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Jun 25, 2012 09:58 PM

Paris trip report

Here is a brief summary of the places I ate at in Paris. I pretty much enjoyed every place I went to, except for one. I found pretty much all of the places by reviewing the posts on this board. In terms of where we went, I tried to cover a broad spectrum of the dining scene in Paris.

I'll just preface this post by letting everyone know that I don't speak any french yet I was able to dine well and comfortably at each venue. There were some places where the staff weren't as proficient in english and weren't able to describe the courses as well as I would hope, but I didn't mind, I just need to learn more french. Also, I know some people seek places with no tourists, but pretty much every place I went to I found that there was at least one other tourist - either english speaking or japanese speaking.

Le Comptoir - weekday, set menu dinner - It's my understanding that this restaurant offers the fixed price dinner menu only on the weekdays. The night we went, they were offered a lobster bisque for a supplemental charge. I chose the bisque. The lobster bisque was the best I've ever had, but increased the price of the menu from 55 euros to 85 euros. The appetizer, bisque, and the main were excellent. After the main, we were served a platter of at least seven different cheeses. I thought this was just too much. The desert course ended the meal on a high note. I also thought we didn't get the best service because although we were the very first table seated (2 diners), we started getting our food after 5 other tables that were seated after us. We didn't complain at anytime during the meal, although I very much wanted to say something. In the end, the food made up for it.

Huitrerie Regis - went for a dozen oysters. Just a very nice way to have lunch.

Cuisine de Bar - had a sardine open faced sandwich. The bread on the sandwiches is very tasty and this place is a reasonably priced place for lunch.

Sola - went for lunch. They offer a smaller set lunch menu and a bigger set lunch menu. The only difference between the two is that the bigger menu gets you an extra appetizer and entree, and I also think you get an extra desert. We went for the bigger menu and everything was stellar. From the food to the service.

Le Chateaubriand - There have been many posts and reviews about this restaurant. I'll just say it was a good deal for the price, and the food ranged from average to good. Was it worth going to? I can definitely say it wasn't the best restaurant of the places we went, or even among the better ones we went to, but for me, I'm glad I went because if I didn't go, I would always be questioning myself about it. One thing I didn't appreciate was that all the cigarette smoke from the outside of the restaurant basically drifted into the dining area.

Chez l'ami jean - I went for lunch based on some of the posts here suggesting lunch instead of dinner. We went with the big tasting menu (grand voyageur) and were rewarded with one of the best meals we had during our vacation. We started with a soup course, a terrine of foie gras and other meats, clams, baby scallops, langoustines, sweetbreads (the waiter told me this was a house specialty), a cheese course, followed by three deserts, one of which was the rice pudding. Just one thing to add is that the restaurant serves different courses to tables that order the same menu. The table next to us also ordered the same menu, but their sweetbread course was paired with pork belly, ours was paired with some vegetable. Not a complaint by any stretch since our meal was so great.

Agape Substance - This was, for me, the least satisfying meal in Paris. The seating isn't very comfortable and I just didn't like the dining space. Prices have also increased - there is only a 99 euro and 129 euro menu, excluding wine. While nothing was bad, nothing was really memorable, other than the seaweed butter served with the bread.

Richard Lenoir market - Lots of food stalls here and we had some roasted chicken and a merguez sandwich with onions. The merguez came on a baguette and had a very strong lamb flavor. I had another merguez sandwich in one of the outer areas in Paris and the sandwich was better, as it was served with fries and on bread that was more like pita bread.

L'as Du Fallafel - got a fallafel.

Pierre Gagnaire - Had a wonderful dinner here, from the food to the service. In terms of the food, everything was so good, no misses on any of the courses. The chef was also there that night, and he came by to all the tables to say hello.

Chez Dumonet - Another place well reviewed on this board, we got the foie gras terrine, duck confit, cote de boeuf, and the souffle. Everything was so well prepared and it really is a charming restaurant. This was also the only a la carte place we went to, as all the other places we got a set menu.

Saturne - Went for lunch and got the 5 course menu. They also offer a 3 course menu, where you can pick an appetizer from 3 choices, a main from 3 choices, and a desert from3 choices; and also offer a 7 course menu. For the 5 course menu, it looked like the chef picked 2 appetizers from the 3 choices, 2 mains from the 3, and one desert. Excellent food, on the same level with Chez l'ami jean and Sola.

Le petit Vendome - got a ham and butter sandwich. Just ok.

I also wanted to make a note about dress code, as I've seen a few posts about what to wear. I pretty much wore slacks (or nice jeans at just a couple places), a nice shirt, and dress shoes for every sit-down meal. But, to my surprise, I found out basically that there really is no dress code at any of the places I went to, and that as long as you wear pants and a decent shirt, you're basically ok at any restaurant. For example, when we went to Pierre Gagnaire, I had a suit and tie one, but saw another diner with jeans and tennis shoes. I found this same type of dress at other places as well. I'm not advocating that people just wear jeans and tennis shoes when eating out in Paris, but just wanted to note that the dress code is not as strict as I thought it was.

Thanks to the board for helping me plan the trip.

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  1. thanks for the report, and the very practical notes re. the language skills needed and dress codes.

    1. Went to a lot of places l enjoy. How did you snag the res for dinner at Le Comptoir ?

      12 Replies
      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

        I stayed at the adjoining hotel for a night and they automatically asked if I wanted a table for their weekday set menu dinner which I accepted.

        When I called in early March for a June reservation, they told me the first available table was October. So, you could conceivably call now and reserve for a table 7 months from today, assuming the seventh period still applies today as it did back in March.

        1. re: ktbw123

          "So, you could conceivably call now and reserve for a table 7 months from today, assuming the seventh period still applies today as it did back in March."
          Or call and allege you're staying at the hotel, LOL.

          1. re: Parigi

            Parigi - The restaurant and hotel reservation desk are one and the same so they would know.

            Rio - reservations there have been crazy since he opened in 2006, Yves is one of the original Bistronomique chefs (he started Le Regalade) so has a strong reputation. It probably doesn't hurt he is a France Masterchef judge. I believe his charcuterie is used by Jego at CLJ.

            1. re: PhilD

              "Parigi - The restaurant and hotel reservation desk are one and the same so they would know."
              Sigh. It was a joke. The "LOL" part must have been too subtle.

              1. re: Parigi

                Its ambiguous - I interpreted the LOL as you thinking it funny that you could get around the system with such a simple ruse. Others may think the same in the future.

              2. re: PhilD

                Yes PhilD I'm aware of who Camdeborde is, but still find it ridiculous. As good as it can be, can it really be that better than La Regalade actually or CLJ ?

                7 months for a restaurant like elBulli, (I know it was even worse than that) is understandable, but not for a bistro doesn't matter how "nomique" it is...

                Just my opinion.

              3. re: Parigi

                Parigi, that'll teach you ! No more lols and rofls for you ! Leave that for the illiterate youngsters ! mdr

                1. re: Rio Yeti

                  " Leave that for the illiterate youngsters"
                  But I'm half of those !
                  And are you aware of who Camdeborde is ?

                    1. re: Rio Yeti

                      l understood your cleverness, sorry others did not

              4. re: ktbw123

                That's crazy... I would find it insane but understandable at a restaurant that is so unique that you couldn't get even a close experience anywhere else... but at a french bistro...?

                1. re: Rio Yeti

                  The weird power of celebrity - I agree is doesn't warrant the wait (or the price oaf room in their hotel). But, that said, I always found it pretty good and a great casual Friday meal. As I lived around the corner I would pop by on the way out for an apero and the head back if they had a space., if not on to another place, so I never suffered thereservation system. For DCM I think this is the best advice - they keep tables back for the hotel and not all are used.

            2. Why is a platter of seven different cheeses too much? I hope you didn't try to finish it as it is the communal cheese basket that goes from table to table. You simply select what you want and after you have had sufficient they take it away. Also remember service in France goes with the pace of the diner not the pace of the restaurant. I suspect they thought they worked to your pace and probably would have been surprised that you were offended.

              Ref dress code for Gagnaire: we were told very clearly today when booking a table for a colleague it is "business casual" no tie, but jacket is required, and no basket (ball shoes?) on your feet or trainers. So odd they let someone in with them. This was the one on rue Balzac not the one in the 7eme?

              I do agree dress code isn't that strict in Paris, I actually found the dress in restaurants in the US a bit more formal than France. IMO French designers have a natural ability to dress well without rules, which can challenge those of us who like to have more guidance.

              Sounds like you had a good trip and managed to get good balance in the itininary.

              3 Replies
              1. re: PhilD

                No, didn't try to finish all the cheeses. I just took portions from 3 different types of cheeses and I think I was just a little overwhelmed at the sheer size and selection. In terms of the pacing of the dinner service, I just thought that since our table was the first seated in the restaurant and the first to put in our orders, we should have at least gotten the appetizer first, as opposed to getting our appetizers after five other tables that were seated after us. In fact, some of the five tables were already on their main plates when we got our appetizer. However, just a minor quibble and the food made up for it. I will add that we are fast eaters, and the restaurant did seem to notice and pick up the pace of the dishes as dinner progressed.

                Yes, we went to the one on rue Balzac and I was surprised to see jeans and tennis shoes too.

                1. re: ktbw123

                  Where the other tables ordering the Lobster Bisque as well? I wonder if that was the difference?

                  1. re: PhilD

                    Yes, the other tables ordered the lobster bisque, sharing the same strategy my wife and I shared - one person gets the supplement the other gets the standard menu. Anyways, I just want to reinforce that I'd go back to eat at le comptoir in a heartbeat, even if I knew beforehand I'd experience the delay I did.

              2. Great report. You managed to hit quite a range of places. I felt the same as you about the food at Agape Substance. What are the lunch prices at Saturne?

                2 Replies
                1. re: PattyC

                  37 entree, plat, dessert
                  55 entree, entree, plat, plat, dessert
                  69 more of the same yet different

                2. Sorry about your disappointing experience at Agapé Substance. It looks like it's turning into one of those love-it-or-hate-it places. I'm actually one of its fans but agree that some of the the seating can be uncomfortable and that the food can sometimes be a little too cerebral rather than tasty.

                  And I must congratulate you on the wide range of restaurants you chose. Very multi-dimensional eating.

                  And yes, in Paris it's not so much a matter of what you wear but of how you wear it. Yet, because Americans don't easily fit into one of the style tribes, I suspect transatlantic visitors would get a better reception if they head toward the dressy side of the spectrum. The Mark Zuckerberg effect is, however, becoming increasingly evident in Paris too.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Parnassien

                    I didn't find the seating at Agape Substance uncomfortable but I felt like they forgot that first and foremost, food should taste good!

                    1. re: PattyC

                      The backless chairs aren't really conducive for lounging about. And I quite agree that first and foremost food should taste good. Chefs at places like Agapé and Chateaubriand perhaps think and invent too much. More often than not, especially at Agapé Substance, the inventiveness does result in some really great food but occasionally it just manages to be "interesting" rather than enjoyable.

                      1. re: Parnassien

                        At least they were padded backless chairs and they gave us purse hooks. I was relieved I didn't have to hold on to that for 3 hours :)

                        1. re: Parnassien

                          Probably could start an other thread, but backless chairs for a long meal are a dealbreaker for me.

                          Momofuko Ko in Manhattan
                          Spotted Pig in Manhattan
                          Amada (large tables ) in Philadelphia
                          Rino in Paris ( front hightops, best location in place )

                          And now Agape Substance

                          l think not !