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Sep 18, 2013 06:06 PM

November in Paris - Please comment on my choices

Going to Paris in mid-November. We will have dinner Wednesday through Saturday, and lunch Thursday and Friday. We want to try places we have not been to before. When we were there 2 years ago we really liked Kei and Neva Cuisine. Our preference is for innovative contemporary cuisine rather than traditional. I particular like to find young, up-and-coming chefs who have star potential, but have not yet achieved the recognition to be able to charge exorbitant prices.

I have wanted to have lunch at Le Cinq for years, and this time will finally be able to do it. At 95 euros it is a splurge but looks like something that should be experienced if only once in a lifetime. Can anyone tell me how much to expect to spend for a bottle of wine there, not anything high-end, but along the lines of Cotes du Rhone, Beaujolais, Cahors? For the other lunch I am planning on L'Instant d'Or.

For dinners, I am thinking about Le Galopin, Ober-Sale, Pirouette and Semilla. Had considered Youpi et Voila, but it gets very mixed reviews.

Any thoughts or alternative suggestions would be much appreciated.

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  1. "I am thinking about Le Galopin, Ober-Sale, Pirouette and Semilla. Had considered Youpi et Voila, but it gets very mixed reviews."
    Agreed on all (I may be the only naysayer on Youpi but I vote early and often.)
    As for "places we have not been to before."
    How about:
    8.7 Hugo Desnoyer
    8.5 Jean-Louis Nomicos
    8.0 110 Taillevent
    Sergent Recuiter
    7.5 Petit Champarret
    7.2 Felicity Lemon

    19 Replies
    1. re: John Talbott

      Thanks, John. The places I listed are all ones we have not been to, so I'm glad you approve. I will research the places on your list, but are these better in your opinion, or should I stick with my plan?

      1. re: rrems

        Youpi et Voila was one of our more interesting and one of our best meals of our recent two week 27 meal trip to France. I also really like Semilla and Pirouette and all three, whilst different, do show modern French food off well.

        1. re: PhilD


          I chose these based on your recommendation of them in another thread. Y et V is the only one that has some completely opposite reactions. Sounds like it's worth risking.

          I should mention that the one place we absolutely HATED on our last trip was La Bigarrade, which also had mixed reviews but mostly positive ones. We couldn't understand what anyone could possibly have liked about it.

          1. re: rrems

            Well if it's any help La Bigarrade's old chef has opened in Hong Kong and I was far from impressed. Lots of clashing flavours and miniscule portions - YetV was very different.

            1. re: PhilD

              Good to hear. Your impression of LB is exactly what ours was. Most of the flavors did not work. Dinner took forever, we left hungry, and it was just all so pretentious, it was excruciating.

          2. re: PhilD

            Seconding Youpi et Voilà ! heartily. It's getting better and better.

            1. re: Ptipois

              "Seconding Youpi et Voilà ! heartily. It's getting better and better."
              Aye yay yae, how could I be so wrong?; good wife, great kids, wonderful grandkids, rewarding career, pretty good second life, but totally missed out at Youpi et Voilà.
              Ok, one of my cherished SIL's has taught me to say "I''m wrong, I'm sorry, I apologize and I'll never do it again."
              So OK Soph - You and me, Mano a Mano, or Mano a Experto.
              Name the date. Weapons - knives and forks.

              1. re: John Talbott

                It's very simple, every restaurant and chef is different. This one had recently opened when you visited it and the opening wasn't an easy one. For several reasons particular to that team, it needed some time before it reached its cruise speed. When you go to a place only once and bash it soon after it's opened you run the risk of being unfair to it.

                A restaurant's truth is not in its opening, it's in its development. I wish more bloggers (and now journalists) would remember that.

                That is not to mean that I never go to recently-opened restaurants; it's just that if the place is good, I can review it. If it is not, I cut it some slack and I do not write about it until I get proof that it won't get any better.

                1. re: Ptipois

                  Of course you are right. As the Deanesse of French/Parisien food critics/writers and my dear friend I respect your opinion.
                  But, as I have written elsewhere, I rather like the French critics' approach to going early on and unannounced versus the American-Brit one of going 5-10 times (yes the NYT has that sort of budget, or at least RW (Johnnie) Apple did). The Simon/etc first shot says - what you/he/me gets the first week is what Mr. Average Citizen gets.
                  Now I know there are those - such as Rosa Jackson, whom I respect enormously and who I think we both worked for on Time Out, who will only go after a place has worked out its kinks. But as rough as the first weeks are, I think the test of a chef and his/her team is whether they can deliver straight off the bat.
                  Maybe I'm unfair, maybe I'm too demanding, maybe I'm an old, curmudgeonly grouchy f**t, but I'm pretty happy living with it.

                  1. re: John Talbott

                    It's not so much a matter of going to the places than of deciding how (and if) one is going to write about them.

                    The French critics (the ones you call "the big boys") are not my role models. Many of them earn their living on forgetting that restaurants are run by real people.

                    1. re: Ptipois

                      "Many of them earn their living on forgetting that restaurants are run by real people." - however they are real people who are running a business charging real money. I read critics to help me target my hard earned money to the best experience.

                      I feel very sorry for a restaurant team that gets a bum review but sometimes the truth helps, and without criticism, how will they improve (and survive)? I agree some criticism is malicious and more about the writer than the subject, but even in this there is often good feedback that shouldn't be ignored.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        ""Many of them earn their living on forgetting that restaurants are run by real people." - however they are real people who are running a business charging real money. I read critics to help me target my hard earned money to the best experience."

                        I fail to see the logic in that.
                        I am only saying that rushing to a just-opened place and quickly giving a hasty, definitive judgement on it that will stick to the place for some time if not forever, just because most bloggers and critics now compete at being first to set foot into a new place, is not, in my opinion, criticism or even reviewing, it is an silly kind of sport that does not carry much information to anyone.

                        That is what I mean by forgetting that restaurants are run by real people. Reviewing becomes a personal gratification devoid of any methodology or distance. Have you ever wondered why most chefs now loathe bloggers?

                        In the case of Youpi et Voilà ! I heard from them that they were extremely hurt by the negative critics that were written soon after their opening; they were Southern people starting in Paris with modest means and few connections (unlike many openings), and they had to go through a difficult period after that.

                      2. re: Ptipois

                        What is the elephant in the room are the numbers of people who read blogs and visit touted rooms, find them lacking but never report back. Or, visit tainted rooms and find them maligned.

                        For every poster on Chow, there could be many hundreds who read, follow and never leave a footprint here. Multiply this by the numbers of writers out there...

                        Lots of advice. Not much feedback.

                      3. re: John Talbott

                        It's a delicate balance. Critics are really journalists and thus they are in the news business. So they need to write about the new or the refreshed, or the fashionable. But much like a theater critic reviewing a first night, the first weeks of a restaurant are going to reveal some issues and flaws. Far better to review after this time.....but is it still news and will it still sell papers or advertising.....?

                        That said, there are some places where the faults or concept flaws are so obvious that no amount of time will heal the problems - the trick is to not look for the faults but look for the positives (which some critics fail to do as it's their style).

                        1. re: PhilD

                          "It's a delicate balance. Critics are really journalists and thus they are in the news business. So they need to write about the new or the refreshed, or the fashionable."

                          True enough. News is news. But the mark of a professional critic is to know how to write about a new place with the full consciousness of its newness. They don't write about a time-honored place (like, say, A.A. Gill wrote about L'Ami Louis and smashed it to pieces, but that old overrated place could certainly handle that) like they write about a budding business, and the reader understands the distinction. Before the Internet existed, there never was any bashing of a brand new place in the press. That was unthinkable. A blog post does not have the same effect and rarely shows that much sense of time and circumstance, and I'm not even mentioning the Yelp syndrome.

                          The press has to cover news, so that's that. Bloggers do not have to do anything and whatever they do they choose to do, no editor requires them to do it. They're not professionally bound to hunt for the newest stuff.

                          Besides, it's all mixed up now, blog reviews and press critics, no one makes the difference any longer. It's all written and out there somewhere. So now everybody has to be careful and really know that writing on public media is a responsibility, not only to the boss or to the reader.

              2. re: rrems

                I'd stick with your plan; I was just responding to your inquiry about "places we have not been to before" giving you some others more recently opened.

                1. re: John Talbott

                  That's what I thought. I wish we had time to try many more but will keep all of these in mind for the future.

                  1. re: rrems

                    Both lists are good.

                    I would bring to your attention that Le Galopin serves a no choice menu of 5 small plates that may or may not sate the diner who looks forward to a meat or protein-centric meal. Courses usually include shellfish, finfish and some form of "red" meat such as magret, lamb, pork or beef in about 2 ounce portions with an equal emphasis on greens and vegetables.

                    1. re: mangeur

                      I had a sense that it might not be enough food for us, another reason I may opt for Youpi, but it might work on the day we have lunch at Le Cinq, as we will probably be quite stuffed from that. With 5 possibilities for 4 dinners, I will have to cut one.

            2. At Le Cinq yesterday, spent much time looking at wine list. They had many reds from he Rhone, Loire, and the Languedoc in the 60-75 range. Our Volnay village was 95 IIRC, as was our Raveneau Chablis.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                Thanks, DCM. That seems reasonable for a high-end restaurant. Loved your report, by the way. It's great to know they are still in top form.

              2. Excellent choices for lunch. Le Cinq is obviously a firm Chowhound favourite while L'Instant d'Or is a bit under the radar. I must admit I didn't really like L'I d'O at first... way too designy, icy service, annoying Triangle d'Or clientèle (lots of mega-bucks Russians)... but each subsequent meal (mostly business) got better and better and I now go with enthusiasm. So much so that I occasionally sneak in a non-expense account meal there (which for penny-pinching moi is great praise). Of course, for the quality, it's also great value... and some of the most comfortable chairs in Paris. The initially icy service also melts easily with the right signals.

                I'm very much in the Youpi et Voilà fan club too. In contrast to the usually correct Talbott le Vénérable whose one and only lunch there seems to have gone awry, my 4 or 5 meals have been quite stellar... and, a not insignificant factor, the price/ quality ratio is one of the best in Paris.

                As much as I like Ober-Salé (an almost perfect neighbourhood resto), I wonder if it fits into your "innovative contemporary" profile. The cuisine is certainly creative but there are old-fashioned echoes... its appeal to me is that everything-- food, service, cadre, and quartier-- comes together to create a quintessentially parisien experience. No fireworks, just profound enjoyment of time and place. Perhaps another more aggressively modern place like Akrame in the 16th or the new Sergent Recruteur in the 4th would suit you better.

                I heartily second JT's rec for Clandestino on the rue Crozatier in the 12th. Love it ! And the young chef certainly has the star potential you are looking for.

                31 Replies
                1. re: Parnassien

                  "Youpi et Voilà..... quite stellar"
                  Point taken, maybe I was wrong, like I was with Ze, Pantruche and Caius.
                  I'll return.

                  1. re: Parnassien

                    Thanks, Parnassien. We are actually fine with creative or updated traditional, so Ober-Sale seems just right. It may provide a little contrast with the more cutting-edge places. All the comments here are very helpful, and I am feeling very confident in my choices.

                    1. re: rrems

                      Ober-Sale: I will report in more detail later but for now will say: We dined there for dinner last Thurs. Called to reserve two days in advance. When we arrived a little after 8 o'clock, with only two other tables occupied, we were shown the two lousiest tables in the far back by the toilet and kitchen door, and we were told that these were the only options for us. It was clearly the English speaking part of the room. We then watched for the next hour as three or four sets of two came in without reservations and were seated in the front, nice, part of the room. Bottom line: We ended up having a good dinner, the sole waiter was appropriately engaging and helpful, and the poor guy had his hands full with two of other high-maintenance English-speaking people who were similarly put back there when they showed up at 9:00. Also, by the end of the evening we were pals with the waiter and he asked us, genuinely, to return. But being initially relegated like this -- the first time this has happened to us in many many years -- was quite unpleasant. -- Jake

                      1. re: Jake Dear


                        This reminds me of an experience many years ago at L'Esperance in Vezelay, where we were assigned the English-speaking waiter, and when I ordered the salade de foie de veau (I was speaking French), he said "Oh, monsieur, zat is ze calves' liver". Oui, said I. "Oh, you like ze calves' liver?" Oui. "Oh, most Americans do not like ze calves' liver". His persistence was shockingly stupid, but we had a lovely lunch, and I always enjoy telling this story.

                        Contrast this with another restaurant, where I ordered rognons de veau, and the very tactful maitre'd asked "and how would you like your kidneys cooked?", to which I replied "a point" and he and I both smiled.

                        Did you speak French, and they just put you there because they could tell you were an English speaker, or were you speaking English? If the latter, I can understand their concern, otherwise it was totally inappropriate. We may be eating there with a local, so might not happen to us, but my main priority is the food, so I could live with it. This also rarely happens to us, but when it does we tend to just laugh it off.

                        1. re: rrems

                          Salut rrems, Yes, we've experienced our share of warnings and raised eyebrows when we order things like tete de veau, etc. That's ok, often amusing, and frequently is a prelude to a good relationship with the waiter.

                          Re Ober Sale: I reserved by phone in French. We entered and greeted, as always, in French. I spelled out our name in French so that he could find it on his list. And we ordered mostly in French, but the waiter's English was so good and he insisted on speaking English -- and that was quite okay.

                          Actually, the waiter turned out to be a gem of a fellow. To the point of being excessively solicitous of the rather oblivious non-French speaking Americans who were seated behind and after us. He spent at least 8 minutes with them as they hemmed and hawed and reconsidered about various items on the carte. While the rest of the room came to a stop.

                          I can somewhat understand being relegated to an English-table section in a situation in which there are two waiters, only one of whom speaks English. But in this small place, with only one waiter, that's not what was going on. Maybe he was just saving the good tables for regulars -- even those without reservations. But it did make us feel like second-class diners.

                          We still liked the place. And I have little doubt that if we were to reserve again -- and again showed up when the room was almost empty -- we would be seated well. But with so many other options, not sure we will be back there .... -- Jake

                          1. re: Jake Dear

                            "Been there and done that", Jake, and as annoying as it is, you really can't blame a waiter or a house for vetting new tourist visitors. In a neighborhood room that is getting lots of visitor attention at the moment (we have no idea how many silent Chow readers have picked up on it recently), it would be a mistake to risk losing its local customer base to an influx of fickle tourists who will pick up on a new name next year.

                            Your restaurant manners may be impeccable but he has no idea about mine.

                            1. re: mangeur

                              Mangeur, I agree with what you say here (about some understandable vetting and all) -- except the comparative manners part (we trust in you)!

                              1. re: mangeur

                                I don't think locals hate tourists/visitors that much as to want to banish them from sight.
                                On the other hand, everyone hates loud people, sans frontières.
                                Unless Jake and Mo went nuts and came in the door yelling and screaming, I don't see why the staff would hide them in the back.
                                I think the restaurant staff could have handled the situation much more diplomatically and not flaunt that others with no reservation could sit where they wanted.
                                Some restaurants and cafés do have a room that they reserve for regulars who drop in daily. The front room of Chez Fernand and the terrasse of La Palette spring to mind.
                                And Jégo likes to seat regulars near the kitchen - seats that are not considered that desirable by many - so that he could send out experimental dishes (and trust that this generous gesture won't be complain about on chowhound, lol).
                                Once at the Palette, a waiter ushered me inside, telling me that all terrasse tables were reserved, only to have Jean-François re-usher me out, giving me a terrasse table.
                                Same thing at Cal Pep in Barcelona last June. The waiter put me under the electricity box, a seat too small even for my 44 kilo, only to have the seating vetoed by Pep himself, who reseated us right in front of the stove in the middle of the long counter, our fave seats.
                                Conclusion: if you really don't like your seating, and if it really is a deal-breaker, maybe you can try asking the manager quietly. I would.
                                I have made it known when I did not like a given table. A good part of the time I was allowed to change. I don't have any tactic. I just try to be quiet and make a joke of it, saying it's a fengshui thAng, haha.

                                1. re: Parigi

                                  Ah I pity you folks who don't dress in Eurotrash clothing.

                                  1. re: Parigi

                                    Hi Parigi, Actually we did protest (gently) -- asking, can't we instead sit over here (gesturing). We've done that successully here and there -- but not this time. And so at that point we decided to just accept and make the best of it -- which we actully did quite well, and by the end of the evening I think our waiter was rather apologetic for it. -- Jake

                                    1. re: Jake Dear

                                      This is a great discussion. I can't wait to see where they seat us when we get there, and will be sure to report after.

                                      1. re: rrems

                                        I think you will be fine --- assuming (from your earlier post) that you will have at least three at your table, the back two (worst) tables will not even be an option, they are two-tops. -- Jake

                                        1. re: Jake Dear

                                          We will be visiting several friends, so we may end up being as many as 5 for dinner. Thanks for the info.

                                      2. re: Jake Dear

                                        I missed this. Knowing you to be the kind of gracious, charming, sophisticated diners that any sane restaurateur would want, if you did not get good service, I am sure it was the restaurant's fault and not yours.

                                  2. re: Jake Dear

                                    I'm happy to say we were treated very well and were given a choice of 2 tables. Of the 4 2-tops, the one against the back wall and one of the 2 nearest the front were available. We took the one closer to the front.The one behind us was occupied by Americans and the one next to us by a French couple. The farthest back was later taken but I could not tell if they were English speakers. The waiter spoke French with us. I really think it is likely the other tables were reserved the night you were there. I also think that though it was nice being more in the center of things, the back tables didn't really look so bad. There is some space around them and you can see the rest of the room. I would not have been upset to have been seated there.

                                2. re: Jake Dear

                                  Jake, so sorry that you were exiled to what seemed to be the "ricain" ghetto. But now that the waiter knows you, you can be sure that next time you'll get a better table

                                  The last time I was at Ober-Salé, the gem of a waiter mentioned that they were getting lots more tourists (and jokingly assured me that he would try not to "impose" them on me) but also a sharp increase in no-shows... which may in part explain the empty tables that later walk-ins were able to get.

                                  Lots of locals do complain when they get a table next to tourists, especially loud Americans and boozy Brits. I myself have had lots of meals "entre potes" ruined by stupidly helping tourists at the next table figure out the menu. Suddenly I'm their best friend and they insist on telling me in great detail about their daughter's million dollar wedding (2000 pics on their iPhone to be looked at) in Dallas, etc. As much as I try to politely disengage, "the voice returns like the insistent out-of-tune of a broken violin on an August afternoon". Anyway, I can see why some restaurants try to keep tourists out of the way... it's unfair profiling but not that many waiters/ FOH have a good enough radar to guess which of their foreign clients will conform to the worst stereotypes. The segregation is, of course, impractical in lots of central Paris restos where the bulk of the clientèle is non-French but much more obvious when you go to real-life 'hoods.

                                  1. re: Parnassien

                                    Hi Parnassien, "Lots of locals do complain when they get a table next to tourists, especially loud Americans and boozy Brits." No doubt, and perfectly understandable; that's also the last thing we want. And so we "get" that a small neighborhood place would take measures -- even rough profiling -- to retain its character and protect regulars from disruptive intrusions.

                                    If and when we return to Ober-Salé, and if you happen to risk helping us translate a menu term or two, I promise to confine any compulsive sharing of iPhone photos to a few discrete selections of our most recent forays in the beautiful countryside -- where, happily, we are usually the only non-French tourists in the room. (It was deep Bretagne two weeks ago; strikingly beautiful. I'll work on a resto report for our 8 lovely days there.) -- Jake

                                      1. re: Parigi

                                        Ya know, Parnassien, Jake and Parigi - I wish you didn't hide behind these screen names - well Jake doesn't - but I'm going to bring a new elephant into the room/salle, because I call well in advance, so at 10h00-10h30 that day and reserve, and I haven't been put in the Ausländer Section (which was in the 1950's, 60's, 70's, 80's and '90's where they sat you where there was no smoking and no French spoken - a mixed bag).
                                        I'm now in the Primo seat(s) (window) or isolated from annoying Anglos.
                                        The secret - Call ahead, be nice, grovel just a bit and don't be American.

                                        1. re: John Talbott

                                          "The secret - Call ahead, be nice, grovel just a bit and don't be American."
                                          You know I'm all that, except grovel.

                                          1. re: John Talbott

                                            Darn, I'm confused, I thought from earlier above that "Eurotrash clothing" was a key part of the good table recipe? Can I substitute a dash of that for a bit of groveling? -- J

                                            1. re: Jake Dear

                                              Or as DH is wont to say, "Act like you've been there before."

                                            2. re: John Talbott

                                              Seating your universally recognized face in the window, John, is a 2013 version of the "recommended by Duncan Hines" sign.

                                        2. re: Parnassien

                                          This is one of the reasons why, when we visit Paris, we try to find new places that are not yet on the tourist radar. We have had a few experiences where we had a wonderful meal, everyone around us was French, and the staff was welcoming, then returned a year or two later to be handed English menus and treated in a condescending manner, with higher prices, and the annoyance of being seated next to clueless Americans.

                                          1. re: Parnassien

                                            I so sympathise - I saw it a few times on our last trip and I cringed.

                                            That said we also got shunted to the anglo section a few times and it pisses me off. Not only for all the reasons mentioned but also its usually the worst tables in the house and it makes me feel very second class. On my last trip it happened in Goust and at Thoumieux - I so wanted to be away from the gauche tourists and sit with the cool kids - it really can take the edge off the meal.

                                            I am not shy about asking to move tables, and have been known to simply sit at the table I prefer if I get squired towards the worst table in an empty restaurant. But its tricky with the "english ghetto" thing because you don't know you have been consigned to it until your fellow diners arrive.

                                            When we actually lived in Paris the smoking/no-smoking sections really helped as we always went for smoking (we don't). I think it also helped to have a Paris phone number I was certain, on this trip, having the concierge make the reservation labelled us as dumb tourists and hence the relegation. Next visit we will struggle with the time difference and make them direct.

                                            1. re: PhilD

                                              Thought you liked Goust, my trip in thé spring was great, and l am returning in à few weeks, nô ?

                                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                I did - it was great food and service. However, I think the front room (turn right at the door) is better and was full of French speakers, we were put in the back room (on the left) with one other English speaking couple.

                                                1. re: PhilD

                                                  When l was there l was in the Right room so Will try to be there again. Please excuse my mistakes in writing, have been on French iPad and it is à pain.

                                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                    Your Frenchified replies are too funny.
                                                    Go to your ipad's settings - general- keyboard. Disable automatic correction.

                                                    1. re: Parigi

                                                      Oh, Parigi, then you miss all the fun.

                                    1. Thanks again to everyone for the great insights. I started a new thread for my report: