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Time Out guide to Paris


Pan
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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?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Not being acquainted with the Time Out guide to Paris, I can only reflect on what I would do. First, right here would be an excellent place to get info. Granted some of it might be high end, but it wouldn't hurt to ask. Another source with less expensive choices would be the International Board of Chowhound.com. There's BonjourParis.com. You could check a newsletter called La Belle France (covers all of France with an emphasis on Paris). PatriciaWells.com has some economical picks. Likewise, Ms. Wells frequently updates various guides to eating in Paris Bistros, etc. Posting on this board from time to time is John Whiting of Whitings' Writings--a PM to him might get you some sources. Periodically, the New York Times will do an article on Paris Hotels and eateries at various price points. A reprint can probably be had for $2-$3. Ditto, the LA Times, though I'd go with NYT first. Travel & Leisure usually does an annual article on Paris Bistros, sometimes written by Patricia Wells. And, of course, there's always the Guide Michelin--either the whole book or the Paris excerpt you can find at French and travel bookstores. Bon voyage.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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I don't think there's a single guide that's so dependable you couldn't use another. Anyone staying in Paris for less than a month could probably find all the restaurants he needs by combing through the posts here, but that's not to say something hasn't been missed or that someone hasn't recommended a restaurant that meets everyone's approval. Nevertheless the moderate part of the price scale has been well covered here even if there haven't been long homages to specific meals. I don't think that sort of thing is always going to be reserved for the haute cuisine and high art dinners.

I don't see any mention of the GaultMillau guides. If you read a bit of French, you'll find their blurbs useful. Comparing rations of points to price may also give a rough estimate of value. Most of all I wouldn't overlook the value of the Michelin guide at the low end. Restaurants with extrememly low prices are featured as are restaurants that offer especially good value. Look for the two coins and the bib gourmande symbols to find these recommendations. The Michelin has it's Paris listings by arrondissement and for those times when proximity is of foremost concern, you can easily look for a restaurant near where you are. Generally speaking, when I'm not in the mood for an extravagant meal, if a restaurant looks inviting, it's prices seem reasonable (all restaurants must post menus with prices on the street) and it's in the Michelin Guide, I'm encouraged to try it.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I don't see any mention of the GaultMillau guides. If you read a bit of French, you'll find their blurbs useful.[...] Most of all I wouldn't overlook the value of the Michelin guide at the low end.[...]

Generally speaking, when I'm not in the mood for an extravagant meal, if a restaurant looks inviting, it's prices seem reasonable (all restaurants must post menus with prices on the street) and it's in the Michelin Guide, I'm encouraged to try it..

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. :smile:

But I'm still interested in discussing guidebooks and such-like, and happy that you contributed a bunch of suggestions.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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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.  :smile:

C'est la vie. You'll always have Paris.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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For me Gault Millau has always been incredibly reliable. One can extrapolate more information, the ratings change more quickly to reflect the fortunes of different restaurants, and the emphasis is far more on food than Michelin which also places considerable weight on other aspects. Particularly in the mid-ranking restaurants, say from the rating of 14 to 16, I find it to be the most reliable. I have eaten far more simply bad meals at a Michelin one star restaurant than at a 15 or 16 Gault Millau restaurant. Note that Gault Millau also allows one to discover chefs that little bit earlier than Michelin. It was thanks to Gault Millau that I visited the Opera restaurant at the Grand Hotel Intercontinental and Ledoyen when Le Squer first arrived, allowing me to sample his food on his way to the three stars at much cheaper rates than are possible now. Michelin is a symbol of prestige, and undeniably the standard to which all chefs aspire, but Gault Millau is the better actual guide.

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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.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I certainly agree with you that the best step is simply to cross-reference between the guides. A bad meal at an 18 is unforgiveable though. In Paris though, for example, Michelin does not list La Voltaire a very good restaurant of the 15 standard in GM, and it is these oversights that make me prefer GM.

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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?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I don't believe G-M is more reliable in Paris. While I tap many sources of information (Michelin, eGullet, G-M, Pudlowski, Champerand (spelling), Lebey, Bottin Gourmand, Relais Gourmand status, restaurants' websites, French Elle a Table, French Saveurs, Thuliers (spelling), Cuisine et Vins, Where Magazine for Paris, Figaro supplements, Bonjour Paris, Patricia Wells' website, historical volumes on French gastronomy), I rely on Michelin star differences when choosing among restaurants that I have never visited.

After I visit (generally more than one meal), I no longer have a need for guides to know what the restaurant is or is not, subjectively.

Edited by cabrales (log)
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People have refered to Pudlowski several times. I ain't never hoid of 'im. :biggrin: 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. :laugh:

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Gilles Pudlowski is a restaurant critic who appears to be knowledgeable at least about the Paris restaurant landscape. He has at least two annual guidebooks, called I believe Le Pudlow France (which contains a short section on Paris) and Le Pudlow Paris. The information on individual dishes is sometimes not as updated as G-M, but the style is more akin to G-M's prose. The other guide with this type of lengthy discussion is Champerard (spelling), but that critic has a definite point of view and is less balanced than Pudlowski, in my view. GP's 2003 guides are out, and I have the France guide at home.

GP's guides are in French, and their level of difficulty is generally at the G-M level.

GP writes a fairly regular column on newish restaurants in the magazine Saveurs (France) and writes from time to time for other publications.

Note I do not use the Paris Zagat guide, although I subscribed to their online website for the restaurant news component and for ready access to addresses/telephone numbers in the US.

Edited by cabrales (log)
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For bistros, the Lebey guide is by far the best and most reliable. TimeOut's Eating and Drinking Guide to Paris is a notch below. Michelin is not a good source for bistros, as it is not that extensive. Patricia Wells' Food Lover's Guide to Paris is also very good, but somewhat out of date. Generally, a good write up in 3 of the 4 merits a visit.

I'll also give a plug to John Whiting, whose bistro reviews are second to none.

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Note that TimeOut's Eating and Drinking Guide to Paris is better than the restaurants section in TimeOut's broader Paris guide. :hmmm: The TimeOut website is good for museums and limited time events and not bad at reporting a few new restaurants, but is not ideal for distinguishing among restaurants.

Edited by cabrales (log)
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I don't believe G-M is more reliable in Paris. While I tap many sources of information (Michelin, eGullet, G-M, Pudlowski, Champerand (spelling), Lebey, Bottin Gourmand, Relais Gourmand status, restaurants' websites, French Elle a Table, French Saveurs, Thuliers (spelling), Cuisine et Vins, Where Magazine for Paris, Figaro supplements, Bonjour Paris, Patricia Wells' website, historical volumes on French gastronomy), I rely on Michelin star differences ...

It's a wonder you have time to eat. :biggrin:

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Bux -- When my interest in restaurants in France intensified, it coincided with a time when I was reading intensively with respect to French cuisine and restaurants in France, in both English and French. I would sometimes read recipe books as though they were novels (e.g., Troisgros old recipe books). I would enjoy seeing how the recipe for a dish might have evolved over time, even when codified by the same cuisinier. Now, I am still eager to read, but many books of high subjective quality have been covered.

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Generally speaking I feel that Michelin is the staid conservative guide and GaultMillau the one willing to take risks. GM has been much quicker to promote and demote restaurants and sometimes a little quirky in what they respond to. In my experience, you're more likely to get a safe recommendation from Michelin, but you'll get more cutting edge suggestions from GM. Relying on GM will be rewarded by reservations at restaurants before they get too popular and punished by dinners at some places not yet ready for prime time. Nevertheless, I find there is some warning if you can read the blurbs. They're far less cryptic or at least less ironic, and thus more straight forward than they were when Gault and Millau were there. It may be moot. We've heard that the GM magazine has ceased publication and so far there's been no word on the guide for 2003. It's usually out well before Michelin.

Taste in food is ultimately subjective and unless you allow some one to train your palate and then take recommendations from that someone, no single guide is going to work for all diners. If a meal in a highly recommended restaurant upsets one's stomach because it's too rich in butter and cream, it's not the fault of the guide that recommended the restaurant as much as it is the fault of the nation whose population still enjoys that sort of food. Most of the guides mentioned are written with the French diner in mind.

In regard to prices and recommendations, Michelin is the quintessential conservative French guide and it's emphasis is clearly on traditional French restaurants where one is expected to take at least three courses. It does not cover snack food, sandwich places and ethnic places where one may eat cheaply. As I mentioned, it also caters to French tastes. There was a time when I'd tell you that French taste was just plain better than American taste. The French have embraced McDonald's and we've learned how to cook and eat on our own terms. In the 21st century, I still enjoy France for it's haute cuisine and it's more rustic provincial specialties, but they don't have the variety we have in America. I've not made it to l'Ambassade d'Auvergne, but I doubt one could eat that kind of food as well for nearly that low a price in NY. In the end, there's always a question of subjective taste. I know of card carrying American gourmets who found la Regalade too heavy and greasy for their tastes. For me it was a memorable meal, beyond my expectations.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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(Michelin, eGullet, G-M, Pudlowski, Champerand (spelling), Lebey, Bottin Gourmand, Relais Gourmand status, restaurants' websites, French Elle a Table, French Saveurs, Thuliers (spelling), Cuisine et Vins, Where Magazine for Paris, Figaro supplements, Bonjour Paris, Patricia Wells' website, historical volumes on French gastronomy)

Cabrales--You're list is a good one; I would only add one--the Petitrenaud, by Jean-Luc Petitrenaud. He's a very amusing French tv/radio type (Do they his food show on TV5 in North America? It is by far my favourite gastro-show) whose yearly guide does a pretty good job of covering French restaurants.

For Paris, the daily newspaper Libé is good, as is the Time Out section in the back of Pariscope, which you can (and must) pick up at any kiosque in the city. Also, Nova magazine publishes a special "Fooding" edition once a year, which is useful and irritating in equal measure (they also organize special "fooding" events, with the participation of restaurants, usually from September to December).

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If a meal in a highly recommended restaurant upsets one's stomach because it's too rich in butter and cream, it's not the fault of the guide that recommended the restaurant as much as it is the fault of the nation whose population still enjoys that sort of food. Most of the guides mentioned are written with the French diner in mind.

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.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I haven't been to l'Ambassade d'Auvergne. I only know that Michelin recommends it for Andouillette (chitlin sausage) and boudin, (blood sausage) which are not the fare most Americans tend to seek in Paris. At any rate good blood sausage is rare in the states and real andouillette is non existant. [Cajun andouille is something else and totally unrelated to the French charcuterie products with similar names.]

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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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]

Edited by Pan (log)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I'm inclined to agree with what you say. There's an interesting contradiction in your post and I agree with what on the surface seems to be polar opposites. Many of my interesting experiences, the ones that have made some of my trips memorable, are the result of mistakes we've made. At times, if I'd been properly prepared I wouldn't have had the learning experience I had, nor would I have met the people I did nor seen the things I saw and it would have been a loss. Nevertheless, if one is going to wander into a restaurant that serves strange food or even food you're bound not to like, it would be helpful to know what to order to get the best they offered. In this case, I suppose that advice would have driven you elsewhere.

:biggrin:

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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The Gault Millau website indicates that the 2003 guide will be available on Feb 13.

The rating score of 13 in the GM is very transitional and is used for a restaurant that has some culinary merit, but problems as well or for a simple restaurant that is one cut above ordinary. I would expect wide variabiltiy in 13 rated restaurants and would not criticize GM if I were dissatisfied.

Ambassade d'Auvergne has been undergoing a long slow decline for probably the last 15 years and is no longer good at all. Even their signature aligote was bitter the last time that I had it. For many years it received a 15 from GM and then was demoted to 14 and now 13. I wouldn't be surprised to see a 12 sometime soon.

Bux -- I would tear up the "gourmet card" of anyone who found La Regalade too heavy and greasy. I think that there are a range of reasonable disagreements among knowledgeable food lovers, as is illustrated here all the time. However, I view this as beyond the pale. I would recommend that they find a restaurant that serves organic pablum.

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Bux -- I would tear up the "gourmet card" of anyone who found La Regalade too heavy and greasy.  I think that there are a range of reasonable disagreements among knowledgeable food lovers, as is illustrated here all the time.  However, I view this as beyond the pale.  I would recommend that they find a restaurant that serves organic pablum.

On that account I would let you be king of the gourmet world, or at least director of admissions. :biggrin:

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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