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Help with Paris restaurants with no menu/choices

VaPaula Mar 17, 2013 09:42 AM

Trust me when I say a search just did not work!

My husband and I are fortunate enough to have no food allergies, restrictions, aversions and we'll try anything at least once. In fact, we've been known to order something we don't recognize on a menu (and I'm talking here at home, in English) just to see what we get.

So, I'm looking for restaurants with no menu choices - the chef cooks what's fresh and what he/she feels like that day. I collected a list of those I believe fit these criteria, but if I'm wrong, let me know - and I'd also love more suggestions. We'll be in Paris in May and will be eating mainly lunch out since we tend to cook dinner chez nous.

Les Papilles (although I'm not sure they do this at lunch)
Au Passage
Bones turned up, but it doesn't appear to be open for lunch.

Budget is open - it's lunch afterall, which is typically a good value - but I'm not interested in Michelin stars this trip.


  1. John Talbott Mar 21, 2013 02:15 PM

    OK, you didn't give a price range, so here goes sky-gazing.
    Le Sergent Recruter on the Ile St Louis; ate there today and it'll blow your budget, but I sold my old apartment 3 hours afterwards so I figured I'd use the meager profit (Hollande takes a big bite from the capital gains tax for foreigners' secondary residences). But to be fair there are wines, and good ones for 22 E, and ones for billionaires.
    The Market menu is 3, no choice, dishes for 65 E at Lunch, Lunch, Lunch, Tasting, no choice, at 95 E. The Chef Dude, one Antonin Bonnet, worked in London and brought back quite a team. My virtual mentor Alexander Lobrano was not so enthusiastic, So as Bill Clinton would say "Triangulate."

    2 Replies
    1. re: John Talbott
      VaPaula Mar 22, 2013 08:34 AM

      Wait. Is this the same Le Sergent Recruteur that appears in every English-speaking guidebook with sausages hanging from the ceiling (not that there's anything wrong with either of those) or am I mixing it up with someplace else? Regardless, thanks for another rec, John!

      1. re: VaPaula
        John Talbott Mar 22, 2013 11:24 PM

        This is the same old place on the Ile St Louis taken over by a new team in November or so, got a star by March; ruinously expensive.

    2. Parigi Mar 19, 2013 12:13 PM

      Les Papilles is ok. You can do better, Paula, wink.
      Abri has a great lunch, 26 euro, the best value in town. Lunch-wise, reserving 3 weeks in advance is not too much. Dinner (which is more expensive), reserve 6 weeks to 2 months in advance.
      The menu is very market-driven and therefore very limited, "nearly" no choice.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Parigi
        yanks26dmb Mar 19, 2013 12:17 PM

        I've got les papilles scheduled myself for dinner...think I should look for something else?

        1. re: yanks26dmb
          Parigi Mar 19, 2013 12:33 PM

          Les Papilles is good and hearty. I personally find it lacking in dimension. But for others it hits the right notes.
          And when looking for a place to eat in the 5th, we always end up going to Dans Les Landes, which we enjoy much more than Les Papilles, in food quality, dimension, service, atmosphere, surrounding English-speaking overwhelm. They are very different animals, certes.

          1. re: Parigi
            John Talbott Mar 19, 2013 01:03 PM

            Tough choice; very different. I dunno, flip a coin.

          2. re: yanks26dmb
            ChefJune Mar 21, 2013 09:45 AM

            I thought les Papilles was just okay. Not special.

          3. re: Parigi
            VaPaula Mar 20, 2013 05:51 AM

            Thanks, Parigi - that hadn't made my list, but it looks like a keeper! And thanks for the reservation tip, too.

          4. John Talbott Mar 19, 2013 08:33 AM

            Now, you didn't ask, but along with places that serve a no or forced choice menu there are those that change the menu (in this case 3/3/3 at lunch) every day for lunch and dinner (like Spring used to and Chez Panisse may still). Today I had a superior (5.9/10) lunch at Le Cafe Figue, 117, rue de Vaugirard in the 15th, closed Saturday lunch, Sunday and Monday nights (Metro: Falguiere). Now you may want to wait until others weigh in, since only Jerome Berger and I have published about it, but it was "pas mal."

            1 Reply
            1. re: John Talbott
              VaPaula Mar 19, 2013 10:41 AM

              So many choices! Or should that be so few choices...? ;-)

              Anyway, thanks John and Nancy S. for your responses.

              John, I've been reading your blog for awhile now and a "pas mal" coming from you is worth noting!

            2. John Talbott Mar 17, 2013 09:58 AM

              Add to your very good list (and yes Bones is only open at dinner) Spring, Bigarrade and Pierre Sang (Boyer) in Oberkampf and last time I went to Rino there were two choices for mains (Aki equally). Do places with 2/2/2 choices count? Because Clandestino is wonderful.

              3 Replies
              1. re: John Talbott
                VaPaula Mar 18, 2013 06:53 AM

                Thanks, John!

                And yes, I think I'd consider a 2/2/2 place - which would mean I'd get to try 6 dishes, of course. ;-)

                1. re: VaPaula
                  John Talbott Mar 18, 2013 10:38 AM

                  My mind doesn't work in these sort of categories nor as Parnassien's Culinary GPS and it's been a while but Septime used to have 2/2/2 too.

                  1. re: John Talbott
                    Nancy S. Mar 18, 2013 12:19 PM

                    At least for dinner, Septime is no choice, as is Saturne and Sola and Passage 53 -- my top choices these days.

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