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Mar 14, 2014 08:50 AM

10 Day trip from Barcelona to Paris. Once in a lifetime meal.

Hi there, first time poster.

Background: Read all the negativity about Michelin starred restaurants in France from other posts, but my wife and I are expecting our first child this year and don't know when we'll be able to travel overseas again. We went to Japan last year with sights on eating at Nodaiwa to be able to say we "ate at a Michelin-starred restaurant," but it was closed the 2 days we were in Tokyo. We really want to eat at a Michelin starred restaurant once in our lives.

Question: Which of the following would you most recommend?
Lameloise, Chagny
Regis & Jacques Marcon, Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid
L'Astrance, Paris
L'Auberge du Vieu Puits, Fontjoncouse
Troisgros, Roanne
Maison Pic, Valence
Pierre Gagnaire, Paris

Are there any non-starred restaurants you chowhounders would prefer (they must be on train routes between Ceret and Avignon, or Avignon and Paris), given the background information above?

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  1. Of your list, I lunched not long ago at Lameloise. The food and service were very good, but not memorable for me to remember any given dish on my tasting menu, except that the frog legs were a bit dry. It was really not as good as my Paris favorite that has no stars, the name of which John Talbott does not want me to name.
    Oh, what's wrong with the interiors of these multi-starred places ? Why are the Lameloise's and Loiseau's and the Guy Savoy's so staid? Are they afraid that any beauty of the interior would make us forget the food ?
    If you want to be able to say you have "done" a starred place, and I gather from your post that it will be a somwhat celebratory meal, I would recommend Le Grand Vefour in Paris. You will have a truly celebratory meal.
    Then you can check off the starred restaurant requirement and move on to eat some real food.

    1. Well, those are multi-starred, aren't they?
      I'm partial to inventive cuisine such as you find at Pierre Gagnaire and Troisgros.
      The Jardin des Sens in Montpellier is on your train route.

      1. I'd recommend Troisgros best of all these. L'Astrance too, but it is hard to book.

        And in Paris, La Grande Cascade, 1 star only but if you want to remember the setting, the atmosphere and all the hoopla all your life (the food is also extremely good), that is the place to be. And not difficult to book at all.

        In Montpellier, le Jardin des Sens, where I just spent a few days, is also recommended. Fantastic dining room and setting, beware: portions are huge. Very good hotel too if you want to stay.

        1. I was leaning Maison Pic (only female 3 star in France) judging from tripadvisor visitor photos.

          Would you choose Troisgros over Maison Pic? Based solely on tripadvisor pictures I was leaning towards Maison Pic out of the options above. We were also planning on going to Septime in Paris.

          Revised question: Has anyone had any superb/terrible experiences at the restaurants listed/unlisted at the same level of culinary opulence?

          3 Replies
          1. re: chonas

            Re: Pic
            This is not fair, but it's me.
            I had a most horrible meal at her Paris joint, Ok I know she's not responsible - actually, she is, like Ducasse, Robuchon, etc etc.
            You hire the chefs, you train them, you buy the products, set the cartes and select the wines and with your brand, you better produce.

            1. re: chonas

              Definitely choose Troisgros over Maison Pic.
              Troisgros is a fantastic chef and many agree that he makes one of the last truly exciting high-end meals in France.
              I've never had anything cooked by AS Pic that I liked. She even managed to screw one in three dishes of a wine pairing menu for a great Bordeaux event in 2011. Other participating chefs were Yannick Alléno and Alain Passard and their dishes were perfect. Hers was horrible, and she was present in the kitchen for the preparation.

              1. re: chonas

                I had a very, very good but not unbelievable meal at Pic last summer. So I maybe I wish we had tried Troisgros instead.

                Also regarding stating there, although the rooms and hotel building are very nice, it is not in the nicest part of town and staying there is real expensive. There are a lot of better hotels in nicer parts of France that one can stay in with that sort of budget. There are of course other hotels in the town.

              2. Thank you all so much for the time and input, final food question (2 parter).

                I've loved the story/history/myth of bouillabaisse since the first time I heard about it. We will be in Collioure one day, and Avignon one day and night. . . do any of you know a place to get a dynamite bowl of this nectar of Neptune in these two places (if ONLY we were going to Marseilles we could go to La Petit Nice)? If not, where would you recommend for a lunch or dinner in Avignon that personifies the town?

                Edit: Unrelated: What Catalan exemplars must we absolutely try while we spend our 5 days in Ceret?

                9 Replies
                1. re: chonas

                  What do you mean by exemplars? Dishes, restaurants?
                  I live 15 minutes from Céret.
                  In Avignon I swear by Hiely. It's always solid, but I doubt they do bouillabaisse but someone might

                  1. re: collioure

                    Either restaurants or dishes, but specifically local specialties I guess. For instance when we went to Japan we took trips to Uji and Matsusaka. Uji is the tea capital of Japan, so we had green tea soba. Matsusaka beef: Kobe Beef; Japan: America, so we had sukiyaki matsusaka beef. In Osaka we had teppanyaki, okonomiyaki, and takoyaki.

                    In other words, the type dish for the region. The 2 dishes I saw on Wikipedia that struck my fancy were: calcot and sonsas. The sort of thing you would tell an out of towner, "you have to have this while you're here." We'll be in town from May 1 through May 6 if that helps for seasonality.

                    1. re: chonas

                      OK. Sonsos which I may have had once are fried and battered tiny little eels.

                      Calçots are much more interesting. These young onion sprouts are blackened and peeled and dipped in a nutty spicy tomato sauce called Romesco. Seasonal - like right now!

                      You want to go to a village fest called a calçotada. Otherwise you might get one as an amuse-bouche.
                      The most typical dish is marinated fresh anchovies with red peppers (appetizer). Of course, there is paella and its cousin fideua.
                      You'd have to go down to Figueras or Olot for a wonderful Catalan meal.

                      1. re: collioure

                        We will be staying with family in Ceret, what can we look forward to the Saturday market having in early May?

                        I've always wanted to try fresh anchovies and sasrdines. Fideua looks great, does it always contain langoustines?

                        1. re: chonas

                          Ceret has a large Saturday market. In May you will probably find cherries (Ceret=cerises)! They have a cherry festival one weekend in May decided when at last they know cherries will be in season. This year it will fall at the end of the month which I don't understand since we've had such a mild winter.
                          Fideua contains seafood only - fish, shrimps and anything else the chef wants to add. I use squid, mussels and clams too.

                          1. re: chonas

                            Yes, l'Atelier de Fred is the place to go in Céret now.

                        2. re: chonas

                          Restaurants near Céret - The latest arrival is Fred. I don't know anything about it, but my hiking friends are going.
                          I have never been to le Chat qui Rit in Pont-de-Reynès.
                          On the coast in Port-Vendres la Cote Vermeille (mostly fish) is excellent as is l'Almandin in St Cyprien.

                          1. re: chonas

                            Yes, calçots are at market today.

                            Other Catalan dishes -

                            Pan amb tomate is bread swabbed with fresh tomato juice and topped with a piece of mountain ham (or anchovies)
                            Escalivada is grilled bell peppers, eggplant and onion in olive oil - a large chunk Catalan ratatouille, if you will.
                            Botifar is a blood sausage often served with mojettes (white beans).
                            Boles de picolat are small meat balls of ground beef, sausage, garlic, eggs and parsley in simmered in sauce with (usually green) olives. Recipes vary widely for this family style dish.
                            There is also a unique group of dishes called "mar i muntanya" which mix meat and seafood such as chicken and shrimp ragout. Or you may find tiny squid cooked in beef juice.

                        3. re: chonas

                          We have never been, but Restaurant Jardin de la Tour (in Avignon) serves bouillabaisse and gets good reviews. If you can't make it to Marseille, you might want to dine there to (hopefully) fulfill your dream. Be sure to report back if you do. And don't forget to try a Pastis.