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Some old and some new [Paris Part 1]

Eight days in Paris returning to some old haunts and trying some new places. We were traveling with two friends who are new to Paris so tried to put together an eating itinerary that covered multiple styles of food but wasn’t too extreme as not all of the party were adventurous eaters (although we did successfully push boundaries – based on amazing execution). Most meals were pretty similar in size – entrée, main cheese or dessert - so the prices are comparable, generally we drank two bottles of wine between us and that’s reflected in the prices (if we had more I have noted that) hopefully that goes to answer many of the “how expensive questions".

* La Saotico (€ not expensive – I lost the receipt) is a great place for a casual meal if you are in the area (near the Bourse). Reasonably good classic bistro dishes, we enjoyed some decent salads and a good boudin noir with potatoes, and a decent mixed fish special. Good reasonably priced wines and a daily menu with good selections.

* La Palette is a simple bar in the 6eme usually full of art dealers and students. It’s was a good lively terrace for a drink however it now seems to be a real tourist haunt and seems to have had an ownership change, and with that prices now up with the likes of Deux Magots so unfortunately one now off our list of old haunts.

* Fish, for a quick drink on the way to dinner, Fridays here used to be busy and it used to have a good atmosphere but it’s been renovated and seems to have lost its soul. The old bar has gone and the nice new just feels new, the patina of age has gone and I think the regulars are now in Semilla across the road. We didn’t eat here – but they have a big new kitchen – could fish about to be reincarnated as the upmarket cousin of Semilla?

* Semilla (€170 for four) is Fish’s new sibling is a complete contrast; it’s busy and lively with lots of atmosphere. The menu is interesting with a mix of classics and innovative dishes like a veal tartare mixed with green mustard; tea smoked salmon served sashimi style; chicken pastille, and good ris de veau. It’s really fine food served very lively atmosphere. It’s modern and represents today’s Paris very well. Highly recommended

* Dans Les Landes (€81 for two – limited wine) for a quick lunch, it’s more traditional Paris than I thought and we sit on the café terrace in the sun. Some very interesting French tapas which are very moreish and we order far too much – the calamari are especially good – perfection in simplicity. Service is good and they make you feel very welcome with locals leaning over to tell us what to order (and it was good advice).

* Thoumieux (€290 for four – 2 bottles of wine plus two glasses of champagne) has a strange reputation on the board, almost disliked on principle as it is now a Costes place. But we wanted a classic old brassiere type experience with a bit of glam for Saturday night and it delivered. It was full of locals apart from the little corner of English speakers were we sat (a real irritant as we can survive in French food talk very easily).

The service is good, possibly a little too fast, and the food is good if maybe a little too creative. I had their “classic” calamari cabonara where the calamari replaces the pasta in the dish; it’s good but half way through gets quite rich. Mains are great with a classic steak tartare and some wonderful roasted veal (the best we ate). It’s a good option for a glam/fun night on the town which the locals seemed to be doing.

* Baron Rouge remains a timeless classic and a superb cheese with wonderfully ripe cheese. It’s often cited as place for wine and oysters but it’s foolish to miss its bar snacks which are great – and cheep.

* Le Comptoir (€284 for four) has always had a special place in our hearts as it was our neighbourhood local when we lived in Paris. It’s definitely busy these days with an orderly line of people waiting for a Sunday night table (the advice was an hours wait). We put our name down and ignore the queue to prop up the bar at Avant Comptoir only to be seated ten minutes later. Our meal was good in parts but dishes seemed less carefully put together than in the past. The mashed potato with the beef cheeks is now replaced by pasta in the sauce (easier to cook), and bread was hardening after being cut too early. It was an enjoyable meal but the special touch has gone with its popularity.

* Pirouette (€200 for four) is in the shadow of the big new Les Halles development in an odd little square in a modern building. But as it was good and warm we ate in the square. The staff are really friendly possibly, because or despite its location, it’s not at all touristy. The wine list is very reasonable and has lots of interesting options and the menu offers lots of intriguing choices. All the food is very interesting and pushes the envelope a little from the standard classics e.g. a duck rillettes coated in wafer thin slices of pear, or girolles on a cheesy sauce, or tomatoes and anchovies in a fine jelly with little flowers, or ris de veau served on a fennel and tomato puree – it also has a classic rice pudding that beats Chez L’Ami Jeans. It is a wonderful little restaurant with a much deserved and growing reputation, very much an example of the new wave of French cooking.

* Le Mini Palais (€98 for two – including 2 glasses of Champagne and 2 of Chablis) sits on the terrace of the Grand Palais overlooking the Petit Palais, it’s a great spot for a quick lunch in a nice setting. Most of the other diners are suited local business people enjoying working lunches but don’t let that put you off. The food is modern bistro so a light lunch with some interesting touches – a boudin noir terrine for example.

* Goust (€516 for four – wine is included in the menu but we had an extra four glasses of red and champagne to start which is extra) has gained quite a reputation on the board and it is much deserved. Its stylish and definitely a place to dress for, we went for the set menu and added wine pairings.

The food is innovative and quite refined but very satisfying never the less. We choose the Iberian menu and start with a cucumber jelly and cauliflower-cream amuse bouche; followed by a Carpaccio with lychee sorbet (odd but it really worked). Then onto a tomato and strawberry gazpacho with amazing Camarones (the Spanish prawns) - all three of the elements in the disk work very well together. Next lobster, some squid with fine vermicelli and a prawn wafer, the meat main course is beef, then dessert of citron tarte with lychee sorbet and tuille basket. The meal finished with some great petit fours. The wine pairings are all interesting with the sommelier asking you to guess the wines – needless to say he fooled us with every one of them, but all were well matched to the food. It may not be a cheap meal but it’s good value for the quality of food, service and ambiance of the room.

Part 2 - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9160...
Part 3 - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9160...

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  1. Totally appreciate the list and updates. Le Comptoir is a favorite and we have only had the beef cheeks with the pasta (mashed potatoes would be great with it). It is my husband's favorite in Paris and I love the lobster bisque, when they have it.

    Heading back in few months and always on the lookout for new spots.

    1. Really appreciate this list. I went to La Palette in May. It has been a favorite of mine for years, but it didn't have the usual feel to it this time around, I have to admit. Hadn't occurred to me that there was an ownership change.

      1. This is so helpful. We will be in Paris for 5 days in November and have been looking for new, interesting and moderately priced places to try. I saw your mention of Youpi et Voila, Pirouette and Semilla on another thread and then read your reports. They look very intriguing. Thanks for the reports and for including cost in them.

        1. Some photo's of our food at Pirouette.

          1. Some photo's from our meal at Goust:

            1. "apart from the little corner of English speakers were we sat"
              Yes Virginia, there still are English or foreign tables, for instance at Allard where two of us Yankees ate today (although the rez was made by L'Internaute, we were definately in the same section where 35 years ago we sat with the other non-smoking foreigners.

              19 Replies
              1. re: John Talbott

                ...which begs the question, "Did you, 35 years ago, feel shunted, isolated, or ticked-off"...or, to look at this through the eyes of a first-timer to Paris and with very limited French, better taken care of because of the difference?"

                While the "French Experience" is an all-encompassing reason to make this trip...and the food/resto part is certainly a big part of that experience....being "handled" somewhat differently by the locals can be a good thing.

                I live and work in Las Vegas and work in the gaming industry....gambling (as part of the "Vegas experience") can be a daunting and intimidating task for many. In the hospitality industry, I have two choices when dealing with a first-timer.....1. Throw them into the fire and let them deal with whatever happens, or 2. Help them as much as possible to understand what they are doing and, if you will, "translate" the "language of gambling" so that they may enjoy the experience to the fullest. They may not win and...analogy-time here....I may not understand saignant or a point....but, at the very least I was recognized for my "ignorance"...gracefully...and was helped.

                1. re: VegasGourmet

                  I am not JT and therefore can't answer you. Just want you to know that I first saw your name as Vegangourmet and nearly spit out my tea on the computer screen.

                  1. re: Parigi

                    We have some friends who are vegans, and when they come to dinner, we prepare gourmet food for them. I'm sure it's better than what they make themselves.

                  2. re: VegasGourmet

                    Well i am JT and I never spit tea.
                    First off, 35 years ago was hardly my first time (remember i'm a really old guy) but the Allard experiece then and now was different.
                    To be fair, in the bad old days before no smoking laws, it tended to be Americans and Canadians and the occasional Northern European who asked to be seated in no smoking and it was often a joke - one miserable table in the corner between the kitchen and toilets.
                    To today though. I was in no way offended - better described as amused, nostalgic and actually comfortable in the corner table where we could talk.

                    1. re: VegasGourmet

                      I think both perspectives are equally valid. Some need and love the attention, other more seasoned travelers, prefer not to be segregated - they want the real Paris (an odd idea given the real Paris is a massive tourist city). And lots on the board are fearful their French won't be good enough so English speaking staff who look after a part of the restaurant makes sense.

                      However, let's not forget that part of the reason for travel is to experience new things, if you are surrounded by people from home it takes the edge off. Worse than that your fellow tourists can often be very boorish, my own countrymen included.

                      So often the "English Speaking" section is the euphemism for avoiding the uncultured, loud and ignorant tourists......after all we are different, we are travelers, we are seeking out amazing food experience, we are definitely not common tourists. And it's bloody irritating that the natives don't see this and keep seating us with the unruly mob....what's wrong with them....?

                      1. re: PhilD

                        It is my thought (and my wish) that there are restauranteurs that separate (somewhat) us from the locals so that we can be served differently (better) since, in all probability we need some help...be it deciphering the menu, understanding the food, selecting the wine, whatever.
                        And, conversely, there are those that do it for the negative reasons, as inferred above.
                        It would be a major win for those going for the first time to have a way to find those positive experiences, not just the food, but the restaurant itself. Deciphering the input on this site from wonderful contributors like JT (whose blog I read everyday) is, at the very least, a daunting and intimidating task.
                        I considered myself an experienced "foodie" until I started my research/exploration of Paris

                        1. re: VegasGourmet

                          I get your point.
                          But I'm sort of a local guy and my "date" lives here and yet they inferred/knew/intuited we were not they.
                          As I said, I was not put out, indeed, in the corner table we could talk.
                          Who cares? Life is food not where you're seated.

                        2. re: PhilD

                          The solution could be wearing an insignia or a pin (like a sommelier's little golden cluster of grapes on his lapel saying "I am the wine guy"), that would mean "I am of the cultured crowd"? I am sure that would get the message home to the dumb natives.

                          1. re: Ptipois

                            I am working in it. It will be two baguettes crossed. My problem is finding the "best" baguette to act as a model. Can someone help by guiding me to where the best baguette in France can be found.....and do I need to reserve...?

                            1. re: PhilD

                              Yes, for the Best Baguette® you need to reserve eight months ahead.

                          2. re: PhilD

                            Speaking as a local, I think such segregation is a good thing. :)

                              1. re: Parnassien

                                I want to be segregated from the damned rive-gauchers.

                                1. re: Parigi

                                  Ouch! But Pti and I will miss you.

                                  1. re: Parnassien

                                    Yes. She is breaking our hearts, but nevertheless we'll let her go to Dans les Landes again.

                                      1. re: Parigi

                                        And unless I'm mistaken, CLJ is on the left bank as well...

                                  2. re: Parigi

                                    "I want to be segregated from the damned rive-gauchers."
                                    Not so funny.
                                    I have friends from the RG who don't like to cross the Seine for a meal.

                                2. re: PhilD

                                  Couldn't agree more. Maybe the badges might read "riff" and/or "raff".Hate to think which we'd be assigned to

                            1. Sounds good...thank you for the detailed list! Goust is a new one for me and sounds delicious.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: travelbiscuit

                                I ate there May 7, 2013 and indeed rated it 5.75/10 but it had problems.
                                I'd prefer (among my friend Phil's list) La Saotico, Semilla, Dans Les Landes, Pirouette and the Mini Palais, but we all ride our hobby-horses. Go for it.
                                And of course, report back.

                                1. re: John Talbott

                                  I do hear a lot on Pirouette. We have friends going to Bistro Belhara and will make a res or us to dine there.

                              2. Phil,

                                Have re-read your trip report with interest and had a couple of quick questions. Your CLJ report almost caused me to cancel but I think we will press on. In the evening there are only two menus now though and the carte blanche will certainly be too much food for us so it is ALC or nothing? What sort of prices are we talking on that menu?

                                Secondly Semilla, what was the wine list like? It's on my wife's birthday so keen to get some reasonable champagne as well - I don't know if you noticed whether they had any not stratospherically priced? Also is the bar at Semilla nice enough for a pre-dinner drink or would you go elsewhere beforehand?

                                Many thanks.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: ManInTransit

                                  We went ALC at CLJ and it ran to about €100 a head including wine....but I can't really remember the individual prices.

                                  Semilla is OK for a drink if you can get a seat at the bar, if not you get in the way of the staff. I think they serve "Pierre Moncuit" champagne, which is one of our favourite independent producers and is well priced. However, I would say it's not really a destination or great people watching bar.

                                  1. re: PhilD

                                    Great thanks, that all sounds fine re CLJ and I'll find another Saint Germain bar for pre-Semilla. Pierre Moncuit exactly the sort of thing I was looking for.

                                    1. re: ManInTransit

                                      Our tasting-menu lunch at CLJ , icluding wines and mineral water and tips, was 74 euro per person.

                                      1. re: Parigi

                                        Thank you - one can only hope the house is as expansive and generous as it sounds from your wonderful report.

                                        1. re: Parigi

                                          It will be interesting to understand the difference between the lunch and dinner menu options. As I said we had two choices at dinner: a €75 menu or ALC.

                                          We went ALC and did not order excessively and it was definitely at the €100 a head mark. It sounds as though there are broader menu options at lunch with short set menus as well as other options. Does anyone know?

                                          1. re: PhilD

                                            I know the least, since I never open the carte menu.
                                            We have been charged two prices for the lunch tasting-menu: 55 euro (pig-out) and 42 euro (deeply satisfying).
                                            There is also a pull-all-stop menu that was 75 euro, pretty much game-based.
                                            The à-la-carte is all a mystery to me, since I was not permitted to read it. :)