Paris trip report - August 2012 (LONG)
Preface – we were in Paris August 3-8. I spent months researching restaurants, although my choices were quickly narrowed by the time of year. All in all though, I feel we ate really well and was really happy with our choices.
Friday lunch - Spring – this was our first meal in Paris. I was unsure about this choice as they were only serving their lobster sandwich menu, but it ended up being fine as we were there within an hour of checking into our hotel and weren’t ready for a huge meal. When we arrived, the upstairs was about half full. The hostess started directing us downstairs, which I wasn’t happy about. I asked if we could sit upstairs and she said it was all reserved (we had made reservations about a month ago). After we were shown to our table downstairs I think she could sense my disappointment so she went upstairs to check availability, but came down to tell me there was nothing available there. Oh well. As an aside, our meal took less than one hour and when we left the restaurant, the upstairs still wasn’t full. Anyway, our waitress was very nice. We each ordered a glass of wine along with the lobster roll and a side of fries. The sandwich wasn’t huge, but very good. Generous pieces of lobster in a light sauce (not really a mayo) that didn’t overwhelm it. Fries were good too. We didn’t feel like ordering dessert (yogurt sorbet) so got the check and left. I would go back when they offered the regular menu, but would be sure to request to sit on the main floor. Maybe it was the time of day and that it was mostly empty, but the downstairs just felt dreary.
Friday dinner – Terroir Parisien. I felt this was an excellent value and a nice way to spend our first night. The restaurant was about half tourists and half French. The manager and our waiter spoke fluent English and we were presented menus in English (I should note that I speak French pretty well, and always addressed restaurant staff in French). We decided not to order a bottle of wine, but rather a pichet of red. I liked how they divided the wine list though, by price, and the prices seemed quite fair. I started with a vegetable salad (can’t remember what DH had) which was excellent. For main courses I had a sliced beef which was slightly overcooked but still delicious and he had an excellent fish over steamed spinach. We got a side of delicious pommes purees. We shared a cheese plate and dessert. Total bill was 103Euros, which I thought was very reasonable for the quality.
Saturday lunch – Breizh Café. We arrived at just the right time (about 1 p.m.) because we got one of the last available tables before a line formed. Again, the restaurant seemed evenly split between tourists and locals. We each ordered one of the special galettes, and decided to forego alcohol. When our food was delivered, my order was wrong, but it took a while to flag someone down to alert them. My husband had almost finished his when the correct order was finally brought (with no apology). The galettes were excellent. We were quite full, but felt we had to order a crepe, so split a simple one with salted caramel butter and whipped cream. This was amazing. I would recommend Breizh based on food, but service was so-so.
Saturday dinner – Guy Savoy. We wanted to try a 3 star, and this was pretty much our only option for the date we were looking at. Won’t go into detail because it’s hard to remember everything after a 4 hour meal, but it was a great experience. Restaurant was 100% tourists (almost all American, I think). Service was great- formal, but not stuffy, food delicious, and we ate more than we have ever eaten at one meal. The one area of disappointment for me was the cheese cart as I felt it was very heavy on the goat cheese/hard cheese offerings, and not much by way of soft cheese.
Sunday lunch – Café des Musees. Mostly tourists, some locals. I don't think we were able to give this a fair assessment as this was our first meal after Guy Savoy, and probably should have just cancelled as neither of us was the least bit hungry, but we had the reservation and so decided to go. We shared a smoked salmon plate to start. DH had an entrecote which was 2/3 fat. I had a loup de mer with vegetables which was quite good. The food was overall good, but not a restaurant I thought is worth traveling for.
Sunday dinner – Drouant. While the food was very good, this was probably (at least from my point of view) the most forgettable meal as far as the food goes. All tourists, including a table of New Yorkers, who were unhappy when the coffee they asked for was a café, and not an American coffee. When they asked that their decaf cappuccino be prepared with skim milk, the waiter didn’t understand and they tried to explain it as “diet milk”. This made for a running joke for the rest of the trip. Anyway, we each ordered an appetizer and a fish for the main course, followed by an ok cheese plate. The dessert menu didn’t wow us so we skipped it. This restaurant was chosen because it was one of the few that was open on a Sunday night in August, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it if there are lots of other options out there.
Monday lunch – Au Comptoir. By far one of my favorite meals. The only restaurant we went to that didn’t offer us a menu in English. We got there about 1 p.m. and it was full, but we only had to wait a few minutes before a table became available. I was quite surprised by how large the menu was. There were so many choices, and it was so hard to choose as they all sounded good. To start I had a terrine with foie gras, artichokes and potatoes. This was amazing. DH had a pea and mint savory tart that was equally as delicious. For a main, I had a rack of lamb and he had a tuna sashimi that I didn’t try but he really enjoyed. (He was trying to eat light). Although the cheese plates I saw at tables next to us looked fantastic, we decided to forego cheese and dessert as all the eating this short trip was getting to us.
Monday dinner – Gaya by Pierre Gagnaire. This was our last meal and one that I didn’t have high expecations for. I had seen very little posted about Gaya, but it was DH’s birthday and this was his choice. This was such a pleasant surprise. What a fantastic meal, in every way. It’s seafood-centric. The service and food were terrific, and I thought this proved to be an excellent value. When we were seated, we were offered an aperitif. I had a glass of champagne, DH didn’t. We were given an amuse bouche of 2 tiny little seaweed rolls – not sure what was in them, but they were good. The bread basket had mini baguettes and tiny brioche served with a red pepper spread. To start I had probably the best sashimi dish I’ve ever tasted – sea bream over diced tomatoes with some kind of delicious sauce that was creamy , rich and light all at the same time. DH chose something more unusual – it was essentially a galette served with artichoke ice cream and carmelized apples. I tried the ice cream – it was ok, too sweet for me, but he really liked it. To drink DH had a glass of red, and by the time the mains arrived, I was ready for a glass of white, which I asked the waiter to choose for me. He poured me an excellent burgundy. As we were waiting for our mains, the table next to us was served theirs. When I saw what the lady next to me was presented, I started regretting my order. She had the langoustines over pasta with enoki mushrooms. It looked and smelled delicious. I almost changed my order, but ended up being glad I didn’t. My main was a John Dory, served again with a different rich, creamy and light sauce. I almost licked the plate clean. DH had a fish dish that he enjoyed equally as much. We were in the mood for cheese, so we ordered the one cheese they had. It was a nice goat, served over a basil sauce with a mound of haricot verts. For dessert, we shared something with chocolate and guanduja. They were kind enough to split it in the kitchen on 2 separate plates, and brought his out with a candle. I had forgotten that when I had made the reservation weeks before I had mentioned it was his bday, but they remembered. Before we left, we were each presented with a coffee tuile with the most amazing bite size tart au basilic. It was so good, I felt like asking them for several more. Anyway, the total cost of the meal, with 2 apps, 2 mains, a cheese course, a dessert, 2 glasses of wine and a glass of champagne was 185Euros, which I thought was more than reasonable for the caliber of meal.
All in all, it was a great visit. Thanks to all the chowhounders for providing all the research that went into planning. Next time though, only one meal per day!
re: Rio Yeti
Agree it is good to see a mention of Gaya, it was always a favourite but, maybe overlooked because is is a Gagnaire offshoot. That said I understand he likes to rotate talent through his kitchens and FOH is the team is likely to be strong. Years since I last went but it sounds like it still delivers.