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Apr 26, 2012 08:40 AM

I hate to be this unimaginative, but post-research, pre-trip, might you celebrate or lampoon our choices?

Hi All! I know you are self aware, but I don't know if you realize how many people you reach, and help. I think it's like 90% of people who use social media don't type a word, and just consume *your* content.... *we* all really appreciate it.

I am a half-hearted lurker... I always end up posting when I can't help it and get giddy. So I thought I would run by our very simple couple days in Paris, and heed your advice, while omitting the more prosaic destinations like markets, bakeries, etc. Point - we are masters at queuing, and are happily patient people. We will cook in our apartment at some point, and our days are less planned... more La Flâneur, than anything. Lots of picnics and gardens, but that's about it. Thoughts?

Sun 6th - a fun Brunch put on my some friends of mine. I only drop it in here because some of you might enjoy the pop up experience at Coutume Café.

Sun 6th night: Bofinger. Is it too rigid and tired? Is it still a quaint & worthwhile slice of old Paris? We have a proper rez here. A friend mentioned this may be "chain-y" at this point, and recommended Bistrot du Dôme? Thoughts?

Mon 7th - 7p on the dot, slide into the Frenchie Wine Bar, and hope for a cancellation. If not, my friend says you can eat the menu at the wine bar -->!/tavallai/status...

Is there a local back up rez I should consider? In your experience is the Wine Bar a viable option?

Tues 8th - 2nd seating at Le Chateaubriand. We are going to arrive quite early and enjoy their bar.

Wed 9th - Spring for Lunch.

I will *promise* to write up the entire thing... but any red flags? Any thing we should miss, or anything we should be aware of in ordering? I saw that La Cinq offered champagne at the beginning of the meal (I would think that to be complimentary), but it was 33E a glass? We have saved up, I like to think money isn't at issue (and it's not I guess), but that would sour my experience a bit. My wife is fluent... so I doubt we will get caught off guard?

edit: I am going to update the below as you all help me. =)

Backup restaurants that we also, likely, can't get into...... =
)L'Ami Jean
Chez Georges
La Fontaine de Mars

new: Le Cinq
Terroir Parisien

Now I move on to the daunting task of Luberon. I also feel nervous that I am about a week or two off securing proper reservations! Eeek!

Picture related: it's how excited I feel.

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  1. We weren't offered the restaurant menu at Frenchie wine bar but didn't ask. In any case, the wine bar menu would be fine for a meal. I only tried one dish because we had dinner reservations elsewhere but was very pleased with it (burrata with boudin noir). I would get there just before 7pm. We arrived just before and the wine bar was already open. We took the last 2 seats at a communal table for 4. Almost all of the wines on the list are also available by the glass.

    The champagne cart at Le Cinq is not complimentary. There are many choices and it depends on what you choose. I think our glass was around 25.

    You still have 2 weeks to go right? You should be able to get a reservation at Chez L'Ami Jean then.

    L'Ardoise in the 1st? I wouldn't bother.

    6 Replies
    1. re: PattyC

      "I hate to be this unimaginative, but post-research, pre-trip, might you celebrate or lampoon our choices?"

      If you put it this way… :-)

      Agree abpit Chez l'Ami Jean and l'Ardpose and would also add Les Cocotte Constant on don't-bother list.

      Sunday night, yes to Bofinger if you care for setting and not food. And are sure to have a table downstairs under the dome. Terroir Parisien is open Sunday night.

      1. re: Parigi

        ha.. thanks. I choose deference over triumphant ignorance. =)

        I will add Terroir Parisien.... that sounds incredible. I like the idea of these guys doing a more informal, food focused style. In SF, it's interesting to see the polarization of Michelin guys like Corey's Benu, & Joseph Humphrey from Meadowood & Murray Circle with his new "Dixie". Foam vs farm, you know? I like this more casual approach a lot. I will still dress properly. =)

        I think my wife felt put off by the gastropub concept of L'ami Jean, but I was fired up to try it. Thank you all for this advice... it will truly help. Like I said, whatever happens I will have a specific write up. Thank you for your advice and making our trip! =)

        I am not sure if I should edit as I go along, or put new posts? I guess it might be hard to follow along if I edit...

        1. re: Parigi

          For L'Ami Jean, I assume reservations are a must? Same for Terroir Parisien?

          1. re: unclefishbits

            1. Yes. 2. Preferably, unless you feel ok to be turned away at the last minute. Many do. Many don't.

        2. re: PattyC

          Brilliant... thank you. Ardoise was the same person who rec'd Bofinger, so it makes sense. I now understand Frenchie is a wine bar menu, but I am just as happy with a casual dining option. I know that there is always somewhere better... I know there are places quite overhyped. But we are fairly happy to just poke around and see what the fuss is about in relation to the currently trending spots. I know, for a fact, there are 20 hidden gems that are up and coming and better than any of the "name" restaurants....

          Everyone reading this is more of an expert than me, and I just proud we aren't at tourist traps, commentary on Bofinger pending, of course. =)

          If anyone would like to share the name of their secret find they are too nervous to share, you could do that too... haha

        3. I was the one who reported the 33EU glass of champagne at Le Cinq. I knew it wouldn't be complementary, but I didn't think it would be 33EU a glass either. My mother chose a different champagne than I did and her glass was only 24EU - we had no way of knowing, though, what the prices would be. Then again, it's the kind of place where they probably assume that if you're eating there, you don't need to ask.

          19 Replies
          1. re: biondanonima

            Absolutely. I thought they just brought it to you... didn't understand it was a service. I am not too concerned about paying for a great glass of champagne, but forwarned is forearmed. =) Thank you for your report biondanonima!

            1. re: unclefishbits

              I guess I'm curious why no one asks how much each of the selections they're considering would be. I'm sure I would.... ;)

              1. re: ChefJune

                If it's a tasting menu with a wine pairing selection, I might just go for it... but knowing what I am going to pay is typically a high priority. If you get to the restaurant and there aren't prices on the menus, well... you just enjoy the night, then (and pay for it later)

                1. re: unclefishbits

                  I disagree. I always ask when specials are recited by a server without prices. I've been in the business too long to put up with shenanigans like that. Tell your customers what the prices are. Be open and above-board. And customers should not feel sheepish about asking when the prices aren't noted up front. Anywhere.

                  Unless you're in a restaurant where the host is given the menu with the prices and is paying for it all, then the guests should sit back and choose whatever they desire.

                  1. re: ChefJune

                    Well said. I agree, and didn't want to be uppity by saying I don't go in for that kind of stuff. I am an industry guy too... I am a simpleton from the Bay Area. I think the notion that healthy, fresh food made well in a nice environment is good enough for me... but I am also into transparency. I think it's the future for all systems, whether gov. or communities, and certainly for something like a restaurant, where you want your clients to feel at ease, and comfortable. Surprises are never comfortable, and you never want to taint an exceptional meal with sticker shock.

                    Reading what I wrote, honestly, i would be surprised to find a place like that anymore. I do know that France food is evolving, and the stuff like Terroir Parisien is not getting recognized for the food so much as the lack of traditional formality, etc. I find that very interesting... the less formal, food focused style has been blossoming here in SF, and I am surprised the traditionalism in the Paris culinary world is so entrenched that the gastropub concept could be controversial....

                    1. re: unclefishbits

                      Dear uncle - Paris does have its own Gastropub movement but as they don't have pubs in France (they are British) it was called the Bistronomique movement with places like Le Regalade, L'ami Jean, and Le Comptoir were in the vanguard. Good food in a more casual, relaxed, environment have become common and thus not controversial in Paris - in fact Le Computer is an impossible reservation it is so entrenched. This "movement" is now followed by places like Saturne and Agape Substance more casual, on-trend, places serving innovative food in a more relaxed surrounding. Paris also now has a flourishing wine bar and small plater scene with Frenchie, Au Passage etc offering very casual food in minimalist surroundings...and good food that is recognised.

                      But France also values tradition in food and thus whilst the food scene changes around the edges the core stays with tradition in terms of food as well as service.

                      For me the beauty of France is that all types of food and styles of revive are available at reasonable prices. You can eat in top French restaurants with very formal service outside of Paris for a reasonable price. In Paris you can often do this at lunchtimes with the set meals at places like Le Cinq - it isn't elitist at those prices it is simply a different set of standards.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        Wonderful statement. It's true much of the US food "scene" is quite polarized, but as long as people are excited about the diversity, I imagine there's room for everyone. =) Great thoughts.

                    2. re: ChefJune

                      Ah, chère June,
                      An omission of prices may not always be shenanigans.
                      I have noticed on this board and every other board how people often would ask for recs for a restaurant or a hotel room that is moderately priced, but would not give a figure. One person with an obviously misplaced sense of gentility even became sarcastic with me.
                      And the figure that people consider "moderately priced" turns out to range from 20 euro to 100 euro. Why are people so reluctant to just say a price? Maybe the same reason for Le Cinq. Maybe Le Cinq is not out to nickle and dime us to death after all. :-)

                      1. re: Parigi

                        I would love to see a survey. That's like Milton. One man's heaven is another's hell? One man's bargain on a glass of bubbly is one man's frantic panic. haha

                        1. re: Parigi

                          Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I seem to remember that I asked the price of the champagne I selected at Le Cinq. Or somehow I seemed to order a relatively reasonable glass, and I don't know champagne at all so I can't see how how that could have happened without some help. In any case, it was no big deal and I'm uptight and self-conscious, so I know I'd remember vividly if I'd committed an obvious gaffe.

                          I say ask.

                          1. re: Leely2

                            I agree: When in doubt, ask, always ask.

                            1. re: Parigi

                              This is of course the answer, only the very worst service restaurant would take offence.

                              I made the mistake when agreeing to champagne at Pierre Gagnaire shortly after proposing. The fact it was Eur35 a glass was only mildly annoying but the really bad form part was that they brought that rather than the house Champagne at c20.

                              1. re: ManInTransit

                                Of course the logical answer is to ask - we sometimes do. But, there are many times th moment gets the better of you and you don't. Why are we never surprised by what a bargain it is?

                                1. re: PhilD

                                  True. And right after a proposal (positively replied)? Of course one would forget to ask. One would forget one's own name !

                                  1. re: Parigi

                                    Yes exactly, I am usually more than happy to ask for prices/a full wine list but post-proposal was not that time.

                                    We are returning in four weeks for the start of our honeymoon, very exciting but I will be asking for prices (hopefully not a sign of the romance dying!)

                                    1. re: ManInTransit

                                      Only a sign that she picked a prudent and sophisticated husband.

                                    2. re: Parigi

                                      My problem is I get so excited about going to new restaurants that I also have the same sort of moment....!

                                      But a serious point: I think diners often get overwhelmed by the situation and logic does fly our of the window, or they don't wish to appear cheap in front of their date or even their partner, especially at a special meal. This is when the restaurant "tricks" come into play, the apero before the menu, the special recited table side with no prices, and the "market price" for the fish or shellfish (odd it is only for expensive things).

                                      I just got stung for a lobster dish in HK - we asked for estimates on other market priced dishes at the start but in he flow of the meal we order lobster....only US$120! And this was not a great place (for another board but Lobster in Kraft cheese sauce is never going to be great despite the fact it is an authentic Cantonese dish - a waste of good lobster!).

                                      So despite best intentions it is easy to fall into the common restaurant traps - good to be wary - but no reason to feel guilty if you do, as we all do at one time or another,

                                      1. re: PhilD

                                        Well put.... it's the deer in the headlights thing. Jim Gaffigan has a funny joke about calling for take out, and how it's some elaborate trick... as soon as you call and they ask, "What would you like?"... & you immediately go just completely blank. It's an interesting part of the human condition. Just blind panic. Ahaha... it happens to all of us. =)

                                      2. re: Parigi

                                        I am sure there is a marketing message in their for the scoundrels.... target people immediately after the question is popped. ha.... I proposed to my wife in a suit, soaking wet, while holding two plungers. I promise it was far more romantic than that. =) Whenever I think of marketing, however, I think of Bill Hicks, who quipped, "If anyone here is in marketing, kill yourselves." =)

                                        Well done, and the story is worth the extra euro. Cheers to that!

                  2. What about Au Petit Sud Ouest, or Le relais de l'isle? And is Les Ambassadeurs just ridiculously overpriced, or a fun brunch?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: unclefishbits

                      I would also say no to Au Petit Sud Ouest. Haven't been to the 2 others.

                      Now that you've amended your list, I very much enjoyed our lunch at Le Cinq but have to say the food isn't what I remember most.

                    2. Champagne, if listed or quoted as such, is not inexpensive in France and the price is usually not mentioned when one is asked if they would like to start with a glass. (In fact, which I am dithering over whether or not to buy some bauble or tidbit, my husband often pipes up, "It's only the price of a glass of champagne at dinner!")

                      If you want the same glass and same festive feeling, look for a "cremant" or sparkling wine. Named by department, you'll find Cremant de Bourgogne or Loire or Alsace or Jura or... All should be quite decent in a good restaurant and will cost way less than half the price of Champagne.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: mangeur

                        <If you want the same glass and same festive feeling, look for a "cremant" or sparkling wine. Named by department, you'll find Cremant de Bourgogne or Loire or Alsace or Jura or... All should be quite decent in a good restaurant and will cost way less than half the price of Champagne.>

                        Absolutely, mangeur! and the same is true in US restaurants.

                        1. re: ChefJune

                          Cava, Prosecco... ? Or would they giggle?

                          1. re: unclefishbits

                            Not as hard as they do when they gaff you for the unpriced Champagne! =8-0

                            1. re: unclefishbits

                              The Champagne trolley is quite common in a lot of places and the high cost of a glass is not confined to the top end. My tip is to ask for the wine list and scope it out first, if you want Champagne by the glass it will be listed. If they have Cremant by the glass it will also be listed although this is less common. Cava and Prosecco? Of course, but only if they are on the list and more likely in Spanish or Italian places.

                              If you go for a matched wine/ food pairing then it is reasonable to assume the Champagne is part of the price BUT only if delivered after you order. If you order it as you peruse the menu, from the trolly that trundles over as the menus arrive, then expect to pay for it as an extra...! However, it can sometimes get confusing as many places deliver a complimentary house aperitif when you arrive.

                              1. re: PhilD

                                I assume the aperitif is more of a bistro, neighborly occurence? That's the norm here, but it's a place we might be recognized. (I hope I'm not over-posting in the thread?)

                                1. re: unclefishbits

                                  Terminology. In France an aperitif is simply a drink before the meal, so when you are seated the waiter will generally ask if you want an aperitif and that can often as not be a glass of champagne, or a mixed drink. After this has been served you get the menu and the wine list - and this is generally true across most places except the very low end or very casual. I think you can see from that the challenge of getting the price of a glass of champagne pre wine list - hence the reason for the sticker shock.

                                  I understand in the US the aperitif is often taken at the bar before a meal, and the menu and wine list is presented when you are seated - thus you order the champagne with a list in hand.

                                  1. re: PhilD

                                    I remember that one of the first restaurant phrases taught on French language tapes was "Voulez-vous boire quelque chose?" And, sure enough, this question in one form or another is the first thing you hear after you are seated.

                                    At that time, we usually ask for the "carte des boissons" which will bring us the aperitif list, if there is one, or the wine list. We usually order a bottle or carafe of water at that time also.

                                    1. re: mangeur

                                      All this is fantastic. Thank you! This has been so informative and fun! Viva la Chowhound!

                          2. re: mangeur

                            There are also "blanquettes". Then there are other spakrling wines which have there own appellations - St Louis, Vouvray, Saumur..

                          3. I knew this... but so as not to be the passive aggressive and manipulative husband, I deferred to my lovely wife's pleas... finally. I gave many accounts, with 4 stern warnings over 4 weeks, that Bofinger should not be approached in any form. I do not like being controlling, so I finally deferred to her. =) Good for me.

                            What a complete and unmitigated disaster it was. The only thing we could control was the wine. But wow. Just wow. I will give a full report upon return.

                            However, the election party in the Bastille was rousing, and the street food would have been delicious. Sorry to have missed it. But the atmosphere, madness, and jovial, jocular spirit was too much to deny. We had a lovely walk along the Seine for 3 miles back to our apartment..... so I will chalk up the experience to paying for being in the right place at the right time, of course that doesn't include the restaurant.


                            what is best for a report on our experiences? Just a new thread?

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: unclefishbits

                              Bofinger on any of the other 364 days would indeed be unforgivable. But last night it did put you in the middle of history, and that's not something one can say everyday of ond's life.
                              You can reply here too, which completes the circle nicely and simplifies other hounds' future search.
                              Thanks so much for remembering to report back.

                              1. re: unclefishbits

                                Was at Bastille last night as well, and it was indeed a zoo, but a very pleasant one. So busy actually had freshly made churros.

                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                  I will finish up here.

                                  To report:

                                  Walked up to Frenchie after ambling Flaneur style for about an hour, aka completely lost looking for the right alley. It was a hilarious adventure. No reservations, thought we might try the wine bar. In fact, we got to a point of it being a slight joke, and simply wanted to find the damn restaurant.

                                  Well... we arrived around 8.45p. We asked if there had been any cancellations, and FULLY expected them to laugh at us. The lovely somm said for us to come back at 9.30p. Completely confused, we ambled some more, arrived back at Frenchie around 9.20p, and stood by the door, confusedly, wondering what we were waiting for, other than low blood sugar, and a silly argument prior to a lousy meal after getting turned away. When we walked up to the alley at 9.20p, it was COMPLETELY full outside.... at least 20 people.

                                  We smiled and crouched, and acted quiet and kind and stayed out of the way of the service path from the wine bar. At 9.35p, the server looked at the crowd, then looked at us, and some... come in. I may post the below in the Frenchie thread, just fyi.. hope that is ok.

                                  We got the last table in the 2nd seating, without reservation. We had a divine experience, and it was... I can't .... we were seriously filled with endorphins and adrenalin and confused and elated. It was a surreal moment. So until now, it apparently has been reported NOWHERE ELSE:

                                  By the end of the meal, we had made friends with the somm. We chatted for a bit. Here's the scoop:

                                  1) 1st seating is American. 2nd seating are French. This is no orchestrated thing... it is simply the different between the two cultures. The US books the early shift, the French book the late. If you are looking for a less annoying experience, book the 2nd meal. I am a 6'6" American... but my voice in France is about 1/4 of what it would be back home. =) Listening to "our people" in the wine bar, from outside, was just depressing. I really hope we don't all sound like we are trying to be noticed in lieu of how utterly unimportant we are. Ha. 2nd seating is the way to go.

                                  As for mission impossible, here's the 2 scoops with a cherry on top (or like last night, Stilton w/ stewed cherries for dessert):

                                  Because Frenchie is such a "thing", this adorable and unpretentious little hole in the wall with approx 25 seats (if you are imagining a huge restaurant, and frustrated at not getting through, this may clear that up a bit... it's teeny, of course), people are booking reservations about 3 months out. That is wholly untenable, and the somm mentioned that they are getting, approximately 2 cancelled reservations a night at the 7.30p seating, and much rarer to get any 2nd seating cancellation (likely as it more local people). That being said, it's obvious the strategy for those without reservations is to show up quite early, and just make it known you will hang out in hopes of a cancellation. Early shift is likely, if you show up REAL early, 2nd shift not so much. But it's good to know the success of the place has actually opened up the possibility of a table. Just be patient, kind, deferential, and all that.

                                  They handled themselves with the utmost of professionalism... there was no list, but they remembered we were the first to check before all others, and when they sat us, they turned all 20 people away. They didn't laugh, there was zero pretention, when we asked.... it was a superb experience.

                                  Some chef & wine friends here in Paris and in SF area couldn't wait, so when I got home I tweeted the courses:

                                  that should be up for a few days with all the courses. It should start at the foie gras torchon. I will of course right the review later.....

                                  All I can say is that I was impressed with their professionalism, and lack of pretention. there is ZERO, in any way. What they do is superb.

                                  Also... if someone can correct me, but when did the San Francisco and Napa valley michelin culture start influencing Paris? It is quite obvious that what is happening here is born from what we have been doing in Northern California? Am I wrong? Whatever the case.... divine. now to 2nd seating of Chateaubriand! We are vagabonds, I tell you!


                                    1. re: unclefishbits

                                      Wonderful report although I didn't understand the last paragraph. Very happy you enjoyed a restaurant that I have also enjoyed many times.

                                      1. re: unclefishbits

                                        Remember the chef (Greg) at Frenchie has worked for Jamie Oliver in the UK and at the Gramacy Tavern (sp) in NYC so he brings to Frenchie lots of international influences. when we ate there I thought it was good food in a very modern international style - mainly ingredient based rather than technique. Which I suppose is the ethos you see in Californian restaurants with the locivore movement and it's ilk.

                                        1. re: unclefishbits

                                          Wow when I wrote that I may have been suffering lack of sleep? pardon the spelling and grammatical errors. Sheesh. =)