Paris & Reims report March 12-22
First time poster, former lurker here. My husband and I recently returned from 10 days of eating and drinking our way through Paris and Reims. I originally wrote this for a general travel forum and am copying and pasting the relevant parts with some minor editing. I made our Paris reservations through our hotel concierge mostly a week or so in advance except for one dinner for 8 which I started working on a month out.
First day’s lunch at Zinc www.zinc-opera.com
We picked this place because it was close to the hotel and seemed to offer the perfect sort of refined comfort food for our jet lagged state. Mark had the foie gras to start followed by scallops and I had the salade Lyonnais and onglet de veau from the daily ardoise. With a carafe of wine, it was €80. I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat here but it’s a good if you’re in the neighborhood option. We appreciated the quick service as we both desperately needed a nap so we could stay awake for this evening's dinner.
Dinner at Neva Cuisine
We went through a number of options before deciding on Neva for a Monday night dinner for 8. Mark and I had dined there in November and really enjoyed it. The restaurant is large enough to comfortably accommodate groups but not too large. We had a great time meeting and chatting with Chowhounder AGM_Cape_Cod and other internet friends. The menu consisted of 4-5 choices per course with 2 courses at €29.50 and 3 at €37 with supplements for some of the items. Mark had the foie gras followed by the entrecote and I had the calamari risotto (yummy) and sweetbreads and of course, I had to have that choco bomb again :) I think it came to around €460 for the 8 of us including 3 bottles of wine.
Lunch at Au Passage
We met up again with Mr & Mrs AGM_Cape Cod and another friend the following day for lunch at Au Passage. I chose this place because it was very close to the bakery where we were taking a class later. Lunch is a basically a no choice daily changing ardoise except for the main where there are 2 choices. Today’s menu consisted of a trout starter, a choice of merlu or magret de canard for the plat, a cheese course (I forget what they were) and chocolate ganache for dessert. You can have as few as 1 course or as many as 4. The courses were not too big and I think we all had 3 or 4. The price was amazingly low considering the excellent quality of the food, something like €17 for 3 courses. I think it cost the 5 of us just over €100 including a bottle of wine. I vote this the best value in Paris!
Verjus Wine Bar
After the bakery class we decided to stop in Verjus wine bar for nibbles and drinks. We ordered the pork belly (very nice), veal meatballs (OK), cheese plate (good) and ricotta cake (loved this). With a bottle of wine, our bill came to €71.
Lunch at Pottoka
We thought it would be interesting to try some different regional cuisines this time so chose Pottoka and later in the trip FL. Mark had the lamb cannelloni and chicken from the weekday ardoise (€17 for 2 courses or €22 for 3) and I had the scallop tartare and lamb cocotte. We both enjoyed the food but thought it was just slightly oversalted. The portions were big too so we were both stuffed after 2 courses and had to skip dessert (darn, I wanted the try the gateau Basque). With a carafe of wine and 2 coffees, our lunch came to €68. We’d love some more recs for regional cuisines if anyone has suggestions for next time.
Dinner at L’Office
I had high expectations for L’Office as it had been praised by a food writer who I’ve found we share similar tastes with. While we thought what they were doing was very interesting, we found that not all of the flavors worked for us. Dinner options are written on the wall and consisted of 3 choices per course at €27/€33/€39 for 2/3/4 courses. Mark started with the calamari followed by the chestnut ravioli with beef and I had the beef carpaccio and lotte. We both thought my 2 dishes were better than his 2. We shared a cheese plate of cantal & fourme d’ambert and the chocolate with noisette and mandarine dessert. Based on my 2 dishes, it’s definitely some place I wouldn’t mind trying again. During the meal, we were discussing other restaurants and Septime was mentioned (our favorite last trip). The owner overheard us and came right over to our table. He must have had supersonic hearing ;) He said that Grebaut was a good friend of his and thought that Septime has some of the best food in Paris right now. I sensed some friendly rivalry too. Dinner was €110 with 6 glasses of wine.
Lunch at Sola
Sola was one of the meals I had to cancel last time because we just couldn’t eat another multi course meal. I was still very curious about it so it went back on the list. Lunch is 4 courses (2 entrees/1 plat/1 dessert) for €35 or 6 courses (2 of each) for €50. There’s a choice of fish or meat for the main (they don’t tell you what kind of fish or meat) but otherwise no choice. We decided to go with 4 courses with Mark opting for fish and meat for me. The meal started with a sweet potato amuse followed by seared foie with miso (mmm…). The second starter was smoked egg with calamari and pear. For mains, Mark had brill and I had pork belly and loin (this was delicious). Dessert was vanilla ice cream with chocolate and meringue. No mignardises were served. An excellent meal and you could see the Japanese influence coming through. €110 with 3 glasses of wine, coffee and tea.
Dinner at Les Saisons www.restaurant-les-saisons.com
What a great neighborhood bistro! We started with the house made duck rillettes and could’ve eaten pots and pots of these. A 3 course menu for €31 with 2 choices of starter and main as well as a la carte are offered at dinner. Mark started with the perfectly seared foie followed by Basque pork and I took the menu selecting the salmon tataki followed by cabillaud and fruit salad with sherbet for dessert. Simple, well executed food, a great complement to today’s lunch. At the neighboring table sat an adorable French bulldog. €93 with a bottle of wine. The owners are a lovely couple, he cooks and she runs the front of house. They’ve been open for 3 months and after I mentioned John Talbott’s blog when she asked how I’d heard about them, she showed me a copy she’d printed pointing to the “my goodness, my gosh, my golly” and saying she didn’t know if that was good or bad. I assured her it was good! We adored this place.
Lunch at FL
Another restaurant with regional cuisine, this time Picardy instead of Basque. A weekday formule with 2 choices per course at €20 for 2 courses or €24 for 3 is offered plus another 3 course menu with a choice of main at €29 and a la carte options. We both went with the formule with Mark selecting the ficelle picarde (good but very rich, I could only eat a couple of bites) and pork belly (can there be enough pork belly?) while I chose the terrine de canard and tacaud. The pork belly came with a very nice macaroni topped with pied de cochon. We both thought Mark’s 2 dishes were better than mine but they were such big portions I could’ve never finished them. Stuffed again, we skipped dessert. The total came to €60 with a carafe of wine and 2 coffees.
Paves from Michel Chaudun
We stopped at Michel Chaudun to buy some chocolate paves and all I have to say is OMG. We were told they only have a shelf life of 10 days like that was going to be a problem ;
Tea at Un Dimanche a Paris
We made our way to the 6th for tea and a pastry at Un Dimanche a Paris. We saw our translator from the chocolate truffle class that we took here in December and chatted with her a bit. It was not quite tea time in the restaurant but not a problem as most of the lunch diners had left. I had a rooibos and a choux pistache fruits rouges and Mark had a refreshing Coca Cola on another warm day. I like the pastries here.
Frenchie wine bar
We wanted to check out Frenchie wine bar before dinner so left our hotel precisely at 6:30pm to walk over because we knew we had to be there right when they opened. We actually got there just before 7:00pm and they were already open and we and another couple took the last 4 seats at a communal table for 4. So get there before 7:00pm. By 7:00pm it’s standing room only. We ordered the burrata with boudin noir which was really good. With 2 glasses of champagne and a glass of wine, it was €42. Almost everything on the bottle list is available by the glass. Our neighbors had a 7:30pm reservation at the restaurant and were told they had to be out by 9:30pm. I wouldn’t mind going back to the wine bar and trying more dishes as the one dish we tried seemed very promising but don’t know how I feel about the whole eating on their terms thing.
Dinner at Albion
This is a good size restaurant/wine store by the former chef of Fish. Throughout the evening there were many walk-ins including a party of 6 and they were able to seat them (another good group dinner place). I didn’t have high expectations of Albion, I don’t know why, but it pleasantly surprised me. Everything is a la carte and there are enough but not too many choices, maybe 3 per course. Mark had the carpaccio and lamb chops and I had the squid risotto and rouget. I wished the risotto had a little more than a sprinkling of squid but everything was consistently well prepared without trying to be too elaborate. The date cake for dessert was yummy. With a bottle of wine and 2 coffees, it was €91. There are windows on the floor of the restaurant to the cellar below which I noticed everyone including me skirted around. I know you can’t fall through but it’s still freaky.
A Charlotka at Café Pouchkine
I still hadn’t made it to Café Pouchkine located on the ground floor of Printemps so made a point to head there in the morning. There’s a small counter seating area where we shared a Charlotka with coffee. The pastries here are the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen and the flavor lived up to the visual appea . I marveled at the tray of viennoiserie too but unfortunately didn’t have room for any.
Lunch at Willi's
Lunch was unplanned today and since we’d decided at the last minute to try a Paris Walks tour that started at Etienne Marcel metro that afternoon, Willi’s wine bar seemed a good place to stop on the way. The lunch menu consisted of several choices per course with 2 course at €21 and 3 at €26 but they were fine with me just having a plat. Mark started with the scallop tartare followed by the cabillaud and I had the pintade which I really liked. €76 with a pichet of wine (I feel their wines are somewhat overpriced). Again not something I’d go out of my way for but very convenient for what we wanted. The food is better than Juveniles but I like Juveniles better as a wine bar. Will’s feels more like a restaurant to me.
Dinner at La Table d’Aki
This is a small 16 seat restaurant located in the 7th but more towards the 6th side recently opened by a chef who worked at L’Ambroisie for 20 years. I had heard about it just before we left so it was a last minute addition and I’m so glad we went there. Dinner is a choice of 3 or 4 courses for €45 or €58. The only difference is one less entrée for the 3 course and you get to choose which of the two entrees you want. Otherwise, it’s no choice. It’s also all seafood. Lunch is a different format with 3 courses I think and a choice between fish or meat for the main and you can choose to have as few as 1 or as many as 3 courses. I had read that chef Akihiro Horikoshi did everything himself including serving but tonight there’s someone helping out (his wife?) or maybe at lunch it’s only him. Service is a tiny bit slow and slightly confused but we had sort of expected that. We chose the 4 course which started with a fish rillette amuse followed by the ravioli langoustine. The ravioli was delicious and I could’ve eaten plate after plate of this. Seared scallops with an olive tapenade was next (also very nice) followed by turbot for the main and a dessert of vanilla millefeuille with pear (yum). The total with a bottle of Sancerre was €146. We chatted with the chef for a bit after dinner and between our tiny bit of French, his little bit of English and some gesturing, we were able to communicate where we were from, how we heard about his restaurant, how much we loved the ravioli, etc.
Food in Reims
If there was one thing that was bit of a letdown in Reims, it was the food especially after Paris. We didn’t try any fine dining so can’t comment on that but of the more casual establishments we did try, we came to the conclusion that keeping it very simple often worked much better. Not that anything was downright bad (except for one place), it was just nothing to get excited about. We also found most portions here on the large side so usually opted for only 2 courses with Mark getting an entrée and plat and me a plat and dessert (I have my priorities)! ;) Service was good everywhere and everyone was nice and welcoming so I almost hate to post some of the following.
Dinner at Le Bocal
First the good part, the one exception and standout food wise was Le Bocal www.poissonneriedeshalles.fr a tiny 12 seat restaurant upstairs of the fish market that’s on Rue de Mars across the street from the covered market under renovation and not far from the train station. We walked in at 7:30pm and were able to get seated but the place filled up quickly. We both started with oysters and langoustines. The langoustines were so sweet and delicious that we had to order another round. Mark had scallops and polenta as his main, perfectly cooked and seasoned, and I had the oyster parmentier. We shared a faisselle miel for dessert. €78 with 3 glasses of champagne. This was our last meal in Reims and what a great way to end things!
Other meals in Reims
Cote Cuisine was OK and one of the few options open on Sunday but there are better choices on other days of the week.
La Table Anna was really mediocre and we gave up before dessert. An amuse of ham and cream cheese blended together set the tone for the meal. After dinner we walked past a creperie on the same street and wished we’d eaten there.
Le Jardin at Les Crayeres had a nice setting, great service and beautiful looking food but we wished it had more flavor. My scallop main was perfectly cooked but a bit on the bland side. Mark’s langoustine ravioli starter and cabillaud main was similar. My profiterole dessert was wonderful though. There’s a 2 course lunch menu for €28 with 2 choices per course but it didn’t appeal that day so we ordered a la carte and our bill came to €117 with 1 glass of champagne, 3 glasses of wine and 2 coffees. All of the ladies who lunch were dining here and it’s a pleasant enough place. It was also very convenient to the champagne houses in the southern part of town.
La Table des Halles is another restaurant on Rue de Mars where we found some of the better restaurants we experienced to be clustered. There was a tapas bar farther down this street that looked interesting too. A 2 course lunch formule is offered for €16 as well as a la carte. Mark started with the escargot croustillant followed by the canette and I took the formule which was braised pork on noodles and had a café gourmand for dessert. Bits of my pork were a little dry but Mark’s dishes were better and overall it was fine. €71 with a glass of champagne, 3 glasses of wine and an extra coffee.
Hall Place www.hallplace.fr is a wine bar sandwiched on Rue de Mars between Le Bocal and La Table des Halles. Practically all of the other diners at these 3 establishments knew each other except for us. Inside are high communal tables for 8 with regular tables outside along the sidewalk. They’re open pretty much all day so good for eating at odd hours and now that I think of it, they might even be open on Sunday but I’m not sure. They’re definitely open on Monday. We chose this place for a quick lunch before an afternoon tour and it fit the bill. Mark had the cote de veau and I had a salade fermiere, simple food, good ingredients, well cooked. We would go back here too. We skipped dessert as we were running low on time. €56 with a glass of champagne, 2 glasses of wine and 2 coffees.
I hope this is helpful. I especially wanted to post about Reims because I found so little information before our trip. Thanks for reading!
I understand what you mean with there being very little info on Reims. We got here last night but tonight's dinner was amazing - a new restaurant that had just opened 4 weeks ago, L'Évêché, on 48 Rue Chanzy (right by La Table Anna where we wanted to go, but they are closed on Wednesdays).
They make everything in-house, there are selections of what you want for your 2-3 course meal. We had the Platter of the North (Assiete du Nord) and the beets, and the Coq au Vin. The Platter of the North was a great dill-flavoured seafood platter, the beets were both raw and cooked and with a slight hint of cumin. The Coq au Vin was delicious; clearly the product of someone who had put hours of effort into it.
I loved the minimalist decor, and in fact, the restaurant only seats 24 people. Very friendly, hospitable staff (I think it's only the guy who runs it) and clearly a restaurant that was opened as a conscious decision to offer good food. And they do that at very good prices (3 course dinner for 19 EUR)