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Trois Etoiles A Paris...


ulterior epicure
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I'm planning a trip to Paris in November and would like to secure reservations at a top-end restaurant. It's for a special (personal) celebration and I'll be dining alone.

To keep costs down, I've decided to have two lunches instead of one knock out dinner (unless someone can convince me otherwise).

I've whittled the field down to:

Pierre Gagniere

Le Cinq

Arpege

Taillevant

As well, I've heard that Apicius is worth a go.

Despite having been to Paris a gazillion times, I have to plead ignorance to the high-end 'eateries.' The ones I've named have all come to mind because of their notoriety. (The other, which I didn't mention, is Alaine Ducasse, but I avoiding excess on this trip).

I don't know much about Ledoyen or Grand Vefour...

Any, and all, suggestions, comments, and personal experiences would be greatly appreciate.

Ciao!

U.E.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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First of all, unless you order the cheaper dishes (and they're aren't many) or lunch specials, the fact that you're going for lunch won't save you that much money. A proper meal at any of those places will cost between 200-350 euros, not including wine, regardless of when you have it. Second, if you're considering that path, are you sure you'll get from the experience what you're looking for? It's a case of culinary toe-dipping. I would reconsider, and if your budget is really that tight, think about spending it on one place for the best meal you can afford, rather than on two meals at two places for their 'B' or 'C' game. You know, why have two cheeseburgers when you can have one truly exceptional prime rib? Also, remember, you'll be there during white truffle season, which may hurt your pocket, but will surely do something magical to your soul if you can bring yourself to order a portion.

For a first time visit, I'm not sure Le Cinq is worth your time. The culinary delphic one, Vmilor, has spoken against it (make of that what you will).

Taillevant is interesting historically, and I believe they have a newish chef, but I don't think anyone would tell you it's among the very best food in Paris.

Arpege is a very serious meal, but for what they do (allegedly) best, the tasting of vegetables, they are astoundingly expensive (300-350 Euros, I think), and it may not be suitable for a first timer on the 3 star scene. They obviously have other dishes, but Passard the chef is really only interested in cooking from his garden these days. The fowl and fish dishes are very limited, and have had several reviews of inconsistency, recently (especially the pigeon, which is the only fowl dish - there are no meat dishes).

That leaves Gagnaire. He is a genius, but some of his dishes are really confrontational. His was my second or third 3 star meal, and one of the best of my life. Astonishing, outrageous, perfect, but also incredibly odd, with some excetptionally wierd food that I know many people would have hated (my wife, for instance, among them). Even among his admirers, one out of three or four meals can be a bust, or elements can be - how shall we say - not entirely successful.

If you want a safe, uber-luxe meal, with as close to a guarantee of quality as you can ask for, I would suggest different choices.

Ducasse - a sort of post-modern, safe take on exceptionally classical cuisine.

Le Meurice - very good reviews coming out of this place recently. 2 stars at the moment, but no one (that I've heard) thinks it will stay that way for long.

Les Ambassadeurs at the Crillon. As above.

Several people will tell you Eric Frechon's Le Bristol. In fact, there's a thread around here somewhere with good pics. I'm not convinced, but Michelin and other people seem to be.

If I had one meal left before the electric chair, and I could convince those fine people of Florida to fly me to Paris first, and pay for my lunch second, it would without question be at L'Ambroisie. This is, perhaps, the most unadorned of the Parisian 3 stars, and in food terms, certainly the least ostentatious; but to its fans, also the most sublime.

Anyway, best of luck, and let us know how it goes.

Edited by MobyP (log)

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

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"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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MobyP.

Thanks a million for your insight... Thanks mostly for reminding me of L'Ambroisie - which I had forgotten to add to the list. Well, it looks like from you suggestions that L'Ambroisie is an easy choice...? The electric chair, huh? Well, hopefully this won't be my last meal - but indeed a truly memorable one in anticipation of better ones to come...

Yes, I had planned on doing just the lunch specials - is that bad? I know it would tortuous toe-dipping - but I'm not sure I could justify dropping the equivelent of 300 euros on vegetables! I don't care who's garden they're from.

Perhaps I may find it in my budget to do one lunch and one dinner... white truffle season may put a nix on othat idea thought - as I know that's Ducasse's passion.

Anyone else like to weigh in? MobyP, would enjoy any more tips on Parisian dining if you have any!

U.E.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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We had a great dinner at Taillevant in July. I wrote briefly about it, and there are other reviews as well on here. The seven course menu degustation is 130E at dinner, and they have some very interesting wines that won't break the bank. I would ask to be seated in the main dining room if you decide to go.

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I think your idea of having lunch is a great one. The quality does not go down because of the time of the meal, just the amount and number of portions. I do not think you will receive cheesebuger quality, no disrespect intended to the previous poster.I would also recommend Le Meurice. Please do let us know what you do decide.

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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Thanks for the input... I was kind of feeling pressured to have one dinner instead of two (or three) lunches... I don't mind smaller portions and less courses - I just want to see and taste some top-notch cooking.... I hope I can do that at lunch!

Le Meurice - I'll have to do some research. Why do you like it?

Thanks.

U.E.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I would choose Taillevant and Le Grand Vefour and

substitute Le Meurice for T. if you wished something a little

more cutting edge. I am not a fan of Pierre Gagnaire [personal

choice] nor Ambroisie and had an uninteresting meal at Le Cinq

[which included pretentious service].

Enjoy your celebration!

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. . .

Well, hopefully this won't be my last meal - but indeed a truly memorable one in anticipation of better ones to come...

Have you considered starting with two star restaurants and working your way up, or have you already had a couple of those under your belt?
Yes, I had planned on doing just the lunch specials - is that bad?  I know it would tortuous toe-dipping - but I'm not sure I could justify dropping the equivelent of 300 euros on vegetables!  I don't care who's garden they're from.

What could be bad about eating at a good restaurant. On the other hand it flies in the face of your decision to eat at the top. May I ask why you intend to dine at a three star restaurant in the first place? Is is for the overall experience or for some primary experience. I will tell you that although it varies from restaurant to restaurant, the experience of the lesser menus is not necessarily the same as having the tasting menu, or dining with abandon from the carte. Wisdom has always been that many a restaurant's reputation is based on its best dishes. They're not likely to be on the lunch special menu and as others have pointed out, at many three star restaurants, the tasting menu, if offered, and the a la carte menu is the same price at lunch as at dinner.

My one experience with having a go for broke tasting menu at one of Paris' two star restaurants and then later having the lunch special menu was that it was as if I had eaten in two different restaurants with two different kitchens. The grand meal was comparable to many a three star restaurant for us, but the lunch was like that at an expensive restaurant, but not necessarily one of more than a star rating.

Perhaps my biggest concern is simply that I am a bit at odds with the idea of eating at a three star restaurant or paying that price without some attending exictement at eating specifically at the restaurant of choice. Read about three star restaurants. Read what people say here, read magazines and read books. Look for articles that are more then reviews and look for reviews that are more than consumer reports. In my humble opinion, if you're on a budget, you're wasting your money if you're not excited about the particular restaurant in question at those prices. My other opinion is that, excepting caviar and those sort of items that are not the handiwork of the kitchen, you may find better value at the high end of the menu.

Moby was good enough to take the time to answer your question in the spirit in which it was asked and he gave you his personal advice on each restaurant, but his best advice, in my opinion, was in his opening paragraph.

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 and Carlsbad.

Thanks for parting your culinary wisdom. Yes, i would like to have a meal (or meals) a three-star Parisian establishment b/c I have, albeit rapidly, built up an appreciation and experience at starred restaurants (all around Europe). I have, however, yet to experience any starred restaurant in the whole of France... I'm sure that says a lot...

I do read forums, articles, books, publications and online reviews/discourses regularly (more than I should) about the institution of fine dining and the Michelin system... however, I'm always thrilled to read more. Any suggestions.

I think you both have given some great advice - something for me to mull over in the weeks before I go! For now, (Bux, I think you'll recognize me from the "Barcelona and Environs" forum), I am off to Barcelona - in which case, if I do decide Can Fabes, it will be my first 3-star experience.

Looking forward to hearing more from you when I return!

Ciao.

U.E.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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. . . . Yes, i would like to have a meal (or meals) a three-star Parisian establishment b/c I have, albeit rapidly, built up an appreciation and experience at starred restaurants (all around Europe).  I have, however, yet to experience any starred restaurant in the whole of France... I'm sure that says a lot...

I do read forums, articles, books, publications and online reviews/discourses regularly (more than I should) about the institution of fine dining and the Michelin system...  however, I'm always thrilled to read more.  . . . .

Reading over my post, I see how it might be taken as churlish, I trust you didn't take it that way. I was lucky to start traveling in Europe when it seemed as if it could be done more economically, and it was most reasonable to start at the bottom to build a solid understanding of basic French food, largely because the other costs of travel were so much less. I should admit that it's much harder to find that solid basic food than it used to be, but the quality at the top of the star charts may be as good as it ever was, or better. Anyway, those were different times and Europe was a different place. Three star restaurants can always be an enriching experience and who's to say exactly when the most opportune time in one's culinary education has come to make the most of that sort of investment. Some of my comments come from questioning my own focus on stars when I travel. At times I've felt I've missed the forrest for the trees, or is it the other way around? I'm sort of wrapping up my trip to Italy, the first one in many years. I find it's easy to forget to leave time for the little trattoria with all of the famous restaurants calling attention to themselves.

I should also agree that if one is going to have one's first three star meal, neither Passard (Arpège) nor Gagnaire, are ideal choices simply because they are very singular places. I've eaten wonderfully at both, but I have a wide appreciation and an intellectual curiosity about food and didn't at all mind that after an extraordinary meal at Gagnaire, the desserts seemed to sport the tastes of vinegar and aluminum shavings with a heavy dose of saffron. We found the savory courses stunning, but we both pushed the desserts around the table trying to hide all that we couldn't eat. For many diners, that would ruin the evening and they'd never give themselves the opportunity to have a second meal that was more even and sadly without quite the same highs but with desserts that pleased. Arpège is just very expensive and perhaps past a point of diminishing returns so that any sort of a budget is troublesome. It's not that you can get what he has to offer for less anywhere else, it's just that you can enter the realm of sublime and thrilling food for much less money.

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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  • 3 weeks later...

hey all.

just got back from warsaw. i'd like to pick up this string again, as i have changed my plans and will be in paris next week.

anyone have any advice, insight, references to strings on egullet/elsewhere about the lunch menus at any of the following?:

1. ledoyen

2. le grand vefour

3. lucas carton

4. relais louis xiii

5. carre des feuillants

would greatly appreciate it!!

best.

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Lucas-Carton is now Senderens and differs considerably. Check recent posts. L'Ambroisie is always a la carte and one can eat as well at lunch as at dinner. Even when there is a prix fixe lunch, such as at Le Grand Vefour, the a la carte menu is available.

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Another vote for L'Ambroisie. It was my first 3 Michelin stars in Paris and remains the best I have had. I had the most amazing lunch of my life. Though, I went for lunch because of timing issues. It was not cheaper than dinner because it's a la carte anyway....

I second MobyP: if I had to choose a restaurant for my last meal, it'd be L'Ambroisie...

"Je préfère le vin d'ici à l'au-delà"

Francis Blanche

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Gasp! Ohmygosh!! I have only gotten to the first picture and my mouth is agape... I don't even want to know (okay, I do) the price tag on this meal... I'm sure it's WAY out of my budget.... at least for this trip...

any insight MobyP on Carre des Feuillants, Table de J.R.? Any other exciting (mid-range/affordable) places to visit?

Cheers.

U.E.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Of late I have had first-hand experience at Arpege and Ledoyen. The former can be fantastic, but is exhorbitant. Ledoyen is considerably cheaper and the 18th-century ambiance is rare and beautiful. I found the food delightfully a generation behind (and generous) and the service not too friendly. L'Ambroisie is next for me, and I have to say that everything I've heard about it has been positive.

I met an American recently who had pretense to being well-dined. As soon as he said, "My two favorite retaurants are Taillevent and the French Laundry", I knew he was still wet behind the ears. If timidity is in your make-up, those two places won't let you be embarrased. Taillevent seems to live off Americans who don't know what's going on and what is worth patronzing in the chef and retaurant world.

Another element to factor in is whether to order a tasting menu or order a la carte. Doing the latter to near-ultimate benefit is an acquired skill. The consensus seems to be order a la carte at Gagnaire, at least. I guess there are no tasting menus at L'Ambroisie, which is one reason why I am going there. At least I won't be forced into going along with people who have been brainwashed into believing the tasting menus is the only way to order.

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robert brown.

thanks for the insight... i have not been to taillevant or french laundry. i do not consider myself "timid" when it comes to eating. as for a la carte v. tasting menu, i'm undecided. while the tasting menu often offers a good value, it really (in my opinion) depends on how the menu looks. the biggest problem for me is that a lot of menus stand on pretense, and thus do not accurately describe what is actually presented...

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Despite my timidity, after wiping the moisture from behind my aged ears, I just wanted to say that we didn't hear any English being spoken in our room when we had dinner at Taillevent in July. I guess we were the only ignorant Americans there that night. :smile:

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Gasp!  Ohmygosh!!  I have only gotten to the first picture and my mouth is agape... I don't even want to know (okay, I do) the price tag on this meal... I'm sure it's WAY out of my budget.... at least for this trip...

any insight MobyP on Carre des Feuillants, Table de J.R.?  Any other exciting (mid-range/affordable) places to visit?

Cheers.

U.E.

I don't know about the first. Le Table de JR is an upscale version of Atelier, which is gourmet tapas of varying quality (acceptable to very good, or very poor to acceptable, depending on who you ask).

The point is that you're looking to create a scale upon which all cuisine will be judged, no? Why not start with the sublime, and leave the details till later?

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Moby P.

Could you clarify the last sentence of your last posting? I'm a little confused by it...

Also, are you on "the Continent?" I'm finding it very refreshing that I'm getting responses from you during my daytime!

Thanks for all the advice... I'm really tempted to visit Le Bristol after investigating it a bit more... the only thing is, I'm terribly uninformed on the chef at all the top Parisian (ie. starred) restaurants...

Oh, one more thing - any news/personal experience with Apicius? I've heard "grand" things about it from all.

Ciao.

U.E.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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UE - if you use this site's search facility you will find a ton of information about many of the restaurants you are considering. I went through a very similar process to you late last year trying to decide where to celebrate my 40th Birthday. In the end I plumped for Le Meurice and was very glad I did. My reasons for choosing the restaurant were that I had heard less than steller reports about some of the more established names while Yannick Alleno had been pulling in all the plaudits; my wife would have hated Gagnaire, and Le Meurice offered at least some sort of value for money compared to pretty much everywhere else at that level (Taillevent excepted).

The service and room were as important to our enjoyment of the meal as the food, but all were wonderful. There were one of two minor issues with the meal and you could say "for this price I demand perfection!" but it wasn't that sort of ocassion. I was there to enjoy myself and I did - down to the last sip of my €25 glass of calvados.

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Hey everyone.

I'm assuming jackets are required (even for le dejeuner) at any of the two/three starred establishments (Le Meurice and Carre des Feuillants)?

U.E.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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