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

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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.
            John

            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.
                            http://atelier-restaurant-ceret.com/

                        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.

                        4. In my experience its best to eat in 3 stars outside of Paris - I generally find them a little cheaper and often a little more relaxed.

                          You should remember that you have chosen only 3 star restaurants and that is definitely worth doing at least once, but it doesn't preclude you eating at 1 star places in other cities on your trip - many 1 stars are not that expensive and I would suggest mixing in a few amongst the local favourites and up and coming places.

                          Just a note on TripAdviser - definably not as good as here for food and its more tricky to benchmark the posters - IMO its often full of fairly random opinions.

                          1. Last year I visited L'Astrance, Troisgros and Maison Pic, and Troisgros is the only one I would return to - in my top 5 meals of the year. In the past I've also visted Lameloise and Gagnaire - but would still choose Troisgros.
                            However, as you're starting in Barcelona, there is another alternative - Sant Pau (in Sant Pol De Mar) - easily accessible by train from Barcelona - I've done this twice (last time 18 months ago), and it delivers the entire 3* experience at a significantly lower price than one pays in France. One hour train trip and Sant Pau is a 5-minute walk from the station.
                            In Spain, the top places essentially provide the identical menu at lunch, so it's easy to do a 'day trip'. At Troisgros, lunch isn't as extensive as dinner, so the full experience requires staying overnight in Roanne as last train back is too early (but the restaurant is right opposite the train station).

                            The following has a review of Sant Pau (NOT mine, but I agree with most comments)
                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/869235
                            see Day 2 of their itinerary.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: estufarian

                              Very, very good point - I had missed that you are starting in Barcelona. I concur with Estufarian's thoughts on trying a Spanish 3 star - they are generally very good.

                              1. re: PhilD

                                Spanish "any stars" are generally very good.

                              2. re: estufarian

                                Well, if we're doing NE Spain, and that's an excelent idea, I can personally recommend les Cols in Olot** though I do not like being required to choose a tasting menu. I don't know if we will return. I prefer three courses. The same change soured me on El Bulli.

                                Of course, el Celler de Can Roca in Girona has 3 stars since 2009 and was recognized as best in world last year.

                                1. re: collioure

                                  celler de Can Roca is an excellent idea if you're planning your holiday for next year!

                              3. My memory of Ceret were one of the stands at the Sat market , the proprietor made his confitures with honey instead of sugar, still my faves anywhere.
                                If you have the opportunity to try calcots, go for it, my experience with them has always been at absolutely top rung, just love them. They are different but l enjoy even more than ramps.
                                If looking for stars in Northern Spain, Asador de Etxebarri is the bomb.
                                Finally of your choices for multi stars, l have been to five of them and either Gagnaire or Troigros would be my choice. L'Astrance was IMVHO not enjoyable in the least.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                  While I agree with Asador Etxebarri as a destination, it is not accessible by train, and 'hardly' accessible at all by public transportation.

                                  1. re: estufarian

                                    It's also along way from the Mediteranian coast which is where the OP will be. And that said the Asador was one of my weaker meals on my last trip - but it's 1star rating is probably fair.

                                2. Ok, we now have 1 unschedule meal in Avignon (lunch or dinner), 2 unscheduled meals in Paris (one at Septime), and two unscheduled meals in Barcelona (but thinking about going to La Forquilla). We are going to Troisgros most likely, so no need to do any more Michelin stars the rest of the trip.

                                  We will not have a car, so things need to be train accessible.

                                  Any fantastic bakeries in Paris, or suggestions for any of the other meals?

                                  Thanks for all the help thus far!

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: chonas

                                    La Forquilla only has 6 tables and UK Sunday Times recently raved about it.
                                    If you don't have a reservation yet - move fast!

                                    1. re: chonas

                                      Where are you staying in Paris ? So many fab bakeries and pâtisseries that proximity/ convenience will help us make more targetted recommendations. And the same for restaurants... literally hundreds of excellent choices....quartier ? budget ? trad or modern cuisine ? hip, trendy, sleek, or classic style ? hot tables du jour or old favourites ?

                                      1. re: Parnassien

                                        Haven't booked location yet. Any cuisine (preferably things difficult to get an accurate representation of in the US) and would prefer "value." Don't mind spending a hundred euros per head, but would prefer not to do this for every meal.

                                        Figured if people said something like "X area has # good restaurants, if you're staying there . . . " then make reservations there.

                                        Will reserve Forquilla tonight! Thanks for the heads up.

                                        1. re: chonas

                                          For Paris stay, have a look at the boutique hotels in the Haut-Marais/ 3rd (i.e. Hotel du Petit Moulin on the rue de Poitou) which will put you in one of the most vibrant real-lfe yet relatively central neighbourhoods full of good-food vibes. And please note there is a big difference between the touristy Marais in the 4th and the more parisien Haut-Marais/ Upper Marais in the 3rd.

                                          Second choice would be around the Palais Royal in the 1st (i.e. Grand Hotel du Palais Royal on the rue Valois) just for the great variety of excellent restaurants in walking distance... but in the tourist zone rather than real-life Paris.

                                          1. re: Parnassien

                                            Booking Hotel Jacques de Molay on Rues de Archives. . . any recs near there for dinner/nightlife?

                                            Is there anywhere around there I can try Bresse chicken? Is it worth seeking it out?

                                            Thanks for all of the advice in your first 2 posts, was very helpful.

                                          2. re: chonas

                                            The 9th and the 10th are the areas with a very good concentration of good restaurants and good markets.
                                            The 1st, on the northern edge, bordering the … 9th ! , is also slowly but surely amassing good restaurant fengshui. Wait till Dans Les Landes opens there in September…

                                        2. re: chonas

                                          I was in Barcelona last May and dined and drank well at El Raco d'en Cesc, Ca l'Isidre and Torre de Altamar. Torre de Altamar offers a romantic setting in a tower that overlooks the harbor.

                                        3. I would go to Assiette Champenoise in Reims (suburb of Tinqueux) -- the newest 3* in France. and I would stay overnight there so I could enjoy the accommodations and their unbelievably wonderful breakfast.

                                          Here is the link to the website for both the restaurant and the hotel. http://www.assiettechampenoise.com/

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: ChefJune

                                            I was actually interested in this, but we only have 2 nights in Paris, so it was either this or Troisgros.

                                            1. re: chonas

                                              I would go to Assiette over Troisgros.

                                          2. UPDATE! The whole trip is nearly planned, but we have 2 open meals in Paris. We'll be staying at http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Revi... for our 2 nights in the city. When we went to Japan our favorite Tokyo experience was izakaya, so I was looking for something similar for Paris and just found out about something called caves à manger.

                                            Does anyone know of excellent caves à manger near that hotel, or in general (will travel for experiences!)?

                                            Finally, in Japan there was something called "omakase" where you let the chef choose what he wants to prepare. Is there a similar concept/phrase in French that is well-known?

                                            50 Replies
                                            1. re: chonas

                                              Your hotel is in a more outlying arrondissement. Not everyone is familiar with the area.
                                              Have you looked at all these discussions about caves à manger and found nothing near you. Must you go to one near you then?
                                              http://www.chow.com/search?q=caves+à+...
                                              In general, the very hip rue Rébéval has many eat&drink options

                                              1. re: chonas

                                                Your hotel is in a love-it-or-hate-it location. Heavily redeveloped, large tracts of public housing, shabby in places, lots of urban grit, and not altogether convenient for getting into central Paris but oases of artsy-type hipness, a great selection of ethnically diverse restaurants, and two fabulous parks in walking distance. And, hallelujah, you will just happen to be within 300 metres one of my fave restaurants, Roseval on the rue d'Eupatoria... award winning cuisine... dinner only. If you have cool-kid tendencies, there are some other great spots like La Bellevilloise music/arts collective with a great café... and just next door, La Maroquinerie which another Chowhounder reviewed favourably but I've never tried it... and, just off the intersection of the rue Ménilmontant and boulevard Ménilmontant, a little cluster of hip and not-so-hip places including the excellent Chatomat restaurant (modern French cuisine) on the rue Victor Letalle, the café-bar Lou Pescalou on the rue Panoyaux (amazing happy hours from 6 to 8pm with live music ranging from manouche jazz to rock to classical... just never know... and quite good eats), and the bistro La Boulangerie on the rue Panoyaux (trad oh-so-Parisien decor, surprisingly good somewhat updated classic cuisine, and a clientele that represents the quartier). Oops, sorry for going on way too long about the area but so few opportunities on Chowhound to talk about it.

                                                Cave à Manger:
                                                Two very good ones in walking distance. Le Baratin on the rue Rouye-Jouve just north of the Parc de Belleville... 10-minute walk largely uphill and partly through the park if before sunset... a hangout for other chefs and the subject of rave reviews... I'm not convinced it's all that great but others obviously love it. And Chapeau Melon on the rue Rebeval, just north of the rue Belleville... same neighbourhood and same walking distance as Le Baratin... a what's-fresh-at-the market-today kind of place... natural wines but grrrrr, a corkage fee.

                                                Chef's Choice:
                                                (Just recommended this place in another thread) Il Vino on the boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg in the 7th... you choose the wines and then the chef cooks what he thinks goes best with that wine... but pricey and a long trek from your hotel.
                                                (And maybe, just maybe). Pierre Sang on the rue Oberkampf in the 11th... French cuisine with Korean/Asian echoes or sometimes vice versa... I've seen him totally improvise for clients (i.e. moi) seated at the bar which looks out to the open kitchen ... but I think it depends on his mood and whether he likes you... and if he's there (travels a lot) ... no reservations so to get a seat at the bar you have to get in line by 6:45pm.

                                                BTW, if you walk down to the rue Ménilmontant, you can catch the #96 bus (from the odd-number side of the street) going into central Paris and save yourself a bit hassle getting to and from the rather far-flung métro stations in the 20th.

                                                1. re: Parnassien

                                                  "And, hallelujah, you will just happen to be within 300 metres one of my fave restaurants,"
                                                  And not far from the funky Felicity Lemon (which a denizen/friend of the 20th recently visited and loved) and the even funkier Muxu.

                                                  1. re: John Talbott

                                                    John, you are way too hip for me !

                                                    Felicity Lemon, I like a lot but maybe a bit too tapas-esque at night for an OP coming from Barcelona and in Paris for just 2 days.

                                                    Muxu is funky ?! Although I can quibble over the adjective, I can't argue its quality. Love it. But a bit of a long walk for the OP and not easy for him to get to by métro or bus.

                                                    1. re: Parnassien

                                                      Your dining-planning mental map, always with context thrown in, is absolutely bluffant. Courbette.

                                                      1. re: Parigi

                                                        (Assuming kowtow position while addressing l'Impératrice douairière and mumbling mes remerciements.) But your Provence and Pays Basque threads are my inspiration.

                                                      2. re: Parnassien

                                                        "John, you are way too hip for me !"
                                                        I think you meant hip replacement.

                                                        1. re: John Talbott

                                                          As Shakira sings: "Artificial hips don't lie."

                                                      3. re: John Talbott

                                                        John, apologies. I always thought "funky" meant either a heavy R&B beat or smelly/ fetid or sorta like "déjanté" in French. But my gringo pal at work tells me it also means cool. So yeah, Felicity and Muxu are cool.

                                                        1. re: Parnassien

                                                          No apologies needed to me or to James Brown, the self-proclaimed "Hardest Working Man in Show Business" who did the best version of Play that Funky Music White Boy. Funk can also mean to be in a depressed mood or in the UK a coward, so it can be read many ways. But I did mean it as cool.

                                                          1. re: John Talbott

                                                            "..or in the UK a coward" - not heard that one?

                                                      4. re: Parnassien

                                                        Wow, just wow. "Above and beyond the call of duty," goes below and (antonym for beyond) the description of your response.

                                                        Thanks so much!

                                                        1. re: Parnassien

                                                          Oh I forgot, is there a phrase in french for "chef's choice?" Is it a common practice?

                                                          Are there any things other French/Catalan dining etiquette customs we should know about?

                                                          1. re: chonas

                                                            "Chef's choice" doesn't really translate into French very easily. But a "menu dégustation" or tasting menu in France comes very close to the omakase style at sushi restaurants in Japan. Usually a no-choice series of small plates (for the entire table) that may or may not be paired with wine. Only certain and usually but not always high-end restaurants offer a "dégustation"... if you don't see "dégustation" on offer, don't ask for it because it's a very calculated style of eating that requires a lot of preparation and orchestration. Some smaller French restaurants do offer limited- or no-choice 3-course conventional meals, especially when the cuisine is seasonal and created from what's best at the market that day i.e. the very good Clandestino on the rue Crozatier in Paris 12 and the "menu à l'aveugle"/ blind or surprise menu (for dinner only) at Youpi & Voilà on the rue de Vicq d'Azir near the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris 10.

                                                            1. re: Parnassien

                                                              And of course Chez L'Ami Jean does a "carte blanche" that is well respected by many on the board.

                                                              Possibly the closest to an omakase meal as its freeform and far less structured than a degustation or set menu as the chef feeds off the diners to tune the meal.

                                                            2. re: chonas

                                                              There's a bit of a sub-genre of Paris restaurant with a young team, fixed-menu usually 45 - 65 euro, tiny rooms located in the eastern neighbourhoods, often quite media-savvy, sometimes idiosyncratic hours eg. closed on weekends.

                                                              I'm thinking Roseval, le Galopin, Pierre-Sang Boyer, Bones, Rino which I know for sure are fixed-menu only in the evenings, Chatomat and Têtes dans les Olives maybe, Chateaubriand and Septime very well-known by everyone these days (but you will be able to search for any of these here or else where on the net).

                                                              These are not by any means the equivalent of a set meal at a kaiseki/ kappo/ specialist restaurant in Japan, but are enough of a 'thing' that they probably fit into your idea of having an 'exemplar' experience and pretty handy to your hotel location too.

                                                              1. re: shakti2

                                                                le Galopin is the last piece of the puzzle (or chez l'ami if you guys can convince me).

                                                                Thanks everyone for all the sage advice and recommendations!

                                                                Tentative dining itinerary: La Forquilla (R), Torre d' Alta Mar (U), 4 gats*, Fred (R), Restaurant Jardin de la Tour (U), Maison Troisgros (R), Septime, Chapeau Melon, le Galopin.

                                                                (U) unconfirmed reservation
                                                                (R) reserved
                                                                blank - not yet tried for reservation

                                                                *just coffee/a light meal or desert

                                                                Sound good for 12 days? Any dress code at any of these places (would rather not have to bring a suit in travel bag).

                                                                1. re: chonas

                                                                  Dress code: casual, I mean French casual.

                                                              2. re: chonas

                                                                "Carte blanche" usually does it. Donner carte blanche au chef.

                                                              3. re: Parnassien

                                                                Parnassien, I love it that you gave my adopted hood some Chow love! All great suggestions. Lou Pascalou is one of my haunts (despite my being just slightly, ahem, outside the average demographic), and agree with all of your recs. I also wanted to say that I finally made it to Le Baratin recently, and was underwhelmed. Maybe my expectations were too high, but the good but not rave worthy Beef Bourguignon (if my memory serves, I know it was similar) didn't compensate for the bad, rushed and not nice service (was with a Parisian so it wasn't because of my bad French). Anyway, just wanted to add my two cents and to tell the OP that I hope he/she enjoys this off the usual tourist trail part of Paris.

                                                                1. re: sistereurope

                                                                  I've only been to Baratin once and loved it. I can see how the service could quickly switch from typically parisian rushed fun to typically parisian bad mood, but when I went it was fun.

                                                              4. re: chonas

                                                                Bad news! Septime was booked solid at midnight Paris time, as was choice #2 Bistrotters, couldn't find a place to make reservations for choice #3 Pierre Sang. Wife says no to Chateaubriand. Rino is closed.

                                                                Now what :(? Can any Parisians give me a substitute where I'd have a chance to book 3 weeks out?

                                                                1. re: chonas

                                                                  Could you remind us the day of the week for your dinner ?

                                                                  1. re: Parigi

                                                                    Friday May 9, and Saturday May 10 are open. Have a relative trying to reserve Le Galopin for May 10th dinner.

                                                                    Available (according to thefork.com): au bon coin, Bistrot Valois, Joel Robuchon, Pascade, Les Collections, le saotico.

                                                                    Going to try to have relative reserve Roseval, Bones, Le Jardin d'en Face, Les Papilles, Marguerite, or L'Avant Comptoir ahead of those.

                                                                    Any other restaurants we should be aware of/put at the top of the list?

                                                                    1. re: chonas

                                                                      La Table d'Eugène.
                                                                      Saturne.

                                                                      1. re: chonas

                                                                        Au Bon Coin in the 5th has lost it's teeny Asian girl who made their foie gras terrine, my fave cold foie anywhere, thus cold foie not on menu currently.
                                                                        l think based on 2 meals, that Saotico is top rung.

                                                                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                          Saotico is indeed good - but a destination restaurant or simply useful if close by?

                                                                          1. re: PhilD

                                                                            l wouldn't go there from Berlin, but would certainly go there
                                                                            from anywhere in Paris or suburbs. They seem to cook what l like to eat.

                                                                        2. re: chonas

                                                                          I'd be leery of thefork.com. Recently booked for a dinner in Bordeaux through them. They confirmed the res, but later informed me that "the restaurant cannot honor your reservation." Happened twice.

                                                                        3. re: Parigi

                                                                          .

                                                                        4. re: chonas

                                                                          Pierre Sang Boyer is no reservations - first come first served. L"Avant Comptoir is also no reservations - no seats so just squeeze into the bar.

                                                                          1. re: PhilD

                                                                            Just get there 10-15 minutes before service and you will be fine and get the upstairs seating as well.

                                                                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                              For which one? I assume Sang Boyer.

                                                                              1. re: PhilD

                                                                                Yes

                                                                          2. re: chonas

                                                                            Thursday 8 May is a holiday and there will be smaller businesses which close on Friday and Saturday to make a long weekend of it ('faire le pont'), which could be why you are having problems with reservations.

                                                                            But if your heart is set on Septime, I would definitely recommend calling. Not all their spots go on their website I think - certainly the case for 2nd seatings in the evening. Roseval only opens up for reservations 15 days before, Bones 14 days and Pierre Sang is no reservations at all. Many of these places also restrict when they will pick up the phone and will want a contact number. Perhaps try to get all the info together before your relative starts calling.

                                                                            I often get my office or concierge to make bookings and these small cool places in the eastern part of the city are by far the most trouble ... they can't understand why I can't go with the lovely restaurant in the 7th/ 8th/ 16th they've picked.

                                                                            1. re: shakti2

                                                                              Thanks again guys, going to get a list together for relative and say: call these in order. The first place that will take us is where we'll go. How would you order these (or are some on a different tier than others):

                                                                              Chez Toinette, Pasco, Grains Nobles et Plus, le Picotin, La coincidence, Le Dindon en Laisse, La Cordonnerie, La Table d'Eugene, le Muselet, La Bonne Cecile, Pierre Sang, L' Ange 20, Bones, Bistrotters, Roseval

                                                                              1. re: chonas

                                                                                La Table d'Eugène and Bones

                                                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                                                  And may I ask what's wrong with Clandestino, which Parn had recommended upthread ?

                                                                                  1. re: Parigi

                                                                                    Me too like Clandestino.

                                                                                2. re: chonas

                                                                                  Re "How would you order these (or are some on a different tier than others):
                                                                                  Chez Toinette, Pasco, Grains Nobles et Plus, le Picotin, La coincidence, Le Dindon en Laisse, La Cordonnerie, La Table d'Eugene, le Muselet, La Bonne Cecile, Pierre Sang, L' Ange 20, Bones, Bistrotters, Roseval"

                                                                                  I'm getting a bit confused. I dunno how you compiled your list but it includes quite a few tourist clichés and restos that aren't worth crossing town for...and one or two that I wouldn't even cross the street for. And such a mix of styles that I'm not sure what you are looking for. If you are looking for not terribly remarkable food at a bargain price in restaurants full of tourists, fine.... have fun at Le Dindon en Laisse et al.

                                                                                  But La Table d'Eugene, champagne-bar le Muselet, La Bonne Cécile (with some qualications) , Pierre Sang, Bones, and Roseval are head and shoulders above your travel guide non-foodie picks. And to these I would add Septime's little fishy sister Clamato, Le 6 Paul Bert, and Clandestino. But don't ask me to give any order to these and the other good restaurants on your list in terms of preference or excellence. They are all very good and whether one is significantly better than another on a particular night is a matter of luck and menu choice.

                                                                                  As a local, the shotgun approach is very strange for me. When choosing a restaurant, I also consider convenience, proximity, and quartier. Eating out at night, especially Friday and Saturday, is not always about the food and rarely is the restaurant a destination in itself. I'm much more interested in experiencing "la vie parisienne"... nursing an apéro on the terrace of a café while peoplewatching and enjoying the company of friends/ loved ones, then a very good meal at a restaurant, a digestif and more peoplewatching at another café/ bar or two, arm-in-arm walks, window shopping, maybe some clubbing.

                                                                                  For sheer convenience, I'd target a buzzy neighbourhood that's on the #96 bus route (from near your hotel). Et voilà... the Haut-Marais which just happens to be fab for both food and lifestyle... lots of restaurant rec's there if you do a search on Chowhound. Or further on, the quartier Saint Paul in the 4th (for Métropolitain on the rue de Jouy for modern French or L'Epouvantail on the rue de Jarente for a neighbourhood bistro), Chatelet for Les Halles (where you can find the ultra-enjoyable old-school Chez Denise for your Friday night slot or Pirouette for Sat night when Chez Denise is closed), or Saint-Germain des Prés (La Cuisine de Philippe, La Semilla, or La Cigale-Récamier for dinner and the iconic landmark cafés like Le Flore and Les Deux Magots for loafing and peoplewatching on the terrace).

                                                                                  Or métro from Ménilmontant, direct no-change line to Pigalle for a buzzy meal at the very enjoyable La Cantine de la Cigale and a prowl though either the cutesy Abbesses quartier in Montmartre or very trendy SoPi/ South of Pigalle quartier in the 9th (both have great cafés/ wine bars/ bars for before and after dinner). Of course, this option requires you to 1) ignore the occasional sleaze as you walk from métro Pigalle to La Cantine de la Cigale and 2) resist all temptation to climb up to Sacré Coeur to take in the view... the immediate area of the Sacré Coeur is especially disagreeable on Fri and Sat nights when the zoo-like ambiance, crowds, pickpockets, souvenir hustlers, and bottle-tossing drunks can be more oppressive than usual.

                                                                                  You should also consider that your own quartier, Ménilmontant, can be very enjoyable, especially on Saturday night when many locals prefer to stay close to home. The restaurant Chatomat on the rue Victor-Letalle is very good and the bars/ cafés on the rue Panoyaux are full of life.

                                                                                  1. re: Parnassien

                                                                                    " 'Chez Toinette, Pasco, Grains Nobles et Plus, le Picotin, La coincidence, Le Dindon en Laisse, La Cordonnerie, La Table d'Eugene, le Muselet, La Bonne Cecile, Pierre Sang, L' Ange 20, Bones, Bistrotters, Roseval'
                                                                                    I'm getting a bit confused. "

                                                                                    So was I. What happened to the "once in a lifetime meal" reference in the title ?

                                                                                    1. re: Parigi

                                                                                      Meal of the lifetime will be at Maison Troisgros in Roanne.

                                                                                      As for the "shotgun approach," I was panicking because since Septime was fully booked, all of the suggestions from here require a phone call, and it's Easter weekend now (and there's some sort of assumed French holiday on Monday) time is growing short so cast a wide net in case all other options are also fully booked.

                                                                                      We start traveling the 30th so that leaves basically a week to make reservations.

                                                                                      How long is the wait generally at Pierre Sang, and how early do you need to arrive to get a table straight away?

                                                                                      The ordering question was so when our relative starts calling we could say "stop at the first of these that accepts a reservation," so if some of the restaurants I listed are "not worth time of someone in Paris for one time in their life" since neither I nor my wife have ever been we don't know one restaurant from another except what's been said here.

                                                                                      Oh, and if restaurants suggested by Parnassien aren't on the list, they either are only reservable by phone, are fully booked, or seem to serve lots of stuff my pregnant wife isn't allowed :(

                                                                                      Thanks!

                                                                                      1. re: chonas

                                                                                        "Meal of the lifetime"
                                                                                        Hands down Fredy Giradet, 1985. Alas no longer cooking.

                                                                                        1. re: John Talbott

                                                                                          Hands down:

                                                                                          Pere Bise 1975 Francoise no longer alive

                                                                                          Guerard's Le Pot-au- Feu 1973 not cooking that way anymore

                                                                                          Fredy Giradet 1975 as JT said, no longer cooking

                                                                                        2. re: chonas

                                                                                          Well, I hope Troisgros is your meal of a lifetime. I have never quite gotten there even though I make a couple of their recipes. I actually prefer 2-stars but that 3-star l want to get to.

                                                                                          Meals of lifetime:
                                                                                          El Bulli - 1993, 1997 and 1998
                                                                                          l'Aubergade - 1987
                                                                                          Scholteshof, Stevoort, Belgium 1992 shrimp in vin jaune with Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Rangen 1989

                                                                                          1. re: collioure1

                                                                                            Also at El Bulli three times and blessed to be at Scholteshof
                                                                                            Stayed there for two nights, was truly magical.

                                                                                            Fave was still Robuchon Jamin in late 80's

                                                                                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                                              Actually I've been to El Bulli five times. It’s only 1 hr+ from my house, but I came three times to Roussillon to make sure I wanted to live here. Only three of those visits figure in my top five meals. The first time I thought for the first time in my life I would not find it and wind up ordering a frozen pizza in a bar about 11pm. But I can find anything! (In those days you thought you were on the road to the Rosas’s garbage dump.).

                                                                                              Schulteshof was wonderful. When I saw the chef clearing tables at the end of the evening, I had all I needed to overrule my maitre d and become even more active in my own dining room.

                                                                                              Paris 3-stars were my first wife's domain. Never got near Jamin.

                                                                                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                                                "Robuchon Jamin"
                                                                                                Just keep saying that name.

                                                                                            2. re: chonas

                                                                                              Re Pierre Sang... get there at 6:45 for 7pm opening... and ask your hotel to write a list in French of what your wife cannot eat... pretty sure that Pierre Sang himself and some of the waiters speak very good English but it's better to have a list just in case.

                                                                                              Other rezzies, ask your hotel to try to book a few restos too.

                                                                                              Re Septime, last minute cancellations are a big problem for any "hot table" in Paris so you might be able to find a table by ringing the day before or day of. Ask your hotel to help. And if you get a last-minute table, don't forget to cancel other reservations.

                                                                                              1. re: Parnassien

                                                                                                I wish there was a way I could thank you for all your hard work, bottle of wine or something. Regardless, it seems like it will be a super fun trip now. Thanks everyone.

                                                                                3. I know I'm probably too late for your trip (and congrats on the first child!) but, having eaten at several of these, I'd eat at La Pyramide in Vienne again in a heart beat (in fact, I contemplated taking my spouse there for the weekend for his 50th birthday just to try and recreate one of the best meals of our lives). The hotel is likewise exquisite. That said, the story behind Maison Pic is wonderful (father and grandfather with 3 Michelin stars each, she loses a star when she takes over (gee a little misogyny in the world of high end chefs??) and pushes through to earn it back). You can hardly go wrong at either.

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: T.O. Diner

                                                                                    I believe that a reduction of one star is usual when a new chef takes over.

                                                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                      Agree - it's pretty much standard practice to reduce a star or even remove them if their is a major change like a new chef running the kitchen.

                                                                                    2. re: T.O. Diner

                                                                                      Indeed a bit late.

                                                                                      Troisgros was quite the once in a lifetime experience.

                                                                                      That being said, if we went back to the same cities. I'd eat at Jardin de la Tour and le Galopin again for sure. Both were culinary highlights. Bouillabaisse may be my new favorite food because of the former. I would be surprised if le Galopin doesn't gain a star, or stars soon.