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Jan 18, 2014 05:37 PM

Itinerary Advice and Questions - Paris

I've been researching the France board for a two weeks now and have researched a few blogs and have somewhat narrowed my itinerary down. I'd like advice on places to add or take off my itinerary or advice in general. I would like great food above all - I have a great appreciation for food and ingredients and would like the best Paris has to offer taste wise. It does not need to be expensive or luxurious - one of my most anticipated meals is L'As du Fallafel and will be staying very close to it so that I can revisit it often.

Le Cinq
Hugo Desnoyer

David Toutain
Le Chateaubriand
Le Comptoir du Relais
L'Ami Jean

L'As du Fallafel
Pierre Herme
Pascal Caffet (is it still open in Paris?)
Du Pain et des Idees
Dominique Saibron

Other possibilities
Spring (everyone has good things to say but not amazing things to say)
La Regalade St Honore
L'Astrance (too many mixed reviews)
Guy Savoy (they have one in Las Vegas which is close to us)

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  1. Your resto list is ok for mostly high-end noshing. Arpège is very good but not magical, lunch at either Le Cinq or Guy Savoy is a relative bargain as well as fun (not a word often used to describe temples of gastronomy). For the foodie factor, I'd also consider Ledoyen. For dinner, Chateaubriand gets great press but can be paradise or hell... I prefer the somewhat newer satellite Le Dauphin. David Toutain is a revelation and should be an unmissable. I'm not as keen on Yam'tcha but it is a great example of Asian-inspired French. Septime is unfailingly good and I can't quite understand its "maybe" status on your list

    While it seems a mortal sin among the guide book set to ignore l'As du Falafel, I don't think we locals have much respect for it... or rather for the hordes of tourists, long lines, somewhat greasy product, and very hurried service that contradicts our sense of food enjoyment. When in the mood for falafel, I much prefer Chez Hanna (also on the rue des Rosiers) and, because I can consume it in the nearby Square Louvois or even better the gardens of the Palais Royal (hey, I know how to live!), L for Liza on the rue de la Banque in the 2nd. And oh yes, Miznon on the rue des Ecouffes off the rue des Rosiers... never had a falafel there and not even sure if it's on the menu but the pita sandwiches are cheap and fab... the lamb kebab is stellar! (End of falafel rant).

    Pascal Caffet, dunno what happened but his shop in St Germain des Prés is no more. You'll have to go to the provinces or Tokyo to get his stuff. There's some sort of hookup with Fauchon (not a good sign) so maybe you can find some of his products on the place de la Madeleine. But there's Jacques Genin, Dominique Saibron, Pierre Hermé, Laurent Duchêne, Carl Marletti, Philippe Conticini, Bread & Roses, Hugo & Victor, etc etc etc so why bother ?

    36 Replies
    1. re: Parnassien

      "While it seems a mortal sin among the guide book set to ignore l'As du Falafel, I don't think we locals have much respect for it..."
      Agreed. I like to say about a given resto that I would not cross town for it. I would not cross the narrow rue des Rosiers for L'As.
      Its success baffles me. It even has barkers and queue coordinators outside the joint. Am I hallucinating?

      1. re: Parigi

        You are not hallucinating. I could not agree more.

        It seems that every city has a place (or places) that is on everyone's must-do list. More often than not, I have found most of these places to have long lines, and mediocre food. But the masses don't know any better, or don't care; they check these places off the checklist and go home having accomplished what they came for. Eiffel Tower,check; Notre Dame, check; Angelina hot chocolate, L'As du Falafel, Berthillon, check, check, check.

        1. re: fishskis

          I do know better and I do care. I spend two to three weeks researching the cities I plan to visit.

          I have countless friends who love and rave about L'As du Falafel including my sister.

          Just one of many listings that came up with a google search just now:

          "... the falafel is so good that this is the one culinary destination in town I never skip." - Mark Bittman

          There are places in each city which I feel the same way about but each of them is busy and special for a reason though I may not appreciate it personally.

          1. re: quddous

            "I have countless friends who love and rave about L'As du Falafel including my sister." - which is good but don't you think its a shame Mark and they missed out on the better ones just along the road?

            1. re: PhilD

              Here's the deal. Up to a few years ago, L'As was the best on the street (neighborhood), but you had to order the "Special" sandwich, and deal with all the other stuff: line, crowds, etc. The regular felafel was not as tasty, nor was the other stuff they sell. Since then, the Special is no longer Special. I don't know what happened to it. Maybe, they are saving money somewhere, but I can't imagine on what (crap soybean oil, over a decent olive oil on the salad?). I can't put my finger on it, but it hasn't been the same for about 3-4 years.

              I never liked any of the other places on the street, and stopped going to them. I'm ready to try again, as it doesn't seem like the old Special at the As is coming back. I just want a damn sandwich, with no need to get all fetishistic which describes some of the sit down places.

              1. re: Busk

                "I just want a damn sandwich, with no need to get all fetishistic which describes some of the sit down places."
                l'As is not the only way to avoid fetishistic sit down places.
                If sandwich is the only medium you go for, try Goutu. You need not subject yourself to l'As.
                Most restaurants are not fetishistic. There are innumerable pages of recommendations on this board.

            2. re: quddous

              Qud, this will be a perfect opportunity for you to settle the falafel war. While you are in Paris, you can sample l'As du Fallafel, Mi-Va-Mi, Chez Marianne, Chez Hanna, Miznon, L for Liza, Paris-Beirut and half a dozen other places and then tell us all if l'As du Fallafel merits the tourist crowd control and the rave reviews... or are there any less known places as good or better without the crowds and hassles ?

              Your Bittman guy says "although you may find it done better in the southern or eastern Mediterranean (I haven't yet), this is the falafel destination in Paris, indeed in Europe." Such a strong statement makes me suspect he hasn't looked very hard (if at all). It's such a street food staple from Oman to Tunisia and in many European capitals that, when you travel and experience it elsewhere, l'As du Fallafel doesn't seem all that special. I'm not saying that l'As du Fallafel is bad. I just think that the declaration of "the best" needs lots of comparisons.

              1. re: Parnassien

                That wouldn't be the first time (and probably not the last) Bittmann got it completely wrong, especially concerning Paris.

                1. re: Parnassien

                  Parnassien: I will try a few of those others out if I have time. I don't think I will have the time nor stomach for more than a few though.

                  Phil: I agree that many people have likely tried only L'As and missed out on trying other equally delicious (or better) fallafel.

                  1. re: Parnassien

                    "the best" needs lots of comparisons."
                    Agreed. The person who is qualified to say the "best" is one who has tried all the falafels.
                    That's why the word has no meaning and makes my eyes glaze over whenever I read it.
                    In the case l'As is not even the second best, or third… It is an average falafel that people like to queue for.
                    Bittman has to say the word "best" because NYT fires everyone who does not say it; it's in the contract. A NYT can be in Paris for 2 days, but must write about the best this, the best that, the best metro, the best public toilet, or his editor will shoot him first then fire him then blackball him.

                  2. re: quddous

                    Whether countless people and one's relatives like something is irrelevant to me. "Countless people" attended the top 50 grossing movies of all time; most of them have no interest to me (Lord of The Rings (3), Pirates of the Caribbean (3), Harry Potter(s),etc.). So for me, at the risk of sounding a little snobby, many of the iconic places in various cities which are "busy and special for a reason", are not necessarily good, to me that is.

                    Falafel, in general, is not a food I love, nor do I seek it out. I have eaten it at different places in different parts of the world; as others have said, I do not find the L'As version particularly special, or particularly better than some of its neighboring competitors. But the truth is, I have never found any falafel special; as a quick lunch or street food, it is near the bottom of my list.

                    I stand by my first post. Just because I do not like something, I do not presume that it is not good. But my experience has been that overly popular "must-eats" with big lines of tourists are often disappointing. And I don't like lines.

                    1. re: fishskis

                      I agree that many internationally renowned restaurants have much more hype than they deserve - even the good ones. They may not be the "best in the world" nor even the best even in their respective city, but there is always some factor or factors which keeps them popular and busy. Some are overhyped disappointments (Joe Beef) while others are truly amazing (Au Pied de Cochon).

                      I asked for advice for a reason. If I wanted to go to these restaurants blindly, I would have done so without asking.

                      1. re: quddous

                        You have a good list. Don't dilute your experience with crap snack like l'As.
                        If you ask for advice, you do risk getting advice.

                        1. re: Parigi

                          I wasn't offended except by fishskis comment "But the masses don't know any better, or don't care".

                          I'm sorry if it came off as me being defensive but I found that comment very rude.

                          I'm thankful to all who have made recommendations.

                          1. re: quddous

                            Not sure how my comment was rude. Perhaps you should read it in context. My point was that these hordes of tourists have lists; their goal is to check off items on their lists; the mere fact that there are lines for certain places does not mean that these places are particularly good, or worthy of a detour (though they can be).

                            Sorry you found my comment "very rude". Perhaps it was slightly elitist, but certainly not rude.

                        2. re: quddous

                          Please don't be insulted. We are all just trying to be helpful and want you to have a wonderful time in Paris. See my post below regarding falafel. I would not waste a meal on it but that's me.

                          1. re: quddous

                            L'as du falafel is basically Paris' version of Joe Beef/Apdc.

                          2. re: fishskis

                            I agree completely. I have never understood the appeal of falafel. So who cares which is the best? Regardless, this whole subtopic reminds me of Magnolia Bakery in Greenwich Village, Manhattan (my home) where idiots line up for low-quality cupcakes, so they can tell the folks back home in Podunk that they have been there. This is what we hope CH will help us to avoid.

                            1. re: rrems

                              Just remember…. the lines at Magnolia (& Shake Shack & Grimaldi's, etc for that matter) keep the good places accessible for the rest of us. However, I like falafel. And a good fondue. Just sayin'.

                        3. re: fishskis

                          My question is this: Who goes to Paris to eat Falafel?

                          come on!

                          1. re: ChefJune

                            Me :) and I will have some other delicious things along the way.

                            I also supply many restaurants and hope to have my own fastfood chain someday. So it isn't all about the flavour or the food quality when visiting some places but also understanding how and why they became and are so popular.

                            That being said I'm having a hard time finding somewhere to my liking for Sunday dinner. I've been through all the threads and websites but haven't been able to find anywhere suitable.

                            Frenchie, Le Chateaubriand, Septime, Abri, Le Comptoir du Relais, La table d'Aki are all closed Sunday.

                            Currently Reserved
                            Chez L'Ami Jean
                            Le Cinq
                            Yamtcha (may cancel to book something else)
                            David Toutain
                            Bistrot Paul Bert
                            Josephine Chez Dumonet

                            1. re: quddous

                              "Sunday dinner"
                              Axuria and Clamato are open Sundays (at least at lunch). And Jeanne B.

                              1. re: quddous

                                In addition to JT's suggestions for Sunday:
                                Auberge Flora (11th)
                                Café des Abattoirs (1st)/ new Rostang
                                Manger (11th)/ lunch only
                                Cantine du Troquet Dupleix (15th)/ no rezzies
                                Les Enfants Rouges (3rd)
                                Dessirier (17th)/ another Rostang place
                                Terroir Parisien Bourse (2nd)
                                Terroir Parisien (5th)
                                La Société (6th)/ the best of the Costes restos
                                Beef Club (1st)
                                Fish Club (1st)
                                Robert et Louise (4th) for the steaks
                                Mini-Palais (8th)
                                Lazare (8th)
                                La Ferme Saint Simon (7th)/ just re-vamped & re-opened
                                Brasserie Thoumieux (7th)
                                Can I stop now ? :)

                                1. re: Parnassien

                                  and literally least, Machon d'Henri for andouillette and soul.

                                  1. re: Parnassien

                                    Spot on Parnassien, except a quibble on La Ferme St Simon - last meal with new chef rather disappointed and I've heard reports that the 5th Terroir P has fallen off; the Bourse one is terrific though on repeat visits.
                                    Lazare maybe a stretch reserving 2 weeks away.
                                    I'd reinforce that Abattoirs and Manger and Desserier are much deserving mention although missing on CH.

                                  2. re: quddous

                                    Le Comptoir du Relais is open Sundays with last orders at 9:00 I think.

                                  3. re: ChefJune

                                    Not Falafel in particular, but many people go and try to have cheaper eating options. I live in Los Angeles and would suggest visitors to my city eat an In and Out burger or even go to Pink's Hot dog, not because they are the best hamburger and hot dog (they are not) but because they are a quintessential part of the city.

                                    1. re: steveburstein

                                      Good point, steve. A Frenchman with quite impressive food credentials was visiting us and our one lunch out was indeed at an In and Out burger by his special request.

                                      There are all kinds of branded regional foods that many people "need" to try while visiting a place. Many if not most are not great, but when you get home they are the thing that someone is going to ask you about.

                                      1. re: mangeur

                                        I also had to do the "In and Out" burger on a recent trip to California - for me a waste of one of my fourteen meals and I felt I had been sucked into the hype. I did the same in Chicago for a famous hot dog - life is too short to waste it on average food.

                                        I like falafel in the Marais but (if on holiday) would not waste a precious meal in Paris on it. There are far better food experiences - be brave and don't follow the non-food tourist hype.

                                        1. re: PhilD

                                          " life is too short to waste it on average "
                                          Indeed, for me that is the whole point.

                                          1. re: PhilD

                                            "be brave and don't follow the non-food tourist hype."

                                            A corollary of this is the necessity of calibrating one's gurus. Recommendations are only as good as your compatibility with the taste of your adviser.

                                            1. re: PhilD

                                              that's why I loved so much the options afforded by renting an apartment rather than staying in a hotel. We were able to cook or prepare many of our own meals, and save the $$ for "special" places.

                                    2. re: Parigi

                                      Especially when Mi Va Mi, right across the street, is far better and cleaner.

                                    3. re: Parnassien

                                      I have had the feeling that I won't be wowed by L'Arpege as well. I can imagine that the food will consist of very good produce (and meat) cooked simply but perfectly. The overall experience will be similar - good, great, perfect but not magical. I had this feeling at another very similar restaurant actually. I may cancel my reservation; I will have to read some more reviews and look at the dishes in greater detail.

                                      Le Dauphin was also on the radar for me as I assumed it would be similar enough to its big sister. Are they different enough to visit both?

                                      I've read quite a few reviews of Ledoyen but for some reason I didn't choose it as of yet. I read one glowing review recently which piqued my interest. I will try to secure reservations at Septime. Any other suggestions?

                                      Thank you for the other recommendations for pastries. We will try to visit as many of them as we can.

                                      Thank you again for the well thought out and detailed recommendations (on my thread and others).

                                      1. re: quddous

                                        Chateaubriand is more cutting edge and sometimes it hurts... the food at Le Dauphin is usually more painless. If you were in Paris for more than 2 weeks, I'd say try both. But your time is limited. I wouldn't want to waste potentially great meals elsewhere for a play on the Chateaubriand roulette wheel. Especially since you are also going to David Toutain which is a much better and less inconsistent example of cutting edge cuisine

                                    4. I agree about L'As but also wonder where in the world you'll have room for a snack (except a small Berthillon cone/cup) with all these fine places for lunch and dinner.
                                      And I'd certainly pop Spring, Septime and Saturne up to your main list.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: John Talbott

                                        Thanks John.

                                        I have moved up Septime and Saturne. I am keeping quite a few times free of reservations for picnics or nights in.

                                        1. re: sadiw

                                          I used La Fourchette for quite a few of my reservations actually. Septime, Saturne, Sola, and Le Cinq were all booked using that system.

                                          On that note, I think my current list looks quite different than it did originally.

                                          Passage 53 (Cancelling Le Cinq for this)
                                          David Toutain
                                          Le Comptoir du Relais
                                          Josephine Chez Dumonet
                                          Hugo Desnoyer

                                          1. re: quddous

                                            This is an enviable itinerary. I'm happy to see the inclusion of Passage 53.

                                            1. re: quddous

                                              You are asking us to comment?
                                              What's with L'Arpege or are you from California? (Sorry for being snotty)
                                              It was great, spectacular, before it went Bio/veg.
                                              Otherwise great choices, but nothing new, except David Toutain, but that's my problem.
                                              Ignore my comments, I've reached the 9th circle of geezerdom.

                                              1. re: John Talbott

                                                You are great, John. I've had a lot of fun reading your posts in older threads. all your responses along with wisdom and experience are greatly appreciated.

                                                It was still a question. I removed Paul Bert and Le Chateaubriand due to too many mixed reviews. I have read some bad reviews of L'Arpege as well but yours is the first post on this thread to point it out as a weaker choice.

                                                It's quite hard to dig through reviews and ratings and have an unbiased judgement towards which restaurants will be truly amazing and which are good with an amazing amount of hype.

                                                I felt this way about Yamtcha for a while and am still unsure of it. I typically don't like Asian food cooked by non Asians (not that I haven't enjoyed some).

                                                Also, I remember seeing that you ranked Sola quite highly in 2011. I didn't notice it on the newer lists you had though.

                                                What do you think about Passage 53 over Le Cinq?

                                                1. re: quddous

                                                  "What do you think about Passage 53 over Le Cinq?"

                                                  It's like comparing the space that apples and oranges would take up on your counter. Same space, different fruit. The only thing that is comparable is the time slot, i.e., cashing a lunch or dinner.

                                                  Which experience is the one you are looking for?

                                                  1. re: mangeur

                                                    We are going for lunch. I have read up on both and realize they are quite different animals.

                                                    I have reservations at both Le Cinq and L'Epicure booked and they seem to offer similar experience (obviously the food would differ); my wife prefers L'Epicure from what she has read and seen. I am also quite wary of eating at both of these two because we may be too full after each meals to do anything after (both lunch and a few days apart).

                                                  2. re: quddous

                                                    "Also, I remember seeing that you ranked Sola quite highly in 2011. I didn't notice it on the newer lists you had though.
                                                    I loved it - my lists are usually by calendar year except one that's cumulative.
                                                    "What do you think about Passage 53 over Le Cinq?"
                                                    Liked them both but it's been a long time since I've been to either so I wouldn't trust my memory.

                                            2. Well, you've listed pretty much all the "usual suspects". How about Kei, L'Instant d'Or, Youpi et Voila, Ober Sale, Pirouette, Neva Cuisine, the places locals actually eat that are not necessarily on the tourist radar (though they are getting there) yet are nonetheless excellent? This is to me the joy of dining in Paris, not being surrounded by my own kind (i.e. Americans), feeling more like a native.

                                              1. Whatever happened with your trip/eating experiences?
                                                Just curious.