Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > France >
Oct 6, 2013 07:07 PM

November in Paris

Heading back to Paris next month. On past visits we have very much enjoyed Taillevent, Violon, Septime, Spring, Fables, RSH, Astier, Cafe Constant, CLJ, Les Papilles and Chez Georges.

The highlight of this trip will be lunch at Guy Savoy. Will revisit RSH, Astier, and Les Papilles . Would be grateful for your help filling in the rest. We are looking for a balance of traditional, classic cooking and creative modern flair.

(Day of Arrival)Tues L: Cigale Recamier. Though it has often been recommended to us, we have never made it. Would you recommend it for the soufflés?

Tues D: Les Papilles (and an early night)

Wed L: RSH

Wed D: L'Assiette? Like the idea of a great cassoulet but am concerned about mixed reviews. Also would enjoy a warm, old fashioned feel--as at Chez Georges.

Th L: Guy Savoy

Th D: Breizh Cafe

F L: Astier

F D: Volnay? Thoumieux? Violon? Cornichon? Philou? Le Galopin? I understand that they are very different from one and other. I'd be grateful to know which, if any, is among the best in its class. I could use a recommendation for Friday night (our last night in Paris) and for Wednesday night to balance out my other choices.

Many thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The Cigale Recamier has very nice souffles and is on a quiet alley where it's great to sit in good weather.
    I'm not sure Astier is on the same level as the others which I would be taxed to decide which to throw off the lifeboat. A nice problem to have.

    1. l agree that Astier is a few steps down from the others, in virtually every category.
      You might consider Saotica or Goust as your Fri night, l really like these places.

      24 Replies
      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

        Thank you John and DCM for the advice! Both look like great options. It seems as if Goust would be a good replacement for Volnay and Violon. Do you agree? John, I believe you are one of the strongest voices in favor of Volnay. How would you stack that up against Goust or Saotico?

        Should I throw L'Assiete off the boat in favor of Saotico? But then I am lacking the old-fashioned cassoulet experience. Thoughts?

        As for Astier, there is something about the cozy, unpretentious old-fashioned aspect of it (and, let's be frank, the cheese platter) that my husband really likes. Any replacements that hold these same qualities (including cheese course)?

        Yes, I may be throwing darts at this point but I do enjoy the journey. Thanks for your advice.


        1. re: planetjanet

          Me I prefer Volnay way over Goust which I think is over-hyped, Saotico is good and i've dropped L'Assiette from my "list" not sure why.
          And I understand the nostalgia for Astier.
          I'm into making cassoulet at home, nothing anymore wows me.

          1. re: planetjanet

            L'Assiette. The cassoulet remains above reproach. So what does it matter if there are a few negative grumbles about the baba au rhum ? Certainly the restaurant has settled into quiet hum after the loud buzz for the year or so after it opened (and was packed with celebs and foodies) but such is the fate of most hot tables as they mature.

            Astier. I (swimming against the current) like it. There was a bad patch a few years ago but my meal last June confirmed it had recovered its lustre.

            Breizh Café. Bof. Certainly good quality but I don't think any crêperie is a destination in itself. If you are staying nearby, great. But there may be very good and more convenient crêperies if you are staying elsewhere.

            Friday night. Try eeny meeny mighty mo. They are all good choices. Given that Friday night in Paris can be quite frantic, I would consider convenience and quartier as well as cuisine.

            1. re: Parnassien

              Thank you all for your input. Eeny meeny or darts, it appears that there is no one size answer.

              Helas .... do you believe that as between Volnay, Thoumieux, Violon, Cornichon, Le Galopin, Philou, Goust or Saotico it is just a matter of personal taste? What about Le Pantruche? Is one objectively a stand-out for its type?

              A bit of subjective background: I dine out quite a lot and like to feel as if I'm "in" the city that I'm visiting when I'm dining--so I don't favor a cosmopolitan venue that, though serving French food, could be in NY or LA. Septime, Chez Georges, Astier, RSH, Les Papilles, Cafe Constant--all gave me a sense of place. And though Violon could have been in NY's upper east side, there was something ineffably proper and Parisian about it to me. I ate at Spring when it was in the old space and Daniel Rose came to each table and sat for conversation--this was also something new and different. And Taillevent, well the service and welcome were so spectacularly warm that I felt as if I were an honored guest. So dining for me isn't only about the quality of the food, it's about the ambiance and the experience something out of my ordinary.

              Astier, I am gathering, is at best a sentimental choice. Do you have another of its type (homey, old fashioned) to suggest in its place?

              Thank you for your generous suggestions. Your indulgence is much appreciated.

              1. re: planetjanet

                Thought process ever evolving ... and a bit more research too.

                Adding to the Friday night mix of Volnay, Goust, Violon, what about Les Tablettes?

                Should we consider Garance for a more low key meal? Lunch maybe?

                1. re: planetjanet

                  I am always astonished by the often-expressed wish not to end up in a restaurant "that could be in NY or LA". As if it were intentional. Of course, there are a few places that blatantly try to imitate a NYC or LA look or atmosphere, but there is far less of them than is believed, and they are usually not advertised here.

                  Frankly, there is such a thing as world globalization and hipsterization for restaurant decor too, and going back and forth I often have trouble figuring out which side of the Atlantic started what. Let not newyorkocentrism lead anyone to believe that everything began on their shores; not everybody that is giving a certain modern casual look to their place is trying to make it look newyorkey. Back in the 1970s, in Paris, there were already bistrots with rough wooden tables, open kitchens, factory lamps, and waitresses on high heels with their hair tied in a bun using a teaspoon as a hairpin.

                  1. re: Ptipois

                    It may be that visitors have a preconception of what French food is and that some of the modern rooms don't translate either ingredients or technique in ways that are obviously "French" at first glance or bite. They're there, but in ways that sometimes obscure the classical or traditional origin.

                    1. re: mangeur

                      Let me clarify. I am looking to dine in an ambiance that is less modern, corporate, or "neutral" than many restaurants in both NY and LA. I am, of course, a visitor to France, and as such would like to experience what is uniquely Parisian. If I have put it inelegantly, I apologize.

                      1. re: planetjanet

                        You did not put it inelegantly at all, my turn to apologize if my remark was understood as directly aimed at you. It was rather a general observation, based on the memory of many such requests. As a French native and resident, I was only expressing my astonishment at the frequent equation "Frenchness = tradition" as if modernity were an imported item here.
                        And as a Parisian, I am regularly puzzled by the width of the gap between my own notion of what is "uniquely Parisian" and the notion that some visitors bring along with them — preconceptions indeed, as Mangeur says.
                        Nothing wrong with that per se, but I fear that would lead some of them to miss substantial Parisian experiences just by mistaking them for what they are not.

                        1. re: Ptipois

                          Well said.

                          Any recommendations for substantial Parisian experiences?

                          Are there selections on my list that you would recommend over others as best in their particular class?

                          And if I am looking for lunch at a cozy, unpretentious, traditional bistro (as I would describe Astier) what would you recommend?


                          1. re: planetjanet

                            To answer your first question: I realize that I would be at loss trying to find nonsubstantial Parisian experiences. Nothing comes to mind, since I find Parisianity in every experience, regardless of their quality. Perhaps the line should be drawn at McDonalds. In terms of food, the least interesting branches of Costes brasseries or Ducasse internationalized gastros would be close to the line. But outside of that, anything goes.

                            I do recommend Youpi et Voilà!!! which is unpretentious, not exactly cozy and not exactly traditional, but the team is trying to revive the old tradition of the neighborhood bistro which you entered by serendipity or just living nearby, and that I think has to be encouraged.

                            Second question:
                            I would always recommend La Régalade proper (in the 14th) over Saint-Honoré.
                            Breizh Café is really overrated. I'm a bit tired of seeing this place mentioned over and over again, though I don't think it's bad really, just overrated. Better go to a non-hyped good crêperie like Le Pot' O Lait. Crêperie de Josselin is good but I think their habit of doubling the layer of buckwheat crêpe a bit too much for my stomach.
                            I see nothing wrong with L'Assiette, with a lovely warm setting and good kitchen chef and team.
                            The other places are so different from each other, I can't really help you choose. I like Bistrot Volnay and perhaps you should try Les Jalles, with the same ownership. Thoumieux is a Costes place but one of the better specimens of the empire. Le Galopin is good. So is Astier. Others I have no experience of.

                            Third question: cozy, unpretentious, traditional bistro - that has become quite hard to come by. I'd advise you to head to Saint-Ouen in the 'burbs and try Le Coq de la Maison Blanche. It is not exactly a bistro but it is what tradition used to feel and taste like.

                            I do recommend Youpi et Voilà !!, which is unpretentious, not exactly cozy and not exactly traditional, but its team is trying to revive the old tradition of the neighborhood bistro, which you entered by serendipity or just living nearby, and that sort of approach should be encouraged.

                            Dans les Landes is traditional with a twist, actually a lot of twist, to the point that it's no longer really traditional, but it still is so somehow, you'll know what I mean when you get there.

                              1. re: Ptipois

                                As a fellow Normand, albeit a few centuries removed, and not Parisian, I hesitate to venture into the "substantial Parisian experiences" water but i will.
                                Would you consider the Terroir Parisien suitable?
                                I also think Janet we should demure from judging places liike you list; they really are all quite different. Except the Breizh, which is just a crepes place, great for my grand-kids but no destination.

                                1. re: John Talbott

                                  Suitable certainly, but not more Parisian in essence than having a jambon-beurre at the terrace of any corner café.

                                  1. re: John Talbott

                                    Thank you John and your fellow Paris 'hounds. I feel reasonably comfortable with the list. As Parnassian suggested I can't really go wrong. I appreciate the insights you all have shared and have re-shaped slightly, as follows:

                                    Tues L: Cigale Recamier for the soufflés

                                    Tues D: Les Papilles

                                    Wed L: RSH

                                    Wed D: L'Assiette for cassoulet.

                                    Th L: Guy Savoy

                                    Th D: Dans les Landes

                                    F L: Astier

                                    F D: Volnay

                                2. re: planetjanet

                                  I can't think of a more stereotypical Parisian experience than Chez George (the one on Rue du Mail) or Chez Denise. They have endured with little change for decades and are an experience unto themselves.

                                  1. re: Laidback

                                    True, but none of planetjanet's choices are not Parisian,
                                    For me, the "more stereotypical Parisian experience" would be blasts from the past - the Tour d'Argent (don't scoff), Allard (don't laugh),
                                    and a few dark and dirty places like the Cantine du Troquet Dupleix or Les Papilles
                                    or a few edgy joints like Ze Kitchen Gallery or Claude Colliot
                                    or some stuff as yet not over-run by internautes - like - Les Enfants Rouges or Roca.

                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                      Chez Georges is a favorite. I visit every time I'm in Paris so I thought I'd break out a bit! But, yes, Laidback, that is a vibe I enjoy. Also enjoy the ambiance and energy at Balthazar in NYC. Haven't visited a place like it in Paris and would enjoy that. Any recommendations?

                                      I've changed up the plan for the trip a bit. Couldn't resist tinkering. Instead of Breizh Cafe I thought I'd try to get into Frenchie Bar a Vins and, failing that, Thoumieux. I want something light as it is post Guy Savoy. Thought small plates at Frenchie Bar would do the trick.

                                      As for dinner on the last night, thought I'd try to get into Pierre Sang Boyer and nightcaps at Candelaria.

                                      Thank you, Paris Chowhounds, for your help and interest!

                                      1. re: planetjanet

                                        "the ambiance and energy at Balthazar in NYC. Haven't visited a place like it in Paris and would enjoy that. Any recommendations?"

                                        Not really, but perhaps Eric Frechon's new place "Lazare" would have some comparables as it is large, full of energy, open from breakfast until late and has good food.

                                        1. re: planetjanet

                                          I think Les Jalles is good for someone who likes Balthazar.

                                3. re: planetjanet

                                  I'm a bit surprised you don't have Josephine Chez Dumonet on your list. You definitely wouldn't find it in New York (although Keith McNally would probably tell you otherwise). The food is wonderful and to me it screams "PARIS!" And in November, what could be more delicious and welcome than one of the best Boeuf Bourguignons anywhere?

                                  1. re: ChefJune

                                    Thanks ChefJune--yes, it seems like a MUST for me. But there's a story: I reserved some years ago and showed up on time (and speaking French) for my 8:00 reservation. I was shown the table in between the kitchen and the WC. When I inquired politely whether there might be another table available I was told they were all reserved. As demonstrated above, ambiance matters to me. So I decided that rather than sit in the back corner, I would return another time. I haven't returned, not wishing a repeat of the same scenario. Lest you scoff, I must add that two sets of American friends who dined there since were offered the same table! So, with limited time, I won't be back.

                                    1. re: planetjanet

                                      I've abandoned Joséphine for Denise these days. Chez Denise has, I think, a better value, a better buzz, is relentlessly authentic and, as Mangeur says, one of the few places where locals and tourists easily and happily mix.

                                      1. re: planetjanet

                                        Had similar experience at JCD and won't be returning