many gorgeous parks throughout Paris. Which is best for a picnic depends on many things. What kind of picnic do you want? Many of the parks in Paris don't allow sittng on the grass but hey all have benches. I love Place de Voges for a sit on the grass picnic and Parc Moncaeu for a bench picnic. But usually, we just find one of the many, many green spaces (the Streetwise Paris map shows every single one) closest to the boulangerie/patisserie where we've purchased that part of the picnic since that's usually our last purchase. Of course, you could choose the park first and then buy your supplies near that park. In Paris, you can' go wrong either way!

          1. re: miltronix

            Thanks for the report on the duck for two supplement at LRSH. Was the meat fully cooked, or was it more on the rare side?

            I'll be at LRSH in a few weeks, and I've been going back and forth about whether to go for the duck . . . or some other supplement . . . or just the regular menu.

            1. re: nl06

              It was about medium rare. With that said, my wife who typically prefers meats cooked medium loved it.

              1. re: nl06

                By the way, the pork belly we had there was the best I've ever had in my life. The top was rendered so crisp that it tasted like a crisp piece of bacon. It's quite a sizeable portion so keep that in mind if you order it!

                1. re: miltronix

                  I had the pork belly at LR just the other night and loved it. Thanks very much for the recommendation!

                  Thanks also to someone else who posted (on a separate thread) the full French name of the pork belly dish. Without this info, finding it on the menu would've been difficult for me.

                  Similar to the dish itself, the name is a mouthful: poitrine de cochon fermier moelleuse de chez Ospital, la couenne croustillante, lentilles vertes du Puy cuisinées comme un petit salé

              2. re: miltronix

                This sounds amazing - I'm adding it to my list for April!

              3. There is some excellent advice on here. Thank you all very much. I am debating subbing out Le Gaigne for Le Petrelle for our first evening's dinner. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? Mistake?

                1. Does anyone know of any romantic restaurants near Pont Neuf (on either bank) that would be suitable for a Thursday, relatively late lunch (1 or 1:30)? I am slated to go to dinner at Le Gaigne that night. As for Guy Savoy, after much debate, I've opted to cancel my reservation. I want to keep Friday daytime open for sightseeing and exploring. I thought of moving Guy Savoy to Thursday lunch, but it seems rather out of the way location-wise for my purposes.

                  Currently, I am booked at:

                  Thursday dinner: Le Gaigne

                  Friday lunch: either Ma Bourgogne or Laduree

                  Friday dinner: Le Petrelle (as per the advice in this thread, thanks! Is it a nice walk from in the evening Sacre Couer to Petrelle? I've read mixed reviews of the area)

                  Saturday lunch: Picnic at Parc Luxembourg or Place se Vosges

                  Saturday snack: Huiterie Regis

                  Ze Kitchen Galerie for a late Saturday night. (I am amenable to doing something else here. Saturday nights seem a bit tricky to find something worthwhile)

                  Sunday lunch: Le Cinq for lunch

                  Sunday dinner: Something light: crepes from Little Breizh perhaps? Any other suggestions for a very light dinner post-Le Cinq lunch?

                  Monday: Versailles

                  Monday Dinner: Regalade St. Honore (thanks again!)

                  So, I have open Thursday lunch, Friday lunch (maybe), and I am seriously considering swapping out Kitchen Galerie dinner.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Rich D.

                    I'm jealous. I want to come along! ;)

                    <Sunday lunch: Le Cinq for lunch> Le Cinq is on my "must do" list for next visit. But I'd like to make an observation... Just because they are open on Sundays does not mean Briffard will be in the kitchen. So bear that in mind as you plan your itinerary. I would go there on a weekday when Briffard is likely to be cooking.

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      Last time I had lunch a Le Cinq on a Sunday and Briffard was there. So you never know when he'll be there or not unless you ask a few days before. i wouldn't try to oik a day based on a guess of whether or not he's in the kitchen.

                    2. re: Rich D.

                      I'd ditch Laduree for all but takeaway macaroons. Lunch there is touristy drech.

                    3. Hey Rich D.--Going in a month--wondering if you have any info from your picks from your trip--would love to get your take

                      1. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions! We had a fabulous trip! It also happened to be the trip where I asked my girlfriend to be my fiancee. She said yes :)

                        On our first day, we had lunch at Le Rimenet, a busy bistro near the Notre Dame in the 5th, with a 50% off discount through TheFork.com. It was a very good meal, with rather complex dishes. We had two preparations of foie gras and john dory, with the latter being the highlight. We were seated in the downstairs "cave" section of the restaurant, which, while beautiful, unfortunately had a bit of a musky smell. All in all, with the discount especially, it was a fine introduction into Parisian cuisine.

                        For dinner on night one, after I proposed at sunset on Pont Neuf, we giddily strolled to Tastevin, a delightful restaurant on Ile St. Louis. The owner/server greeted us with champagne, and the night could not have been any better. The food was very good, with much simpler preparations than Rimenet of lamb, duck, and St. Jacques (still in their beautiful shells). To drink, we had a wonderful Margaux with dinner, and post-dinner a gentleman from another table bought me a glass of Calvados upon over-hearing our news. Even though the dining room was filled with other Americans (4 of 5 tables), it fit the bill as a romantic and quintessential French restaurant.
                        I'd highly recommend it for the ambiance and service (and the food and wine...)

                        On day two, we lunched at Saturne. We LOVED it. It was much lighter fare than the previous two meals, and there is definitely a Nordic influence to the menu. Despite some reviews warning of rude service, we experienced nothing of the sort. The Alsatian white wine (unfortunately I don't remember the name) was recommended by the server after consulting with the bartender to satisfy my request for something unusual. It was crisp and delicious. To eat we shared mackeral topped with sea urchin, a black bass dish with beet puree (delicious) and an extremely generously-portioned chicken dish with frisee and endives. For dessert we had their shavings of comte cheese with their excellent bread. It was a great meal with relatively good value, especially for lunch. The room is not unlike something you'd see in New York City. I would highly recommend Saturne as well.

                        For dinner, we ate at Petrelle in the Montmarte area (just a bit south actually). While the room was shabby chic and kitschy-romantic and the egg and truffle appetizer was a hit, I didn't love the Burgundy we were recommended, the entrees, or the price-tag at the end of the meal. 25 euros for a small poached egg appetizer with chantarelles was not great value. The lamb was unfortunately a bit overpriced too. I believe it was 45 euros for a small serving with no additional frills. The house tabby cat, though, was adorable.

                        For lunch on Day 3, we strolled the Marais district for hours and hours until we FINALLY found Le Gaigne. Beware, it is difficult to find as it is on a tiny street and the awning of the restaurant was obscured by scaffolding. We each had the 5 course lunch tasting menu (the lengthier one, which is the only one available on Saturdays). We very much enjoyed each of the dishes, save for the cod in a caramel-flavored sauce. The highlight was likely the egg course. I apologize for the lack of details. I am pretty sure that I dined a few tables over from John Talbott and his group. I believe I recognized him from his website. His reviews on CH and elsewhere
                        were really helpful to me, and it was pretty cool to be at the same restaurant at the same time.
                        I'd recommend Le Gaigne for more modernist twists at a solid price point. I liked the meal a lot The restaurant itself is TINY, but I guess that is neither here nor there.

                        For dinner we ate at Ze Kitchen Galerie. This was likely the worst dining of experience of the trip, in large part due to the service. We literally sat without water or bread for 40 minutes before being approached by our waiter. The bottle of wine we ordered was poured from the bottle itself (which suspiciously was not opened tableside) to a glass jug and unceremoniously plopped on the table. For a Michelin-starred place, the service was absolutely unacceptable. Food-wise, though, it was delicious albeit with precious small portions and a bit of a hefty pricetag. For starters we had the seafood boulliabaise with lemongrass, which was great. Another dish was citrus-marinated slivers of raw fish (the waiter said there was no English translation of the French fish, but frankly, I didn't think he cared to find out), were also very good. I, unfortunately, don't remember what I ordered. I must've blocked it out.

                        Thankfully, our next meal, lunch on Sunday, came with arguably the BEST service I've ever experienced-- Le Cinq. The room is absolutely beautiful, the sommelier was patient with my questions and nailed each pairing suggestion, and the waiters were as accommodating as could be. For example, the main course options on the lunch pre fixe were pork and john dory. Being that my fiancee and I like to share our main courses, and I was not in the mood for fish, I asked our table captain if Chef Briffard (who was indeed in the kitchen on a Sunday) would mind making me a meat dish, any dish, any style, to substitute for the pork and fish options. Upon inquiring, the server told me that that would be absolutely no problem and I would be having lamb. THAT is great service and the lamb, incidentally, was excellent. The cheese cart was exceptional, the wines were great (I believe I had 5 glasses throughout the meal), and the amuses were great as well. Needless to say, after our amuses of raw blue shrimp topped with basil olive oil, fried shrimp heads, fried calamari, olive oil and focaccia, and a pea puree topped with caviar, our entrees of pork and lamb, the delicious cheese cart, and dessert cart, I did not have dinner that night. This was the best meal of the trip and maybe the lengthiest (3 plus hours) and most enjoyable I've ever had.

                        For lunch on our final day, we picniced at the far-western tip of the Ile de la Cite under the Pont Neuf. We picked up a bottle of wine from a wine merchant on Rue St. Germain in the 6th, cheese and fruit from the grocery store, and a baguette from Eric Keyser. It was great.

                        Dinner on our final night was at Le Regalade St. Honoree. What a feast. For our appetizer we had the scallops and an egg dish. Again, I apologize for the lack of details. For entrees, we had the famed pork belly and a steak entrecote special with a 10 dollar surcharge. The meal was delicious, filling and the price was absolutely reasonable. Service was expeditious and pleasant and the rice pudding and souffles were as good as advertised. I highly recommend LRSH as well.

                        Thanks again for all of the suggestions! Paris is an amazing city and this was a trip I won't ever forgot.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Rich D.

                          And what a great report besides.
                          I will tell John talbott about your sighting of him. He is not likely to read this board.
                          You hit on many of my faves, esp Saturne.
                          Congratulations again.

                          1. re: Parigi

                            Yes, congratulations! Sounds like a wonderful trip. Thanks so much for the great report.

                          2. re: Rich D.

                            Thanks for your lovely report and congratulations!

                            I am debating whether to take my picky-eater, growing-into-picky-about-most-things mother to lunch at Le Cinq or La Grande Cascade next month. I had fantastic lunches at both a few years ago, but don't know which would be better for Mom (if either). I'm swinging back to Le Cinq based on your descriptions.

                            Saturne sounds delicious as well.