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Trip report: Paris July 2014

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(followup for this post: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/980398
)Breakfast was provided by hotel.

Day one:
Lunch Le Cinq. Arrived early and had iced tea in the bar. Nice combination of tea, a small sprig of mint, orange slice, lemon slice and a small piece of mild cinnamon bark. Very refreshing after several hours of walking about. Lunch: "4" course. Starts with two amuse bouche: Not sure that my notes have everything right but I have down it was a honeydew bisque with an octopus slice and a root vegetable chip (maybe taro?). This was a great choice for a light starter. The second one was a lobster medallion over lobster jelly with mango, lemon and an apple foam. Again, nice light dish, good but not extraordinary.
First course: Tomato two ways. One was a plated terrine/aspic(?) with tomato layer, clam with tarragon layer, apple/cucumbers layer, more tomatoes. Garnishes on top were a little streaks of pureed kalamata olives and on the plate pistachio and mint. This was a bit difficult to eat, the layers cam apart if you tried to cut into it and it got messy quickly. Very good, but again, nothing out of the ordinary about it. Second way the tomatoes were served was in layered in a parfait glass, green puree on bottom, then yellow (I think with mango?), red, some type of whipped topping (the waiter said it had coconut, so maybe that is where the coconut was?) Difficult to eat out of the serving dish,even with an iced tea spoon, and I barely got a taste of the bottom layer. This was served half frozen (I think intentionally?) but was almost too cold to taste the flavors on top. the bottom was not as frozen.
Second course. Pea stew (not what they called it but the best descriptor), with raw almonds and smoked mushrooms. Had three spoonfuls and stopped. IMO, the smokiness of the mushrooms clashed with the fresh green taste of the peas. Other people seemed to like it, judging from surrounding tables, but it did not work for me. They did kindly offer to give me something else, but at this point I'd realized I had ordered too large a meal and declined their offer.
Third course: Went with sea bass over the lamb (if you go for the five course option you got both the fish and the meat course). It was served over a grain risotto (not quinoa, but another ancient grain I didn't recognize) with little bits of squid chopped up and added to the 'risotto'. Best dish by far. The textures of the fish and the grains and the squid all worked really well together. I don't have notes on what the exact flavors were, just mightily enjoyed the food.
Fourth course (by which time I was, unfortunately, pretty full): Apricot sorbet which ensconced a pistachio mousse which had been flash frozen. This was accompanied by a tray of 6 mini tarts, of which I only tried the strawberry. Both desserts were quite tasty, but I didn't get to enjoy them fully. They also brought around the their candy/chocolate cart but I regretfully declined. Price for lunch with still water, tea and 4 course meal: 175e
Dinner: Cosi sandwich shop, St. Germain. Tuna & Pesto, bottle of water. 8.5e (went from one extreme to the other!)

Day 2: Taste of St. Germain tour in the morning - which I enjoyed greatly, but in hindsight was a tad costly.
Late lunch: Erik Kaiser Boulanger, Sandwich and drink 5.7e (sorry, didn't note what sandwich)
Dinner: Galla del Oro (Italian). Went because I have not been able to find handmade gnocchi here and it's my favorite. When I placed my order, I was told they'd sold out of gnocchi. After expressing my dismay, the owner/manager(?) asked me to hold on a minute, came back and said they had just enough to make an appetizer portion of whichever version I wanted. Unbelievably nice of them!! Went with San Rafael - a bacony ham in a cream sauce. Very good, very filling. I also ordered their special of the night - calamari and shrimp in a red sauce with chick peas over linguine. Not nearly as good. While most of the calamari were perfect, the one or two over cooked pieces, and an off piece of shrimp made this less than stellar. I ended up eating only about a third of this dish. Had a glass of white wine and still water with the meal. 32e. I would definitely go back on another trip - they were unbelievably nice, I'd just be a bit more careful on what I ordered and the quantities.

Day 3:
Lunch: L'Affable. (Although I took a bus and explored the city some, I ended up eating back close to the hotel.) I didn't have a lunch reservation, and this was the last day of service before they closed for holiday, but they fit me in. 2 course and a glass of wine. First course: pork pate. What I'd refer to a county style - chunky and served with cornichons. I really enjoyed it. 2nd course: a white fish (lieu noir according to the picture of the board I took) over a carrot puree with pea shoots and browned butter. Really nice combination of textures and flavors, although the puree was thin enough it was hard to eat with a fork. 40e (lunch and a glass of wine)
Dinner: KGB - the BEST meal of the trip. Something to note about this restaurant is your choices are only which fixed price menu you want - you have no clue about what you are going to get (although they do ask about allergies and food preferences). There is a 8 course tasting and a 12 course miniplates option (gastronomic tapas to use their words). The 12 course, although all mini, is more food and having learnt my lesson I went with the smaller option.
First service: 4 mini appetizers, which you are told you should eat in order. Mine were: A) pork broth with licorice. It was amazing. Hints of roasted sesame and soy in it. The licorice was a subtle note I barely noticed. B) Grilled eel with fresh herbs - I'm sure there was more to this than my notes indicate, but it was also really good. C) Fried duck wonton over a slaw of zucchini strips. Great contrast of textures and sharp/sweet. D) Poached egg over broccolli puree with curry. This looked a bit like congee (not my favorite dish) but again, totally exceeded what I thought it would taste like. Poached egg was perfect - whites firm with the egg yolk still liquid (almost syrup like).
Second service: Razor clam over a fish (sorry! no note on what kind!) with peas, a ginger foam, roasted baby squash. There was a bit of some oil lightly drizzled on the dish and three spots of a sirracha like sauce in the plate along with a light sauce the fish was cooked in. Amazing.
Third service: Grilled pork confit with onion and galagal. I was a bit worried about this dish as the meat was tough to cut, but after the first bite I was hooked. Around the edges of the plate there were drizzles of a hoisin like sauce, spots of a plum puree and peanuts. Three kinds of onions: grilled scallion, roasted small red onion and 3 pickled onion petals. Never had fresh galagal leaves before. All amazing.
Fourth service: A deep chocolate mouse with orange cream and a seaweed looking crisp in one dish and a nut (something like a cashew) sorbet with citrus and apricot. The only drawback I had with this was eating the dark chocolate first, the flavor carried over to the second dessert. Which was probably intentional, but as the first thing I ate off that plate was a small piece of grapefruit - which had me grabbing my water as the combo was to potent for me. After that initial clash it was a perfect ending and a great light dish to end the meal.
Dinner, with still water and 2 glasses of wine: 70.8e

Day 4:
Lunch: Little Breizh (again was out of neighborhood in the morning, but hit a local spot for lunch). Ham and egg buckwheat crepe - very tasty, small sweet cider, sugar 'regular' crepe for dessert. This was over the weekend so no lunch special pricing. Tap water. 15.4 e.
Dinner: Les Climats 2nd best food. So, you'd think given I'd had too much food each time I'd ordered the full service set menu I'd learned my lesson, right. Wrong. I not only ordered the full service, but I decided to go with the wine option - they did say it was a tasting of each wine with each course. Yes, after this I learned my lesson. So, five course:
pre: a plate with 3 items, a parmasean crisp (sorry for misspelling), a cheese puff and a fine cheese pastry shaped into a 'B' with kalamata olives filling the holes (looked a lot like sunglasses to me :-). Then a small serving of smoked mushrooms served on top of a cold cream sauce. Unlike Le Cinq this worked well.
First: Crabmeat over a cold aspic. This was really good, and the flavors very bright. This was served with a full glass of a light white wine (no notes on the wine, sorry).
Second: Fish (I think it was sea bass again, no notes) over seasonal veggies in a sauce which was out of this world. Seriously, everyone around me was spooning it up to the last drop. The wine with this one had a higher alcohol content I think, half way through this glass (another full glass) I got that head punch of a tad too much to drink. Now, I'm not a light weight, but I'm not a hard head either - three glasses over the course of a dinner is about my limit. Getting hit hard after two surprised me. (which makes me wonder over the second wine)
Third: Marinated and grilled flat iron steak (at least that what they call it here, not sure how it was described on the menu). Again, excellent. The gentleman at the table to my right used his bread to sop up every drop of the again amazing sauce. Served with a red wine which I only took a couple of sips of, was starting to feel a bit snookered.
Fourth: My big mistake. The menu was for a warm goat cheese salad, but I'd passed by their amazing cheese cart on my way to the table and asked if there was any way I could substitute cheese for this course. (Yes, for an additional fee). So, slightly sloshed, I got two of the stinkier cheeses, a blue, a goat and a (conte?). The lady on my left commented something along the lines of 'when in France!' when she saw the cart come over. However, after a couple of bites of the stinkiest of the cheeses, a washed rind which was amazing, I wasn't feeing too hot. I switched to the lighter cheeses and things did not get better. While I didn't get ill, I did have to stop eating (and excuse myself to run cold water over my wrists to help fight the nausea). Two very nice ladies asked me if I was okay while I was in the bathroom.
Went back to the table and could not eat a bit of the dessert, don't even have a note on what it was. Sat for a bit, felt a bit better (not enough to eat - the waiter came back and confirmed I did not want the dessert wine) - and got the check and left. The couple to my left, (with the woman who said 'when in France') asked if I had far to go, when I told them only a couple of blocks they wished me well.
167e.
(when I got back to the hotel I had them cancel my reservation for dinner Sunday, as I'd gone way over budget with this meal). I'd definitely go back what I did eat was really good. But no wine!

Day 5:
Lunch: After a morning of dealing with crowds at D'Orsay, I planned to go to Cuisine de Bar. My directions got mixed up and I went blocks the wrong way before realizing, then turned around. On my way to the right address, I passed an open air market and picked up a chickpea cake, cooked on a griddle and served with tahini. 3.6e. Then, when I got to cuisine de bar, they were closed for holiday (glad I got that griddle cake!) On the way back I passed by a busy bakery so I stopped in for lunch there.
Lunch: Le Pain Quotidien (a bio (organic) bakery). Waffle with fruit, raspberry lemonade, small chocolate tart, expresso. Everything was very tasty. The waffle was about half the size of an american waffle, and had chunks of sweeter bits in it, not sure if these were sugar or something else they added, but it was very good. The raspberry lemonade was a bit too tart for my American tastes, but still very refreshing after all the walking I had just done. 14.6e
For those who haven't been, there are two rooms, each with a large communal table in the middle where they seat larger groups at either end (and medium sized ones in the middle), and several small 1-2 person tables around the edges. The menu is set up to make it easy to share things too, not so great for a single diner (but you can find stuff.) For instance you can get a bread basket (~9e) to share (which comes with butter and your choice of up to three spreads) then also get things like some ham, or salmon or a soft boiled egg. I think if I was with my family in a nearby hotel which didn't serve breakfast this place would be a no brainer. Open 8h-20h
Dinner: Sandwich at Cosi - speck with ricotta and citrus. No water, because they have glasses and a tap upstairs (which I didn't know first time) 5.6e

Day 6:
Again took a bus to explore a neighborhood and this time I stayed and ate there. :-)
Lunch: Jadis. So, maybe I didn't learn my lesson and I ordered the three course option off their lunch menu. More on that later.
First course: Cured Salmon Caesar salad. The pork pate looked good, but with going with three items I wanted something lighter for the first course. This salad was huge, with almost as much salmon as lettuce. (cured salmon is basically 'lox'). After I got this I changed my last course from the cheese plate to Mystery dessert. (see, I learned something). Lightly dressed, really good.
Second course: Daily special of roast lamb. Crisp outside, tender inside, a little more well done than I usually like, but very tasty. A great sauce with hints of rosemary and black pepper came with this, along with beans and grilled eggplant. A very solid dish.
Dessert: Mystery dessert is an ice cream dessert named mystery after a childhood dish of the same name (I thought it was a changing dessert, but it's the same all the time). It's a small log with nuts on the outside, plated on over a drizzle of citrus/orange sauce then drenched in chocolate sauce when presented at the table. In the middle of the log is a filling of chocolate and perhaps hazelnuts.
Three course with still water, a glass of wine and expresso 43e.

Dinner: Last night and I was very full from lunch, so I went back to Le Pain Quotidien. Got cafe creme, the bread basket and ham on the side. I intentionally got too much bread, as I wanted to take some with me for the morning (had to leave at 6 am). This was a solid meal, nothing exceptional, but more than met my needs. At the end of the meal - right before they closed at 20h, I said I understood that taking food with you was not typically done, but if I could please have a bag for the bread, as I was leaving early and would like to try to keep it. They were very nice, even said better to take it with you as it's going in the bin after you leave (although a bit more politely than that.). No memo of the cost on this one.

And... that's it.
No, wait, sorry, one more comment: When I was at Jadis, they mentioned they have a sister restaurant - Aux Verres de Contact at 52 Bd St. Germain. The manager mentioned at their set menu dinner runs a little less than Jadis's (31 for dinner, while Jadis is 34). It's run by the wife of the chef of Jadis, so a family operation. Didn't make it there, but thought I'd bring it up.

Okay, that's it. :-) Thanks for all the help and tips!

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  1. Many mercis for your great report... and with prices ! I'm nominating you for model Chowhounder of the month. :)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Parnassien

      :blush: I only added them because I know when I'm looking it's helpful to have a ball park idea.

      I will add this averaged to about 100e a day, and if I had skipped Le Cinq and the wine at Les Climats I would have been close to 75e a day, not an unreasonable budget for eating every lunch/dinner out in Paris (assuming I replaced Le Cinq with something around 75e.). But I did go for some very inexpensive meals, and some fairly expensive ones, not a route everyone will want to take.

      My takeaway: I do think, if you're willing to go the one cheap meal a day (8e-16e, i.e at a boulanger/beard shop or creperie or sandwich shop) and choose to eat your more expense meal at lunch/or scope out less expensive fixed menu places (30-45e, Jardin & many, many places mentioned on this board!) you can get by with less per a day, but you'll have to accept not every meal is going to be a 'wow' meal. Many will be better than decent, yes. Wow, maybe not. It's a balance/decision each traveler has to make themselves. If you do want 'wow' for most meals, you are going to have to up your budget. Or at least that's my impression after just a week. :-)

      1. re: AHA64

        Thank you so much for reporting back.

        Thank you so much for reporting back. (I have to write this twice as the new brain-dead Chowhound format obscures the first few words of all replies with the time stamp.)

        Perhaps new travelers should bear in mind that price that one pays at Le Cinq goes to pay for many elements. Food is only one of the elements. The whole experience is celebratory. Whether one enjoyes it depends on why one goes there. I would not go there with the expectation that if a resto costs 4 times as much as another resto, it is necessarily 4 times as good.
        But it is nice to have a Le Cinq experience once in a while, no ?

        As for Le Pain Quotidien, it is a strictly breakfast place for me. I'd rather have a small meal than a sandwich meal in Paris, but that's just me. And it's absolutely not a dinner place for me. The lighting, the ambiance are all … not-dinner. :)

    2. Thanks for a very informative report. KGB sounds excellent. Sounds like your meal at Les Climats was excellent too, despite a bit too much wine for that evening. :)

      Glad you found the gnocchi you wrote in your other post that you hoped to eat - very nice that the staff at Galla del Oro made a special portion for you.