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First Paris trip for major LA food lovers

We are headed to Paris in late September (my first time unbelievably) and want to have great food but not old-school stuffy French style.

My husband and I do not eat meat but we do eat Fins and Feathers, anything fowl or from the ocean. We love cheese and wine and we love to dine.

I care most about the food and the experience but much prefer an up and coming or more updated/modern chef/restaurant to the Michelin old guard experience. We have 5 nights (one is my birthday) and will likely make reservations for dinners only and let lunches be more spontaneous. (gasp!) One lunch at Le Comptoir if you all agree.

Right now the contenders are:
Les Cotellettes Bistrot
Le Bat
Frenchie
Le Rotonde
Bistro Belhara
Le 6 Paul Bert
Les Enfants
Le Comptoir (for lunch)

What do you think? If any of these are super meat heavy or old school please let me know. Recs for a great place to have cocktails and people watch would be lovely too. We generally go somewhere for a cocktail before dinner, and maybe after too.

Thank you so much!

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  1. "Les Cotellettes Bistrot'
    I don't know this resto. Others could comment on it, but already the resto name sounds meat-focused.
    "Le Bat"
    Very good. Lots of seafood options.
    "Frenchie"
    If you score a reservation for September, good. If not, don't kill yorself over it.
    "Le Rotonde"
    OK. Good for a brasserie.
    "Bistro Belhara"
    Good 'hood bistro. Hearty.
    "Le 6 Paul Bert"
    It's not bad at all. I would not cross town for it. But I would gladly go with friends who live near there.
    "Les Enfants"
    There are "Les Enfants Rouges" and "Les Enfants Gâtés". Which?
    "Le Comptoir (for lunch)"
    Likewise, which comptoir?

    8 Replies
    1. re: Parigi

      Sorry for the vagueries...
      Les Enfants Rouges
      Le Comptoir Relais for lunch (apparently there are no ressies and we would want to get there and put our name down)

      If you have other favorites that are low-key but delicious, we would gladly take your recommendations. Thank you!

      1. re: FinsAndFeathers

        "Les Enfants Rouges
        Le Comptoir Relais"
        Both good and light, with good seafood options.
        Ditto L'Îlot and Marie Céleste, both in upper Marais.
        Jeanne B rue Lepic also has a lot of seafood and vegetarian choice.
        Don't forget to report back.

        1. re: Parigi

          Thanks! We are staying in Marais.

          We also want to do one blowout meal, something special.
          What would your choice be? Much appreciated.

          1. re: FinsAndFeathers

            For your blowout meal, given your not eating meat, I would certainly consider l'Arpège. Go at lunchtime for the 130 euro menu and leave lots of time for your meal. You could look at Alain Passard's twitter photos to get a sense of the food.

            I agree about not doing spontaneous lunches -- Paris is like any other city in that regard, maybe worse.

      2. re: Parigi

        Les Côtelettes bistro (which I never liked) no longer exists... Le Gorille Blanc now at same location... haven't been but I seem to recall a Chowhound review last year and certainly a report on John Talbott's blog.

        Lots of Chowhound threads on the Marais... the less touristy Haut Marais/ 3rd has better restaurant feng shui... I'd add Taxi Jaune on the rue Chapon in the 3rd and Métropolitain on the rue de Jouy in the 4th to your list.

        Frenchie, I'm lukewarm about... only real reason to go is to scratch the fear-of-missing-out itch/ hype created by not terribly clued-in American food writers... hundreds of other places are as good or better i.e. Caius in the 17th, Le Galopin in the 10th, Les Déserteurs in the 11th, Roseval in the 20th, Clamato in the 11th, etc etc etc.

        Spontaneous lunches are fine but can be risky in the tourist zones. Make sure that you know what the better options are rather than following your nose to end up at one of the many cutesy tourist traps with industrial food from the freezer or plastic bag.

        1. re: Parnassien

          Clamato has very interesting seafood preps. Be very careful with the wines. They have a lot of "Orange" wines that I find undrinkable. Caroline is a manager and she really knows wine. Let her guide you through the wine selection.

        2. re: Parigi

          "Les Cotelettes"
          I do and thought it fell short of the mark
          http://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/...
          But since, as Parnassien notes, it's dead, no deal anyway.
          October of 2012 I said about Le Gorille Blanc:
          "5.4 Le Gorille Blanc, 4, impasse Guemenee in the 4th, 01.42.72.03.45, closed Sundays, moved from the 7th over to this (old) Les Cotelettes space with a new look and new chef; it's gotten mixed reviews with Toinard finding his pork chop too dry but Fuffy's review on Chowhound in September came to me when I needed to find a place near my old friend's cabinet in the Marais."
          http://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/...
          As for your others, I'm in an anti-brasserie grouch-phase, so Rotonde wouldn't be on my list of recs but the rest would be.
          If you're eager to avoid "old-school stuffy French style" food I'd definitely go with Les Enfants Rouges, BAT and 6 Paul Bert.

          1. re: John Talbott

            Much appreciated. As you can imagine, restaurant research is a little daunting for Paris. I love nothing more than obsessive food-related travel research but on this one, the input is lovely. Thanks much.

        3. Just back from Paris and my husband and I had two excellent, but not very expensive, meals. One was called Coretta and the other Will. Will was on the rue Crozatier with the added bonus of being near the Marche d'Aligre. We liked it so much that we dined there one night and then went back for lunch two days later. It isn't very big, but the food was simply wonderful. I think that come the fall this will be a star of the season.

          2 Replies
          1. re: pammi

            I too am bullish on Will but bearish on Coretta (I think they were still working out their kinks when I went because Parnassien le fiable found it good.)

            1. re: John Talbott

              You might want to give it a second look-I liked the location,perched on the second story overlooking the park. Fun to watch the changing groups coming and going in the evening. The service was reasonably attentive,especially considering the prices which were quite reasonable to me. Not a major meal, but quite a pleasant one and certainly no obvious faux pas.in August on a Wednesday night,it certainly satisfied.

          2. I always stay in Montmartre and can suggest Le Miroir, La Mascotte and Moulin de la Gallette, all great Parisian experiences! I also like Le Templier and L'Ete en Pente Douce there.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bronwen

              Thanks! Which of those do you recommend for pescatarians? Just curious.

            2. Okay Chowhounds. We have our dinners nearly finalized. Input anyone?
              *Also need some lunch suggestions for places that won't require a reservation. Somewhere we could wander into knowing it will be lovely rather than accidentally stumbling into tourist hell. Thanks!

              Night one:
              Drinks at Hemingway Bar (sentimental for my husband)
              Dinner at either Will or Metropolitain? (First night, are those fab?)

              Night two:
              Drinks at Georges on the terrace
              Dinner at David Toutain

              Night three: (my birthday)
              Champagne day trip (recommendations encouraged)
              Dinner at Les Enfants Rouges

              Night four:
              Drinks at Au Petit Fer a Cheval
              Dinner was going to be Frenchie but I'd prefer Clamato (except they don't take reservations!) so Will or Metropolitain.

              Night five:
              Drinks at Lockwood
              Probably fondue dinner at Pain Vin Fromage for fondue

              Night six:
              Leaving after dinner to Chunnel so were thinking of doing Clamato that night since it is open on Sundays. But a place in the Marais that is low key and delicious would be great.

              Planning to do a Paris By Mouth tour of the Marais and likely a walking tour of the city as well.

              How did I do? This city is daunting for food. Thank you all so much for your wonderful input!

              10 Replies
              1. re: FinsAndFeathers

                Sounds great.
                I prefer Will over Metropolitain.
                I would do Clamato sometime, it's really fun and great on Sundays.
                You don't really have a blow-out meal, discussed much on other threads. Don't get me wrong, I love Les Enfants Rouges, but maybe that Night 4 and a blowout for your B-Day - You deserve it after such good research.
                Happy Birthday BTW.

                1. re: FinsAndFeathers

                  David Toutain is one of my favorites, but it is a set menu with no choices, and, if I recall, at least two or three courses were meat. If you want to go there, I would contact them (or have your hotel do so) beforehand to see if they can accommodate you.

                  Regarding your blowout birthday meal, I would do lunch at Le Cinq. I think the prix-fixe is up to about 110 euro (?), but it is a wonderful, celebratory experience at a relative bargain price. And unlike many other top lunch deals, you have a choice of two or three dishes for each course, and they will graciously adapt to your meatlessness. This will be a significantly different experience from the other places you have chosen, as well as any experience you can have in LA, or the rest of the U.S., for about the same price as lunch at Matsuhisa or Spago.

                  Another option for your special meal is the intimate, seafood focused Passage 53 for dinner. Modern, with a Japanese influence, this is a prix-fixe choiceless menu too, but mostly seafood. Again, I would check to make sure they could accommodate your no-meat-requirement. Not inexpensive, and not huge portions.

                  By the way, lunch at Le Comptoirs du Relais is totally different from dinner. Lunch is fine, but nothing special; dinner has a completely different fixed menu (again a challenge for you due to your meat situation) which is very good bistronomique food at a reasonable price.

                  1. re: fishskis

                    I am pretty certain Le Cinq is now €145 pp for lunch. As a two star the bump in prices makes it less good value compared to lower cost three star set lunches - Guy Savoy for example.

                  2. re: FinsAndFeathers

                    If you mean the Hemingway Bar at The Ritz Hotel for your first night drinks, I think it is closed for renovations.

                    1. re: FinsAndFeathers

                      We stay in the Marais every year and really enjoyed Taxi Jaune (I had an amazing "feather" dish here) and Les Enfants Rouge this May. We always go for drinks and small plates at Le Mary Celeste in haut Marais. On our list for next year is Chez Denise (old school bistro that gets a lot of love from CHers) and Pirouette in the 1er and Hai Kai next to the interesting Canal St Martin. We've eaten a few times at Metropolitian and like it. Frenchie wine bar sounds more interesting than the restaurant these days.

                      For lunch we had a fantastic udon noodle bowl at Kunitoraya near Palais Royal, great open faced sandwiches on Poilane bread at Cuisine de Bar located in haut Marais and the 6th, and touristy but tasty Breton crepes at Breizh cafe in the Marais. We usually have more casual lunches in between sightseeing and save sitdown/alcohol infused meals for night time. We also end up at the bookstore/bar Belle Hortense for after dinner drinks a couple nights of our visit. Its a fun boozy spot. Enjoy. We just booked our apartment for next May on Rue Elzevir.

                      1. re: macdog

                        Hi again macdog. We too are renting an apt on rue Elzevir. Do you rent from Bill? Such crazy similarities. We spend our winters in LA , my husbands business partner lives in SB. :-o.
                        I put your suggestions in my file. Thx.

                        1. re: macigirl

                          I'm thoroughly confused by the Macgirl and the Macdude.

                          1. re: Parigi

                            Hah! I'm Macdog, named after my late very missed wheaten terrier, Mac. However I am a female and there is no Macdude (unless my husband counts). Macigirl just started posting on France boards and we discovered we have a lot in common besides our user name. Go Macs!

                          2. re: macigirl

                            Not renting from Bill, but from a Parisian agency. Maybe I'll see you this winter at some of my fave SB restaurants!

                        2. re: FinsAndFeathers

                          <Night three: (my birthday)
                          Champagne day trip (recommendations encouraged)
                          Dinner at Les Enfants Rouges>

                          I'd suggest booking your birthday meal as lunch at the fabulous 3* Assiette Champenoise in Reims. It's one of the very top tables in France and3* blowouts are quite a bit more affordable outside of Paris.

                          As for Champagne houses to tour, there are a number of "goodies," but for me the most memorable was Pommery. Not for the wine, but for the details in the cave and of the tour. The history.

                        3. As I said,we went to dinner at Will and then to lunch there a few days later. We just wandered in after late morning poke-around of the Marche d'Aligre ( definitely go into the permanent building). No reservation necessary. And if you plan it right you can get some Chunnel goodies for the trip in the building. The shops there are open until 7.30.

                          1. Okay, new itinerary:
                            First night, dinner at Will. Drinks Lockwood?
                            Second day walking tour of city at 3, drinks Georges (have to), dinner David Toutain.
                            Third day we are going to Champagne, lunch at the Jardin and then tastings. Dinner at Les Enfants Rouges.
                            Fourth day sunset Seine ride for an hour, drinks at Cheval in Marais, then dinner at Metropolitain.
                            Fifth day, Paris by Mouth Marais walking tour in the morning, sunset in Montmartre by request from friends, and dinner at Pain Vin Fromage for fondue by request from same friends. Am open to other fondue places if you have recs.
                            Last day, brunch somewhere? Falafel if we haven't had it yet, or maybe even if we have.

                            Lunches are open. Should we try for Comptoir du Relais for 2nd day lunch? I've heard you just have to put your name in and wait. Any tips?

                            Still need to line up a few lunch places so that whatever area we are wandering in at lunchtime, we can wander into a great spot.

                            Thank you all!

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: FinsAndFeathers

                              Sounds good.
                              Fondue not my thing.
                              Nor brunch.
                              And I cannot give you lunch places if I don't know where you'll be, but sites like PbyM give restos near popular sites.
                              John

                              1. re: FinsAndFeathers

                                Re: Le Comptoir best to get there early or late, so before 12:00 or after 2:00. Ask the server for a table and they will put your name down and hopefully indicate how long. Tell the server you will have a glass of wine in L'Avant Comptoir and wait to be called.

                                1. re: FinsAndFeathers

                                  There happens to be an ultra-touristy fondue restaurant in Montmartre if you don't mind boozy tourists and wine from baby bottles, Le Refuge des Fondues on the rue des Trois Frères... it helps to be under 30 and to have the ability to surrender all dignity... but it's convenient for a post-Sacré Coeur meal and, after all, it's just fondue.

                                  For lunches in the tourist zones:
                                  Notre Dame... head north to the rue Lavandières-Sainte-Opportune for BAM (modern French), La Robe et Le Palais wine bar, or Au Vieux Comptoir (trad/ fish always on menu).

                                  Louvre... head north to the Palais Royal for Salon du Fromage Hisada (cheese buffet/ great intro to a huge variety of French cheeses) on the rue Richelieu, Juvéniles wine bar on rue Richelieu, Willi's wine bar on the rue des Petits Champs, Aux Bons Crus (old-school classic with very good confit de canard) on the rue des Petits Champs, L for Liza (for takeaway falafel or excellent Lebanese sandwiches for bench picnic in the gardens of the Palais Royal or the Square Louvois) on the rue de la Banque, Le Bougainville (for sandwiches) on the rue de la Banque, Bistrot Valois (updated trad) on the place Valois, Le Lulli (for upmarket nosh/ one course ok for lunch) in the Grand Hotel du Palais Royal on the rue Valois, or Café de L'Epoque (for omelette and salad) on the rue Bouloi @ Galerie Véro-Dodat (which leads to Christian Louboutin shoe shop on rue J-J Rousseau in case you have urgent need of a 1000€ pair of flats)

                                  Eiffel Tower... quickie salady lunch at Carette on the place du Trocadéro in the 16th.

                                  1. re: FinsAndFeathers

                                    Le Chalet Savoyard in the 11th is nice, and would be my choice if you want fondue or raclette. They also have a nice wine list.

                                    1. re: FinsAndFeathers

                                      Cuisine de Bar in the 6th and 3rd have great open faced Poilane bread sandwiches. Also soup and salad. Loved Kunitoraya in the 1st for Udon noodles. It was a great lunch spot and near Louvre and Palais Royal.