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Paris 5 day trip: Advice on current itinerary?

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fidd4 Jun 26, 2012 12:09 AM

Hi everyone,

My wife and I are about to embark on a 5 day trip to Paris next week for our anniversary -- we've never been, and are very excited. We're native New Yorkers, and are looking forward to visiting another culinary mecca (as well as taking in the sights). For some background, we definitely enjoy modern, inventive cuisine (e.g., Aronia de Takazawa in Tokyo and Alinea), though we also really appreciate excellent and well-crafted meals (e.g., Le Bernadin, French Laundry) as well as some with an Asian tilt (e.g., L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Momofuku Ko).

This board (as it always is) has been incredible for tips and pointers. Based on the advice of many threads, I have made the following bookings:
- Day 1 (arrival in the afternoon): Dinner @ L'ami Jean
- Day 2: Dinner @ L'Agape Substance
- Day 3: Lunch @ L'Arpege, Dinner @ Le Chateaubriand
- Day 4: Lunch @ Le Cinq
- Day 5 (Sunday): Open.

I was aiming to get a variety of restaurant types as well as different vibes.

Some questions for the experts on this board would greatly be appreciated! To start:

- Do people think this is this already too much on our plates? I'm thinking of moving Le Cinq to Sunday lunch (if possible), just to give a breather between meals; we'd ideally also like to partake in pastries as well as the other goodies we're bound to find in Paris... Are we biting off too much? (Obviously, we'd like some time to see other things than the insides of restaurants... but then again, if the food is the highlight, maybe not). And is there something to be said about being a little less planned and more spontaneous w/ lunches and dinners, or is it par for the course to try to have reservations lined up for all meals?

- If we were to squeeze an additional meal, Passage 53 seems to be consistently mentioned... is this different enough from what we have already reserved? (L'Astrance, sadly, is booked solid it seems) Or is there another one that might complement our existing choices better?

- Are there restaurants that people might feel are tired/not worth it on our list?

- All of our dinner reservations are at 8pm -- I've read this is considered early by Parisian standards; in particular, with regards to Le Chateaubriand, everyone talks about the no-reservation second seating @ 9:30 -- is the meal that much different? Is it worth going to restaurants later (if the earlier service is worse)?

Thanks so much in advance for any pointers/tips!

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  1. Delucacheesemonger RE: fidd4 Jun 26, 2012 02:03 AM

    Welcome to Chowhound.

    When l have guests here , we go to lunch more often than dinner, as we drink and eat a lot and easier to walk it off after lunch. For example, was at Le Cinq for lunch Saturday, and walked to the Place des Vosges afterwards, then walked home to flat in 11th. Nap was not necessary.

    l would use an extra day for markets/picnics, Bastille market open Thursday and Sunday and is a wonderful market.

    Dinner last night was at 8:30 and we were the second table to seat in a resto that would be filled in an hour.

    1. n
      Nancy S. RE: fidd4 Jun 26, 2012 06:00 AM

      I love Passage 53 but you have no room for it. I would save it for next time. I only eat one restaurant meal a day, but that's personal to me. Nevertheless, I would try to move the Chateaubriand dinner to 9:30pm.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Nancy S.
        Parigi RE: Nancy S. Jun 26, 2012 06:04 AM

        "I only eat one restaurant meal a day, but that's personal to me."

        Agreed.
        A poster recently said that eating one major restaurant meal a day was about moderation and was BS etc. No, eating one major retaurant meal a day is not about moderation. It is not about deprivation. It is about enjoyment and preservation of that enjoyment.

      2. f
        fidd4 RE: fidd4 Jun 27, 2012 11:24 PM

        Thank you all for the wonderful advice! The Bastille market sounds wonderful for Sunday, and it seems that 8pm might be a tad early for dinner, and I might try to shift things back a bit at all the places.

        Re: Le Chateaubriand -- is the 9:30 seating a completely different menu? Just curious to know why it's recommended to wait for that one.

        Also, Parigi -- love the last part of your message. Definitely, it's about preservation of enjoyment. If only my wife and I could remember that before we inevitably binge on our trips ;)

        1 Reply
        1. re: fidd4
          PhilD RE: fidd4 Jun 28, 2012 04:16 AM

          Chateaubriand - its te same menu. The second seating is preffered by some as it is percieved to be more "local", how true thta is will depend on the day and the people close to your table. My recomendation is to book so you have it locked in and go with the flow. If the first is better than the second, or the second is better than the first is going to be pretty random, but it is guaranteed the waiters will still be a hot on either sitting....!

        2. f
          fidd4 RE: fidd4 Jul 10, 2012 01:13 PM

          Thanks everyone for the advice! @Parigi: if only we heeded "It is about enjoyment and preservation of that enjoyment."... That said, a brief recap (with more to come when I get a chance):

          Wed night: L'Ami Jean -- 8pm resy, seemed a bit early, but got crowded pretty quickly. Found the waiter a bit brusque with the directions in English; not the greatest intro to France, but soon realized he was like this with all English speaking customers, and not just us. We both ordered Le Petit Voyageur Tasting menu (~55euro), and found out quickly how much of a misnomer Petit was. Very good meal, with highlights being the mushroom soup starter, beef shortribs w/ carrot foam/puree, and (of course) the rice pudding.

          Thurs night: Moved to a 9:15pm seating at L'Agape Substance -- when we got there, only 2 seats left at the main counter for us (I think we were the last to be seated). Very loud, crowded, but fun place, seemed to be primarily English speakers in town for the Fashion shows. Ordered the pricier tasting. Very inventive; one particular dish (eel in a black sesame puree) blew us away. All the dishes save the main protein (pigeon) were solid, and though pricey, the experience was fun due to the liveliness of the crowd and service.

          The one issue we had was that we apparently were not served the foie + potato gnocchi dish that everyone else definitely got -- we noticed dishes were being served out of sync and asked the waiter about it; he explained that they wanted to make sure everyone was surprised when the dishes came out (e.g., due to the intimate space, eavesdropping is inevitable)... Later, when we realized that we might not be getting the foie dish, we asked another server, and he told us that this was the deal -- when we sat down, we would be getting whatever the chef wanted to serve us, and there was no guarantee that any diners would be served any particular dish. Definitely a let down, since we almost certainly didn't receive any extra dish than others in the restaurant. We believe it might have been due to the fact that we were the last seated, and they might have forgotten/ran out. Even so, it was a downer.

          Fri lunch: L'Arpege -- very different decor than I was expecting; we were seated in the basement, which was much cozier and intimate than I imagined. Overall, quite frankly one of the best meals we've ever had; the vegetables were incredible, in our opinion beating out easily the vegetable tasting at French Laundry. The main courses -- salmon for me, sole for my wife -- were perfectly done as well. Service was impeccable; wines, ordered by the glass for me and paired by the sommelier, were good but not great (or worth the 22euro/glass, imho). That said, easily the highlight and the peak of our food tour.

          By this point we were getting a bit stuffed...

          Fri night: Le Chateaubriand -- very disappointing. Nothing stood out; flavors didn't blend. Maybe it was the 8pm seating, but regardless, compared to the first three meals, easily our least preferred. Aside from a one bite dessert, it was very underwhelming.

          We decided to cancel Le Cinq for lunch on Saturday, and instead explored:
          - A croque monsieur/madame at a local bistro called Le Castiglione, only available at the bar, very greasy yet somehow satisfying;
          - Steak frites at L'entrocote -- not a huge fan of the sauce, fries were pretty good, and the meat was ok.
          - A ridiculous number of pastries at Laduree, Herme, Un Dimanche à Paris... The ispahan croissant at Herme is to die for.

          That's it for now!

          1 Reply
          1. re: fidd4
            Parigi RE: fidd4 Jul 10, 2012 01:26 PM

            "if only we heeded "

            But you did very well. :-)
            Thank you for a very good report.

          2. p
            porkpa RE: fidd4 Jul 12, 2012 02:00 AM

            Next time you go be sure to go to le Cinq for lunch. We just got back from a trip to London and Paris. We went to five three stars(The Fat Duck, Gordon Ramsay, l'Ambroisie, Pierre Gagnaire and le Meurice) for dinner and to le Cinq the only two star for Sunday lunch. Of the six places our favorite was le Cinq.

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