l'Arpege or Ledoyen in August?
We will be in Paris for a conference during the third week in August and would like to have one creative and interesting three (or possibly) two star dinner during that time. Of the three star restaurants only the two listed above seem to be open. Which would you choose and why? Do you have any other open restaurants to suggest for that time?
These are two of my favorite restaurants in Paris -- or anywhere in the world. However they could not be more different.
L'Arpège is very relaxed, minimalist, and can be hit or miss. That means you don't really have to care about dressing up or anything (especially at lunch, and I'm not talking about hawaian shirts and flip-flops), and the two times I was there, I thought service was really good (heard some horror stories from others, though). At lunch, at the end of the service, it basically felt like home, which is a good sign.
Foodwise, if you go ALC, you'll pay 60 EUR for three pieces of vegetables (and the pound of butter they've been cooked in). Yet, it can be the best dish of your life, and will at least turn out to be excellent. At lunch there's a 135 EUR menu that is really awesome. It's basically a compilation of the vegetables dishes from ALC, and a plate of meat/fish, cheese and then all-you-can-eat dessert. And there's the middle road that consists in splitting ALC dishes.
Also, wine prices are now very reasonable. The coefficient on a bottle of Selosse champagne was like 1.5x last time I went!
Ledoyen is more luxurious, even a bit stuffy. I mean, sometimes I wonder if that's not the Queen Elizabeth and her friends dining at the other end of the room, and the servers can seem a bit cold at first. That said, if you make the effort to engage them and talk about your meal, etc. they become a bit more relaxed.
If you don't go for lunch, ALC will cost you a few limbs, maybe with one of your kidneys thrown in if you want wine. I've been there twice and always been lucky, as everything I've eaten there was marvellous. Portion are big and satisfying. There are a few "molecular" touches here and there, but it still feels like a traditional French restaurant. I love the spaghetti dish, it's basically a 3-star mac-and-cheese, but better. Not sure if it's available in August, sorry.
Desserts can range from enjoyable to excellent, many of them being some reinvention of old-classics.
For lunch, there's a 85 EUR menu, with dishes very close to what's offered ALC, albeit with less luxurious ingredients. Never tried it, but apparently, it's a very safe bet.
All in all, if you don't take the lunch menu, you will probably spend something like 400 EUR pp at any of these restaurants.
There are a lot of photos flying around for both, it can help you decide which style of cooking you may prefer.