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VegasGourmet suggested we start a running list of the JT food scale, a solid 5.5 of comfort food that is both unique to Paris as well as comforting.

A while back, VegasGourmet suggested that "perhaps we can develop an ongoing thread from you and your compatriots that can give us those, on the JT food scale, a solid 5.5 of comfort food that is both unique to Paris as well as comforting and accessible to those of us that do not have your expertise (and never will)." So here's my start:
Best price-quality of 2014 (derived by multiplying the Talbott 0-10 scores with the price of meals per couple) – best price quality is top – that is, Yard.
44 Yard
53 BAT
57 Le Servan
57 La Table de Cybele
59 Mangetout
66 L’Envie du Jour
67 Huitrier Regis
73 Bistro du Maquis
75 Bon Georges
75 Le Clown Bar
79 Will
83 La Maison de l’Amerique Latine
94 Jeremie
100 Kigawa
106 AT

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  1. What about restaurants open longer than a year or two? How are they accounted for on your scale? Specifically, you say fine things about ZKG, but they aren't on your list. I also don't see FISH, which is a pretty darn good food value. How do these "older" restaurants fit into what you want said? Help me out as I'm confused.

    2 Replies
    1. re: hychka

      If you'll read my post I said in 2014.
      Restaurants from 1800-2013 are way too many for me to handle - perhaps you can start a list.

      1. re: John Talbott

        Fear not. You will have no competition from me. I just have trouble comparing your apples to your former years' apples. Anyway, your advice has been excellent.

    2. I'm assuming when you state the price per couple that you're referring to lunch, not dinner?

      3 Replies
      1. re: Nancy S.

        Yes - to be clear - my prices are always per couple at lunch with 1 bottle of wine, no bottled water and 2 coffees.
        After that all bets are off.

        1. re: John Talbott

          I remember once a long time ago you posted the components of your rating scale. To keep us all on the same page, would you do that again?

          What goes into your "quality" rating? Food only? Any proportion given to decor? comfort? service?

          1. re: mangeur

            "components of your rating scale."
            Oh Lord, I insist it only has to do with food as opposed to my dear friend RofP who says "it's the total experience." (Ironically or logically we wind up at the same number).
            I had a discussion about rating ambiance, decor, welcome, service and such with my cherished friend and agitator, Parigi today. (We were in a place with much charm, a great host, prompt delivery of plates, great choice of items, terrific wines and ho-hum food.) Once again we wound up at the same number.
            When I do a 10 point rating and add it all up (and I'll let you, like hitchka, do the searches, I've got work to do) it turns out my gut rating is usually the same as a complicated system.
            Mangeur - go with your gut. The rest is fluff.

      2. Merci, JT.....

        Here's hoping that others will add...and I do concur with hychka.....some of those places in the 5th, 6th, and 7th (PY territory) that have been around for years....Le Tournebievre, L'Estrapade, Brasserie Bourbon....to name a few....Parnassien, in a recent thread, did bring up a few "old standbys" that might fit the mold of "5.5 +comfort"....

        2 Replies
        1. re: VegasGourmet

          "Le Tournebievre, L'Estrapade, Brasserie Bourbon"
          Huh? You lost me there, you never heard those out of my mouth or off my pen.

          1. re: John Talbott

            John....I did not say that you wrote about them....My point is that perhaps, you or other expats/locals, should do just that....and, in a recent thread on St Germain dining, Parnassien mentioned Bastide d'Opio that falls into what I would call 5.5 + comfort....a restaurant found on TA with a wide range of warm and inviting comments; both about the food and ambience and service, qualities that seem to be part of your numerical thoughtprocess.

        2. Not to get too mathematical, but I don't get your formula. Shouldn't it be the Talbott 0-10 score (higher score is better), divided by the price per couple (where the lower the cost, the better). Since price is now in the denominator, the lower the cost per meal, the higher the overall score. With your system, is it the lowest score that is the best (i.e. Yard wins with a 44). But high quality should account for a higher overall score? So there's a built-in contradiction to your formula, unless I'm missing something?

          2 Replies
          1. re: bauskern

            "Best price-quality of 2014 (derived by *multiplying* the Talbott 0-10 scores with the price of meals per couple) – best price quality is top – that is, Yard."\

            Please re-read the "Venerable"'s OP

            1. re: UPDoc

              I did read the OP, and that's where I got confused. Best food rating X highest price = best/most expensive. I don't think that's what this scale was looking to score; rather, the best meal per cost ratio. To me, it should be the ratio of "food quality score" divided by the cost per person, not multiplied.

              Please re-read the OP.
              * actually I'm not a big fan of numerical ratings period, so I'm not too invested in this!

          2. You are SO beloved John!

            How is Le Clown Bar?

            4 Replies
            1. re: Beach Chick

              JT,
              You need to go to Vegas and have VegasGourmet show you the town...he knows his food in LV.
              xo

              1. re: Beach Chick

                ...and the "chick" knows her Socal. :-)

              2. Having lots of trouble feeding my obsession for AT (aka "Restaurant AT Paris") despite searching chef name (Atsushi Tanaka) both here and at JT's blog.

                Finally figured it out by doing a search of the 5th and found http://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/..., but any posts here on CH?

                1 Reply
                1. re: non sequitur

                  I've been once for dinner and had an excellent experience, overall and food-wise. No-choice 85-euro menu, much of it with beautiful fish and veggies, the whole meal coming together with great balance between raw/ cooked, creamy/ tangy, fatty/ vegetal, fish/ meat. Also youthful enthusiastic but very accomplished service.

                  I would only caveat that it is very similar in style to Sola in the same area, which not everyone likes. Also, not a fit with your quest in the other thread for family-friendly and great value. It's a grown-up crowd, relatively austere space and we were at the table for well over 3 hours.

                  On coverage, there are a bunch of French-language reviews including an enthusiastic one from Pudlowski who gives it a heart. I'll try to link below - the pictures are helpful, even if you skip the text :

                  http://www.gillespudlowski.com/93542/...

                2. A great start and I applaud Talbott le Vénérable's efforts. But I've never been able to come to grips with any systematic analysis of restaurant quality. Often, such assessments are based on one-off snapshot experiences... given how often menus change, how there is sometimes a very different experience at dinner than at lunch (the usual time for a JT visit), and even the simple accident of which waiter you get and what particular dish you order, the restaurant graded at 5.5 (and indeed some that have scored even lower) may well be better than than than 8.0 one when it comes time for you to eat there.

                  It might be more reliable if the number of visits and number of dishes tried could also be included in the calculations. I simply don't trust judgments based on a single visit.

                  There are also lots of intangibles that can't be quantified. For instance, for me as a local who is a huge fan of the Paris lifestyle, "quartier"/ neighbourhood is also an essential consideration in my restaurant choices. I rarely choose a restaurant as a destination in itself. And am somewhat bewildered by tourists who distill Paris to just a bunch of tourist sites and a list of restaurants (including some in dull and lifeless quartiers) that sometimes hardly represent la vie parisienne. Weather is also a necessary consideration... so many restaurants turn into sweatboxes whenever the temperatures rise that I think a/c and/or terraces must also be included in the calculations.

                  30 Replies
                  1. re: Parnassien

                    "It might be more reliable if the number of visits and number of dishes tried could also be included in the calculations. I simply don't trust judgments based on a single visit.
                    Good point.
                    If one works for the NYT or Figaro or your company, one has the opportunity to eat many times at a place with many people especially as I did when I lived in Manhattan (for 25 years).
                    I once believed in this method, but on meeting real French food critics, was told "You go out once, you get what Mr. Normal (not Mr. President Normal) gets and you assess it."
                    30 years ago I just wrote places up descriptively, then people said "Rate them" and "Show us what wine" and then "break down the prices" and then "tell us to go or not go."
                    As Mangeur and others have said - "Pick your guru, read widely and trust but verify (I never thought I'd repeat that)."
                    Might you like to start giving us "the number of visits and number of dishes "?
                    John

                    1. re: John Talbott

                      I have a foot in both camps on the multi- visit debate. I think you can be categoric about the good or the bad, it's the ones in the middle that may need more visits.

                      If a place is very good, there is something about it that just sings. It's all falls into place and you know it will be consistent. A bad place is usually bad at everything, there are tried and tested signals that indicate it's never going to improve. A return visit would simply be masochism.

                      The ones in the middle are more tricky, the food that is not perfect, the service that is clunky, the loud or silent fellow diners etc ect are all variables that need to be rechecked before damming or praising a place.

                      Obviously one can be lucky or unlucky and thus get a totally false impression on one visit, but I think a seasoned diner can usually make a fairly accurate call.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        I sorta agree. But I and many other people are so subjective and peculiar that the intangibles which tend to become clearer over time are very important. For instance, the Ateliers Joel Robuchon... no argument that the food is good but the intangibles prevent me from liking it one bit. And on the other side of the coin, the intangibles make neighbourhood places like Taxi Jaune and Ober-Salé sing to me even if the cuisine is not mind-blowing.

                        I suppose if there was a stereotypical Chowhounder supplied by central casting, it would be easier to share our opinions more objectively. But there isn't. Fussy big-spenders, classic cuisine fanatics, lovers of the cutting edge, budget hunters, cutesy addicts, seasoned veterans, Paris virgins etc etc are all a part of our little world here.

                        1. re: Parnassien

                          Parn - I think you and I are alike. For me a restaurant is a total package of things. Bad food won't be improved by ambiance etc. but good food can be turned into a stunning meal because of the intangibles like the personality of the server, the company, hustle and bustle of the street, the warm breeze blowing through the window etc etc.

                          And so sitting on an overpriced terrace of a warm September evening watching the beautiful people greet friends after their lengthy holidays can make the most average Sancerre taste wonderful even on Boulevard Saint Germain.

                          And I totally agree that trying to satisfy abroad audience of readers is never easy, so best to stay true to oneself. If I like it I like it, if I don't I don't.

                          1. re: PhilD

                            Phil... we are indeed similar. And shhh, don't tell a soul but I actually enjoy some Costes restaurants... especially L'Avenue where one of the waitresses recently asked to have my baby... can't remember what I ate though. And (not Costes) Derrière... who other than very earnest types could not enjoy themselves there ? And those landmark cafés on the boulevard Saint Germain and boulevard Montparnasse where the glorious people-watching terraces don't make the nosh seem as mediocre as it usually is.

                            1. re: Parnassien

                              Yes, indeed the boys and girls of any Costes place can lift the heart.....I always admired the "view" at Georges it made the meals tolerable.

                        2. re: PhilD

                          Yes. But for those of us who have limited opportunities, one sour experience is enough to send us to another place we've longed to visit. There are too many restaurants to warrant repeated trials for the casual visitor. Paid reviewers are a different breed of cat and need to back up their opinions with repeat meals.

                          1. re: mangeur

                            Mangeur ...totally agree with both your points. Visitors do need to be relatively sure that hyped resto A will actually deliver the goods. And repeat visits are necessary by reviewers to make sure that initial opinions are not flukes or aberrations.

                            We locals have that advantage of trial-and-error. Serendipity and those eureka moments are such a joy (more so than a sure-thing) but tourists have a very different dynamic.

                            1. re: Parnassien

                              Having someone point the way does not eradicate finding one's own moment of joy. In fact, agreeing with a rave review is in itself quite alright.

                        3. re: John Talbott

                          JT, I certainly envy you for eating in all the places you do... and totally admire you for offering a refreshing tour off the well-rutted tourist trail. But I don't envy your burden of restaurant reviewing.

                          And you're right. Lots of people just want easy validation and to check off "the best of" on their list. The anguish that some folks seem to have in choosing very good resto A over very good resto B is all too common... and so unnecessary in Paris. But the mindset and fear-of-missing-out behind that anguish is, I suppose, intractable and relentless.

                          And a well-deserved compliment: yours is the ONLY English-language restaurant blog that I regularly read. So if you can appeal to this cynical local, you're doing a great job indeed. And when I coined you as "Le Vénérable" it was a signal of that respect. (But, um, where are my royalty checks ?)

                          1. re: Parnassien

                            (But, um, where are my royalty checks ?)
                            In the proverbial mail.
                            But seriously, if we all put in every post:
                            a rating
                            picture of the wine bottle
                            break down of prices based on welcome, design, décor, place-settings, 1st, main, cheese, dessert, coffee, etc.,
                            and whether we should go or not go
                            plus
                            the number of visits and
                            number of dishes tried,
                            I fear eyes would glaze over.
                            I agree that we all can do better and be more informative and helpful.
                            Happy Pentecote,
                            John

                            1. re: John Talbott

                              And lots of visitors can be helpful too, toward themselves, by using concrete terms to describe their request and by using the search function to gain at least an outline of the restaurant scene here, so that we have some ground to start on.

                              1. re: John Talbott

                                I think this is a place for discussion about restaurants and food, however silly it can get at times, not dumb ratings or classifications applied on extremely fleeting and subjective criteria. There's already enough of that everywhere, and I do believe it's a very misleading approach to restaurant-going. If we're beginning to sort things in little boxes, I'm definitely outta here.

                                Let's keep CH as informal as possible, please. Let's not make it a new TA or whatever.

                                This reminds me (remotely, thankfully) of the time when a famous other food board decided to launch a set of rules for restaurant bloggers (thus showing its utter misunderstanding of the true nature of Internet communications, whether we like the result or not). It was pathetic. And I even think some people took it seriously for a while.

                                1. re: Ptipois

                                  I take numerical ratings with a grain of fleur de sel.

                                  1. re: therealdoctorlew

                                    Well, either they mean something to you or they don't.

                                    1. re: Ptipois

                                      I just find it interesting that in two recent posts/requests for dining advice, that both Yard and Le Clown Bar show up . . . . . restos that had not appeared on anyone's "request list" for months. But now that they appear on JT's list with their numerical scores, all of a sudden people are interested in eating there. I don't think it's sheer coincidence. It's just like no-one had ever heard of Owen Roe's wines until Robert Parker started doling out the 90+ point scores . . . . .

                                        1. re: mangeur

                                          I do. In a recent query "Please help me decide" I think it's no coincidence that half of the list includes: AT, Bon Georges, & Clown Bar (all listed on JT's value ratings) and another recent post asks about Le Servan and Yard (again both listed by JT) -- restos that no-one was asking about two months ago.

                                          1. re: bauskern

                                            Confessing that I was being facetious. John has an enormous influence on Chow followers. One reason that we have so many "I can't decide" posts is simply because he dines out so frequently (daily?) and is so fair as to not promote favorites that readers face choosing from some 20 recs a month.

                                            As Frankie Pellegrino used to recite at Rao's, "What's good? It's all good. So what d'ya like to eat?"

                                            1. re: bauskern

                                              Not to detract from the Venerable's large and admiring audience on this board, but Servan, Clown, Yard and AT are hot new openings (or in the case of Yard and Clown, re-boots of existing places with new personnel in the kitchen).

                                              None of them would have been available for inclusion on anyone's wish list months ago. Since then though, all have had a good bit of coverage by trad, blogger, off- and on-line media, even in english.

                                              1. re: shakti2

                                                Indeed there are no secrets in Paris. Other reviewers/ bloggers hit the same new openings... usually French first, Japanese second (or so it seems), and then, with JT leading the charge, the English-language ones. Talbott's coverage is however more extensive than other English-language blogs/ reviews judging from a quick browse of many of them and he often includes neighbourhood gems discovered through word of mouth or serendipity.

                                                Unfortunately, not many Chowhounders really take advantage of his reporting. The standard trail remains pretty rutted and narrow with the same short list of places cited over and over and over. Indeed, it is refreshing and surprising that new places like Le BAT, Clown Bar and Yard rather than Spring, Saturne and Septime have suddenly started to appear on a few to-do lists.

                                                1. re: Parnassien

                                                  'Standard trail remains pretty rutted and narrow'

                                                  But what is the point of going to some obscure place your friends and neighbours back home have never heard of :)

                                                  1. re: shakti2

                                                    Shakti, You are oh so right !!

                                                    It's all about the snapshots and not the experience.

                                                    1. re: Parnassien

                                                      There is also the absurd notion of liking a restaurant enough to return over and over until it proves unworthy of your loyalty.

                                                      1. re: mangeur

                                                        'Liking a restaurant enough to return over and over'

                                                        Indeed this would be my 'defensive' approach in many places. But in Paris with its vibrant dining scene and (generally) high standards, and where the current wave of young chefs has been so very much to my taste ... well, my ability to remain faithful to old favourites isn't up to the temptation on offer !

                                          2. re: bauskern

                                            I already said that our Venerated One is a kind of king Midas.

                                    2. re: John Talbott

                                      John I am one of the few who seem to enjoy your attempt at numerical ratings and understand many of the fore-mentioned shortfalls of trying to do what you so heroically continue to attempt. Through the years I have learned to interpret your ratings and calibrate them in a manner that is useful to me...are they infallible, of course not but you are referred to as the "venerable" not the pope. Please just keep soldiering on.

                                      1. re: Laidback

                                        "Please just keep soldiering on." Yes, please!
                                        -- Jake

                                          1. re: mangeur

                                            "Dine on!"
                                            Right on!
                                            John is a bon vivant who is naturally helpful . I don't care if he rates the restaurants with Kungfu panda emoticans. He is notating his enjoyment for free, in case it helps others. If people find it helpful, they should be grateful. If it is not helpful, BFD.