Just Back...Trip Report
We just got back from our week long trip to Paris. It was our first trip to Paris, and we had a wonderful time. Thanks to all those who contributed to our planning, and made our trip wonderful. We had some wonderful meals thanks to all of the input on this board. Some general observations we had:
It was very easy and economical to get around via the metro.
Yes most of the tables were very close together for American standards, but this did not bother us at all.
A couple of the restaurants got very hot once they were full. I account this to their small size, and the fact that it was cool outside, so they probably would not have air running. It also did not seem to bother the locals much, so maybe they are use to it. We would notice some people were heavy (down) coats outside, and we thought it was warm enough to mostly have a light or no jacket. Of course this could be from having a little too much personal insulation, and all of the walking we did. :-)
You definitely need reservations at most of the chow recommended places. We saw people every night, and some lunches, walk in and be turned away.
We cannot wait to go back. We had a packed full week of restaurants. Next time we would stay longer to have more free days, and time/room for more spontaneous patisserie stops.
Though my wife was not a huge fan, I fell in love with the Pate de Campagne that was served at both Le Regalade and Chez L'ami Jean. I can't wait to try and make it at home, though I am sure it will not taste anywhere as good. I checked a couple of my many cookbooks and found a recipe in Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles book, and James Peterson's Glorious French Food. One has pork liver, the other chicken liver. If anyone can point me to a recommended tried and true recipe, that would be great.
I am still trying to recover from jet lag, but will add my reports and thoughts on the restaurants we ate at to this thread in the coming days. The ones we ate at include (in this order):
Au fil des saisons
La Regalade in the 14th
Chez l'ami Jean
Le Violon d'Ingres
More specifics to come.......
I told you I had a few extra pounds of insulation. ;-) Though to be honest I even actually lost a pound on this trip. I am chalking it up to all the walking and the lack of processed foods. Also thanks for the recommendation of the Ravenau chablis at le Cinq. We had a 2006 that was really nice.
We arrived after an overnight flight from the US. The jet lag had probably hit my wife a little harder, as I was use to many years of 3rd shift work and lack of sleep. We were easily ably to figure out the RER and took that to LE Halles, and walked a few short blocks to our apartment on Rue Rambateau. My wife took a short nap, and I could not sleep due to excitement. We pre-purchased tickets for the Eiffel Tower at 5pm. Well unfortunately it was raining, and raining pretty good at that. We did go up the tower, and it was nice to do, but it would have been better not in the rain. I guess next time I will not pre book the tickets. We had 8:30pm reservations at Restaurant Mariette. Our restaurant choice that night was chosen based on proximity to the Eiffel Tower, reviews on tripadvisor, and The Fork. We made a couple of our reservations on the Fork which turned out to be real easy and convenient.
Dinner - Restaurant Mariette
This is a very small place, and we saw a couple people turned away that night. We had 8:30 reservations, arrived 10 minutes early, and had to wait just a couple of minutes for another table to finish paying their bill to be seated. The wife and her sister were the hostess/server, and they were very pleasant and welcoming. My wife decided on a plat & dessert, and I went with the entree & plat & dessert option.
The entree I had was escargot stuffed ravioli. They were escargot stuffed in thin pasta ravioli, with some type of sauce. The dish was good, but not outstanding.
For the plat my wife had the chicken which was stuffed with fois gras, then wrapped in a phyllo type crust. She enjoyed her dish, and also really liked the black rice it was served with. I ordered the lamb stuffed with chorizo. It was boneless lamb loin sliced into rounds with a chorizo stuffing. If I remember correctly, there was braised leeks served with it. My dish, while not bad, was just ok. I felt the chorizo flavor overpowered the lamb. I actually had preferred my wife's dish.
For dessert we both ordered the millefeuille. It was not what you would consider a normal millefeuille, instead they were pastry rounds filled with a vanilla cream. We both really enjoyed our desserts, and was probably the highlight of our meals.
The meal was good, but not great, especially at that price point. I can see why it gets good reviews on TA, as the service was welcoming and friendly, and the food fairly safe. On a future trip, I would probably not go out of my way to go there considering the number of other possible choices. For some reason I did not write down the price. I am thinking it was around 100€ maybe a little more for 2 with a bottle of red.
Plan was to get up early spend a little time at the Louvre, have lunch at Spring, and maybe back to Louvre if we wanted more time. Well when the alarm went off, jet lag must have set in. We looked at each other, and decided to keep sleeping. We slept until 10:30 that first morning. Needless to say, we did not get to the Louvre in the morning.
Lunch - Spring
The lunch started with an amuse of a piece of pickled eggplant, fig, and prosciutto. I really enjoyed the pickled eggplant.
The entrees were two pieces of raw tuna, a single oyster with rose water vinaigrette and some type of burnt ashes on top. (couldn't really catch what type ashes they were) Also on a separate plate was a chopped breaded and fried oyster, with lemon herb butter. Ahead of time I had informed Spring of my allergy to buckwheat. I am glad I did since the piece of tuna had buckwheat on top. Obviously mine did not. My wife even heard the server remind the chef of my allergy ahead of time, and him jokingly say "Don't worry I have not killed anyone yet."
The main course is still one of my favorites from the whole trip. I am sure my description will not do it justice. It had a piece of lamb loin with a perfectly seared thin crust of fat on the top. Also was a perfectly cooked piece of lamb tenderloin. There was what was described as an almond puree, which was also really good. I believe there was another type of root vegetable in the puree also. Also on the plate was a small roasted eggplant and watercress.
Desserts where multiple small plates including: Walnut cake with a nut mouse topped with a pear slice. Thyme ice sorbet on top of a yellow plum. Olive oil and white chocolate mousse. This sounded odd, but I could not get over how well this worked together. A citrus tart with blackberries. A chocolate and coffee mousse.
I had a glass of red, and a glass of white. My wife just had water since we had just gotten up a couple hours ago. LOL I had an espresso to finish, and some coconut cookies were brought with the bill. Oddly the bill had an extra glass of wine on it, which was promptly removed when it was pointed out. So the total bill was 140€.
The service here was excellent. Spring was really one of the highlights of our trip, and a place I would definitely return.
Day 2 continued
After lunch at Spring we did the Louvre. Not exactly art buffs, but it was nice to see the highlights. This time we focused mostly on the Denon wing. The rest we will have to save for another trip. After that we took the metro to the Arc De Triomphe. We made the long climb to the top. Those stairs had to have worked off our lunch at Spring, right? The view from the top was wonderful. We caught the beginning of some type of memorial service at the bottom of the Arc with a military parade that marched up the Champs Elysees. We walked down the Champs Elysees and just took the sights in. At the end of all the main stops we took the metro back to our apartment. It was rush hour on the #1 line, and the trains were packed. We saw our first girl get trapped in the train door and outer track door, as she tried to get on at the last minute. We wisely just waited a couple minutes for the next train. We rested a little before our 8:30 reservations at Au fil de Saisons.
Dinner - Au Fil De Saisons
This was one restaurant I was a little apprehensive about. Seemed to have good reviews on TA and the Fork. JT wasn't too thrilled with the selection, though I did not want a "prime" choice after lunch at Spring in case I wasn't in the mood for dinner. I made the reservations via the Fork. We were able to walk to our 8:30 reservations. We were slightly nervous, as we were only one of a couple tables when we arrived at this small restaurant. By a little after 9:00 or so the place was packed with them turning people away. There was only one waiter, and he ran nonstop. It was actually fun for my wife and I to watch.
The waiter brought over a chalkboard with the menu of the day. It was all in French, but he was able to describe the dishes in English. I informed the waiter of my buckwheat allergy. In the US this is not something I normally even have to mention since it is not a common ingredient. I knew savory crepes were made with buckwheat, and considering that it was in one of the dishes at Spring, I was cautions to try and remember to tell waiters. This is where I learned the nuances and intricacies of speaking French. The best I knew how I would say "Je suis allergique à sarrasin." He looked at me funny, so I tried "Blé Noir." Finally I showed him a piece of paper with it written. He then understood, and repeated it. I was thinking that is what I said, as I attempted to say it again. He patiently tried to repeat the two versions for me to attempt, and each time I could swear I was saying them just right. Well obviously I was not, as this was a scene that played out several times during our trip, but luckily I kept the piece of paper with me. LOL
My wife ordered a plat/dessert. I did an entree/plat/dessert. And a 50cl carafe of red wine, and a carafe of water. The atmosphere could not have been more welcoming here, even as the place filled up. Two French men sitting at the table next to us noticed us staring at the menu. He offered to help translate it for us, though I informed him we had indeed already ordered. It was a welcome gesture though.
For entree I ordered bone marrow. It something I have had before, but usually in small quantities and not too often. I was expecting round cross sections, but instead came a long bone split in half, and broiled with toast pieces served on the side. It was good, but rich. There were a few areas where the bone marrow was not cooked well enough, and the waiter also noticed this. He offered to have it sent back and cooked more. I declined, as I had already had my fill.
For main course I picked the 7 hour cooked lamb. My wife reminded me I was having lamb for the 3rd meal in a row. There are worse thinks I chuckled. It arrived as a whole lamb shank that was perfectly tender and juicy. There was some sautéed vegetables that I do not remember too much about. Also was some mashed potatoes, that I felt were slightly under seasoned. This may just be a cultural difference, because I had mashed potatoes at a couple places that I considered less seasoned than I am used too. I was quite happy with the dish overall, and it was quite filling. My wife ordered the Duck Confit. It was served with an arugula salad, and the same mashed potatoes. We both really liked her dish, with perfectly crisp skin.
For dessert my wife was described as some type of macaroon dish. It was two large meringues with ice cream. We both thought it was good, and in fact she keeps saying it was one of her favorite desserts from the trip. I had a chocolate caramel lave cake. It was good, but not a real standout.
We were both very happy with Au fil De Saisons. The service slowed as the place became full, but it was fun to watch the waiter masterfully work the tables the best he could. While not gourmet, I could definitely see myself coming here often if I lived in the neighborhood. Plus a good value at 75€ total bill.
We had a lovely meal at Au Fil de Saisons a few years ago. A local we met at a tiny Italian place in the Marais (Caffe Angela) gave us Au Fils and Vieux Comptoir in the 1st as his favourite places. Neither are on the usual tourist lists, but both are on our list of meals we really enjoyed (returned twice to Au Vieux Comptoir). It's fun sometimes to get off the merry go round of the places that get mentioned on every Paris food web site and try someplace a little more off the beaten path. I had the 7hour lamb which came with seared foie gras (!) and hubby had andouillette for the first time and loved it. We also found it good value for our euros.
Great report and looking forward to more. I'm glad to hear Spring is still going strong. I haven't been for dinner since last November, but I've always had excellent meals there. (Except for the lobster sandwiches in August which I was not impressed by, particularly the burnt fries.) I have a reservation in a few weeks and am looking forward to it.
I'll be interested to hear about your experience at Chez l'Ami Jean. I usually love it and it has been a long standing favorite, but last time I went, I wasn't wowed at all. In fact, a few dishes were poorly prepared and came luke warm. Couldn't tell if it was an off night or trouble adjusting to the new 10-course format. Just disappointed for the first time.
Say it ain't so, Julie! I've followed your love affair with CLJ on your blog (newly discovered today) and agreed with every drool filled sentence you wrote. I guess there may be a learning curve with the new menu but Jego is usually so adept at adapting to so many different menu choices at the same time. I'll just have to see for myself next time I'm in Paris (hopefully in January if I haven't quit my job yet)
Got up in the morning to tour the Luxembourg Gardens. Then walked over to the Pantheon. After that we walked over to Les Papilles for our lunch reservation.
Lunch - Les Papilles
We were one of the first tables to arrive for lunch. At one point I actually saw the couple that was sitting next to us at Spring the day before. Wonder if they were Chow readers too? They have a set menu of the day, or you could order off the menu. We chose to order the menu of the day, which was 33€ for Entree/plat/cheese/dessert. My wife just did the entree/plat choice.
Entree was cauliflower soup with olive oil. Bowls with croutons, bacons, chive, and creme fraiche were brought out served. A large bowl of the cauliflower soup was placed on the table. The soup was very good. My wife found herself just having that "one more" ladleful .
Plat was seared and roasted cod. It was served over roasted potatoes with olives oil, lemon and capers. Another dish that was very good. And I found myself just having "one more" spoonful of the creamy potatoes.
Cheese was a slice of goat cheese with a small roasted tomato and served with a small olive tapenade.
My wife and I shared the dessert of a panna cotta with apricot puree, and a caramel foam.
Total for 2 with 2 glasses of wine, carafe d'eau, a cafe noisette was 71,50€. We were happy with this choice for lunch. Service was efficient, and they turned out some good food out of a tiny kitchen. Portions were definitely good sized. Would recommend and return.
Day 3 continued
After lunch at Les Papilles we went to the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was the first Friday of the month, and they had the veneration of the Crown of Thorns service. We were able to get seats in the first 1/3 of the church, and had to wait about 45 minutes for our turn to proceed up to venerate the crown. It was a neat experience. After that we went to Sainte Chapelle. On the ground floor we were thinking it was not a big deal until we went up the stairs, and were in awe at the stained glass. We then went back to the apartment to rest and get cleaned up before our 8:30 reservations at La Regalade in the 14th.
Dinner - La Regalade
It really was an easy metro ride, and a short walk to La Regalade in the 14th. The restaurant was already crowded by 8:30, and we were seated along the back wall. As soon as we got there we both realized how hot and stuffy it was in the restaurant. My wife immediately commented, and she is never usually hot. At one point one of the waiters even commented, and the air unit overhead was turned on making it slightly less stifling. Unfortunately , this only lasted for 5 minutes before the unit turned off, and it quickly became hot again. It is pretty bad when you want a waiter to whisk by to create a small breeze. My wife had a lady next to her who was fanning herself, and she was able to feel a little breeze from that. I don't mean to make a big deal about it, except that it really detracted from what otherwise would have been an excellent meal.
They brought out the pate campagne and cornichon pickles. This was the first time my wife or I had tried it. My wife could take it or leave it. Me, I fell in love. I was careful not to eat too much as to not spoil my appetite, though I am sure if allowed I could have made a fine meal of that alone.
For an entree I had the squid ink risotto with calamari, and what I think were fried garlic chips. I got this because of rave reviews from others and was not disappointed. My wife had a scallops that were served on the half shell. They had a olive oil and lemon vinaigrette, and were served cerviche style. My wife loved them, and thought they were one of her best dishes of the trip. The only downside to the dish was the fact that the muscle was still attached to the shell, which made it slightly difficult to remove and eat.
For a plat I had guinea fowl, to which I did not take notes as to the exact preparation of. My wife had the red wine braised beef. They were served with a salad and mashed potatoes. It was slightly odd as it seemed most tables the server would plate the dishes table side, and remove the cooking vessels. Ours was not plated, and was more of a family style, making the table for two extremely crowded.
Desserts were the riz au lait and the grand marnier soufflé. Both dishes were very good, but we would later learn the riz au lait was no comparison to Chez l'ami Jean. The riz au lait had some clumped together pieces of rice, and could have been smoother.
The total for dinner with a bottle of red sancerre wine was 97€, a real bargain I felt. The biggest detraction was the heat of this packed restaurant. Would definitely give it another try hoping the heat was a one off experience, and the "trek" to the 14th was really not as bad as some people make it sound.
A good take, indeed. I have always felt that original LR was more important for its ground-breaking approach to price/value than it was for absolute deliciousness and certainly for dining comfort. it set a new standard for generosity with the free terrine pre-starter as well as for brilliantly conceived if not executed modern takes on classics. But crowding and heat have long been the norm, most often resulting in meals that seemed to last forever while hearing the next-door-table compare everything to what they ate in Atlanta or NYC. My husband and I have never had a meal there that we considered excellent. Inexpensive, yes, but not outstanding.
Yes, probably '92 through '93. Back in the days when Eric Frechon and Philippe Detourbe had eponymous dining rooms, back when L'Epi Dupin was pretty good. I think that Repaire de Cartouche came along at roughly this time. We much preferred all of these other chefs and were devastated to see EF and PD move on.
Once, the woman next to me sent her beautiful 2" thick sea bass back because it was transluscent at the bone. I had ordered the same thing, and both our dishes came out at the same time. They were both 1" thick and mine, at least, was grossly overcooked. I always wondered about that fish. When using salted butter first became the rage, my husband's scallops were horribly oversalted, not just accented. I believe that it was after this visit that he said that we needn't return.
At LR, we were put off by the cattle-call welcome and dump-the-plate on the table service, the gushing "oh, god, we got a reservation" diners and, as I wrote, imperfect food. We kept going back because we figured we must have hit off nights. We finally chalked it up to just not being our style.
FWIW, we've visited LRSH three times and like it no better: uncaring service and plates that don't compare with LAJ or seldom mentioned L'Ourcine. For us, it's not a bargain if we grumble all the next day about food and service.
As I wrote above, I think that Joe summed it up very well.
To be fair, I think we thought more highly of the food and service than you do. I think we went into it with a notion that the service would not be good. And while the service was not white glove, I did not find it lacking either. I enjoyed the food, and my wife's scallops where one of her highlights. Reservation was easy to make using La Fourchette. We even found charm in the crowded space. The game changer for us would be the heat and lack of air movement in the restaurant.
With all due respect to Mangeur, my husband and I never had a meal that was less than outstanding at the original LR. Every time we go I'm afraid it will disappoint but so far we've been wowed every time. The only disappointment was one Monday when they had no whole roasted foie gras available. I enjoy the frenetic packed atmosphere, always dress in layers so I can usually find a comfortable temperature, and while there have been times when the service was a bit ragged, I always leave feelings as if I just had the deal of the century with the quality/price ratio. It's the one restaurant that we re return to every time we're in Paris (sometimes more than once!) and recommend without hesitation to any and all.
" My wife had a scallops that were served on the half shell. They had a olive oil and lemon vinaigrette, and were served cerviche style. My wife loved them, and thought they were one of her best dishes of the trip. The only downside to the dish was the fact that the muscle was still attached to the shell, which made it slightly difficult to remove and eat."
The french serve scallops and oysters on the shell with the muscle attached as in very early times, it has been known for some 'old' shellfish to be placed on new shells. To avoid this sort of fraud they are now sold on the shell with the muscle attached.
Today we did not make any plans for lunch since we were doing an early dinner at Chez l'ami Jean. During the day it was raining. Plan was to do the military museum. Stopped at Rue Cler on the way to take in the touristy shops and cafes. We were standing on a street corner looking at a map to find the Army museum. A very nice lady stopped and asked us if she could help. She pointed us in the direction of the museum. Everyone on this trip has been really great. We went to the Army museum, and really enjoyed it. Stopped at Napoleon's tomb. We were not prepared for the enormity of it. Afterwards we went to the Rodin museum. While nice, it wasn't really our thing. Probably did not help that it was still raining. Continued to walk towards CLAJ and it was 6:00. Having an hour to kill before dinner we stopped at a cafe to sit under the awning outside and have a beer. Two girls sat next to us ordered coffee. After finishing one said something to the other, they giggled and ran off. I am pretty sure they ran off without paying, though the waitress did not seem upset, so I could be wrong.
Dinner - Chez l'ami Jean
The only time that we could get dinner reservations was 7:00 several weeks before, unless this is what they tell English speakers when they call. Arrived at 7:00 and the restaurant was just starting to fill. We were seated just one table away from the kitchen, so we were glad we would get to see the action. The Pate de Campagne was delivered with bread and cornichons. I tried a small bite before looking at the menus. The menus were in French but we spotted the Chef's tasting menu that we had come for. One of the waiters came and asked if we needed help with the menu. I said no, we were going to do the tasting menu. He seemed surprised, and said "do you even know what the tasting menu says?" I replied that we were willing to be surprised. He then translated the tasting menu for us. After ordering the tasting we selected a bottle of wine. The next part was odd, was he cut 2 slice of the pate, and placed a piece on each of our plates, and took the terrine of pate. I had only tried one bite, so it wasn't like I was overindulging. Perhaps they needed it for another table, or don't want you filling up before the tasting menu. Either way I thought it was odd. My wife tried to write the dishes down after we got back to the apartment, but some may have been forgotten, and the descriptions may be lacking detail. It is hard to do some of the dishes justice.
We started with a shellfish bisque poured over croutons and chives.
Next was a piece of mackerel served over a piece of lobster and topped with thinly sliced scallops with a soy based sauce. The plating was meticulous, and beautiful. To be honest though the flavor of the mackerel overpowered the delicate flavor of the lobster and scallops which got lost in the dish.
Then we had a tartar of diced veal, with a perfectly poached egg. Chef Jego explained to the couple next to us how the egg was poached at a very low temperature for a long period before just briefly being fried and placed on top. They were nice enough to translate the explanation for us.
Next we had cod with langoustine and herring in a squid ink sauce. My wife noted that she enjoyed this dish. Though I wish I would have asked for a copy of the menu so I could have better descriptions. Much probably got lost because of the language barrier.
What followed was a 5 mushroom consume as "a palate cleaner" we were told.
Next was lamb loin perfectly cooked served with fois gras and kidney with mashed potatoes on the side. I was pretty sure it was kidney, so I asked the waiter "Qu'est-ce que c'est?" He replied that it was indeed kidney, though I am not sure from what type of animal as it was pretty small. About the size of a walnut. Chef Jego started to laugh, and said something to the couple next to us in French. They told us he said he doesn't put that explanation on the menu otherwise the "Americanos" won't eat it. We all had a good chuckle, and enjoyed the dish.
Next were the desserts: the famous rice pudding, pistachio ice cream, and chocolate macaroon. The only dessert I truly remember was the rice pudding, and not much more can be said about this wonderful dish.
Total for two tasting menus and a bottle of wine was 200€.
One of the highlights of the night was watching the staff and Chef Jego work. It was nice to see the intricacy in which he would plate the food then clap his hands loudly, as the servers would come running. For some reason he reminded me of a French Gordon Ramsay.
Definitely would return, though would like to come for a later service when the kitchen was in full swing. Some things I did not like was that when we called we were told that 7:00 reservation was available, but we would need to finish by 9:00. It was not a problem with the quick and efficient service. I just hope that they do not become a victim of their success such as was my experience with service at Frenchies.
Today we had initially planned to go to Versailles. It would have been a nice day to go weather wise, but it seemed there were so little sunny days the week we were in Paris we wanted to use the sunny day to spend more time in Paris. We will have to save Versailles for another day. We stopped at Boulangerie-Victor-1920 across the street from our apartment for a croissant. Today we visited the Tuileries Garden, Opera Garnier, and the Orsay museum. We had lunch at a cafe near the Louvre, and my wife had her first croque monsieur which she enjoyed. We later walked around Ile St Louis and had the famous Berthillon ice cream. Dinner tonight was at Le Violon d'Ingres.
Dinner - Le Violon d'Ingres
We had 8:30 reservations. There was an amuse which I do not remember, and I did not write down.
For an entree my wife had a pumpkin soup, with chestnuts and crème fraiche . She said she enjoyed the soup. I had foie gras which was pan seared with figs and gingerbread. Not really sure where the gingerbread came in. Couldn't tell if it was in the sauce or what, but the sauce did compliment the foie very nicely.
For Plat my wife had their "rotisserie" dish of the day which was scallops. Perhaps by rotisserie it was meant grilled, but they were served on the half shell with a shallot vinaigrette and spinach salad. She said they were good, but she enjoyed her scallops more at La Regalade. I had the sweetbread which was served with I believe a celeriac puree. The sauce was similar or the same as served with the foie gras. I have had sweetbread in small entree portions before, but never as a main course. I worried it might be too much or too rich. I was in heaven, and enjoyed every last bite of the large portion .
For dessert we shared the millefeuille, which they split onto separate plates prior to serving. It was a masterpiece, and was excellent. I was wishing my wife had not insisted on sharing a dessert.
Dinner for 2 with a bottle of White Sancerre was 201€. Service was good. We would recommend and return to this restaurant, especially on a Sunday night when others are closed.
re: John Talbott
Wow, I think we are being a bit caricaturish. There is a vast panoply of choices in the U.S., not just one cookie cutter serving huge portions laden with oil, butter and fats. Funny, but when I first started coming to France a couple of decades ago, the same caricature was painted for French restaurants.
"Wow, I think we are being a bit caricaturish. There is a vast panoply of choices in the U.S., not just one cookie cutter serving huge portions.,"
Hummmm, that's not the way I remember 1953, or 1968 or yesterday in France/Paris.
I think even at the awful place I ate at today - La Dame de Pic - the portions were very reasonable and 3 or 4 courses edible without exploding one's midriff