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Input on my somewhat idiosynchratic Parisian dinner choices?

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Hi all:

First, I would like to say how much I appreciate the time put into many of these postings, They have been invaluable to my planning.

My wife and I will be in Paris at the end of October for a week.

We have been to Paris a few times but, this is the first time that we won't have a heavy touring schedule. Just planning on soaking it in and going where we feel each day. But I had to plan out the dinners. In choosing restaurants for dinner I tried for a blend of great food, romantic settings and fun. I would appreciate any feedback on my choices, especially, the more unusual ones (not often mentioned here if at all), that I identified partially based on the timing of our stay..

These are all dinner reservations:

Day 1, Tuesday: Joséphine Chez Dumonet

Day 2, Wednesday: Relais Plaza: They features their “Swingin Relais at Plaza Athenee” the last Wednesday of the month. Sounded fun to me – Jazz and good food. Has anyone done this?

Day 3, Thursday: Lasserre. Booked their Facebook dinner offer. It is a Menu at 100€ ttc (without drinks), with 4 dishes suggested by the Chef. Has anyone done this? If so, what were the dishes?

Day 4, Friday: Caius

Day 5, Saturday: Il Vino

Day 6, Sunday: Café des Musees

Day 7, Monday: Wine Evening at Le Bristol in the 114 Faubourg restaurant. This is a once-monthly Wine Tasting Evening, held the first Monday of the month. Here is a description: Evenings start at around 7:30 with a tasting flight of four wines during which the winemaker shares tales about the vintages he's pouring. The accompanying full-course meal, tailored to the wine choices (as opposed to vice versa) by Chef Desbordes, is a set 120 Euro and can be enjoyed within the group of wine connoisseurs or tête-à-tête, whichever suits your mood for the evening. Has anyone done this?

Also, the Salon du Chocolat is in town while we are there. Worthwhile or not?

Thank you in advance for any insights. I promise to report back, especially on the ones that are a little more idiosyncratic.

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  1. The Salons du Chocolat are worthwhile but can be taxing. They involve heavy-duty tasting and evaluation. My buds tend to fade after a half hour or so of chocolate, and the crowds waiting for samples can be tiring, but I always have come away with some degree of increased understanding/appreciation and not a few small purchases.

    1. Very nice list.
      I have eaten at Relais Plaza. The food is good hotel brasserie food, no more than that. I doubt its food would improve for the jazz lunch, but if you like jazz, why not? Just bear in mind you are going for a very nice jazz venue with good food. You are not going for very good food.
      My fave jazz brunch is the one in the hotel Normandy in Deauville (only 2-hour train away!), and that Sunday buffet lunch is the only place in the entire town you can still see the old Deauville crowd, Chanel-clad beautifully old ladies (real douairière numbers) leaning on their nephew dandies.

      1. If you are into wine you will love Il Vino. The food is great and Enrico and staff are the best group of somms in Paris.

        1. Interesting.
          Be warned that at Caius, most of the items painted on their outside fascade and not available; it's quite bizarre.

          5 Replies
          1. re: John Talbott

            As it turns out, my hotel informed me that Caius needed to cancel my Friday night reservation as they are renovating from October the 29th to November the 6th. There still appears to be lunch reservations available that week on Fork, but I'm moving on. In a case of reservation Karma, I was checking the Frenchie online reservation tool and found a reservation for that Friday night. So one door closes and another opens up.

            Anyway, I'm about a week out from my trip, and everything else is about the same. I have a backup reservation at L'absinthe for the Wednesday night in case we decide not to do the jazz dinner at Relais Plaza.

            Any last words of wisdom? I will post upon my return. Thanks.

            1. re: Ian F

              Oh oh, caveat emptor. My last meal there was bad, bad, bad.

              1. re: John Talbott

                Good to know. I'll either go with my Relais Plaza or find another alternative. Thanks

                1. re: Ian F

                  Lots of great new places: Pirouette, Abri, Pierre Sang Boyer and new chefs at Vivant, L'Office & Au Passage; cannot go wrong.

                  1. re: John Talbott

                    I noticed one of your other posts mentioned Crom'Exquis. My wife and I have dined at L'Esperance many times and have very fond memories, so Crom'Exquis is my new Wednesday night reservation. Thank you so much!!

          2. <Also, the Salon du Chocolat is in town while we are there. Worthwhile or not?>

            I've never been to the one in Paris (the original) but the baby sister in New York is/was/has been a mob scene, with extraordinary lines for tastes. It is not my cup of tea. I'd prefer to go buy chocolate bars at Patrick Roger, Take a walk in the park and pig out!. ;)

            2 Replies
            1. re: ChefJune

              It's hard to argue with your experience and logic. These salons are arduous, lines for premium artisans long in time if not in numbers. (Remember the French tradition of giving the current client 100% of one's attention.) I also suffered from chocolate overdose, something incomprehensible before my first salon experience. No, I wasn't ill, but I soon found no joy in another piece of chocolate.

              I would, in fact, spread my chocolate intakes over a course of days, remembering that I will also take home enough for many pleasant remembrances.

              1. re: mangeur

                What really happened was I bought 7 chocolate bars and brought them all home. Gave three away as souvenirs from my trip and over the course of several weeks, rationed the bars out to myself piece by delicious piece. My favorite was the Cote d'Ivoire, which I shall remember well for the stash this time! ;)

            2. My wife and I are back and almost recovered from the jet lag. Our trip included a couple of nights at the beginning in London and 4 nights in Barcelona at the end, which I will discuss on the Spain board.

              I apologize for the length of this and if I am providing too much non-food specific info, but I believe some of it speaks to the overall experience and my take on it.

              Here is what we experienced in Paris:

              Day 1, Tuesday: 8:00 Dinner at Joséphine Chez Dumonet.
              After checking into our hotel, we walked to Rue Cler, grabbed some cheese for a snack, and then thought it would be fun to go to a wine bar for a while prior to our dinner. So we went to Willi’s Wine Bar. We arrived at 5:30, and we were the only ones there but the woman tending bar made us feel quite comfortable and suggested a Bandol from Provence, which was new to us, and it was excellent, and not the last time we had it during our visit.

              About a half hour later, another American couple joined us at the bar, and we enjoyed a very pleasant conversation and actually knew some people in common. It turned out they were also eating at JCD that evening but had a reservation at 7:30. When we arrived at JCD, we were shown to the rear of the restaurant (I knew this was a distinct possibility based on previous reviews), where there were 4 tables, by the kitchen and bathroom. I was actually fine with all this as I had a bird’s eye view into the kitchen and thoroughly enjoyed being able to watch some of the activity. Of course, our new friends were back there too, and they introduced us to another couple – who it turns out – are from the next town from us in the bay area and again we knew people in common. The fourth table was finally occupied with 4 French businessmen.

              I suspect that they assign waiters to this section that are somewhat fluent in English and/or have much patience. While we were quite versed with the menu, ahead of time, and what we were likely to order, our new friends were not and required a fair amount of handholding by the waiter. I believe our ability to be direct and not waste a lot of time resulted in some excellent service.

              As for the food, we had the cold foie gras starter (full size to share), shared the duck confit and a half portion of the beef bourguignon, and had the Grand Marnier Soufflé for dessert. I thought all was outstanding and made for a wonderful first night in Paris.

              Day 2, Wednesday: 8:00 Dinner at Crom'Exquis
              In the end, we couldn’t resist blowing off the jazz dinner at the Relais Plaza and going here given our long history of visits to L'Esperance in Vezelay. We were not disappointed. While a limited menu for now, the cromesquis starters did not disappoint. I had a veal dish with a caramel sauce, while my wife had Volaille au Homard. Both were outstanding. We had great service with the chef’s wife working the front of the house and our waiter having previously worked at L’Esperance. The chef came out at the end and we talked at length about L’Esperance and what he wanted to do with his restaurant. I wish them the greatest success.

              Day 3, Thursday: 7:30 dinner at Lasserre
              We booked their Facebook dinner offer. It was advertised as a Menu at 100€ ttc (without drinks), with 4 dishes suggested by the Chef. It did not disappoint and they did not “cheap out”. Upon arrival, our waiter described the menu and asked if it was okay. It was better than okay. The four courses were their macaroni pasta stuffed with black truffle and foie gras, roasted sea bream, duck with foie gras, and chocolate soufflé with vanilla ice cream.

              Of course, our bill was not 200 euros. By the time we had two glasses of Champagne to start at 35 a glass, a bottle of wine, sparkling water, and coffees, it was about 425.

              So were we treated differently for having selected the “Facebook” offer? The only thing I detected and it may have been coincidental was that we were sat at a table closest to the kitchen and not directly under the movable roof. I think if you are looking for this type of Michelin starred experience, it’s a pretty good deal. BTW, I believe it’s not available on Friday or Saturday nights.

              Day 4, Friday: 7:00 dinner at Frenchie (Not!)
              I had made an online reservation, had the confirmation, and arrived at 6:50 to a dark and closed restaurant which remained that way until we gave up and left at about 7:15. So I guess they decided to close for a long weekend and decided not to bother contacting their one customer that managed to get an online reservation. Needless to say they won’t be on my list for future visits.

              So my wife and I were left without a dinner reservation on a Friday night in Paris. After thinking about where we were, we decided to walk to Willi’s Wine Bar to see if they could take us for dinner. They could, and it was excellent. I had the best veal chop ever and my wife loved her beef.

              Day 5, Saturday: 8:00 dinner at Il Vino
              Perhaps they have modified the concept, but it wasn’t exactly as I had been led to believe either by reviews or by their website. My understanding was that you choose a wine or wines, and they then match food to it.

              What we found on the menu instead, on the left side, was a list of a la carte items. On the right side was a typical 4 course paired tasting menu along with a more extensive blind tasting menu. We stuck to the right side and my wife had the former – the 4 course tasting menu, while I had the latter.

              Things went along quite well for the first 4-5 courses. They would wait until I had tasted the wine and the food together and then ask me what wine I thought I was drinking. It was fun, and I was doing reasonably well on my guesses. And then I guess they got distracted/busy, and they stopped checking in, and I had to ask what I just had, and I’m not sure at that point that they really knew. I remember reading a similar account in someone else’s review, and I have to say if the restaurant is going to hang their hat on this type of thing, and charge fairly substantial prices, they should execute it well.

              In the end, though, what was really surprising was that we thought the food was wonderful, but the wine rather mediocre.

              Day 6, Sunday: 7:30 dinner at Café des Musees
              Not too much to say here that hasn’t been said before. We were packed in pretty tight, had the Steak frites. Fun atmosphere, great people watching, interesting discussing the virtues of our presidential candidates with our waiter, given our limited French and his limited English.

              Day 7, Monday: Wine Evening at Le Bristol in the 114 Faubourg restaurant.
              This is a once-monthly Wine Tasting Evening, held the first Monday of the month. Here is how it was described: Evenings start at around 7:30 with a tasting flight of four wines during which the winemaker shares tales about the vintages he's pouring. The accompanying full-course meal, tailored to the wine choices (as opposed to vice versa) by Chef Desbordes, is a set 120 Euro.

              Without a doubt, this was the # 1 dining experience / highlight of our time in Paris and I thought an extraordinary value. I would estimate there were about 20 of us in the downstairs section of the restaurant, which was set aside for this event. For the first hour, the wine maker would describe each wine, we would taste it, and then Marco Pelletier, the Head Sommelier at Le Bristol, would add his comments. This was accompanied with an array of hors d'oeuvres that were terrific.

              While the talk was conducted in French, it was not hard for us to pick out key words that got across the key messages. Also, once Marco realized our French skills were limited, he was very good about coming over to us to give us a condensed English version of what was said.

              We then sat down to the four course menu that was developed specifically to accompany the wine and that would then be available for the rest of the month in the restaurant. To our delight, we were seated on one side to the wine maker and his wife and on the other side to Marco. It turns out that the wine maker had studied at UC Davis and worked in Sonoma, so we had lots to talk about.

              I can’t recommend this experience enough. We were made to feel extremely welcome. I would say that it probably helps to be a wine lover and to not be easily intimidated by an evening conducted primarily in French.

              Salon du Chocolat: Yes, it was very crowded but lots of fun and a great way to spend a couple of hours. There were few lines for individual exhibitors and the slightest indication of interest was usually rewarded with a sample or two. Yum!

              I really appreciate all the information I found on this board that helped me plan my trip and eating adventures. Can’t wait to return!