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Overwhelmed with Too Much Research!

We'll be spending six nights in Paris after having spent four in Normandy. Based on both past and current threads about Normandy, we expect to eat very traditional meals those four nights.

I've been reading all the threads and sites like Paris by Mouth and I'm feeling overwhelmed. All the restaurants I've added to my list have some appeal. Unfortunately, I don't know how to prioritize six choices to include some variety in terms of formality, price, and tradition VS modern style. (I'm not considering ethnic food although I'm happy to include other regions of France.)

We'll be staying at a hotel in the 5th -- closest Metro Station: Maubert-Mutualite. In general, I'd like to keep our dinner destinations easy-access. To me, that means a walk through the 5th or 6th, anywhere on either of the islands, and no more than one change of Metro line from the #10.

The list that follows is very heavy into 5th, 6th, and 4th because I haven't gotten to point looking at Metro routes:
Café de la Nouvelle Mairie
Dans Les Landes
Fish
Itineraires
Kitchen Galerie Bis
Les Papilles
Semilla
Le Sergeant Recruteur
Sola
Terroir Parisien
Ze Kitchen Galerie

Your best advice please! Thanks.

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  1. Excuse me but I can't see the point of staying 6 days in Paris and restricting your territory so much!
    Most Métro rides through Paris, even with two changes of trains, seldom more than 30 minutes. It is a small, compact, walkable city.

    However, all your choices are good. I'd leave out FIsh, which has been seriously below average upon my last two visits.

    20 Replies
    1. re: Ptipois

      Time for a bit more information and a bit of a reality check: Ask yourself how you might feel about a thirty-minute commute to dinner when you are age 70 and already have walked about four or five miles during the day.

      We'll be all over the city during the day and we'll pick up more far-flung restaurants at lunch. I'm content to keep the dinner commute to a minimum.

      So, which five restaurants would you choose among my list?

      1. re: Indy 67

        Thanks for giving us more information, indeed we can't help you choose if you don't give all the necessary details.

        As for directing your choice, I've already replied above. 1. Drop Fish and you'll be fine. 2. Semilla not essential.

        Besides, you can always take a taxi.

        1. re: Ptipois

          Over time, I've learned that posting to Chowhound is a bit of an art form. Too much information and some posters' can't cope. Too little information and the responses are useless.

          As for using a taxi, I'll confess to an irrational bias against taxis. Unless you tell me otherwise, using them feels too much like a tourist thing.

          At any rate, thanks for the input.

          1. re: Indy 67

            I am French, I live in Paris, I take taxis every time I can afford them, and do not feel a tourist for doing so.

        2. re: Indy 67

          "age 70"
          Try 78, but my venerability never stops me even from going beyond the peripherique and as others have said here and elsewhere, the public transportation system is superb, even with Mayor Delanoye's bike-lane "enhancements."
          So to the point - 4 traditional ones:
          Le Sergeant Recruteur (even with the loss of the Defecteurs)
          Dans Les Landes
          Semilla (strangely better than the Mothership Fish)
          Terroir Parisien (but the Bourse not 5th)
          Les Papilles
          Fish (spotty reports)
          Itineraires (spotty experiences)
          Love Sola, KGB and Ze but they're not traditional.
          One the other hand you should eat at at last one non-trad one.

          1. re: John Talbott

            John, if you're walking four to five miles a day and capping that off nightly by traveling to far flung dinner places at age 78, then I truly and humbly salute you!

            We've visited Paris often enough that the attraction is no longer the classic sites, but walking the neighborhoods. My husband and I are grateful that we've got the stamina and mobility to do all that walking, but we tend to choose hotels in good food areas to make dinner a local, easy experience. (We define easy as a walk of less than a mile.)

            Our trips to Europe have had such a profound affect on our lifestyle, that when we retired, we bought homes in two cities -- summer and winter variety -- so we could walk everywhere. With that background, you'll perhaps understand why we feel it is "wrong" to take a taxi to dinner.

            Thanks for your helpful commentary and edit of my list. I'll now have to sort things out, starting with dealing my Terroir Parisien reservation in the 5th. (Incidentally, the fork.com was not working for Dans Les Landes yesterday.)

            1. re: Indy 67

              "we tend to choose hotels in good food areas to make dinner a local, easy experience."
              Obviously not this trip, or you would be in the 9th or the 10th or the 11th.
              That is why fellow hounds have such a hard time helping you, because you location and your conditions are ruling out much of the kind of good food and "local, easy" dinner experiene that you say you like.
              Taking the excellent public transport - buses or metro - is not hiking. I know quite a few epicures much more mature in age than you who, like John, go all over Paris and, like John, enjoy a rich dining experience that many envy.
              Lastly, when you call to reserve at Dans Les Landes, you may want to specify that you want a table with normal chairs, and not high stools at the communal tables (occupying about half the restaurant). I am thinking of my adventurous MIL who goes all over Paris for good eats but can't sit on one of those.
              By the way, pardon me: how is taxi more tourist-stigmatising than bus or metro or walking ?

              1. re: Parigi

                "Obviously not this trip, or you would be in the 9th or the 10th or the 11th..."

                Fair criticism. However, we've never stayed on the Left Bank and wanted to do so.

                Thanks for the tip on the tables at Dans Les Landes.

                I can only repeat my admiration of folks who walk four to five miles daily and, then, travel nightly to every arrondissement in the city. I'm really content with the balance of our daytime activities and our dinner intentions.

                1. re: Indy 67

                  Just like when we're home here in NYC, when we travel we often walk to dinner (or subway or metro) and then take a cab back to where ever we happen to be staying.

                  I don't find it the least bit touristy.

                  1. re: Indy 67

                    I have no more info than this posting on Facebook from Paris Kitchen:

                    "Top Chef contestant (but already long time Chef Julien Deboue of Afaria) is closing his fantastic wine bar Dans Les Landes today - opening a new wine bar restaurant in the 2nd arr in September. The best news? The smoked duck breast fried polenta sticks are making the move!"

                    Maybe that's what their listing on The Fork is down? It has been for a couple of weeks. Anyway, just thought it was worth a heads up.

                    1. re: LWH02

                      Do I hear a loud sucking sound emanating from the 2nd? I can see Sentier becoming the hottest metro stop.

                      1. re: LWH02

                        I had no idea it would close so early, but I wouldn't be so hasty to determine what exactly is going to happen there, menuwise.

                        All that is known so far is that the restaurant will be on 3 levels, and that there will be a rotissoire of such amplitude that Julien intends to roast half a calf in it.

                        I wouldn't expose Julien Duboué (not Deboue)'s ultra-brief appearance at Top Chef for it means nothing. It is more useful to say is that he's a perfectly masterful chef whose Lièvre à la royale in the Fall is good enough to make a few étoilés blush with shame.

                    2. re: Parigi

                      The 86 would be a wonderful bus for the OP.

                    3. re: Indy 67

                      "capping that off nightly by traveling to far flung dinner places "
                      Lunch, always lunch. Dinner is at home.

                      1. re: John Talbott

                        Lunch. That's what I thought.

                        Here's where I have reservations so far:
                        Ze Kitchen Galerie
                        Spring
                        Le Sergent Recruteur

                        I don't seem to be able to use thefork.com in either French or English to make reservations at Dans Les Landes or Bistro Les Papilles. (LWH02 has graciously shared that we're likely going to miss out on Dans Les Landes while it is in transition.) Bistro Les Papilles likely is not a Fork participant so I'll get the concierge involved.

                        My husband has a passion for sublime roast chicken. My research turns up Chez L'Ami Louis in the 3rd. Will he be happy? Do you have any other place to recommend?

                        1. re: Indy 67

                          I'd highly endorse all 3 lunch places and have no suggestion for an alternative to L'Ami Louis. Although I don't go anymore, they don't miss me.

                          1. re: Indy 67

                            Poulet des Landes rôti at any of Etchebest's bistrots La Cantine du Troquet (in the 14th and in the 15th) is miles above the one at L'Ami Louis.
                            Incidentally, La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix is only a short walk from métro La Motte-Picquet-Grenelle on ligne 10. It's a no-rezzy place that opens at 7 PM.

                            1. re: Ptipois

                              Thanks for La Cantine du Troquet (and Dupleix) recommendations. After reading the comments about L'Ami Louis in another thread, I was skittish about going there.

                              1. re: Indy 67

                                Well I held off but am fully in agreement about La Cantine & Dernier Metro for that matter.
                                A great part of town.

                        2. re: Indy 67

                          Indy - I am younger than you, but also like to stay local for a relaxing evening meal. After a day travelling around Paris, with lots of walking it's just great to be able to step out of your door and eat local.....it's relaxing which is part and parcel of being on holiday. When I lived in Paris it was different, mainly because I didn't eat out every day, and generally I ate out at the weekends. So the travel constraint is really very different for residents versus visitors.

                          That part of the 5/6 eme has really got better recently so far more choice. I agree Fish is probably not the best choice as it's probably still in transition, although I liked Semilla. If you can head a bit further west than Les Climats or Gaya may be worth considering.

                  2. The metro system in Paris is ridiculously easy to navigate, and I don't think we've ever waited more than six minutes for the next car to arrive.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: bauskern

                      I'm not disputing your verdict that "the Metro system in Paris is ridiculously easy to navigate." I'm simply asking posters on this board to put their expertise to work on my behalf. (I assure you I pay it forward when others post on the boards where I have some expertise.)

                      Please think of one or two of your favorite restaurants and ask yourself if it qualifies as one-change away from a stop on the #10 line. Or simply pick five restaurants from the list I've already supplied.

                      1. re: Indy 67

                        We've eaten at Les Papilles and Terroir Parisien-both very good. Heard good things about ZGB and going to dans les Landes next week. I also recommended Metropolitian up thread.

                        1. re: macdog

                          Based on what I'm seeing on the Fork web site and LWH02's post, you might want to clarify the Dans Les Landes situation.

                          1. re: Indy 67

                            Hmmm, interesting about Dans les Landes. I also noticed I couldn't reserve on thefork.com. That would explain it. I can relate to your wanting to walk to restaurants at night. My husband works all day when we are in Paris and I usually have walked many miles during the day. From the 3rd we can access and walk to many great spots. Les Papilles can be reserved by email. You also need to confirm by phone on the day of your reservation.

                        2. re: Indy 67

                          Fortunately, or unfortunately, I'd say about 60 % of the restaurants recommended on this board correspond to the demand 'a stop on the #10 line'.

                          Have fun.

                          1. re: vielleanglaise

                            Vielleanglaise can you please recommend me a Michelin lunch experience perhaps 2 starred? I want to get
                            the experience of a starred restaurant at a lunch budget

                          2. re: Indy 67

                            I was simply suggesting that geography should not be a limiting factor, since it is so easy to get around via public transportation. The other thing that I learned on our just-concluded trip to Paris is that for all the pre-trip obsessing and worrying that we have picked just "the right" restaurants, there is no guarantee that each restaurant will live up to your expectations, regardless of how highly other people review it [such was our experience on our first night, where the restaurant that was the hardest to get into/most expensive wound up sadly being the most disappointing], and sometimes it is the spontaneous choice that yields the best results (for us, that was Mary Celeste). So regardless of whatever list you finally settle on, please leave some room for spontaneity and surprise.

                        3. I like Metropolitian in the 4th (St. Paul area). Nice walk from where you are staying and you can reserve online at thefork.com

                          1. From your list I'd pick Sola and Le Sergeant Recruteur. If you want to expand into the 7th, I'm a fan of Es, Garance and Toutain.

                            1. IMO Itineraires is one of the best in Paris and very reasonably priced for the quality.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jock

                                I'm also a big fan of Itinéraires. The lunch menu is one of the best bargains in Paris.

                              2. Stick to your guns, Indy. You have lots of options in a 15-minute walking radius of Maubert-Mutualité. And personally, I as a local rarely use the métro ... I simply resent every second underground and much prefer the bus, Vélib bikes, or taxis. I'm not a big fan of walking to get from A to B but do love exploring this or that quartier on foot.

                                And it does no good to fuss too much about restaurant choices. No matter how much research you do, there's no guarantee that this or that restaurant will live up to expectations on the day of your meal. Stick a pin in your list, flip a coin, etc.

                                For a foodie experience, most of your choices are excellent. Agree that Fish La Boissonnerie has become less good. I'm less bullish on ZKG than John Talbott and ParisbyMouth but to each his own. I don't know why some have doubts on the original Terroir Parisien ... IMHO, it has maintained its qualilty and there is no need to make a trek to the newer branch at the Bourse in the 2nd. I love the new Sergent Recruteur but I would hardly characterize the cuisine as traditional as a previous poster has... it's wonderfully modern and artsy (and expensive).

                                You might like to broaden your modern French focus with a few more trad and down-to-earth places like Les Pipos on the rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève @ rue de l'Ecole Polytechnique, la Cuisine de Philippe on the rue Vaugirard @ rue Servandoni, and La Ferrandaise on the rue Vaugirad @ rue Monsieur le Prince.

                                2 Replies
                                  1. re: Parnassien

                                    Thanks for your understanding. And thanks, especially, for the recommendations of the traditional down-to-earth places.

                                  2. How did humans ever travel before the internet.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: pedalfaster

                                      I have vivid memories of having bought a weighty copy of Cook's Train Timetable Book and pouring over painfully small tables to plan a trip that zig-zagged across Wales including visits to the border towns of England. Restaurants were a largely impenetrable mystery until we arrived at our destination and looked at posted menus. Rosy color memory may be distorting my recollections, but I can't recall a bad meal in France in those early travel days. There was always at least one amazing dish and no total meal was worse than really appealing.

                                      1. re: Indy 67

                                        I used Let's Go Europe in the '70's. I still remember our meal at Chartier and watching the regulars grab their stored silverware. It came highly recommended in Let's Go France, Paris section.

                                        1. re: Indy 67

                                          The days spent browsing "Cooks" brings back memories of trips planned and taken and far more planned but never taken.

                                          1. re: PhilD

                                            Was John Talbott around before the internet?

                                      2. If you're staying close to the Maubert metro stop, you're a stone's throw (well, just across the Seine) from the 1er and the 4e.

                                        Don't be put off by the metro. It is easy to navigate (even for those of us over 70) and opens up a whole new world of dining/shopping!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: ChefJune

                                          We'll be in the 1st at Spring and the 4th at Sergent Recruteur. Also, we'll be all over the city during the day and I have restaurant names in all the arrondissements.

                                          In that context, I remain truly mystified by the hornets' nest I've stirred up by my query about eating dinner relatively locally. Although there's some disagreement on the degree of enthusiasm over some names on my list, the consensus is that the list is good. Since I'll be avoiding tourist traps... Since I'll be avoiding places whose glossy factor outweighs its food factor... Since I'll be including a mix of traditional cuisine and modern cuisine... Since I'll be including a mix of Michelin stars and highly idiosyncratic kitchens... I fail to comprehend the crime/waste I'll be committing with my relatively local choices.

                                          I'll also point out that everyone admits restaurants can have an off night and that, despite a deservedly high reputation, there simply may be a mismatch between my palate and the chef's style. Those disappointments will be easier to take if I haven't compounded the problem with a longish commute.

                                          Thank you all for your passion. Thank you all for your pride in the Paris restaurant scene. Thank you for your continuing interest in my happiness.

                                          We'll be back to Paris. We'll stay in a different hotel in a different neighborhood. And we'll eat in a different group of local restaurants. And, then, we can hash out this problem all over again!

                                        2. Here's what I like to do when in Paris: pick one restaurant and go there every day. By the third time, there will be some camaraderie and they will recognize you upon entering. A much different experience than restaurant hopping. It can be near, cutting down on the transportation.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: rudeboy

                                            I do that with cafés and get myself adopted by a given café, wherever I go.
                                            Not so much restaurants. I favor small bistros with a limited, market-driven menu. If I eat there a third time in 3 days, I'll be eating the same food.

                                            1. re: rudeboy

                                              This even works over time. We visit several times a year and find that even after several months we are remembered, and, as you say, third time you're family, and fourth time, "Where've you been?".