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StuDudley

L'Astrance

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My wife & I are going to Paris for about a week starting 3/6, and we wanted to dine at L'Astrance.  I knew that they only take reservations 1 month or so in advance, but I called mid January anyway.  They said that the earliest we could book is 2/6 for a reservation on 3/6.  We called 2/6 at 3:00 pm Paris time & they were "complet".  We set the our alarm (we're on PST) and called at 8:15 am Paris time the next day to try for a reservation on 3/7.  Nobody answered and after about 8 rings, the phone stopped ringing (I guess they do this so you won't tie up their phone for hours trying to make a reservation).  We called back ay 9:15 & nobody answered.  We called at 10:15 and they were "complet".  We asked them if we could book for 3/8 and they said "no, you will have to call back tomorrow".  They said we should call earlier.  We called the next day at 9:30 for a reservation on 3/8 and the line was busy.  We used "redial" on the phone & called back 3 more times with a busy signal each time.  Finally at 9:45 we got through but they were "complet".  We asked them what time they get there in the morning and they said 9:30.  I thought we would be clever and call them at 15 mins past midnight on 2/9 for a reservation on 3/9, but nobody answered.  We set the alarm for 9:15 Paris time & started calling the next day, which would be Saturday.  Nobody answered at 9:15 & nobody answered at 9:25.  At 9:30 we got a busy signal.  We finally got through at 9:45 and they were "complet" and they had been so for 10 minutes.  Between 9:30 & 9:35, all tables were reserved.  Tomorrow would be our last chance (they're closed Monday).  We started calling at 9:25 & did redials constantly.  At 9:31 we got through and WE GOT A TABLE !!!  Now I just hope United Airlines doesn't go on strike.

Stu Dudley

San Mateo (San Francosco), Ca

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Welcome to eGullet.com. If you search through the messages in the France board, you'll see that l'Astrance has become quite popular. Then again no need to tell you. I wish we had advise for you on an easier way to get a reservation or better yet, you had a clue for us.

You might be interested in reading the Restaurant reservations thread. I'm sure you'll find, if you've not already done so, the numerous references here to l'Astrance interesting and useful. I trust we'll also hear from you after you return with some reports on your meals in Paris.

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We booked lunch for a Thursday towards the end of January with less than three weeks notice, although I enquired, optimistically of course, about dinner first and that was full. The restaurant is small (but you do get plenty of personal space) and yet the three or so upstairs tables were not being used. This may be deliberate on their part for lunch.

One thing to note if you do go is that their surprise tasting menu includes wine, but this will be a surprise bottle (probably white) rather than a selection of glasses.

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Graham raises an important point. If you really have your heart set on a particular restaurant and can't get a dinner reservation, consider making one for lunch. It's rare that lunch is as heavily booked as dinner. The wines at l'Astrance are exceptionally inexpensive. They're mostly unknown wines from the southwest and good value. We ate with another couple and had three bottles. I believe two were white and one was red. As I recall our bill was unitemized. I was trying to figure out if we were charged for the third bottle of wine. I think we were, but it was hard to tell. It was a very warm July night in an unairconditioned restaurant and we went through so much water that I lost count of the number of bottles. The tab seemed hundreds of francs higher than I expected, but still such a great bargain and we were with people who knew the chef and manager professionally that I ddin't care to question it. I did find it strange to handed a slip of paper with just one handwritten figure, but as I said, with regard to value elsewhere in Paris, I left feeling I had stolen dinner.

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I've found out just how hard it is to make reservations to Astrance. Yesterday afternoon, they told me they were full through June 15, and today I found out that I can't try to reserve for June 26 until a month before. So obviously, what happened yesterday is that by the evening, everything for a month to come had already been gobbled up. Therefore, it's clear that the only way to guarantee a spot on June 26 is to call as early as possible on May 26, whereupon my question:

When do they open on Sundays?

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According to this thread, L'Astrance opens up at 9:30 A.M. France time.

This matches my experience.  I started calling just after 3:25 A.M. New York time; my first several attempts resulted in the phone ringing with no answer.  At about 3:32 (9:32 in France), a nice man answered and took my reservation for dinner.

Edited to fix grammar.

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Thanks, Jordyn. That thread was really helpful. I shall try to get a reservation then, but it seems like it may prove impossible.

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How long can l'Astrance resist the temptation to expand/ put up prices/drop quality control? If, in the face of such notoriety, they can resist all three, then they will show themselves to be the posessors of such supernal modesty and integrity as the restaurant trade rarely exhibits.  :sad:

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John

I,d say prices are already creeping up.  Sam and I ate there on Wednesday evening and the surprise menu was 84 euros.  In the 2002 Michelin guide it is quoted as 76 euros.  It was a pleasant evening with some quality food, but given the choice I,d return to Les Magnolias in Le Perreux over L,Astrance any day.

(Will post in a bit more detail when return to England)

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John

I,d say prices are already creeping up.  Sam and I ate there on Wednesday evening and the surprise menu was 84 euros.  In the 2002 Michelin guide it is quoted as 76 euros.  It was a pleasant evening with some quality food, but given the choice I,d return to Les Magnolias in Le Perreux over L,Astrance any day.

This information is later than that of a message I responded to in another thread. I'll try to edit that thread. Of course Supply and demand will do this to prices. A restaurant is always likely to be a better deal when it's new than after it's discoered. Likewise a restaurant is best seen just before it gets it's third star for several reasons. A rise in prices is only one them.

Margaret Pilgrim has made the same comment to me, either online or privately, but I'm sure she said it. The 16ieme arrondissement is easier to get to than the suburbs. That may save les Magnolias. The trip certainly gave Patricia Wells a hard time and she's at home in Paris, or should be. I haven't been to les Magnolias, but from what I hear of it from reliable sources such as Scott, the Herald Tribune reivew sounded like a crankly old lady's comments.

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I just thought I'd tell you. Thanks to you all, I made sure to call before 3:30 New York time. I was the first to get through and reserved for dinner at 8 on June 26. Thank you very much for your help, and I'll be sure to report on my experience when I get back to New York.

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If nothing else we are a perseverant bunch here at eGullet and obviously a force with which others will have to contend to get a reservation anywhere in the world. We are willing to work for our meals.

:biggrin:

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Paris, 1 June (escaping the Jubilee in La Republique), lunch at Astrance.  Menu du Printemps, 60 Euros.  

Not much time to post so I'll give you the bare bones.  Also I didn't take notes so the order of courses might be wrong:

1.  Amuse of melon puree on violet yogurt base topped with olive oil emulsion.  Tasty palate cleanser but nothing special.

2.  Tian of crab on avocado slice with another slice draped over the top dotted with orange zest.  Astonishing clarity of flavours, perfectly rip avocado, beutifully balanced.

3.  Langoustines (2) surrounded by coconut green sauce (cant remember other ingrediaent) -- beautifully succulent and great flavour matching.

4.  confit of salmon (anyone know why its called this?)  with carrot and ginger grated salad -- clean flavours but good not exceptional.

5.  Mystery dish -- frothy brown soup -- we guessed correctly that it was infused with smoked bacon and pain grille taste; apparently also rich chicken broth.

6.  Puy lentils with fermented lential broth (frothy), chorzo cream and onion sorbet -- extraordinary dish - the chorizo cream seemed to be imbued with all the taste of chorizo without any meat, the lentils provided an earthy accompaniment and the sorbet cut right through everything else.

7.  Lamb with date and geranium paste, mint and coriander sauce and lemon zest sauce - succulent and tasty meat, perfect saucing (mint + coriander superb combination), date number a bit sweet for me.

8.  Madelines and fruit.  Simple and perfect.

9.  Chocolate brownie with pistachio ice cream, pistachios and pistachio spun sugar.  Incredibly choccy but too sweet for my tooth.

10.  Jasmine flavoured egg-nog wittily served in egg shell sitting in egg box.

Wine -- white Domaine Hauvette (Les Baux de Provence) for 40 Euros.  Floral/aromatic with good structure/acidity and finish.  Excellent match.

Total price 80 Euros plus tip per person.

Wonderfully relaxed experience, good service (not too intrusive), plenty of room to stretch out.  Place not full so lunch seems to be th etime to go.

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Place not full so lunch seems to be th etime to go.

Winot -- Were you referring to the unutilized "upstairs" area?  That area is not intended to be used, very generally.  :wink:

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Winot -- Were you referring to the unutilized "upstairs" area?  That area is not intended to be used, very generally.  :wink:

Cabrales,

No, we were seated in the upstairs area, where one other table was occupied and the other empty.  There was also one free table downstairs.

W

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Winot - The salmon is called confit because it is poached on a very low flame (in olive oil I believe) and cooks very slowly. Similarly to how they make duck confit I believe. As for choriso oil, the fatty oil of the choriso has lots of zip to it and is incredibly pungent. Sometime I make Fondutta con Queso which is nothing more than a blend of cheeses that are melted in an oven then browned for a minute in a broiler. But if you were to take a chunck of choriso and fry it in a pan, and take a teaspoon of the drippings and pour it on the fondutta, it gives the whole dish an intense taste of choriso.

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I dined about one week later at L'Astrance and had the

Menu for Juin which was 65 euros. Will post as soon as

I catch my breath. Had a very pleasant evening but

still pondering whether I feel as positively about it

as so many other board members seem to.

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My harrowing and protracted taxi ride and Paris's dank, rainy weather were left curbside once I opened the door to Astrance. What a warm, gracious reception! I respect the way the French seat a female

solo diner at a good table and Astrance was no exception. The high-

ceiling diningroom has charcoal walls, their darkness broken by

occasional gold leafed mirrors. The tables are skirted in white and sparkle nicely w. silver & crystal. The service plates provide bursts of various color and reminded me of lifesavers. Although these were eventually removed,

each succeeding plate was as interesting for its appearance as for the cuisine it bore.

Service throughout the evening was attentive, warm and professional.

After two courses of struggling with ' my french' the maitre d' graciously decided to speak english. He favorite phrase appears to be 'It's a surprise." ...whether its the wine he chooses or a particular course.

He and his staff appear to take great delight in your enjoyment of their cuisine. The dinner menu was:

--an amuse/ chilled shotglass layered from bottom to top w. lemon yogurt, melon puree and banyuls vinaigrette. Accompanied by a small spoon, I was instructed to scoop it from the bottom [pleasant enough, but not special]

--the famous avocado-crab ravioli [very good]

--3 langoustines on tomato skin sauce accompanied by red grapes and rocket mousse ...instructions were to eat all tastes together

--Mediterranean tuna, perhaps w gingerbread crumbs on the edges...

seared, accompanied by 3 wonderful carrots sitting in carrot froth

--A surprise; see if you can guess it.........don't worry. No one does.

These words accompanied a brown, frothy soup which tasted a bit like coffee but which was toasted bread soup

--Lamb tenderloin w. spring veggies, potato and lemon mousse

--pepper-lemongrass sorbet w. strawberries & madeleines

--sliced straberries w. almonds and cucumber sorbet [!!!]

--thinly sliced apricot tart w. peanuts and peanut ice cream

--an egg carton containing 1 brown egg shell which was filled with a mixture of milk, egg, sugar & jasmine. "Drink it."

I had a lovely evening....and would return...but the bottom line for me

is that my palate tilts towards more traditional fare.

--

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Re-reading Winot's note, I realize I omitted the bowl of veggies with geraniums....forget where it appeared in the sequence.

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I had a lovely evening....and would return...but the bottom line for me is that my palate tilts towards more traditional fare.  

--

So does mine, but my curiosity drives me more than my palate at times. I write this in particular reaction to being in Catalunya right now where I´m torn between the ultra creative and the traditional.

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Very interesting, cabrales. I'm actually not that familiar with Wells so I will also mine her site.

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Her Food lover's Guides to Paris and to France have been invaluable resources. The latter has never been updated and by now many of the addresses are stale and the details are no longer reliable. The Paris guide has been updated several times and remains fairly reliable. Some of her cookbooks are excellent as well. She's been the respected restaurant reviewer for the International Herald Tribune for a long time. I don't know what this says about the need for anonymity as she's been anything but anonymous in France for a long time. I understand she used to do reviews for l'Express--quite a feat for an American woman. She runs cooking programs from her property in Provence. Of late, I've found more fault with her reviews than I had in the past.

Years ago we met an artisanal distiller who was full of praise for her professionalism. In fact we were led to his distillery by her France guide. He was impressed that she came, tasted his wares, bought some eaux-de-vie and the featured him in her book. He said that was unheard of. In France if they're thinking of writing about you, they immediately ask for free samples. He had quite a high opinion of American ethics as a result.

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Her Food lover's Guides to Paris and to France have been invaluable resources.

I have high regard for her books. However, I have had mixed experience with the recipes and technique included in FLGTP. Specifically, her technique for tarte tatin was faulty, resulting in soggy apples and less than great caramel. In a couple of other instances, I found her methods to be either imprecise or not the best of alternatives.

I found no fault with the information on who, what, where. They are wonderful overview books for new or experienced travellers to Paris or France.

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And don't forget the long apprenticeship she served with Robuchon in his Jamin kitchen before collaborating with him on his first book.

I've also found her Paris Bistro cookbook a regular source of simple but pleasing recipes that work in the home, not just in the restaurant kitchen. But bear in find that so many of the bistro classics *started* in the home, not in a restaurant.

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