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Are we overdoing it?

p
porkpa Jun 20, 2012 03:40 AM

We are two couples going to Paris for four days. We arrive on a Saturday and have reservations for dinner at l'Ambroisie. The next day we are scheduled for lunch at le Cinq. On Monday we are having dinner at Pierre Gagnaire. The next evening we dine at le Meurice. I know enough not to have two multi starred dining experience in a single day, but having four consecutive such experiences in four days tells me that we might be overdoing it.
My buddy is absolutely insistent on doing this, saying that he may never get back to Paris again and he wants as much of the three star experience as he can get. I wonder if doing it on four consecutive days will dull the experience

  1. j
    jock Jun 23, 2012 03:38 PM

    Once did 23 stars in 7 days whilst driving all around France. Loved every bite but then I was 25 years younger and the franc was but 10 cents. Alas, I cannot even imagine a repeat for many reasons.

    1. ChefJune Jun 22, 2012 11:09 AM

      I had a friend who some years ago was commissioned to paint his impressions of all the three-star restaurants in France. He went to France and in less than 3 weeks had toured all over and dined (sometimes more than once) in all 13 (at the time). I remember him talking about the experience, and he recalled really nothing about what he'd eaten. When I questioned him, he finally admitted that it had been "too much of a good thing," and all the meals had run together. (On the other hand, he had perfect recall about what each room looked like!

      I've dined in several 2- and 3-star restaurants over the years of various trips, and even those of quite long ago still have pieces of vivid memory attached to them.

      I hope OP's friend decides to opt for a more varied experience. Of course, he could be like my artist friend who enjoyed greatly boasting about "dining at all the great restaurants in 3 weeks."

      5 Replies
      1. re: ChefJune
        m
        mick Jun 22, 2012 12:04 PM

        I can understand that too much of a good thing. I'[ve only dined at three 3 starred michelin restaurants in France, one in Paris and 2 elsewhere. They were all on differnet trips, but I do have fond memories of each and recall a few dishes specfically that were some of the best plates I've ever had. I dont know maybe part of it is just the experience.

        At home, I've had many great fine dining meals but not that many stand out as they often seem to blur together. Especially multi course, gastronomy meals, There are a number of places that evoke the same memories as those 3 starred french experiences but more often than not my taste buds are satisfied and pleased with a terrific burrito, a juicy burger, a great slice of pizza and so many other inexpensive dishes from other countries. Those are the things that make me salivate for food and seek and search and eat. For me, so called fine dining has its time and place.

        1. re: mick
          p
          Ptipois Jun 23, 2012 05:59 AM

          I have more and more trouble understanding the urge to visit a number of 3-star restaurants in France. Twenty years ago, I think it made more sense. But now the higher up the level, the more uniformized the cooking. It may be great but it is no longer "the French experience".

          A few details put aside, 3-star cooking is no longer specifically French. It is pretty much the same type of cooking all over the world, catering mostly to an international clientele. And it is no longer innovative, with a few quickly tamed bursts here and there it is basically a very safe kind of cuisine. Hence, probably, the blank these meals often leave in one's memory.

          So if I were not French and not living in France, and came to France for a French experience, I'd aim a little lower, say 2 stars, or 1 star. That's where I've noticed the greatest diversity. Or no star, which in my opinion holds even more surprises.

          1. re: Ptipois
            PhilD Jun 23, 2012 08:20 AM

            I must disagree. Whilst 3 star food is "of a type" across the world I still think France excels in delivering and experience and food that few other countries match. I love much of what France has to offer, and I, as a regular visitor wouldn't be this narrowly focussed. But if that is your desire I can't think of a better city to test the boundaries (San Sebatian maybe). My old surfine mantra comes to mind - go big or go home...!

            1. re: PhilD
              p
              Ptipois Jun 23, 2012 02:26 PM

              Am I reading you correctly or are you only repeating what I have written above ("of a type" across the world), only to precede it with "I must disagree"?

              I think it is hard to deny that 3-star experience has now become much less dependent on geography than simpler, more "rooted" types of restaurants. The same is true everywhere, I guess, not just in France. Anyway the essential part of my above post was that there is often more originality at the lower levels than at the highest levels, and that in that respect it could be more rewarding to aim lower if one likes a bit of diversity and identifiable Frenchness in their food.

              I don't understand what you mean about San Sebastian.

              1. re: Ptipois
                PhilD Jun 23, 2012 05:43 PM

                I agree that 3 stars have a degree of similarity across the world - top cooking is often rooted in a French tradition so that is to be expected.

                i disagree that trying four 3 stars in a row is a bad idea. I would do it if I had the means ($$ and stamina) and the time. As I now visit Paris infrequently I like to mix the top level with the new - if I visited more frequently I would try more 3 stars.

                I believe Paris is a great city to try it, top restaurants in Paris are superb and are often in the top league of 3 stars (there are 10 to choose from). The style and grander of Parisian 3 stars is something special.

                I mention SS because it is the other european city where it can be good to try multiple 3 stars (and a few 2 stars). Few cities in Europe have similar concentrations of Michelin starred food. Elsewhere: NYC, Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo have similar concentrations.

      2. sistereurope Jun 21, 2012 05:34 PM

        I would worry that by the last meal all would start to blur together, even if you do only one per day. And at the cost of dinners at those places, that would totally bum me out. I understand that you only have 4 days, but if it were me I'd mix it up with something different, say a picnic for lunch followed by dinner at one of the many wonderful neighborhood bistros that you can only find in Paris. In the end, the three star experience (or experiences) would stand out even more upon returning home because they were so special...but, again, that's my take. Perhaps your friend would regret missing it more, I don't know.

        1. mangeur Jun 20, 2012 03:08 PM

          With apologies for being contratrian, IMHO there is nothing wrong with dining lightly at a 3 star or any other restaurant. I'm a grown up now, and I don't have to clean my plate. Nor do I have to finish all of the between course and pre-course add ins that one is offered at a 3 star. Nor, as I repeatedly remind him, does my husband have to take up the slack and finish what I leave. I am there for the total experience, not to be gavaged. One can enjoy a luxurious evening without waddling out, mumbling, "I can't believe I ate the whole thing!"

          4 Replies
          1. re: mangeur
            PhilD Jun 20, 2012 03:52 PM

            Mangeur - you have crossed the line - it is a husbands duty to hoover up all the leftovers. I fear you have been secretly talking to my wife as she repeats this heresy during most meals.

            On the topic - I woul love to do a succession of three stars over a few days. Great to compare and contrast . I would be careful not to eat much else and carefully pace the meals. Obviously there are lots of ways to see Paris and experience Paris but sometimes I think it benefits one to focus and compare similar types of place. Go back another timea don wine bars, and another visit to try bistro minutes etc etc.

            1. re: mangeur
              Parnassien Jun 20, 2012 04:46 PM

              When a meal costs 30 €, I'm quite happy to eat pickily and lightly and leave leftovers .... when it costs 300 to 500 €, i'm gonna lick the plate!

              1. re: Parnassien
                mangeur Jun 20, 2012 05:05 PM

                Sorry. I don't eat what I don't love. When I've made a bad bargain, I write it up to education which is never cheap.

                1. re: mangeur
                  p
                  plafield Jun 21, 2012 01:56 PM

                  I also don't eat what I don't love. The problem comes when I love everything! And it's a dfferent problem when I don't love everything. My last visit to Le Cinq is a good example of a number of things raised in this discussion. I wasn't thrilled with the entrees, and I didn't like the plats at all and the pre dessert was just ok so I left a great deal of those things on the plate. But I thoroughly enjoyed all the amuses, the bread service, the main desserts and the mignardise trolley and I didn't feel over stuffed when we left. Would I have preferred to have loved everything (as I have the past 2 times at Le Cinq) and thus over eaten? For the cost of the meal (even the "bargain" lunch meal) in a word, yes. I felt pretty disappointed and displeased.

                  If I'm going to pay for starred eating, I want the whole meal to be fantastic. And then I want a day or two to recover before eating that kind of food again. But that's just me. Some people (uhockey comes to mind) can consume huge amounts of very rich food and be ready to do it all again one meal later, never mind one day later.

            2. sunshine842 Jun 20, 2012 12:29 PM

              and not to be indelicate....but there may be consequences if you don't eat like that on a regular basis.

              Make sure you pack the tummy meds.

              1. Parnassien Jun 20, 2012 12:23 PM

                I'm totally with Plafield (above) on this. So much starry noshing turns Paris into a one-dimensional experience full of same-tone repetitions. And while your insistent over-achieving buddy might be satisfied by the over-indulgence, what about the other 3 in your group?

                1. lisavf Jun 20, 2012 10:07 AM

                  My take on travel such as this is, what are you going there for? If you're going mainly for the food experience, then no, you're probably not overdoing it - just pushing it a bit. But are you really going to Paris just for the food? I find that having too much structure in a travel schedule makes me cranky. I try to have at least 1/3 of my days/nights unscheduled, both meals and sightseeing, to allow for serendipitous experiences. They may not all be three-star experiences, but that's not the only measure I make. If you're eating 3* meals but you're stressed about it, then they're not going to be as enjoyable or memorable.

                  If you're asking the question, you're probably thinking it is too much. It's your trip, too, so don't let someone else take total control. If you think it's too much, then you and your companion could always skip one night, let your friend and his companion go, and you can relax a little and go where the night takes you. There are lots of interesting food opportunities in Paris that do not involve three-star dining!

                  1. r
                    rswatkins Jun 20, 2012 09:54 AM

                    Sucessive three star dinners are much more manageable for me if I'm very careful about what I eat after I finish the main course. It's the cheese and pre-desert and desert and petit fours that push me over the edge. Skip those, and you'll really be consuming a moderate amount of food.

                    1. f
                      FrankJBN Jun 20, 2012 08:41 AM

                      To qute Lazarus Long: "Everything in excess. Moderation is for monks."

                      As long as one has sobered up from a nice lunch, why not a nice dinner?

                      The other point of view is of course, more than one nice meal in a week is too much. Stay home and pray for forgiveness for your sins of the flesh instead.

                      I mean really what kind of a question is this? I'm going to have four nice meals in a row - should I?

                      1. mangeur Jun 20, 2012 07:21 AM

                        I think we get back to something that was discussed in a recent Frenchie thread. Sometimes a visitor needs to stretch what is reasonable in order to satisfy an inner voice that will always nag if it isn't heard. If your friend doesn't visit all of these places, he will forever think back on "would'a, could'a, should'a".

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: mangeur
                          p
                          plafield Jun 20, 2012 07:44 AM

                          I definitely understand the desire for all the 3 star experiences but what you'll miss is all the other "only in Paris" food experiences like enjoying the incredible patisseries, picnics of wonderful pate and cheese, and sampling things from one of the many wonderful Paris street markets. Personally, I'd want the variety of food and experiences and I'd be the one feeling the coulda, shoulda's about that.

                          1. re: plafield
                            mangeur Jun 20, 2012 08:04 AM

                            I totally agree. But my Paris is not the poster's friend's Paris.

                        2. n
                          Nancy S. Jun 20, 2012 06:56 AM

                          My husband and I can enjoy successive "haute" menus, but we only reserve dinners. I need the entire day to regenerate. But, then, I'm a 95 pound "weakling". Nevertheless, I think you have a great line up, especially if you move the one lunch to dinner.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Nancy S.
                            Delucacheesemonger Jun 20, 2012 07:10 AM

                            If the lunch is moved to dinner, the check goes up 300-350 euros.

                          2. Delucacheesemonger Jun 20, 2012 03:50 AM

                            Yes it may 'dull' the experience but l would go ahead regardless. The only toughy may be the lunch after the dinner, l would make my res at L'Ambroisie earlier rather than later. Buy a bunch of bubbly water for your hotel to slosh it all around. At worst you may have to cancel Le Meurice if it all catches up with you by then.
                            You are only eating one real meal a day , perhaps you eat like uhockey, who knows.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                              m
                              mick Jun 20, 2012 05:07 PM

                              Think you've annointed uhockey too early, without tabulating all the votes.

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