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Paris strategy/help s'il vous plait

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My wife and I are headed to Paris end of May/beginning of June for 6 nights for a belated honeymoon. I've done my research, perhaps a bit too much, and would love some help narrowing down the list, as well as strategy for lunch vs dinner, wine bar vs formal seating etc.

We're most likely staying in 1-4th or 9-11th, but haven't finalized hotel/apartment rental just yet. We've both been to Paris before (though not in 12 & 5 years respectively), so we'll be doing more exploring, wandering rather than lining up for the Lourve and Eiffel Tower. We're also going to the French Open one day. I eat everything, my wife doesn't eat red meat, but does eat eggs/fish.

What love to know where I can cross off the list, where I should make reservations now, and where I should keep in my back pocket for when we want to leave things open.

Apologies for length of the post & list. Thanks in advance!

In no particular order:
Le Servan
Le Sevaro
Bistro Paul Bert
6 Paul Bert
Frenchie/Frenchie Bar A Vins
Spring
Au Passage
Le Dauphin
Buvette
Le Verre Vole
L'Avant Comptoir
Le Septime/Le Septime Cave
Le Petit Matieu
Will
L'As du Fallafel
L'Enfants Rouge
Le Richer
L'Encrier
L'Ourcine
Le Cinq Mars
Pramil
Bones
Le Garde Robe
La Fidelite
Derriere
Robert & Louise

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  1. Maybe I'm the wrong person to give advice because I'm a local and am not in the habit of choosing a restaurant as a destination in itself. Quartier, convenience, style of cuisine, style of the clientele, ambiance, the preferences of others I'm with, activities before and after the meal, price, etc are all quick calculations when it comes to choosing a resto. Except on weekends, I usually make rezzies the day before or day of (which, for very hot tables, gives me good chance of sliding in thanks to cancellations).

    It's good to have a long short list. Some of your choices will be eliminated by closing days or being solidly booked on the day you want to go. But no problem... 99.05% of all restaurants can be easily replaced by another of similar style, quality and price-point. Once you decide on a place to stay, convenience will determine some of your choices. Targeting certain neighborhoods for the variety/ parisien lifestyle will also help.

    One quick deletion from your list: La Fidélité... just ain't what it used to be. Some hard-core foodies may encourage you to say bye-bye to Derrière but I love it for the fun factor.

    25 Replies
    1. re: Parnassien

      Parnassien, you are exactly the person to ask based on what I've read, and I agree with everything above. That being said, your quick calculations as a local are not as easy for someone traveling from overseas. There is a first-hand knowledge base, and experience, that no amount of reading on the internet can compare to.

      We're staying in the 3rd, near the Temple and Republique metro stops, walking distance from 134r.d.t

      This is what I've booked so far. I'm looking to have a balance of reservations and free nights so we can explore and be a bit more spontaneous. I haven't booked any lunches yet.

      Thursday (night of our arrival) - Au Passage.
      I've noticed that both chefs people raved about have moved on. Still good? Or are we better off walking to somewhere in the neighborhood that doesn't require a reservation, like Verre Vole, Entree des Artistes or Mary Celeste?

      Friday - Bistro Paul Bert
      I want at least one "classic bistro" and a place where I can get steak frites. Seeing as how my wife doesn't eat "les viandes", I'm inclinded to take Le Severo and Robert & Louise off the list.

      Saturday - Going to the French open so leaving this open.

      Monday - Frenchie
      Called and was able to get a reservation. Also considering Septime. This isn't a "best" or "hip" question, but rather if we want a higher end tasting/set menu experience one night, with a wife who doesn't eat meat (eggs, snails, fish ok), would one be better for our circumstances?

      Tuesday - Le Servan

      1. re: VealParmGuy

        See my report re; Septime; we ate there last week. If you're looking for a set tasting menu, I would highly recommend Le Galopin, which is a longish walk from where you'll be staying.

        1. re: bauskern

          Thanks Bauskern. Glad to hear you liked Mary Celeste so much, it's right by our apartment.

        2. re: VealParmGuy

          Re Au Passage... yes, there has been a marginal decrease in the quality and it's no longer the hot table it used to be. I still like for lunch, less so for dinner.

          But for your first night and considering your location, I'd hang around the 3rd... maybe le Barav bar à vins (but not sure about the no-meat thing) or I'Ilot for oysters/ fish if not too hungry... Pramil or Au Fil des Saisons if hungry. And maybe a little pre- or post-dinner stroll along the rue de Bretagne with stops at Le Charlot or Le Progrès for drinks/ coffee and people-watching. If in the cocktail mood, Mary Celeste, the speakeasy at Candelaria, Little Red Door, l'Entrée des Artistes (in the 11th), Le Démon (the upstairs bar of Beaucoup restaurant), etc.

          1. re: Parnassien

            Would Au Passage then be good for a final lunch on our last day (we have a night flight back to LAX), or is there somewhere else we should consider? Leaning towards your more casual recs for the first night, most likely Mary Celeste based on everything I keep reading.

            Any recs for picnic spots? Thinking of a Sunday outing for coffee at Holybelly/Ten Belles with trips to Marche St. Martin and Le Verre Vole for provisions before heading to Jardin Villemin for a picnic. If the weather's nice, may end the day with beers and Le Camion Qui Fume by Canal St. Martin.

            1. re: VealParmGuy

              I don't think you will get a bad meal at Au Passage... if it easily slides into your schedule that day, why not ?

              My last experience with the Jardin Villemin was not very happy. It's an occasional hangout for East European migrants... not necessarily a bad thing and usually unobtrusive... but this time some very persistent Romanian guy tried to rent his daughter (she looked about 12) to us. A fist fight ensued. And flight of the Romanian pimp and girl before the police came. A grossly souring experience.

              There's a new thread on picnic spots... have a look at it.

              1. re: Parnassien

                "My last experience with the Jardin Villemin was not very happy"
                Parnassien, I'm sorry, you are so enthusiastic about so many places, and I'm not being sarcastic.
                However we need another thread on weird happenings in restos, like the time the chef's girlfriend's illegally parked car got towed while she threw herself on its hood or the time the owner's druggie brother had to be frog-marched out by the police or the time a guy cut his hand on a glass and really bled and refused to call the SAMU in order to finish his meal.
                Great moments, great theater!

                1. re: John Talbott

                  The chef of the (duh) defunct Velli became once super-drunk too many, sat at our table, picked up my glass and downed it and helped himself to more, while I frantically waved at the maître D, pantomiming an abject plea for him to do something. He returned an abject pantomimed answer that he could nothing since the raver was his boss. Finally, he (the maître D) called the chef's girlfriend, who called a taxi to take teh chef away.
                  Our ordeal was not over.
                  a long 10 minates later the taxi driver poked his head into the restaurant, took a look at the out-of-control chef and refused to take him, leaving him at our table.
                  By that time our bottle was emptied, not by us. The raving chef finally left us and went into the kitchen and made even more noise with a Charlie Watt solo with all the pots and pans.
                  Sigh. I loved that restaurant.

                  1. re: Parigi

                    Maybe that explains why I didn't like Velli.

                  2. re: John Talbott

                    What is SAMU?

                    1. re: mangeur

                      It's not a new restaurant.
                      It means emergency ambulance.

                      1. re: Parigi

                        Ah. Thanks. When I dislocated my hip, I just had them call the pompiers. Didn't know the right name much less the acronym.

                    2. re: John Talbott

                      Title the thread: "dinner and a show"

                      1. re: John Talbott

                        Yes, but it is terribly sad about the kid.

                      2. re: Parnassien

                        Thanks. Too bad about Jardin Villemin.

                        Had Parc des Buttes Chaumont on the list as well, and your other recs are very near to where we're staying.

                    3. re: Parnassien

                      Do Pramil, Au Passage, or Taxi Jaune require reservations for lunch, or can one walk in?

                      At the moment haven't made any lunch reservations so we can play things by ear, but I imagine we'll want one or two nicer lunches, especially on our last day. Will restaurant roulette (as you put it on another thread) work in those situations?

                      1. re: VealParmGuy

                        Yes. No or maybe.

                        1. re: VealParmGuy

                          I think you can walk in to any of the three, but isn't it nicer to let the chef and staff know what their load will be, to be greeted warmly and be seated at a good table,
                          As le marais said "What's the downside of reserving?"

                          1. re: John Talbott

                            Are you talking reserving a week ahead? A day? calling an hour or two in advance? I'm trying, especially at lunch, not to over-schedule our vacation. Hard to know where we'll be or want we'll want. I also hate to be the person who makes several reservations "to have them", and then cancels.

                            I'm just trying to have some advance knowledge of what our options are if we decide we want to go for a nice lunch on any given day. I know your site is a veritable encyclopedia of options should I need something to consult, but also good to know a few off the top of my head.

                            Thanks.

                          2. re: VealParmGuy

                            I most often book a table by phone for lunch or dinner on the day before (around 7pm) or day of (around 11-noon) . Occasionally, I'm a walk-in.

                            Au Passage only does lunch on Thu and Fri. I've never had a problem as a walk-in... at most a 10-minute wait. If the wait is going to be any longer, I'm not single-minded enough to be patient and would probably stroll over to Auberge Flora, Pierre Sang, Ober-Salé, or the Cantine at Merci concept store.

                            Pramil has a very good value lunch (22€) so it will attract local office workers etc. But not a ticket/ luncheon voucher place, so not excessively popular. In case of no room at the inn, Au Fil des Saisons just a short walk away is a good alternative and has the extra advantage of longer lunch hours.

                            For Taxi Jaune, it's a little more difficult to improvise if it is full... I usually ring just before noon (they don't often answer the phone after service has begun) to see if I can grab a table. My usual form of transportation is Vélib bike so sometimes we pass by to make sure we can get a table on our way to the nearest Vélib station to drop off our bikes.

                            As a walk-in, timing is important... avoid the peak time 12:30 to 1:30pm.

                            1. re: Parnassien

                              Thanks, this is very helpful. My wife is eager to go to Merci, so that's good to know and something I never would have thought to ask about.

                              Does Au Passage still do a fixed menu at lunch, or is that now small plates as well?

                              1. re: VealParmGuy

                                Re Au Passage, only small plates at lunch. According to what's available at the market that day and the chef's whim... not a huge choice.

                                1. re: Parnassien

                                  Thanks. Not to get too off topic, but is Velib doable for tourists or not advisable without a knowledge of traffic/driving habits in one's neighborhood?

                                  1. re: VealParmGuy

                                    I think it's pretty doable for short trips... it can get confusing because, unless there is a bike lane, you're supposed to respect the one-way street rules. I don't always but I wouldn't advise tourists to do the same.

                                    You do have to subscribe to the service... small fee. http://blog.velib.paris.fr/en/categor...

                              2. re: Parnassien

                                I'm like Parnassien; I tend to reserve the same day except on Friday for Monday lunch to be sure they are open.

                      2. Had delicious meals this week at Bistro Paul Bert and Frenchie To Go and falafel at Chef Hanna instead of L'as Du Falafel (thanks to suggestions here). And I agree about focussing on areas rather than specific places and reservations because you may feel restrained.

                        39 Replies
                        1. re: ClaireLS

                          Thanks. Great to hear. My wife loves falafel so marking that one down.

                          1. re: ClaireLS

                            I just read a review of le 6 Paul Bert that said it was very, very noisy. This is a big no no for me. Is Bistro Paul Bert, which I thought was different from le 6, also noisy?

                            1. re: antonia2

                              Not really.

                              1. re: antonia2

                                I've never been bothered by noise at either (and I'm so sensitive that I record the dB levels in my recent reviews).
                                But I'd steer you to 6 because I got one bad report of plain Paul Bert from a reliable reader a couple of weeks ago.

                                1. re: John Talbott

                                  John,

                                  Thanks so much. I do trust your judgements on this.

                                  Toni

                                  1. re: antonia2

                                    Actually it's just one report but I do trust him.

                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                      Our original plan was to eat at 6 so we will now stick to it.

                                      1. re: antonia2

                                        "Our original plan was to eat at 6 so"
                                        ?

                                      2. re: John Talbott

                                        Concerning enough that'd your recommend elsewhere for steak frites and a good wine list? Le Severo, Robert & Louise, and Hugo Desnoyer are sadly out as my wife doesn't eat meat, and was hoping for some place that would satisfy my craving and have options for her as well. Is this more or less ubiquitous than one would imagine?

                                        Really appreciate everyone's continued feedback, I promise a long recap after the trip.

                                        1. re: VealParmGuy

                                          Just came across some other posts, and JT your review, for Le Bon Georges. Given the above criteria, where does Le Bon Georges fit in, or given that I already have a res at Paul Bert, is it not worth changing things up?

                                          1. re: VealParmGuy

                                            Goodness gracious, one is this year, the other several years ago; I'm fickle, right now I'm in love with AT, BAT and Kigawa.
                                            Toss a Euro. You won't go wrong.

                                            1. re: VealParmGuy

                                              Just like milk, you gotta check the date on the label. Then, as you are doing, ask about more recent experience.

                                              1. re: mangeur

                                                Certainly what I was try to do...
                                                Le Bon Georges seems newish, so I thought I was asking a reasonably specific question as I've seen less written about it.

                                                I realize you all get the same questions over and over again, which is admittedly annoying, but I know at least on home turf in Los Angeles, context and timing matter a great deal. Chefs change, menus change, places come and go etc, and what was true 6 months or a year or two ago may no longer be the case.

                                                1. re: VealParmGuy

                                                  Indeed. Last week's review is, well, a review of what went on last week. Last month is ancient history.

                                    2. re: antonia2

                                      Antonia,
                                      With very few exceptions (i.e. Bones where there is a constant hubbub), there's absolutely no way to predict whether this or that restaurant will be noisy on the day of your visit. It just takes one or two tables of loud customers to change the entire dynamic. It's always a risk.

                                      1. re: Parnassien

                                        I understand that, although some restaurants make a point of having a "lively" atmosphere that often means it is intentionally very loud no matter who is in the room. This is a trend in the US and for me, at least, distracts from the experience. I had read a review of 6 Paul Bert that said that this was an issue, although John Talbott has reassured me that it is not so.

                                        1. re: antonia2

                                          I don't think that even Talbott le Vénérable can predict noise levels at this or any other restaurant at the time of your visit.

                                          1. re: antonia2

                                            "This is a trend in the US and for me, at least, distracts from the experience."
                                            Neither of the Paul Bert places has American restaurant level loud music. It does have human noise because many, like you, want to go there.

                                            1. re: Parigi

                                              This is an interesting phenomena in the US. We live in a very small town in Ohio, but we have an outstanding restaurant, The Winds. Food is fabulous, great wine list, nice service. However, the sound level is distracting at best; ear-splitting at worst. We know the owners and they deliberatly keep it this way (I know, I've asked) in order to keep the atmosphere "lively." That means lots of wood, stone, etc. Not music, but a built environment. It hasn't stopped us, but it does make us pause.

                                              Lively conversation is fine; having to yell at your table mates is awful Hopefully 6 Paul Bert is the former

                                              1. re: antonia2

                                                I completely understand. Last time I dined at Delfina in SF, I asked the waiter to lower the music volume. The music was so loud that the waiter had to ask me several times what I was saying. And when he finally heard me, after bending down to put his ear in front of my face, he said yes and executed an that was that.
                                                But my friends were shocked with me for asking. Why ? It is such a simple request. You'd think I was asking the waiter to cook a chihuahua.
                                                The restaurants in Paris that have had noise level that disturbed me were:
                                                - Saturne. It is the acoustics. you cannot hear your table companion, but you can hear people several tables away. It's the din.
                                                - Le Galonpin. Acoustics again.
                                                - My favorite that John talbott does not want me to name. It's not loud music. It's loud chef who swears a blue streak while cooking poetry.

                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                  "Saturne"
                                                  It's not only the flat walls but the glass ceiling to which no sound dampener can be affixed without destroying it.
                                                  And for the bewildered "My favorite that John talbott does not want me to name" is Chez L'ami Jean, shout it to the rooftops!

                                            2. re: antonia2

                                              "lively" atmosphere"
                                              The excuse I like is "The young people like it that way" as the owner stares at my balding white head.

                                              1. re: John Talbott

                                                The staff at Delfina was fine with me and my request. It's my friends who looked at me as though instead of asking that the music be turned down, I was asking for a spitoon.

                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                  Good for you. I would do the same. Maybe I should my French for, "please turn down the music."

                                                  Toni

                                                  1. re: antonia2

                                                    "Pourriez-vous baisser un peu la musique s'il voux plaît."
                                                    I just did it at the wonder Mercato traiter-eatery in the St Quentin market. Worked like a charm.

                                                    1. re: Parigi

                                                      "vous"
                                                      I'm more brusque, saying "Baissez la musique SVP."

                                                      1. re: John Talbott

                                                        "LA MUSIUE, MERDE !"

                                                        1. re: Parigi

                                                          It is sad that France is importing this US trend. We seldom dine out at home just for this reason: the trendy restaurants at the price points we enjoy are insufferably loud. Totally agree about Delfina, but is it only one culprit. 'Til the last couple of years, France was our comfort zone, but the same level restaurant in Paris usually has the same hard surface design and furniture as ours, as well as a uber-"fun" seeking crowd.

                                                          1. re: mangeur

                                                            Another point of annoyance is blasting the "American songbook" at full volume; today at Yard we were delighted to hear Bob Dylan at 72.7 dB rather than 90 dB.

                                                            1. re: mangeur

                                                              The point I was trying to make is: you don't ask, you don't get. I asked (humbly, if you can beleive), and Delfina lowered the music right away.

                                                              1. re: Parigi

                                                                Well taken.

                                                                1. re: Parigi

                                                                  You're (or as my townies write "Your") quite correct but I find (in my Gym in the 18th for instance) that the moment you exit, they boost the volume.

                                                                  1. re: John Talbott

                                                                    So ? It's up to the next excédé diner to tell 'em to cram it.
                                                                    So what if they blast heavy metal all night when I'm gone ? If a tree falls in a forest and all that…

                                                                    1. re: Parigi

                                                                      I think we may have inadvertently stumbled on a solution. I think one of the reasons that restaurants continue to see having a noisy place as a positive, is that too few of us have the guts to either complain or to request that the sound be turned down.

                                                                      As Parigi recounts, too often people feel intimidated to request something that most likely everyone wants (including the staff who are there all the time).

                                                                      I for one will learn the very polite way of requesting that the volume be turned down.

                                                                      1. re: antonia2

                                                                        As I said in my post - I don't think many have loud music in Paris (or any music In most - and none in Paul Bert?).

                                                                        The noise comes from fellow diners....slightly more tricky to politely ask them to talk more softly.

                                                                        Although a jazz club I used to go to (in London) had STFU in large letters across the wall at the back of the stage. That maybe an option.

                                                                        1. re: PhilD

                                                                          "I don't think many have loud music in Paris"
                                                                          I respectfully disagree.
                                                                          I try to always arrive before my dining partners for a multitude of reasons and before there is a crowd there is often loud music (at least in the places I frequent) and it is only when the place fills that the voices replace the music as the source of noise.

                                                                          1. re: John Talbott

                                                                            Maybe it's our definition of loud. If people talking replaces the music it's not loud in my book. Loud is when you can't hear people talk. And I have never noticed that on Paris and I am one to request music is turned down if loud.

                                                                            1. re: PhilD

                                                                              1. Are there restaurants in Paris that have loud music ?
                                                                              Yes
                                                                              2. Are there many restaurants in Paris that have loud music ?
                                                                              In my very limited experience, no. I can think of one only, Les 36 Corneil on rue de Rochechouart. And too bad, I quite like the place. -- Often you can hear the loud music across the street. What's up with that.
                                                                              3. What about restaurants where the people are louder than the music ?
                                                                              Not cool either. It is often a problem with the acoustics, a structural problem that cannot be resolved by a whispered request to the waitstaff.
                                                                              There is one place that has, not loud diners, but screeeeeeeching diners. And it is not an acoustic issue. Half a block away on rue Henri Monnier, you can hear the English-screeching crowd outside the restaurant La Buvette. What's wrong with the place? It's like having a huge sign at the door: "We want to make sure you have no desire to come in."
                                                                              Précision: Any language, screeched, is a no-no for me. I have no prejudice against screeched English particularly.

                                                        2. re: antonia2

                                                          Do many places in a Paris have music, let alone loud music? I thought the noise issue was driven by the patrons and/or the design. So lots of hard surfaces for the noise to bounce off in Saturne but not music......?

                                                          And often the noise from patrons is from the English a speakers (all nationalities) who seem to feel the need to shout across the table at each other rather than converse in a pleasant tone like most locals.

                                                          As others have said the patrons are the luck of the draw, it only takes one or two tables of loud visitors to change the tone of the whole place.

                                                          Not in Paris, but my relaxing Sunday drink in a generally nice civilised bar was ruined recently when a gentleman from Wisconsin and one from Canada became best buddies as they chatted together - only problem was their tables were at opposite ends of the room. One kept shouting "cheeseheads" - I assume this is similar to the Australian term boofhead.