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Pan

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by Pan

  1. The fact that someone posted a recommendation for Shun Lee West reminded me that I have yet to post here about my last - and final - meal at Shun Lee Palace. My experience in the past had been that Shun Lee West was overpriced and mediocre but Shun Lee Palace was expensive but delicious and worth it. My parents and I went back to Shun Lee Palace a couple of months ago and had steamed lobster that was so old that the little bit of it we ate before sending it back upset our stomachs. Lest you should think that was the only problem, nothing else tasted like much. Furthermore, our server was so surly he seemed like he was about to throw something at us. I think that the lack of Chinese clientele has finally tempted Shun Lee Palace to cook to the lowest common denominator. I will never return.
  2. You might try: Zaytoon's 283 Smith St. (at Sackett St.) Brooklyn, NY 11231-4739 Phone: (718) 875-1880 My favorite sandwich there is the merguez sandwich, but their chicken shawarma is also good and fits your description pretty well.
  3. And I did like their blood pudding with apples. Very tasty appetizer. I do think that a great deal of our trouble there was that we didn't order right for the place, and I was probably the only one who could have ordered right, considering that: Two of my family members don't eat pig; one is on a low-fat diet; one won't eat offal, another loves it but really can't eat it anymore, and the third eats only certain kinds of offal (I'm the only one who eats it all, but I wasn't sure my stomach was up to the sausage with loads of melted cheese in mashed potatoes). But all the dishes we had were on the menu, and there was no way we could have known that some of them wouldn't have been tasty. A guidebook that had told us what to get but also warned us about what not to get would have been really helpful! But I'll say this: It was an interesting experience, and such experiences are part of what can make travelling a form of learning. [punctuation edited]
  4. It wasn't all that highly recommended: 13 out of 20. The food was simply mediocre there, and the excess of butter may have been a technique for covering the absence of taste in their sauces (e.g. not enough care taken with the stocks, perhaps); it certainly seemed that way to all of us, by contrast with Michel Vignaud in Chablis. We ate at various other restaurants that received a 13 or higher from Gault Millau and did not upset our stomachs, so I don't think it's unsafe for me to conclude that the percentage of butter per dish at that hotel restaurant was truly excessive, even though you could be right that French people might have been less likely to react as negatively to the place as we did. I'll also quibble a little with your points on Ambassade d'Auvergne: When you say "I doubt one could eat that kind of food as well for nearly that low a price in NY," I think that stacks the deck because it might be hard to find Auvernois food in New York at all. But the fact that a cuisine isn't present in New York or isn't available for $60/person for dinner does not automatically make it a good value elsewhere. I simply don't think that a somewhat overly salty beef stew with overly gristly beef that is inferior to my parents' beef stew is a good value as the main dish of a $60 meal, no matter where you have it or what cuisine it's part of. But I do get your more general points.
  5. I have been a lover of good food for a long time, taking after my parents. I had wonderful food during my long sojourn in Malaysia and other trips associated with that stay, at the ages of 10-12. When I was 15, I found toward the end of a summer in Tanglewood that I had a good deal of spending money left over from what my parents had given me, so I went with a friend to a restaurant in central Lenox that was given 3 or 4 stars by the Mobil Travel Guide. I was in France as a Javits Memorial Fellow. Our tax dollars paid for my flight, my TGV to and from Nice, and my tuition and dorm room at the Academie International d'Ete de Nice, and allotted me $30 per day to spend on food and other necessities during my term of study. I did spend about $30/day on food in Nice, and ate quite nicely. On the other hand, when I was in Paris, whatever money I spent was as part of a tourist trip and was out of my own pocket. I found that I spent more on average than I had in Nice, but I couldn't be a spendthrift, as my yearly income was mostly accounted for by my stipend from the Javits Fellowship, and that stipend really did not cover more than the 9 months of school. I actually would have spent more money if I had _not_ gone to France and had 2 to 4 weeks paid for, but instead stayed at home, spent money, and got reimbursed for nothing. If I had had to pay my own way to France, I wouldn't have been able to go. Thank you, U.S. government!
  6. People have refered to Pudlowski several times. I ain't never hoid of 'im. So who is he, what's the name of his guide, what is the geographic extent of its coverage, and what languages is it available in. If it's French-language only, is his prose as flowery as Gault Millau? I read French pretty well (in fact, reading musicological and other books, articles, and poetry in French was indispensible to my Doctoral work), but I had to use the dictionary a lot for Gault Millau.
  7. It wasn't a necessary part of my two trips to France as a graduate student, and I did have some delicious meals on a student's budget, especially in Nice, where I spent the most time. But I don't disagree with the rest of your points.
  8. JJS: I wonder if it's possible that, for whatever reason, Gault Millau is more reliable in Paris than in Burgundy - and, conceivably, Michelin is more reliable outside of Paris than in Paris?
  9. I have to say that the service was so outstanding at Grand Vefour that it would have bothered me a lot not to leave a tip that showed some appreciation for their great professionalism and impressive choreography. It was a wonderful experience.
  10. But don't you realize this is the first time you've explained how you planned on getting from the train station to the place where you'll be staying? And if you know how you're getting there, why seem to ask? Do you see why I got that impression? Moving on then, with your permission...
  11. My brother and I had lunch at Garnier, right across from the Gare St.-Lazare, on a Sunday. I posted a short review of that brasserie in the beginning of a longer post that focused more on places in Burgundy: click One thing I didn't mention in my review was the attractive streamlined neo-post-art deco (or something) decor in the place. It was a pretty space, though naturally not on the order of the almost unbelievably gorgeous old interior of Grand Vefour.
  12. But I'm still curious about the possibility of taking a bus from Paris, perhaps with a change or two somewhere. You don't seem to be interested, but why?
  13. Cabby: Grand Vefour is probably the cheapest (prix fixe) menu for lunch in a Paris Michelin 3-star, but do your 85 Euros include tax and service? Also, of course that's assuming that the menu isn't deviated from (no a la carte ordering) and no beverage is ordered.
  14. Well, to recapitulate and sum up, I had a worthless, pricey meal at a Gault Millau 18 in Dijon that wasn't mentioned at all in Michelin; a mediocre meal at a Gault Millau 13 in Sauvigny-le-Bois outside of Avallon that upset my stomach because of the absurd excess of butter in everything (the rest of my family all had upset stomachs, if I remember correctly) and which was mentioned in Michelin only as a meal available in a hotel; and a good meal and great value at a Gault Millau 13 not connected with a hotel that was mentioned and given a bib gourmand in Michelin. I had an unforgettable meal in a Michelin 3-star in Paris (Grand Vefour), which is given a 19 in Gault Millau; one fantastic and one disappointing meal in Michelin 1-star Michel Vignaud in Chablis, which is given a 16 in Gault Millau; one very pleasant meal in the aforementioned Michelin bib gourmand in Autun (Gault-Millau 13); and one plus-and-minus meal that was of questionable value for the money at a bib gourmand in Paris (Ambassade d'Auvergne), which also gets a 13 in Gault Millau - but, as I mentioned, I think the restaurant gets allowances from both guides for authenticity. So my conclusion is that Michelin was more reliable. Your sample size is probably higher than mine, but I just think that Gault Millau is too inconsistent to be relied upon, except conceivably as further confirmation of a Michelin rating. I simply don't trust his taste, and particularly distrust his ratings.
  15. I didn't hang out in the Marais too much last June, though I did hang out in the general area of Place de la Bastille a couple of times, and there are some nice bars in that area. One thing you might want to do is check out Japanese places in the area between the Louvre and the Opera. It makes sense for you to do that if you are going to the Louvre anyway. Yeah, I know: You're in France and it seems strange to have Japanese food when you're in Paris. But it's not, as long as you don't do it the whole time. Check out this thread: Yasube et al.
  16. (1) Get a set of "teach yourself French" tapes or do what my brother did: Find a website where you can hear French pronunciation for a fee. (Sorry, I don't have an URL for you.) (2) Your efforts to speak French will be appreciated. (3) You will probably find that the staff will speak some English - sometimes, very good English - in various restaurants, especially but not exclusively in Paris. But it's polite to ask them "Escusez-moi monsieur/madame/mademoiselle: Parlez-vous anglais?" (4) "Feeling like a clod" is part of the experience of travelling in countries that speak languages you don't know. Embrace the experience, and enjoy it! By the way, do you know where you will be staying?
  17. We rented a car in Paris and drove it through Burgundy, the Loire Valley, etc. back to Paris. Those train stations don't sound close at all. Have you investigated the possibility of a bus? By the way, the other really great place I didn't mention that you might want to go to is Vezelay (St. Pere in the valley below Vezelay is also worth visiting) - but all of that depends on how much you want to drive. Feel free to post or email me if you want further information about places to go and things to see.
  18. Bux: I've discussed Gault Millau rather extensively in posts about specific restaurants. Yes, it has blurbs, but my conclusion, based on my trip, is that it is unreliable and should never be counted on unless another, more trustworthy source confirms its recommendation - and for me, that more trusted source is Michelin, so I essentially agree with your points on their guides. But even Michelin has its limitations, as I discussed in my post about Ambassade d'Auvergne, which I argue gets points for authenticity, though there are items on the menu that are downright inferior and not worth eating (as in: My parents make a better beef stew than Ambassade d'Auvergne did). Furthermore, I would argue that Michelin really does not cover the low end all that much: Even its "low-end" restaurants are often places that charge 50 Euros for dinner or more (I may be having a false memory, but I think Ambassade d'Auvergne was probably closer to 60, with its bib gourmand and all), and that isn't really something I could pay every day or every other day. My impression is that Time Out covers a larger number of places that are cheaper and more informal than what's generally in Michelin or even Gault Millau, so it was useful. And it also offered descriptions of each place. If any of you would like to look through their web site in order to get a feel for how reliable or unreliable it is, look here: Time Out Paris Restaurants. Use the drop-down list just to the left of the "GO" button. Hollywood: I only wish I were about to make a trip to Paris! I'm not. I made my third trip to France last June, and I don't know when I'll be back next, so I'll have to save the "Bon voyage" for another time. But I'm still interested in discussing guidebooks and such-like, and happy that you contributed a bunch of suggestions.
  19. You're very welcome, Adam. I take it you've never been to that region? Autun is a very small town, but truly lovely. It was the Roman garrison town of Augustinium, and its Roman walls are mostly still standing in good condition, complete with several guard towers! Its Romanesque cathedral was one of the most outstanding things we saw on our whole trip, which was primarily devoted to art. The tympanum above the main entrance shows scenes of the Apocalypse and is justly given 3 stars by Michelin: click here The capitals above the pillars are also outstanding, but many of those on the main level of the church are copies. If you go into the Sacristy, where post cards are kept (you'll probably want some of those), you will see a staircase. Take the staircase up to a room where a bunch of original capitals are kept, and look at them. You are fortunate to have the luxury of visiting the cathedral several times during a longer trip. The Musee Rolin is also worth visiting, mostly because of some Romanesque and Gothic art inside. Across from the Cathedral, there is a very old building which now houses a bar. When my brother and I visited last June, the bar was one of the few places where there was much activity at night, and we enjoyed a few drinks there. If you have the time, by all means visit other cities in the area, especially the beautiful, bustling city of Beaune, with its lovely Hotel-Dieu, featuring the outstanding Polyptych of the Apocalypse by Rogier van der Weyden, which gives you another view of the Apocalypse: click here (We did a bit of an Apocalypse tour, as we also saw the incredible Tapestries of the Apocalypse in the Chateau d'Angers, q.v.: click cliquez) [edited to make a space between the two links] Another city that's not that far away is Chalon-sur-Saone. We wanted to go to the photography museum but went on the wrong day (Monday), and it was closed. It sounds like you'll be in the area long enough to take the 55- or 60-km trip to Chalon over secondary routes, if you want to. Further afield are places like Auxerre. If you'd like some more information, just ask.
  20. I would welcome some discussion of this guide. My brother decided to use it. He found that their bar recommendations were pretty good, and we had some decent though mixed results with their recommendations for brasseries and bistros (there was a third one we went to, right across from Les Halles, that was not bad but which I didn't think merited separate mention). What do all of you think the best guide for relatively inexpensive eateries in Paris is, short of the services of an outstanding concierge or some great recommendations from knowledgeable people whom you know and trust?
  21. This is probably my last post on particular places where I ate in France last June. I have the sense that fresh_a really has Paris covered. Never mind: I'll quickly post the salient information about Brasserie Garnier here: It's _right across_ from Gare St.-Lazare, and not cheap (50 Euros for lunch), not beyond criticism (I was served tasty but slightly overripe strawberries), but served excellent and very filling kidneys in Dijon mustard sauce with brandy IIRC. My appetizer, soupe de poisson, which I _had to_ order when I saw it on the menu, as I used to love it and eat it regularly during my two summers spent in Nice, was good but slightly too fishy. We went to the place because it got a write-up in the Time Out guide to Paris: Garnier And here's the other place, which was cheaper and thus, probably a better value, but though I remember liking the food (as did the rest of the family), I don't have as much memory of it. I did like those kidneys at Garnier. Bistro Jef is right across from a lycee on a quiet side street: Bistro Jef We made the mistake of staying at Le Relais Fleuri in Sauvigny le Bois, 4 km outside of Avallon. It was a non-airconditioned, overpriced motel without screens available for the windows. Its only advantage (and, I believe, the reason why it's a profitable enterprise) is that it's right off the off-ramp from the Autoroute, but we had taken the National Route from Auxerre to the Avallon area, so as to explore many beautiful villages in the region (which is something I'd recommend for everyone to do), and had a hell of a time trying to find the motel. Anyway, Le Relais Fleuri has a hotel restaurant. It receives mention in Michelin only as a meal that you can get at the hotel, but gets a separate feature as a 13/20-rated restaurant in Gault Millau. I previously mentioned an 18-rated place in Dijon that was not worth going to. Le Relais Fleuri's restaurant is worth going to only under the circumstance under which we went there, if that: We were tired and were guests at the hotel. The food was competent and overly buttery, and that's it. Nothing special, but (as per the thread on haute cuisine) the place had the same pretentions - and prices - as other restaurants that did more than merely execute middling renditions of traditional dishes. The contrast between our meal at Le Relais Fleuri and our outstanding dinner the previous night at Michel Vignaud made the meal all the more disappointing. When we spent a couple of days visiting the little old Roman garrison town of Autun, we made it our business to have lunch at a restaurant that our Autunnoise hotel manager in Paris had recommended. Its name is Le Chalet Bleu, and it received a bib gourmand in Michelin and a 13 in Gault Millau. I recall that some fish was a bit fishy, but the rest of the food was very pleasant and cooked with love. I particularly recall tasty chicken stuffed with chicken livers, and I also remember the dessert being good, though I've forgotten what it was. We also had some nice wine with the meal, as per the prioprietor's recommendation. The restaurant is owned by a couple; the wife runs the front of the house and her husband is the chef. The wife also served us. She was friendly, and we had a nice conversation with her, but didn't tell her until after the meal that we were going because of a recommendation from a fellow Autunnoise, so we were just ordinary customers who walked in off the street, as far as she knew. I can say without any fear of inaccuracy that not only was the reception and customer service far better here than at Le Relais Fleuri (where we had to wait truly endlessly to get the check), but the food was also a lot better. I think Michelin got it about right: This place does not deserve a star, but it does deserve a mention and a bib gourmand. Our lunch truly was a good value. Both Gault Millau and Michelin are showing their menu as 14-43, but I believe the 14 Euros was the lunch price. Be warned, though, that the restaurant is closed Tuesday, and also Monday at dinner. The wife apologized for the fact that since they run the place themselves, they need to take a day off for themselves. Naturally, we said that of course they have to take a day off, and no apology was necessary!
  22. Pan

    Ouest

    I see your point, Wilfred. When I'm in doubt, I usually ask the waiter questions about the dish and attempt (sometimes unsuccessfully) to avoid giving an immediate impression that I hate a dish, if I'm merely doubtful about it or some aspect thereof. But it sounds like you were way beyond that. It's a pity to order something and eat none of it.
  23. Pan

    Nedick's

    For years, there was a Nedick's on the corner of Broadway and 97 St. when I was growing up. After it closed, taking its orange and grape drinks and hotdogs with it, that corner was "cursed," with one place after another having a short life until the Texas chicken place that's there now showed up. For whatever reason, that seems to have succeeded. For the record, I always found the artificial colors of Nedick's' drinks to be interesting to look at when I was a child, but I didn't have hotdogs there all that often.
  24. A somewhat related question, as I haven't checked the prices of most the establishments you mention: Do you have a list of favorite cheap eateries in Paris? What percentage of them are, for example, couscous places or Asian places rather than establishments serving French cuisine? (I have a feeling that I may ask you for that list at some point before my next trip to Paris. But don't worry; that probably won't be for a number of years.) [edited to move the smiley to its proper position, as putting it right after the parentheses might seem to imply that I'd rather not return to Paris sooner than a few years from now, and that is by no means true!]
  25. Oh well. Just a taste of the article, or perhaps I should say an amuse bouche, in keeping with the subject of this thread.
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