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Paris Dining


PaulaJ
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After reading various notes re: Astrance, I am excited

about dining there mid June. Will also dine at Gerard

Besson, Ledoyen and Bath's.....all for the first time.

  Would appreciate any suggestions re; items to choose or

to avoid. After reading some reviews of Ledoyen, I am

particularly questionning this choice; has anyone dined there?

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We've only been at l'Astrance. We did the surprise tasting with surprise wines. I'd probably do that again assuming there's been enough change. The courses were small and it wasn't a gargantuan amount of food.

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 got reservations for dinner at Ambassade d'Auvergne, which is right near the Centre Pompidou. It's a Michelin 1-star listed as a good value. Here's the description:

Address 22 r. Grenier St-Lazare - Paris 03

Description .

25.92 and menu 35 to 40.

True ambassadors of a province rich in flavours and traditions : Auvergne-style furniture

and surroundings offering produce, dishes and wines of the region.

Anyone been? Anyone have any comments about cuisine from the Auvergne?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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"I got reservations for dinner at Ambassade d'Auvergne, which is right near the Centre Pompidou. It's a Michelin 1-star listed as a good value."

The potato/cheese dish is a must, but keep room for it.  It will set up like cement in about two hours! :smile:

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The potato/cheese dish is a must, but keep room for it.  It will set up like cement in about two hours!
That's the classic aligot, made with floury mashed potato (dry, not moistened), beaten with warmed cream, butter and crushed garlic, and then fresh cantal. (The weight proportion of potato to cheese is about four to one.)  

There's a lot of leeway here. First, you can make it quite satisfactorily in a food processor. The sticky consistency that the latter produces, which makes it yucky for normal mashed potato, is precisely the object when making aligot -- at Ambassade d'Auvergne the waiters pull the wooden spoon high out of the bowl so you can see the long string of goo that follows it. Second, unfermental cantal is mild and neutral, so that just about any young cheese could be substituted -- not authentic but nevertheless delicious.

Finally, those peasants up in the hills put in a lot more crushed garlic than does a respectable restaurant -- I find Ambassade d'Auvergne's version a bit bland. This is one area where I'm a fervent advocate of "fusion". The dish is great with olive oil instead of butter (or along with butter), or fat-reduced by using yoghurt or smetana instead of cream. Any way you make it, if you're not beating away with a wooden spoon, it's so easy -- if you have a negative weight problem, this will get those extra pounds sliding easily into place. :biggrin:

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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Do you think an Auvergne-style restaurant will have anything reasonably low-fat for my father, or is that a total lost cause? [smiling despite myself]

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Do you think an Auvergne-style restaurant will have anything reasonably low-fat for my father, or is that a total lost cause?

Pan, I took my (then) 80 year old father to Paris (London and Rome too) for a birthday present (and to make up for all the years I was mad at him for not being the father I wanted him to be, but that's for another forum).  We managed to find an acceptable dish for him at every bistro or other restaurant we chose in Paris. The main problem was that beef in Paris is tougher than the kind of sirloin steak he was used to in the US.  If your dad's teeth are good, that won't be a problem. Most all places will have a simple grilled fish or meat dish or some kind of veggie and salad dish that will do.

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The Auvergne is a rugged and rustic region of France, although like any large  enough area you will find pockets of exceptions that prove the rule. Clermond-Ferrand is very industrial and Michel Bras is atypically refined, although in a way he's pure Auvergne, just distilled.

The restaurant is very well known and respected although there's some indication it may not be what it was. What is these days? I've not been there but I'd expect sausages, ham and meat and potatoes French style--steaks, chops and stews. The Auvergne is also mountainous with rivers and a source of several varieties of trout. If they adhered to authenticity, you'd be able to get steamed trout.

One thought just occurred to me. Every restaurant in France is required to post a menu in front of the restaurant on the street. It will be possible for you to check out what's on the menu for all of your meals as soon as you arrive in Paris. While there will be daily changes in the menu at some restaurants, you will get a good guide of what will be available. It may be time consuming, but if it's important, it may be worthwhile.

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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Thank, Jaybee and Bux. Your posts are informative and reassuring. My father is blessed with good teeth, thank God.

By the way, I'm thinking of emailing a (detailed) request for a special menu for my father to the 3-stars I reserved for lunch, le Grand Vefour and Arpege. Do you think that emailing is a complete waste of time, or is it worth trying? I ask because I'm not set up to fax, though I can receive faxes (the machine is busted for outgoing and has been for a long time). I figure, too, that emailing is free and easy to do, though I certainly won't shrink from faxing if it's necessary.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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It probably will work, but why not send a test email first asking if you can do that by email.  If yu have time, mail a letter the old fashioned way too.  Most of the high end places are veryhigh tech, but they may not choose to accomodate you that way.

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I do have time to mail a letter, but I might not get a reply in time. We leave on June 5. Also, do you think I should direct the letters to the attention of the chefs?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Although the Michelin has entered the 21st century with a recognition of e-mail addresses right up there with phone and fax, I'm not sure e-mail is a well used by the French as it is in the US, yet. Mrs. B. is a travel agent and while e-mail would certainly cut the cost of communication with Europe, she's found that faxes often get answered much faster than e-mail. You have nothing to lose by trying e-mail however.

By all means address the fax or letter to the chef. It will be seen by someone else anyway and they will give it to the chef, or pass it on to the person who will handle your request, if it's not the chef himself.

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 could certainly do the research myself, but in case anyone knows the names of the chefs at Grand Vefour and Arpege, who are they? And is the title Chef de la Cuisine?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Bux

The order of dishes on Astrance,s surprise menu on Wednesday went something like:

Crab and avacado ravioli

Small glass of pureed Asparagus with creme fraiche and soya

Mushroom and apple tarte fine with fennel salad

Langoustines with coconut "bisque"

White asparagus spear dusted with orange and saffron

Salmon confit with carrot and ginger, wild leaves

Lentils with onion sorbet and chorizo puree

Panfried aubergine ravioli with chocolate and red wine sauce

Lamb fillet with prune puree (and others but cannot remember)

Fruit with small glass of intense tomato puree

Chocolate and pistachio brownie, pistachio ice cream and pistachio biscuit

I don,t think I,ve left anything out but I agree there isn,t a lot of food and I had at least one slice of bread with all savoury courses, plus finished a couple of courses Sam didn,t like and still left unfull.

It was a good experience and I,m glad we went as it is so talked about, however we won,t rush back.

2 surprise menus with 2 glasses of champagne was 200 euros, I suspect a lot more than when you last visited    

 :confused:

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There does appear to have been some price creep.  When we were at L'Astrance, the suprise menu was 76 euros.  It included not only a bottle of the vin suprise, but when that ran out, they simply started pouring from another bottle. THe price also included water dessert wine, and to our amazement the apertifs as well.  We thought that the staff mereley forgot to include these items in the bill but were told that the water and the wine were included and that the apertifs had been gifted to us.

Scottf,

The menu you had sounds delicious.  If the quality of the ingredients and the skill of preparatoin were the same as when I was there early this spring, I'd ppay 200 euros for two for this meal.  Someone on another board mentioned that it is all but inevitable that a great restaurant like l'astrance would experience price hikes, expansion, and/or a drop in standards.  In my view, if they were going to do anything, I think I prefer the price hike.  Getting a seat was a tortuous process, but the experience was wonderful.  I'd rather pay a little more than lose what to my mind is one of the best and most exciting dinning experiences in Paris--at any price.

Reading between the lines a bit, I get the feeling that you were not similarly floored by l'astrance.  Would you care to elaborate on your orignial post?

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Bux

...

2 surprise menus with 2 glasses of champagne was 200 euros, I suspect a lot more than when you last visited    

 :confused:

Indeed the price has risen. From my credit card records I see we paid 268 dollars for four surprise menus that included wine last July. We drank three bottles--I don't know if that riased the bill or not. It was warm and we drank numberous bottles of water and we all had coffee. At that price, I thought this might well have been the biggest bargain of my life. I might have thought it was a great buy if that price didn't cover beverages.

Was that the surprise menu with wine, or were the two glasses of champagne all you had to drink? The current Michelin shows a price of 76 euros for the biggest menu with wine included.  At under 70 dollars, I coudn't beat that price for comparable food in NY. I'd probably have a problem coming very close as I don't know any place with comparable food that has wines inexpensive enough to help keep the total tab so reasonable. Twenty-four dollars for a glass of champagne seems a bit excessive for l'Astrance, although I'm sure it would not be more than other restaurants in Paris might charge. I've found that aperatifs usually seem out of line with the cost of the meal and are best declined to keep to a budget of any sort.

I see from another of Scott's posts that the price of the menu has increaed since Michelin published the 2002 edition a few months ago.

By the way, only the Crab and avacado ravioli sound familiar. The rest has changed.

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 could certainly do the research myself, but in case anyone knows the names of the chefs at Grand Vefour and Arpege, who are they? And is the title Chef de la Cuisine?

Chefs:

Arpège: Alain Passard

Grand Vefour: Guy Martin

The title is "Chef."

The fastest way I know to get information is to do a google search. My guess is that chef's names will pop up on the search page if you enter the restaurant. If not, they'll be on the first review you open.  Some restaurants are hard to find on the net and "arpege" will need other qualifiers not to be overwhelmed with music pages.

: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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Thanks for the info, Bux.

I'm starting to wonder whether it will really be worth it to go to Astrance for 90 bucks a person. I guess I'm naive, but that sounds like a splurge for a Michelin 1-star. Do any of you know whether the surprise menu there costs the same amount every day (perhaps it's MORE on weekends?)

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I'm starting to wonder whether it will really be worth it to go to Astrance for 90 bucks a person. I guess I'm naive, but that sounds like a splurge for a Michelin 1-star. Do any of you know whether the surprise menu there costs the same amount every day (perhaps it's MORE on weekends?)

As much as I respect Michelin and their judgement, I'm happy to see good word of mouth drive prices as much as stars. Bear in mind that these are all inclusive prices. That is they include tax and service. A tab of $72.50 in NY is 78.50 with tax and $90.25 with a 15% tip. I forget the tax on restaurant meals in Paris, but it's much higher than the 8.25% in NYC. We're also discussing a gastronomic tasting menu of perhaps a dozen courses with the laborous work in the kitchen as well as the serving and cleaning plates after all those courses, it's not just dinner. Ducass, a three star restaurant will set you back anywhere from 190 to 250 euros for set menus of fewer courses without wine and don't expect to find very inexpensive wines on the list. Hélène Darroze, another one star, offers menus from 59.50 to 109.75 euros without wines. Furthermore the least expensive set menu at l'Astrance was 58 euros (at least when the surprise menu with wine was 76). So we're not talking about just an ordinary three course meal here. It's not a matter of calculating how many stars you eat for how much money. At Carré des Feulliants, I've had both the least expensive lunch special and the full blown degustation at dinner. The latter was more than twice the price of the special, but I felt it was a much better value. Of course both were 2 star meals, or rather meals in a two star restaurant.

Michelin has a few caveats about interpreting their stars. "...beware of comparing the star given to an expensive de luxe establishment to that of a simple restaurant ..." Even at three stars it's noted that "One eats here extremely well, sometimes superbly." [My emphasis] Stars are given to restaurants, but there's no Good Housekeeing seal of approval on any single meal. People have been disappointed here and at almost every single restaurant in the world at one time or another.

I'd be very surprised if the same menu were differently priced on weekends. Usually in Paris, the same food at lunch as dinner will be the same price. As I've noted, prix fixe lunch menus exist at what may be bargain prices, but they are rarely the same food as on the more expensive dinners. Still, it's an interesting concept. A sliding scale according the demand. Most Parisian restaurants are closed on Sundays and many are closed on Saturdays as well. Maybe they can be bribed to stay open.

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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To add to Bux's excellent comments is the fact that in France, your table is yours for the entire evening. There are "no turns", no come at 6:00 or 9:00. Considering that most meals can last anywhere from 3 to 4 hours, $75.00 for an entire evenings entertainment is quite an achievement.

Some of the 3 stars, most notably Lucas Carton has a relatively inexpensive lunch menu,. Bux is correct that this special menu often will not highlight a chef's speciality. We made a huge mistake the first time we went to Ledoyen for lunch by ordering their "special lunch." We were disappointed - but it was our bad ordering.

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Lizziee exaggerates. There are restaurants that turn tables. Most notable are the brasseries, but many of the smaller restaurants and bistros do as well. To the best of my knowledge l'Astrance does not.

Lizzee, do I know you well enough to kid that you can afford not to eat at restaurants that turn tables? :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,

You are allowed to "kid" - I suspect you know me better than I am aware.

We do not eat at a lot of brasseries in Paris as you can tell from my post. I have eaten at one of Guy Savoy's baby bistros and one of Rostang's and yes there is a constant flow of people. However, I don't think that the one stars do more than one turn. I consider L'Astrance a higher end restaurant where dining is a long, leisurely affair.

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L'Astrance is a special place and very hard to classify. For all it's apparent casualness and lack of caviar on the menu, it's very fine cuisine and the creation of talented professionals. It just sort of breaks the traditional mold. One star in Paris, although there are many restaurants with one star, is also a more significant accomplishment than one star in most other parts of France.

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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Wine was included within the price of 84 euros.  This was for a bottle of white until the lamb course when we were poured glasses of red.  Champagne was seperate.

I think the first bottle of water was 2.5 euros but we drank at least 2 bottles that we didn't pay for.

One thing that did "surprise" me and disappointed me a little was that when presented with the menu you have a set "seasons" menu of around 8-9 courses not including wine for around 60 euros.

The "surprise" menu included every dish on the seasons menu plus a few extras, so the surprise element was somewhat missing.

I'm glad we went and I would certainly not dissuade anyone from trying it out especially if they have a reservation as they are so hard to come by :wink:

I guess with such a big build up I was kind of expecting the meal of my life and though it was good, very good in parts, I wasn't blown away.

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