Paris Trip Report-- 3 Dinners in the 9th + lunch at Joel R. Etoile
SO MUCH THANKS to the Chows who responded to my thread about low key food in the 9th. I ended up joining my mom on her trip! I only had a week to plan my Europe trip, so the wealth of information provided in that thread was such an enormous help. All the recommendations were fantastic! I had such a better restaurant experience in Paris than in previous trips. I think it really helps to venture outside the tourist areas.
NIGHT 1- Les Saisons. 5 minute walk from our hotel in the 9th, and easy to reserve on La Forchette.com. This cute little neighborhood restaurant has a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. I started with seared foie gras with a soft white puree (unfortunately I didn't understand what it was, the description was oranges but I think that was the sauce not the puree.) It was an enormous piece of foie- can only imagine would that would cost in the US. (Not to mention foie is outlawed where I live in CA) It was decadent, delicious. My mom started with asparagus and prosciutto which she really liked. Then I had steak tartare lightly seared on the outside with fried potatoes and salad. It was delicious! My mom had a lamb dish which was her favorite of the trip (she ordered lamb a few times). I loved this meal. The wine was nice as well. We had a server who was fervently in love with America (weird) but extremely nice and gave us a complimentary after dinner drink. It didn't seem they had the three course for 34 Euro thing that the others did, so we didn't get dessert, but the price was reasonable. High marks!
Our big meal of the deal was the 3 course value lunch (47 Euro I believe) at Joel Robuchon Etoile (the Champs Elysees). This was the only meal planned that was straying form the chow recs and the 9th. Blame my conventional foodie tendencies for this one- I wanted to eat at one of the famous multi Michelin starred, uber famous chef institutions, etc. I was sorely disappointed with this meal. First, the value meal is only at the bar- you sit at a counter and the service pretty much matches that. The servers were not particularly nice, nor was the atmosphere particularly impressive. This could have been overlooked were the food outstanding- it just wasn't. I've eaten at a lot of high end, Michelin star restaurants, and this was probably the worst food I've been served at one. It wasn't that it was offensively bad- there was just nothing special or delicious about it. The amuse was a soup-like offering of liquid foie and foam, and it was just okay. Then a pea soup with goat cheese raviolis. Fine, but not particularly flavorful or interesting. I didn't taste the goat cheese at all. Main course was steak with pomme puree. The steak sauce was nice, but the actual meat was chewy and not up to snuff. The pomme puree was divine and the saving grace of the meal, with the famous 1/2 butter ratio- but I shouldn't be paying for a three course meal in a pricey place simply to enjoy wonderful pureed potatoes. The dessert looked gorgeous- a raspberry sorbet in pastry- but was very tart and unbalanced- not delicious like it looked. At least my mom's coffee dessert was very good. Another blow- we had ordered a glass each of "house red" wine, and while we both enjoyed the glass that was served, it was 24 Euros each! That's half the price of the lunch! It's hard to believe that the server either didn't know what "house red" meant to us, or that was the cheapest red by the glass. Sure, it was my mistake to order anything in an expensive restaurant without checking the price, but as the servers seemed so wholly disinterested with us and our meal, it felt like salt in the wounds.
That night we didn't have reservations as we were only planning one "real" meal per day and it was Sunday. We ventured around in the rain for a long time before finally finding a little cafe that served food, everything was closed! We got roasted chickens with fried potatoes, the chicken was dry but the sauce served with it helped and was tasty.
Sandwiches from a vendor outside the Louvre for lunch. Le Pantruche for dinner: also in walking distance, also has that neighborhood feel. It's a tight space, you sit close to your neighbors. 3 courses for 34 Euro. I started with a poached foie gras. It was good, and an interesting preparation, but not as delicious as the seared I'd had. Similarly, my white fish dish with artichoke puree and broth was interesting, but didn't really excite me or please my palate much. My mom's braised lamb dish was a bit dry and so she was in agreement. However, the dessert was probably the best thing I ate in Paris - Grand Marnier Souffle with Salted Caramel Sauce. Best souffle I ever had, unbelievably good! We shared it along with a cheese plate (I don't think it's possible not to love a cheese plate in France) and I wish I had ordered my own. I would recommend going to this restaurant, despite the lackluster main courses, for this souffle!! And very happy we went!!
We started every morning trying croissants at different boulangeries in walking distance. All were good, but Sebastien Gaudard was our favorite. Lunch was at the 5th floor cafe in the D'orsay. Surprisingly good and reasonable! We shared a cheese plate and a croque madame, and it was a satisfying little lunch indeed.
Dinner at Les Canailles- also in the 9th, near Pigalle metro or St Georges. We saved the best for last! I started with asparagus with prosciutto and a poached egg, my mom had a delicious pasta starter, then we both had steak with pomme dauphine and mushrooms. The steak was tender, (so much more so than at Robuchon!) with a fantastically rich and savory sauce. The mushrooms were special as well, the fancy wild type. And the potato puffs were as generous as they were delicious! We shared two desserts, a baba a rhum and a meringue island with chocolate and passion fruit. This meal took the prize as best of the trip. The wine was also enjoyable and only 5 Euro a glass, the whole meal was quite reasonable for Parisian standards. The staff was also very friendly.
The next morning we were headed to Bologna….but we made sure to get croissants for breakfast and we bought a good variety of cheese and a baguette to eat for lunch at the airport. Join me in my refusal to eat crappy, overpriced airport food! Food will make it through security, liquids won't.
The weather was dreadful and rainy for our entire Paris stay, but the good food took our pain away! Thank you, thank you, thank you Chows!!!!!!
This was the helpful thread from which I culled my finds:
When l was at Etoile Robuchon a few weeks ago , found the service to be the same as yours, as it has always been in my experience. There is no real try to engage you with the staff. The other problem is if sitting in a row you have great difficulty in speaking to others in your party. OTOH my food was very, very good, consisting of perfect asparagus and a wonderful Iberico pork shoulder. My pommes puree were not anywhere near as good as other times, and will assume my batch was just off. Dessert, as often, l just gave away. Regarding your wine price, l had a bottle of bottled sparkling water and that was 12 euros, so l suspect your wine price should not have been a surprise.
Thanks for sharing Del, it seems we ordered the wrong things at JRE! I wish I had your last meal there instead. But your pommes show a record of inconsistency. Yeah, the wine thing I'm half to blame for- I should have looked at a menu and seen for myself the wine by the glass prices. But I really don't think 24 was their least expensive glass.
Thanks for the report. Pantruche is my fave in the neighborhood for rapport of quality to price, friendliness and consistency. We ate there 4 times in April/May and never hit a sour note.
Sebastien Gaudard took over our (mine and Parigi's) favorite patisserie, Seurre, and didn't lose anything in quality or creativity although the prices seem a bit higher.
My 7th decade brain had one of its cramps; I meant "Les Canailles" not "Pantruche" in the above post! During the same time frame we tried Pantruche twice, one time better than the other which seems to agree with other posters as to consistency. I have been to Les Canailles about 10 times since it opened and it has been consistently good.
Try to read what I mean, not what I type!
Great report. Show that good food can be had away from the oft recommended places we usually hear about (and that I religiously go to, lol)
OMG, I want that seared foie gras (and I'll also take the asparagus w/prosciutto and egg and that beautifully rare steak, please)
Thanks for sharing!