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A Europe Virgin needing help

Ok first the disclaimer. I'm well traveled, but never been to Paris,France or Europe. I'm a casual foodie who considers Japan and Thailand as my favorite places for food. I've done some research (10 pages on the France forum here) and a few other Google searches. I don't speak any French and my wife is Thai. So communication will be difficult. All that said we are adventurous.

Specifics - arrive first week of October for 10 days. We're staying 5 nights

@ Radisson Blu Hotel Champs Élysées, 78bis Avenue Marceau (8 Arr), FR-75008, Paris

And 5 nights

The Westin Paris - Vendome, 3 Rue De Castiglione, Paris

I'm looking for

1. Splurge dinner @ a 3 Star
2. New Cutting edge ( JT type ), but w/o Asian influence
3. Great Value
4. List of 5 old classics not to be missed
5. Lively and rambunctious (people watching)

Appreciate any help!

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  1. 1. Splurge : my current favourite is le Meurice where the cuisine is very much to my taste - a nod to inspirations from Copenhagen, Tokyo etc, but very refined and unmistakeably French. Expect dinner 350 euros before drinks.

    2. Cutting edge : Yup, JT's your guy. But let me put a word in for the young Japanese chefs cooking French food in Paris - some of the plating and saucing is very interesting to someone who is familiar with Japanese food, but it is still unmistakeably French (certainly in terms of ingredients which aren't available in Asia except in very precious settings). This style isn't something you can readily find in Tokyo, where the market typically is for rather more trad food, even when the chef is a 'returnee' from France. Also for a 10-day stay, it is great option as feather-light refreshing food which a person can contemplate twice a day (whereas I'm usually knocked out by a single 'trad' meal).

    A nice pick would be Clandestino in the 12th where I've been recently after a number of repeated mentions by that well-known man-about-town Parnassien (or at least well-known about this board). 45 euros for a fixed-menu dinner, low-key low-fuss with a single very capable waiter for the whole room, no hysterics about booking way in advance.

    3. Great value : Oka in the 9th and Jin Xin Lou in the 13th. Modern french cooked by earnest young (non-French) chefs, fixed menus, approx. 35 euros at dinner, approx. 20 euros at lunch.

    4. Classics : if you like fish, la Cagouille in the 14th has been a very reliable Sunday lunch for my family and I. Great product, Med and Atlantic species which we admire greatly but seldom see in Asia, precisely-cooked, in a sunny room filled with prosperous older folks with families and pets. Perhaps 40 euros before drinks.

    5. For people-watching, I quite like le Voltaire in the 7th. Otherwise, try a well-established café just before meal times. Most neighbourhoods have a local favourite - a couple of particularly nice ones are le Progres in the 3rd and le Rostand just outside the Luxembourg gardens.

    Btw if I were going to the fuss of changing hotels mid-way through a visit, I'd try for a change of neighbourhood as well - western Paris isn't necessarily the best for 'casual foodies'.

    1. Agree with Shakti re Clandestino.

      One restaurant that unites 2, 3 and 5 would be Le Bat.

      The 16th has a host of good eateries where nobody goes. Since you have read 10 pages of posts on this board, he must not have missed Laidback's great reports on the 16th arrondissement's eating scene. Now that Shorty is safely off to Venice, I am too tired to retype recommendations, sorriest. If you missed Laidback's reports, they can be looked up easily.

      But except for Guimard's wowey architecture, there is not much there there for a tourist, and the only thing it is near to is trashy Champs Elysées.

      And I agree on Shakti's point about Japanese chefs but not just JAPANESE chefs.
      First of all, what these chefs do is French cuisine. Why object only to their Japanese-sounding name?
      Do you mean you really want a French cuisine that is "cutting edge" but not open to rest of the world ? How does that work ?

      1. Great replies. Thank you. I'm not against really anything. However I've lived in Asia for 25 years and had my share of Asian/French cooking. Is it the same as the recommendations on this board? I really don't know. Just thought for my first go I'd try and be sure to sample new things. I'll go back and review Laidback's posting.

        One thing I forgot was a "Hole in the Wall" place. Reeks of character, small, chalkboard for a menu kind of place......

        2 Replies
        1. re: fm2002

          With out-of-towners, my "hole in the wall" place would be the corny but right-kind-of-corny Au Pied de Fouet, the one on rue Babylone, not the one in St Germain.
          Or au Machon d'Henri, in St Germain.

          By oureselves, besides Angéla's Banh Mi and Urfa Durum and the good Shandong places cropping up here and there, I like the slapdash Portuguese lunch stand inside the excellent Marché St Quentin. You can't get more hole in the wall. You're inside a market ! The patronne loves to speak English because she loves Chicago blues, lol. -- As I said, lunch stand. Lunch only, ratherearly-ish lunch. And like all markets, this one closes at 1pm.

          Another place that comes to mind is the wine bar Le Rubis. Downstairs is a mad house. Upstairs is where they serve homecooking kind of dishes.

          Another sure bet for a "hole in wall" is to eat where the Parisian weekday lunch crowd eats. But alas those lunch crowd places are not created equal. But each arrondissement has quite a few.
          Two good ones near chez moi are Chez Jil on rue St Lazare and Le Laffitte on rue Laffitte. You can combine lunch here with a late morning walk on the very nice market street rue des Martyrs.
          I would not go to these weekday lunch-crowd places at night. Even though they are open, the dinner ambiance is gruesome.

          1. re: fm2002

            "One thing I forgot was a "Hole in the Wall" place. Reeks of character, small, chalkboard for a menu kind of place......"

            Chez Hamadi. However well-travelled you are, you've never been to a place like this. Never.

            One notch further, you may try Mardin Çorba Salonu, a 3-euro soup shop where you can get fantastic iskembe çorbasi (beef tripe soup thickened with egg and lemon sauce) from 7 AM to 10 PM nonstop.

            Le Bougainville for a non-self-conscious, beautiful Paris troquet (corner bistro) like all of them should be.

          2. What is "JT type" ?

            1. I would look at Gagnaire if they have the fall "hunting" menu ready by that time.
            5. Brasserie Thoumieux, Café Lazarre, Brasserie de Paris

            9 Replies
            1. re: Maximilien

              "What is "JT type" ?"

              Cutting edge that is not Le Châteaubriand ?

              1. re: Ptipois

                Question to OP re JT type: are you looking for food that is pushing the envelope or for newly opened restaurants that few have visited or reviewed yet?

                1. re: mangeur

                  Mangeur, Pti: how can you get it so wrong ? We have all lunched with JT. The OP obviously means any place with loudly laughing Americans.

                  1. re: Parigi

                    ...and I thought the OP used "JT" to refer to Japanese/Thai!

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      ""JT" to refer to Japanese/Thai"
                      Is that what JT means ? I had no idea.

                      1. re: Parigi

                        This is like listening to the surgical team come by your hospital room and all 12 medical students, residents, fellows and cutters talk over your head as if you're not there.
                        Guys, I go, I taste, I write, I decide and then Colette makes a decision about a resto's merit.
                        I do not consider myself at the cutting edge; - friends, cherished friends, have told me "no more Claude Colliot, no more David Toutain, John, I like traditional stuff. Well, I do too. It's quite surprising that a senile, limpy, old guy is seen as too far out in front. Long live longevity!

                        1. re: John Talbott

                          But John, with apologies to Flip Wilson, you have to admit that you have replaced Reverend Leroy as pastor of the Church of What's Happening Now.

                    2. re: Parigi

                      Well for the record I'm American, but not! Unless a once a year visit to see Mom for the last 25 years still qualifies me.

                    3. re: mangeur

                      Good question. The easy answer is both. I guess the latter "newly opened" I have to be careful because of my communication limitations. I'm not a rich man so I would think the "pushing the envelope" would have to be limited to a select few.

                2. I'll jump in -- two years ago, for "great value" we had an amazing tasting menu at Le Galopin . . . six course meal for roughly 46 euros apiece, wine not included. Delicious Kobe beef dish; superb sea food course with the best squid I'd ever eaten; two desserts; very friendly service. Truly a great meal, and an exceptional value. For lively, and for just hanging out with locals, I'd recommend either Le Mary Celeste (great cocktails, and the food -- small plates -- was excellent), or Le Barav, a great neighborhood bar/wine shop. In our case, we always stay in the 11th/3rd area, so it was an easy 7 minute walk to the bar where we were treated just like the locals. Some chowhounds might say that it's not worth the travel from where you're staying, but I'll defer to their expertise. If you're a wine lover, I'd go to Le Barav; if you're into funky cocktails, I'd go to le Mary Celeste.

                  1. Cutting edge: David Toutain in the 7th is the hot cutting edger of the moment but I also have a great liking for Akrame on the rue Lauriston in the 16th (just 500 metres from the Radisson Blu). The travel guide favourite is Chateaubriand in the 11th but I find it to be a heaven-or-hell kind of place.

                    Michelin-starred. There is absolutely no consensus so it's up to you to sift through the 1000s of reviews of the nine 3-star, 15 2-star and 68 1-star restaurants. A glowing review of one place does not necessarily mean that it's better than the others... very very very few reviewers are able to provide a good comparative assessment. And often it seems more like absurd theological debate when there are differences. Like Shakti, my favourite of the moment is Le Meurice because not only is the food superb (as expected at any 3-star) but also the over-the-top decor and clientele give it a fun factor that many of the others don't have... but oops, soooooooo expensive. Of the 2-stars, Le Cinq for the fun factor, le Grand Véfour for the history, and Michel Rostang for its French rather than international sensibility. Of the one-stars, La Grande Cascade (which also gets bonus points for its "Frenchness" and for the exceptionally good price-quality ratio for dinner ).

                    5 old classics not be missed. There are no unmissables in Paris simply because hundreds of very good restaurants occupy very similar points on the quality spectrum. But for classic cuisine, my faves of the moment include: Chez Denise on the rue des Prouvaires in the 1st... carries on the Halles tradition of being open until 5am Mon to Fri (originally to serve the vendors and porters of the long gone-central market), has a time-warp decor and menu, and aproned waiters full of sarcastic humour if you give them the right cues; Au Bon Coin on the rue Collégiale in the 5th, especially for the calves liver; Le Taxi Jaune on the rue Chapon in the 3rd... everything a neighbourhood bistro should be; Le Petit Pascal on the rue Pascal in the 13th on the border with the 5th; Les Pipos on the rue Montagne Ste-Geneviève in the 5th... lots of character and honest food... and, on Fri and Sat, live trad music; Le Stella on the avenue Victor Hugo...a brasserie of great character that fully represents this particular (and very affluent) neighbourhood... great people-watching... a sentimental favourite for me because of many family meals here. Of course my list will be different next week but for now it's fine.

                    1. I'm adding a vote for David Toutain.
                      Although it does contain a few asian influences, it is nothing like the fusion you expect (even when it is well done like at "Ze Kitchen Galerie").
                      Although there a bunch of cutting edge places, from my experience this is the one that is the most original and with the chef's personality shining throughout the food.

                      For both great value and (somewhat) classic, I also strongly recommend "La Régalade". (not an original recommendation, but it just never disappoints (the original in the 14th at least)).

                      For the 3 star, like Parnassien said, it depends on a lot of factors... Would you want this splurge to also be cutting edge, or more Grand & Classical experience ? Or just great fun ?

                      1. "2. New Cutting edge ( JT type ), but w/o Asian influence
                        3. Great Value"
                        Yard. 18 E for three courses, wine beginning at 21 E, coffee 2 E.
                        My second time today and terrifically new (lovage with the coques), refreshing (cold beets or tuna and cucumbers) and yet classic (sweetbreads, chocolate mousse).
                        A winner to be sure and although I'm advised against using the "pesky" name, there weren't any.

                        1. Have my restaurant schedule pretty much done;

                          Sunday arrival - nothing reserved and most restaurants are closed anyway on Sundays
                          Monday - La Grande Cascade dinner with 40% discount by booking thru thefork
                          Tuesday - lunch @ Akrame
                          Wednesday - still open
                          Thursday - dinner @ Le Cinq
                          Friday - dinner @ Au Pied de Fouet
                          Saturday - lunch @ Le Barav & dinner @ Le Bat
                          Sunday - still open
                          Monday - dinner @ David Toutain
                          Tuesday - dinner Le Maurice
                          Wednesday - depart and start thinking about my poor credit card

                          What do guys/gals think?

                          26 Replies
                          1. re: fm2002

                            Looks like a good fit with what you set out to do. My 2 cents -

                            - Add more casual/ modern meals to punctuate the 3 stars/ tasting menus. 5 large long meals over 10 days isn't unreasonable if you know that's what you like, but varying the routine will allow you to approach each meal with anticipation, rather than feeling like a forced march to the next production. You can combine meal time with exploring a neighbourhood - rue de Bretagne in the 3rd, rue des Martyrs in the 9th, the market area around place Aligre in the 12th, Batignolles in the 17th, Canal St. Martin in the 10th all have a nice mix of boutiques, food shops, restaurants, wine bars, cafes. Or handier to sight-seeing in central Paris, perhaps the area around the Palais Royale or the one in between the Luxembourg gardens and St. Germain.

                            In the 3rd I like Clown Bar and Aux Deux Amis, in the 9th, Caillebotte and Braisenville, but if you do a search, Parnassien has produced many love poems to these neighbourhoods in the past, with detailed recommendations. Just bear in mind that small popular restaurants in these areas do get slammed at peak meal-times and weekends - reservations are required.

                            - Go for lunch at Meurice and le Cinq rather than get too pained over your credit card. If you are prepared to eat a fixed menu at David Toutain, you should do fine with the fixed/ limited-choice lunch menus at the other restaurants - the difference between the lunch vs. dinner experience isn't perceptible except to a person who lives for 3-star restos.

                            1. re: shakti2

                              You read my mind. The funny thing is most of time I plan the sights I want to see and than work in the meals. This time is just the opposite. I thought, maybe wrongly, that reservations way in advance would be needed. Doesn't seem to be the case. Anyway this is why I have mostly dinners and not lunches as I'm not sure yet where I'll be during the day. I did book places near whichever hotel I'm in. Thank you very much for your neighborhood recommendations. I agree with your philosophy. I'm not a "see Europe in 10 days" traveller and would rather wander the streets and fall into a nice little place. I will take your neighborhood recommendations to heart and see if I can find a few hidden gems.

                            2. re: fm2002

                              Very good list, but Shakti explains very well the seemlingly over-representation of starred places, especially for adventurous "casual foodies" as you describe yourselves.
                              1. I would sneak Saturne in the list. It is near your second hotel and is modern without being "JT". -- I have one consistent problem with this restaurant that I otherwise like very much. - the sommelier. For this restaurant that has a wowey floor-to-celing wine display, I keep getting disappointing advice from the sommelier. Let's hope it's just I.
                              2. Au Pied de Fouet, make certain you go to the rue Babylone one, and not the rue St Benoit one. The former has retained its lovely neighborhoodly feel. The latter is tourist central and the service duly suffers from it. It's the "Café des Musées" syndrome.
                              3. Sunday. My go-to good casual bistros are Le Richer (go early as it does not take reservation), Le Café des Musées (I have always managed to escape bad service probably because I go for Sunday lunch, with its much lower-key and more local ambiance, and the waitstaff acts much less stressed and are more patient, but that's just my experience), Jeanne B rue Lepic (dependable roast poulet Challan and home-made foie-gras, plus a great area of the Butte Montmartre for a pre- or post-meal walk).

                              1. re: Parigi

                                Do you think the wine issue at Saturne is the focus on natural wines?

                                I remember the white tried there was despicable despite high praise from the sommelier. I admit I am skeptical about natural wines, so I may be biased, but they never fail to give me a horrible headache.

                                1. re: PhilD

                                  Ha ! I'm not the only one.
                                  But I have had natural wines elsewhere that I liked.

                                  1. re: Parigi

                                    I have had some very nice ones as well - but they all seem to bite back the next day.

                                2. re: Parigi

                                  Parigi - Saturne looks nice. I'll try and do a lunch there. Yeah I read about rue Babylone is the far better one. Thank you for your Sunday suggestions. Wasn't sure yet where to eat than.

                                  1. re: Parigi

                                    "is modern without being "JT"."
                                    I saw that even under the Bárðarbunga eruption.
                                    "JT" is eclectic not post-Modern, he told me himself.

                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                      Totally agree with this self-assessment. Maybe he/she/they meant "JT modern" versus his traditional gems or "modern in general".

                                    2. re: Parigi

                                      Le Cafe des Musees looked nice, but I see they'll be reopening Sept. 1 with I quote them "new direction and new decoration". Has ownership changed?

                                        1. re: Ptipois

                                          Let's hope, things went downhill recently.

                                          1. re: John Talbott

                                            Prospective diners should also be aware that the ambiance is different during different days and times. e.g., Sunday lunch seems to be local and calm, while dinners can be visitor and noisy.

                                          2. re: Ptipois

                                            I'm not sure if Pti or Mangeur have been since Monday but I went today and I'm sad to say it's not become fabulous.

                                            1. re: John Talbott

                                              Thanks JT for the report. Saved me from a wasted afternoon........

                                              1. re: John Talbott

                                                That is indeed taking one for the forum, John.

                                                With it's location in wildly popular Marais, I think that it will still remain tourist central except for maybe the traditional Sunday lunch.

                                                1. re: John Talbott

                                                  O no !
                                                  It was my go-to lazy Sunday lunch spot when Candelaria suddenly decided to open an hour or two late, which happened more than once.

                                                  1. re: Parigi

                                                    Look guys, maybe it was me, my pal, the cloudy weather, the bungabunga volcano.

                                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                                      And maybe it was what was on your plate. Until we hear otherwise, your caution stands.

                                                      1. re: mangeur

                                                        The Japanese couple next to us had beef and frites that looked pretty good.

                                                        1. re: mangeur

                                                          They just opened. They need to settle in. Give them a break, as should be given to any new opening with a new management. Maybe they'll get better.

                                                      2. re: Parigi

                                                        There's still Jeanne B. and Clamato

                                              2. re: fm2002

                                                I think it maybe worth having a couple of Sunday options in your sights, few are open which means more competition for tables.

                                                1. re: fm2002

                                                  Auberge de Bressane or L'Assiette or Pramil for Sunday might be worthy addition for you.

                                                  1. re: fm2002

                                                    Not eat on Sunday? Quelle horreur.
                                                    Try Clamato and Jeanne B.

                                                    1. re: fm2002

                                                      For the "splurge"....I would look at the Hotel Bristol's two restaurants....we chose the one-star brasserie, Le 114 Faubourg over Epicure....it was a combination of comfort with class. The service, from the time that you walk through the front door of the hotel, are escorted to Le Bar for drinks, and then escorted to the restaurant and your table...the quality is undeniable. The artichoke soup with pan seared fois gras, I tried to eat as slowly as possible. Any main would be excellent. The sommelier was excellent (with no upsell), and the choice was perfect. I think that combination of ambiance, service, and quality and presentation of product made for a lovely "splurge."