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Sep 12, 2013 11:56 AM

7 Days in Paris-5 Days in Euskadi-Tell me what you think-Be Brutal! Please

I have chosen the following restaurants after exhaustive research and manic decision making. I am almost embarrassed, but not quite. To lessen my agony, none of these establishments made my list as "destination dining." First, I decided what I wanted to do, museums, strolling, concerts, shopping, bars etc. and picked places based on activity. It made the process a bit less neurotic. Now, I would very much appreciate your candid input and output. Tear my itinerary apart if you will. Thanks.
FRIDAY - Dinner = Les Climats or Garance
SATURDAY - Lunch = Pirouette/ Dinner = Les Tablettes
SUNDAY - Lunch = Auxuria/ Dinner = Terroir Parisien
MONDAY - Dinner = Le Regelade St Honore
TUESDAY - Dinner = La Table des Anges
WEDNESDAY - Train to Lyon - Lunch = Takao Takano
THURSDAY - Lunch = Le Grand Ourse/ Dinner = Florimond
(On to Euskadi)
FRIDAY - Dinner = Arzak
SATURDAY - Lunch = Elkano
SUNDAY - Lunch = Etxebarri
MONDAY - Lunch = Boroa
TUESDAY - Dinner = Etxanobi
(Akelare is closed during our visit as is Mina)

Making me even more "wacked," is that I am also planning this trip for another couple who are avowed gourmands.
Okay-let me have it!

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  1. If you are that manic about restaurants, I don't see how tearing your itinerary apart would improve your condition in any way. I'm concerned you might explode under the pressure. But I'll take a risk, and here goes.

    I don't have an opinion on every restaurant. But most of your Paris destinations are keepers, except for La Régalade Saint-Honoré which you can drop without regret.

    Are you still with me?

    If neighborhood matters, why don't you try Spring or Yam' Tcha instead of La Régalade Saint-Honoré?

    Lyon: I'll pull a joker.

    Now for Euskadi.
    I woulnd't mourn over Akelarre since I had one of the most pointless meals in my life there. I would go back only for the setting and view over the sea.
    Elkano and Etxebarri: yes, yes, yes.
    Arzak no longer what it used to be, but still an experience.
    Others I don't have any info about.

    It's only food, relax, there is really no reason to go neurotic about restaurants, as I've often recommended more or less openly. What would they be for if not enjoying oneself and relaxing?

    39 Replies
    1. re: Ptipois

      Thanks. I appreciate the feedback and will plan on looking at Yam Tcha. Considering Spring is difficult since it is in that category of an American "hot" restaurant that is written up in every guide, magazine, and newspaper.

      1. re: enofile

        Well, don't pay any attention to "every guide, magazine and newspaper" — pay attention to me.
        Spring is a wonderful restaurant, and it is NOT an American restaurant.
        In fact, Daniel Rose has understood the deeper structure and spirit of French cooking better than quite a few French chefs have done. And better than any American chef has done, for one thing. As a restaurant, Spring is its own category.
        Staying away from such a gem just because the press and guides choose to label it this or that way would be a real shame.

        Additionally, I would like to ask you what were your criteria for choosing restaurants through your 'exhaustive research and manic decision-making'. It would be interesting for us here to understand more about your logic. From where I stand, it looks like you are in search of moderately traditional restaurants or modern restaurants with more of an emphasis on taste and good cooking than on innovation or cutting-edge techniques. At least that is what most of your choices seem to indicate.

        1. re: Ptipois

          Indeed, regarding Spring -- the best classic French demi-glace-type sauce that I've ever had in Paris was prepared by Daniel Rose. His products and technique are perfection. However, living in NYC, i do feel that the room is a bit Upper West side.

          1. re: Nancy S.

            That's because you live in NYC, I suppose. And New-Yorkers tend to believe that every modern and comfortable dining-room with an open kitchen in the world is New-York inspired.

            1. re: Ptipois

              I don't think it's New York inspired, just very "New York-ish" in atmosphere. And, it has nothing to do with the open kitchen. I'm a big fan of Daniel and love seeing him in and around Paris.

          2. re: Ptipois

            Okay, this is the methodology I used choosing these restaurants:
            1. I tried to avoid restaurants touted in popular publications such as the NY Times, Conde Nast, Fodor's, Zagat etc. I prefer not dining with other Americans when I am in a foreign country.
            2. A few critics have similar taste and palette to my own. In the late eighties and early nineties Gault-Milleau was a wonderful source. These days, Alec Lobrano and Pudlowski have enjoyed restaurants that I loved and disliked restaurants that left me wanting.
            3. I attempted to vary my choices to include modern cooking, traditional cooking, and innovative cooking. I also tried to discover some of the newer restaurants that have opened up in the city.
            4. Restaurants that are a "good buy" were also part of the schematic plan.
            I hope that helps clarify a bit. Thanks

            1. re: enofile

              As a scientist, I commend your having a methodology but if avoiding Americans (or Brits, or Russians) is your intent you're only halfway there.
              If you want the "newer" restaurants, I suggest you go to the blogs/bloggers, which I'm not allowed to refer you to, but as an example, I'd put out:
              Ô Divin
              Le Cafe Trama
              Monsieur Bleu with reservations
              Encore: Cuisine d'Amis: Ici et Maintenant
              Le Cette
              Au Bon Coin
              Le Petit Marché
              And the Beat Goes On and It's Been A Very Good Year, but you are to young to hear those tunes coming in.

              1. re: John Talbott

                Too young! I remember slow dancing to "Earth Angel" while President Eisenhower was playing golf rather then keeping an eye on Southeast Asia.

          3. re: enofile

            ""hot" restaurant that is written up in every guide, magazine, and newspaper."

            Add the word "blog", and this is true of every Parisian restaurant on your list. I agree with Ptipois that La Régalade Saint-Honoré is not a dinner slot well spent. While I've not lunched at Pirouette, dinners have been both ordinary and touristy. I've not dined at Les Climats, but have read that its charm lies in the garden, which is only used at lunch service.

            Back to Spring, there is absolutely nothing American about the kitchen's sensibilities. It ranks high among its French peers (length of time open, goals and success in attaining them, quality of product and quality of finished plate) and would by now have two stars had Daniel been born 2000 miles east.

            (But if you have room for me in your luggage, I'll gladly tag along to Spain with you. If only to return to Etchebari.)


            1. re: mangeur

              I wasn't going to answer because I'm getting a bit, what shall we say, fatigued by these laundry lists of 4 day jam-it-all-in gotta-do-it-all from the NYT places.
              But since all my dear friends (except P. and Deluca) have plunged in, I will as well.
              Les Climates (yes the jardin is best in nice weather at lunch but it's good even without the sun/etc. - check out Parnassien's comments on it) and Garance are top-top.
              Pirouette is superb, friendly and also on the parvis in good weather great (I eat at lunch and have never had an "ordinary and touristy" meal and Les Tablettes is equally impressive (but without the outdoor seating).
              Auxuria and Terroir Parisien - great Sunday choices
              Le Regalade St Honore - always done well as opposed to Pti and Mangeur.
              La Table des Anges - you mean Chez Les Anges? Don't know La Table des Anges, coordinates?
              As for Spring - it is not "an American "hot" restaurant that is written up in every guide, magazine, and newspaper. but "a "hot" restaurant that is written up in every guide, magazine, and newspaper in America and according to Le Figaro, the hardest place to get into there is.
              Yam' Tcha - good.
              Re: "Euskadi" - Colette and I will go back after a hiatus of 4 years, soon, but no comment at this point.

              1. re: John Talbott

                Good points, John. I am getting increasingly critical and selective in my dotage.

                However, the OP is doing everything right by correlating and appreciating the taste and palette of her gurus.

                1. re: mangeur

                  I am a male neurotic of the masculine gender. I assume I am the OP (Ocular Pesticide?)

                  1. re: enofile

                    Ooops. It's a problem I have. Gender identity. Vis a vis my screen name. I'm female. =8-0

                    1. re: enofile

                      Thanks for exposing your strategy, indeed things are clearer now.

                      I thought it was a good idea not to shatter your program entirely, considering 1. how anxiously you had set it up, and 2. that most of it was very sensible. I still do think there is nothing wrong about it except for a few small details.

                      I am renewing my caveat about La Régalade Saint-Honoré which is a pot-boiler among the Régalade mini-empire and suffers from chronically sloppy execution and poorly chosen products.

                      Yam' Tcha is not good, it is fantastic. One of the great, one-of-a-kind restaurants of Paris.

                      Garance is extremely good with some unexpected flaws in the execution, but a very decent place on the whole. Beware of the wine service, these days they tend to push undermatured chenins very strongly and it would be a good idea to resist that pressure for the sake of your dentition.

                      The "traditional bistrot" trend in your selection mostly springs from Pudlowski and Lobrano. A good thing on the whole, with some necessary caution, but I won't get into that since your choices are good.

                  2. re: John Talbott

                    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my restaurant choices Monsieur Talbott. It must get rather tiring reviewing all these lists after compiling your own on your excellent website.
                    I actually did mean La Table des Anges which is located at 66, rue des Martyrs in the 9th Arrondissement. I thought this would be a good choice after a concert at Le Cigale.

                    1. re: enofile

                      "I actually did mean La Table des Anges which is located at 66, rue des Martyrs in the 9th Arrondissement. I thought this would be a good choice after a concert at Le Cigale."
                      Ah ha, one more person at that concert, please see
                      But gosh, golly, gee wiz, tell me. us more about it.
                      And Parigi, you of the 9th's deepest secrets, what think you?

                      1. re: John Talbott

                        Well, we are seeing Richard Bona which is a completely different experience then Jimmy Buffet. I dare say we shall be in a "mellow-kind of blue" after the performance and thus, thought a traditional bistro might be apropos.

                        1. re: enofile

                          Ah ha, a traditional bistro near the Cigale - Help Parnassien and Parigi - OK they're not answering the phone.
                          Tough in that area "traditional bistro". OK
                          How about Le Pantruche, 3 Rue Victor Massé. 01 48 78 55 60
                          Very good food.

                          1. re: John Talbott

                            I've only been to La Table des Anges once... liked the food a lot... given that there are 100s of other restos with similarly dedicated, creative, and passionate young chefs in Paris, I wouldn't say that it's total standout though... and the night I was there, 80% of the clientèle seemed to be very loud hooray Henrys and plummy Letitias from the UK and our little table of Parigot(e)s was not happy at all with the very intrusive noise level... I presume it had gotten recent rave reviews in the Guardian or FT or Time Out... but dunno if my "English" experience was a fluke or a pattern... yet the cuisine was sufficiently good and the price/quality ratio so seductive to suggest a possible return visit mid-week for dinner when there aren't so many Eurostar trippers or for lunch (and bargain prices!!). And oh, the "cadre" seems traditional but the cooking has very creative flashes.

                            Although the quality can be quite inconsistent, my last meal at Le Petit Trianon at the Trianon cinema on the boulevard Rochechouart was stellar... and I love the very parisien vibe and very artsy/ cool clientele. So maybe qualifies for the short-list after La Cigale.

                            But for trad place that represents the (unsleazy) soul of Pigalle and popular with the after-theatre crowd, I recommend La Bougnate on the rue Germain Pilon off the boulevard de Clichy. And yes, for a more creative riff and a very trendy clientèle, Le Pantruche is indeed fab. If the OP is willing to huff and puff up the hill, there's also the locals-favourite Café Burq on the rue Burq off the rue des Abbesses and the very trad brasserie La Mascotte (with an excellent raw bar annexe) on the rue des Abbesses.

                            1. re: Parnassien

                              Your description of La Table des Anges has me breaking into a rash and perspiring in regions even National Geographic knows nothing about. Do you think I need to fear the "bus tour" on a Tuesday night?

                              As for the other suggestions, I will try to get into La Pantruche, Spring, Yam Tcha, and Jean Francois Piege for lunch. One of my problems is that my French is so bad, that after laughing with hilarity following my ludicrous attempt to make a reservation in French, the obviously perplexed person answering the phone hangs up. I, of course, am mortified and run to La Fourchette for protection. Although my mother has been gone for years, I hear her voice reminding me I should have done my French homework and attended class with more diligence. My youth attacks me in such interesting ways.

                              1. re: enofile

                                And if you have to drop one of these, drop Jean-François Piège.

                                Just reserve in English. Nearly everybody you will get on the phone can cope.

                              2. re: Parnassien

                                "I've only been to La Table des Anges once"
                                We ate there today and you are spot-on.
                                At lunch there were only two pesky Yankees, no Brits and lotsa French folk.
                                Interesting place.

                                1. re: John Talbott

                                  But the two Pesky Yankees had a good time and big laughs. Therefore avoid that restaurant like the plaque. In fact the best is to avoid all restaurants that we recommend. If we like a place, it's screwed.
                                  Café Burq is no longer that good, but it is frequented by local hipsters. If you like to dine amid loud music while the 20 diners smoking outside blow their smoke back into the restaurant, Café Burq is your place.

                            2. re: enofile

                              If I just got out of a Richard Bona concert in the 18th arrondissement, I'd keep fueling the mellow kind of blue by heading to a Cameroonian restaurant or any other good African restaurant in the neighborhood, since that is where most of them are. Le Bamboutos, rue Sauffroy; le Mono, rue Véron; Fifa, rue Joseph-Dijon.
                              But I'm only a Parisian and I'd understand that you'd insist on French food.

                              1. re: enofile

                                Just been reminded by a friend that Christian Etchebest who runs a trio of very good Basque restaurants (le Troquet in the 15th, La Cantine du Troquet in the 14th, and--my fave-- La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix) has taken over the previously unremarkable Café Cigale now renamed La Cantine Cigale next to La Cigale. So for an after-concert dinner, problem solved.

                                It just opened last week, no reviews so far, and I haven't been yet ... but just on the reputation of the chef and my great enjoyment of his other places, it's gotta be one of the better options in the neighbourhood.

                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                    Le Grand Pan is not an Etchebest place, it is run by someone who worked with him for a while.

                                    Good news about La Cantine Cigale. Tempting.

                                  2. re: Parnassien

                                    Ate there today - fabulous; enough so I'll start another thread.

                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                      Here again, vis a vis DCM and JT, precise description is the key.

                                      We hit Grand Pan shortly after it opened, on the last day of three weeks of dining out. It was, hands down, the most disappointing/disastrous meal we've had in France. I can easily see its being nirvana for those who can make a meal of meat. But for us, and I emphasize that timing was much of our problem, it was a nightmare.

                                      Had we been aware that at that time there were no options other than enormous portions of meat/salad/fries, we would have saved it for another time when it might have worked for us. Or not.

                                      1. re: mangeur

                                        Interestingly now, there are a lot of other items at Le Grand Pan other than the cote de boeuf, veau, porc. But that is what l get. Vive la difference.

                                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                          Good input. Can you remember some examples of other options?

                                          I know LGP as a destination for cote. It's great that it now has a more rounded carte so that they can please a table of varied diners.

                                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                            At least two fish offerings, also remember marmites of interesting stuff. However, as it has been 18 months since back, who knows. Will try to go in next few weeks to see what is new and what remains of the old.

                                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                              Thanks. Look forward to hearing about it.

                                          2. re: mangeur

                                            "Here again, vis a vis DCM and JT,"
                                            Maybe I conveyed the wrong impression Margaret, today I ate at Etchebest's La Cantine de la Cigale not Le Grand Pan.
                                            I was referring to Parnassien's post that "Just been reminded by a friend that Christian Etchebest who runs a trio of very good Basque restaurants (le Troquet in the 15th, La Cantine du Troquet in the 14th, and--my fave-- La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix) has taken over the previously unremarkable Café Cigale now renamed La Cantine Cigale next to La Cigale."
                                            It was Ab Fab.

                              2. re: mangeur

                                Odd about Pirouette - great food and all locals for us last week. I thought it great cooking representative of today's Paris.

                                1. re: PhilD

                                  Phil, if I reported solely on our experience in March, I would agree with you: interesting takes on classics, good use of seasonal products, local couples and groups.

                                  But our May visit brought "ordinary" (call it JT 5.0) plates, several disappointing over-reaches, few locals, most tables within earshot needing repeated help with the menu. I agree that there were "oohs" and "ahhhs" from other tables. But it didn't work for us.

                                2. re: mangeur

                                  "While I've not lunched at Pirouette, dinners have been both ordinary and touristy."
                                  Mang/Marg, ask your buddies from SF what they thought of their meal today; it may turn you into a dejeuneriane.

                              3. re: Ptipois

                                I thought Garance was excellent. The space, service, food and especially wines were excellent.

                              4. oh my. I am just as crazy as you are and am now concerned that most of your restaurants aren't on my radar! since you have done research am hoping to get more feedback here on my own list. (which I've already gotten some advice on this site.)
                                Friday- lunch: Les Papilles. dinner: Ze Kitchen Gallerie
                                Sat. lunch: Bread & Roses or Mini Palais.dinner: Le Chateaubriand (no res. yet) or maybe I should try Spring instead
                                Sun- lunch: food tour in Marais. dinner: Yayin (Need one kosher restaurant)
                                Mon- lunch: Le Comptoir du Relais (?) dinner: Septime (no res yet)

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: startsev

                                  All OK by me except re "Bread & Roses or Mini Palais" the MiniPalais is a true restaurant and a fine one too in a great setting. (presuming M. Frechon is not distracted by his supervision of Lazare.)

                                  1. re: John Talbott

                                    I also should clarify what I meant referring to Spring. I know it's a French restaurant with a Bear's fan at the helm. However, because it is a "darling of the foodie press" in the US, I'm concerned a meal there is like dining at an excellent French restaurant in Chicago rather then a restaurant in Paris. I fear the only diners will be fellow Americans, and since I suffer from self hatred when I travel to foreign locales, I would never want to dine with myself!

                                    1. re: enofile

                                      It is true that many of the fellow diners will be Americans but that detail is often exaggerated. Plenty of French people go there too. It's a good place, that's all you need to know.

                                      1. re: enofile

                                        "I fear the only diners will be fellow Americans"
                                        Well, it's true that a fair proportion of his guests are American. To avoid rubbing elbows with our fellow Yanks one must go to places as yet undiscovered by the NYT and unwritten up in the guidebooks.

                                  2. Are you going to post the questions about Basque food on the Spain board? I don't think we are meant to answer them here.

                                    1. <WEDNESDAY - Train to Lyon - Lunch = Takao Takano
                                      THURSDAY - Lunch = Le Grand Ourse/ Dinner = Florimond>

                                      Okay, I'll "take on" Lyon, seeing as how it's my favorite city anywhere... Are the above restaurants in Lyon? I've never heard of any of them. Where are they located and who recommended them to you? Kinda curious...

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: ChefJune

                                        I was a bit perplexed by the route - Paris - Lyon by train then cross country to San Sebastián - that's a difficult journey unless you have a plane.

                                        1. re: ChefJune

                                          Actually, we are just going to Lyon for the day on Wednesday, returning that evening. We are flying into Bilbao on Friday.

                                          Takao Takano was recommended by Alec Lobrano. Chef Takano spent eight years at Nicolas le Bec. This is his first solo venture. He should become a star judging by the accolades shooting across the satellites.

                                          1. re: enofile

                                            Interesting since Nicolas LeBec was only there for 7 years. And quite an interesting chap he is... Takano no doubt is one to watch, but there's SO much good (mostly traditional) food in Lyon, I'd have thought you'd do something you can't really do in Paris.

                                            Have you been to Chez Hugon? Daniel et Denise?

                                            1. re: ChefJune

                                              We have never been to Lyon before, but Alec's recommendations have always been "right on," for my palette. The information about Takano comes from Pudlowski. Thus, he needs to be corrected about Nicolas LeBec.

                                              1. re: enofile

                                                Sad to say this is not the first "mistake" in Pudlo (or elsewhere); I fear it says more about the demise of fact-checkers than the sloppiness of the critics' staffs.
                                                Just last week A Nous Paris published a duplicate of a review they had published 2 months ago and a review with another restos coordinates.

                                                1. re: John Talbott

                                                  Try reading the Wall Street Journal lifestyle sections. Or science sections, for that matter. =8-0

                                                  1. re: mangeur

                                                    consider who owns WSJ, and that they've let go most if not all of the prize winning columnists who used to write for them...

                                                    1. re: mangeur

                                                      All of us who publish in the USA know that once you push SEND that's what appears in print but I'd expect better of French publications.

                                                      1. re: John Talbott

                                                        Pudlowski does not write that Takano stayed eight years "at" Nicolas Le Bec but "with" Nicolas Le Bec, following him through the different restaurants he worked at.

                                                        Pudlo's blog is not a "French publication" but just Pudlo's personal blog, without the safety net offered by an editing/fact-checking team, and in that respect it is just like all other blogs, not necessarily strong on the editing skills.
                                                        Of course he does not go to all the restaurants himself and he
                                                        probably uses a ghostwriter or two, but his factual info is generally sound, while his appreciation of restaurants is much less so, for reasons I won't go into here. But I would trust him on the Takano information.

                                                  2. re: enofile

                                                    Not suggesting anything's wrong with Alec's palate, or yours. But fine dining is fine dining anywhere. and Lyon does have a unique style not found much anywhere else. And the food is fantastic. Seems a shame to miss it.

                                                2. re: enofile

                                                  FYI we tried to get in when we were in Lyon in April. He was booked solid for the entire month - if you intend to go, then book VERY early. It's a more difficult reservation than anything else in Lyon.

                                              2. Well, what alternative do you suggest in Lyon? Thanks much.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: enofile

                                                  Daniel et Denise, Chez Hugon, Cafe des Federations