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Marathon de Paris in April


mjoeknox
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Hi All – I’m planning a week long trip to Paris in April, ostensibly to run the Marathon de Paris but mostly to cram in as many good meals as time and budget allow. (What better place to recover from a 26 mile run is there than a series of Parisian restaurants?) Thanks to this list and recommendations from friends I already have far too many places I desperately want to eat at but I have a couple of quick questions that I didn’t see answered in any of the existing discussions or in the Essentials thread.

How far in advance does one usually need to make a reservation for a good (but not high end) restaurant? For example, the apartment we’ll be staying at is only a couple of blocks from Le Repaire de Cartouche so it would seem to make sense to eat there the night before the race. Is a Saturday night table there a reservation I should make a month in advance? A week? A day? How about places like Astier, Le Pre Verre and Fish La Boissonnerie. Here in NYC it can always be so unpredictable with the Michelin one star place down the street from me having same day availability but lesser restaurants booking up a month in advance.

What about for a place that is getting a lot of positive press, such as Spring or L’ami Jean? Should I start trying to make a Tuesday or Wednesday night reservation there now if I want to go?

I know there are no guarantees but at least knowing I’m in the ballpark of when to call will help me from feeling a little less foolish. As it is the thought of making the calls in French inspires a bit of terror.

Also, I saw references to online reservations through bestrestaurantsparis.com but no first hand accounts. Anybody actually used it? Will they accept an out of country telephone number or should I use the number of the apartment that we'll be staying at even though we won't arrive there for weeks.

My final question relates to Le Petit Pontoise which I ate at a couple of years ago during my only other real trip to Paris. At the time I thought it defined what a simple, relaxed meal in Paris should be, though I could easily have been influenced by jet lag, a full bottle of wine, and the serendipity of finding it right by my hotel room just after arriving in the city. Most of the comments on this board about the place seem to be fairly old and less than glowing. Has it lost a step or am I remembering it through rose tinted glasses? Anybody been recently?

For the record if I had to make the list of places I’d like to go to today it would probably include, in no particular order:

Le Repaire de Cartouche

Fish La Boissonnerie,

Astier

Spring

L’Entredgeu

Le Temps au Temps

Cerisaie

Les Papilles

La Cremerie

La Verre Vole

L’ami Jean

Le Petit Pontoise

I have my eye on some more luxe places but right now I’m drawing heavily from the budget list. It’s all bound to change multiple times before I actually touch down at CDG.

Thanks for any advice anyone can provide. //Joe

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Hi Joe,

I would be very happy to go to any of the places on your list and think I have been to all of them more than once, which is not something I do unless I really like the place.

As far as reservations go, I don't think I have ever made them more than a week in advance and can't remember having any problems. I'm sure people would take your reservation now, but I don't really think it's neccessary. If you do make reservations this far in advance, don't forget to cancel them if you can't make it. I was at Spring recently and one of the tables didn't show, which is really a shame in a tiny place that has to turn away so many people. Luckily someone came in off the street so in the end it was okay.

Since you are running the marathon you might be interested to know that a bunch of Paris's best chefs--and incidently two from restaurants on your list--(Yves Camdeborde, Thierry Faucher, Thierry Breton, Rodolphe Paquin, Bertrand Bluy, Flora Mikula) all ran in the NYC Marathon last year and there is a short article in this month's Regal about it.

www.parisnotebook.wordpress.com

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Ah Phyllis stole my story which she swiftly posted before me:

When you revealed that you were staying near the Le Repaire de Cartouche I couldn't resist a little culinary marathon trivia.

Q. What Parisian chefs ran (and finished) the 2006 NYC Marathon?

A. According to the Digest of November 2006:

Thierry Breton of Chez Michel

Yves Camdeborde of Le Relais Saint-Germain

Thierry Faucher of L'Os à Moelle

Bertrand Bluy of Les Papilles

Flora Mikula of Flora and

Rodolphe Paquin of Le Repaire de Cartouche.

As an ancien marathoneur ancien, I believe in patronizing our long-distance brethern and I hardly think you can do better than these except for carbo loading – but there are plenty of fine Italian places around for that starting with Mori Venice Bar.

As for your list the only one I'd knock off is Le Petit Pontoise where following the NYT's article the quality dropped off. Cause and effect? Who knows.

Edited by John Talbott (log)

John Talbott

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Phyllis/John - Thanks much for the quick response. That's amusing, both my traveling companion and I also did the New York City Marathon last Fall. Supporting the establishments of chefs that pounded the pavement through all five boroughs seems like an excellent idea. We need to narrow down our ever growing list somehow.

Thanks also for the carbo-loading recommendation. I'm still on the fence on choosing an Italian restaurant simply because there are no shortage of good ones here in Brooklyn. The last time I did the Paris marathon my pre-race meal was the cochon de lait fondant aux épices, chou croquant at Le Pre Verre. There are worse ways of relaxing before a race.

I do wonder if all of those running chefs were disappointed with the refreshments along the course in NY where we generally don't stray too far from gatorade, energy gels, and the occasional piece of fruit. When I started to fade in Paris just before the Bois de Boulogne someone handed me a piece of toast covered in roquefort and a small cup of hard cider. Needless to say it did the trick.

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Just a small commentary: they all arrived more than one hour after Lance Armstrong (said the proud runner that did a faster time than Lance in his first marathon ever...)

BTW - are you doing the carbo depletion? In case you do, I don't envy you...

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

Joe, I don't know if you brought your computer over, but (1) good luck tomorrow, the weather's a bit hot, so make sure you hydrate with water not champagne and (2) let us know how your carb-loading and other eating experiences went. I'll be looking for you.

John

John Talbott

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Thanks for the encouragement. It was indeed hot, and I made the decision early on and take it easy and just have fun rather than risk being too exhausted to enjoy what will probably be my only trip to Paris this year. Any race where you can enjoy stopping for a glass of Beaujolais and a glass of cider en route (both stands sponsored by other French marathons) is enjoyable even if you're well off your pace.

I'll type up my notes on the following places over the next day or two:

Les Papilles

Repaire de Cartouche

Fish

La Cerisaie

Spring

L'Os à Moëlle

A couple of quick non-tasting notes, though. We used parisaddress.com for the apartment rental and had an excellent experience with them. I'm not sure how there selection compares to other places but I liked that I could do everything online. It seemed a lot easier than some of the other places I checked out.

Our apartment was about a block from Le Pamphlet which was closed for renovations and was completely gutted when I stuck my head in to see what was going on. I think that the person working on it said it would reopen in May. I haven't been online much so apologies if that's old news.

Also, it looked like we might have caught one of the last servings at L'Os à Moëlle for a while as I think the signs posted on the door said it was closing after this weekend for two weeks of renovations. Then again, my French is really limited so someone else might want to confirm that.

OK, off to type up my menu notes.

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Reviewing Les Papilles, Repaire de Cartouche, Fish, Cerisaie, Spring, L'Os a Moelle

I’m having problems getting my pictures up but this is already getting long and rather than letting that hold everything up I figured I’d post my notes on the six places we tried. For budget reasons we were trying to stick to places where the menu was ~35 Euro a night. Since I made all my decisions based on the excellent advice from this website, none of these places are going to be new to the list but if you’re looking for a “budget” itinerary you could definitely do worse than these.

Les Papilles -

What a great way to start the trip. We arrived at dusk after a short stroll through Luxembourg Gardens and were warmly greeted by Bertrand Bluy who helped us pick a bottle of wine from the shelves and compared stories about the 2006 NYC Marathon. He said that ordinarily he’d also be running Paris but he was actually leaving town the next day for a trip to New York. We also compared lists of places that he was going while here and I was happy to see Brooklyn’s own Peter Luger Steakhouse made the cut.

If I remember correctly we were charged the price of the bottle plus six euro.

First course was an excellent carrot soup with cumin served out of a tureen into a bowl that contained bacon, goat cheese, assorted herbs and browned butter. I’m not generally a huge fan of carrot soup finding it to be either too bland or too sweet but the addition of the goat cheese really made this dish work. Also, the whole presentation method of bringing out the bowl with some of the ingredients and then ladling the soup into it is just really nice. Although it happened in most of the restaurants we went to in Paris it’s not a trend that I’ve seen here in NYC.

Main course was slow cooked shoulder of lamb with vegetables. The lamb was so tender it essentially melted when you touched it with a fork. It may not be cutting edge cuisine but I could eat this dish a million times and not be disappointed. It’s certainly been said before but the quality of the ingredients is what’s showing through at this point.

I forgot to note exactly what dessert was but my recollection was some sort of chocolate mousse with a coffee flavored cream.

I’d have to say that I think I found this place the most romantic of all the restaurants we went. I know that’s entirely in the eye of the beholder as some might not be so entranced with other diners browsing by your table for their bottle of wine but I really liked the space and the lighting. This was also hands down the best bargain of the trip with the menu at 28.50 and plenty of affordably priced wines to choose from. We went with a 2003 Vin de pays d'Oc, La Grange de Quatre Sous. I forget the exact price but I believe it was around 25 Euro.

This is the restaurant I most find myself wanting to go back to as I sit around on a rainy day in New York.

Repaire de Cartouche – Saturday night

Our second night in Paris saw our second chef who had run the 2006 marathon. (This really wasn’t how we chose places but it was a nice coincidence.)

We entered on the Bd des Filles du Calvaire side, which at 8:30 was completely empty and were directed down to the Rue Amelot side, which was about half full. That’s as crowded as it seemed to get for most of the evening, not a particularly promising sign on a Saturday evening. We were seated right next to the window, which was fortuitous given the chain smoker seated one table away from us. I exaggerate not at all when I say she smoked an entire pack of cigarettes over the period of three courses and three espressos. I watched her crack open the pack as we sat down and crinkle it up before we left. More power to her, I guess, as she looked to be about 90 – though for all I know she was 30 and just showing the ravages of her lifestyle.

Service was relatively brusque but I certainly wouldn’t call it rude. If you’re expecting the “hi how ya doing” service of the US, this would seem pretty aloof. Rillettes arrived as soon as we placed our order and was delicious.

Cream of Asparagus soup with caviar was quite good but not nearly as transcendent as the previous night’s carrot soup. Once again the presentation of the bowl with caviar before the soup arrived was a nice touch. Our other appetizer was an egg cocotte with foie gras cream. I recall this being a touch too rich for an appetizer but good nonetheless.

Main courses were a pork chop on a bed of lentils that would have been excellent had it been a cold December day but didn’t seem all that exciting in the middle of a spring heat wave (or as my source of energy for a 26 mile run the next morning). The other I have noted as fond d’artichoux et oeuf that I have absolutely no recollection of.

We skipped dessert and coffee after having tried in vain to get the waiter’s attention.

I think that if I actually lived two blocks from this restaurant it would be a comforting presence on a cold winter night but for this trip it goes down as my least favorite of the places we tried. The food seemed fairly conservative and except for the asparagus soup not particularly in tune to the season but everything was good; it perhaps just wasn’t the right meal for that night. Also, for someone who delights in NYC’s smoking ban this was a bit of a chore. Maybe the other room is non-smoking.

Fish – Sunday Night

This was my one repeat restaurant from my trip two years ago. Both times I chose it from the relatively small pool of affordable restaurants open on Sunday figuring it would be easy to navigate with limited French if I was really tired after the marathon. It was a bit more crowded and noisy than I remembered but we got a nice seat in the corner right by the window.

One appetizer was sauteed scallops & baby calamari with nero sauce. I’ve never had this dish before, though a quick google search shows it’s not an unusual combination. I’d prefer my scallops a little bit rawer than they arrived but I thought this was a good start and the squid ink certainly does allow for a dramatic presentation of the dish. Our other appetizer was an excellent mushroom soup which, like the previous night’s cream of asparagus soup, managed to impart a distinctly creamy taste and texture without being too think or heavy.

Our two mains were filet of beef w/ foie gras, peas and red wine sauce and lamb with fingerling potatoes and broccoli. I don’t think the lamb quite competed with the dish from Les Papilles two nights earlier but the beef and foie gras were both good.

Desserts were crème brulee and a slice of chocolate cake w/ wasabi flavored ice cream. The wasabi ice cream was nice in small doses as a counterpoint to the chocolate.

Wine was a 2005 Rose Sancerre Sautereau.

I think of Fish as being a lot of fun and a pretty good meal on a Sunday night. If I lived in Paris I could see the bar being a great place to stop by for a glass of wine. Given the relatively few times that I get to Paris I’m not sure that I’d go again for a third visit as the food is good but nothing I find myself lusting over. The caveat is that if you’re one of those people who doesn’t want to hear English spoken this place will drive you mad. At least three quarters of the diners were American. At least two of the tables seemed to be made up of American parents visiting a child who was living in Paris and dating someone French. It’s always amusing to watch one of those meet-my-significant-other occasions.

La Cerisaie – Monday Night

Boy did I second guess myself when I first walked into this place. (Lest this discourage you from going on, keep reading. I ended up loving this place.) I’ve got nothing against postage sized restaurants (I live in Brooklyn after all) or American tourists (being one myself) but the combination of the former with some of the worst ever examples of the latter had disappointing meal written all over it. Throw into the mix the fact that it was quite warm in the dining room, probably a combination of the kitchen and the outside temps that must have hit 80 earlier that day.

When we walked in at 8:30 all but one of the tables were filled by Americans. While some could have been respectful egullet tourists several were poster children for the Ugly American Tourist stereotype. These are the same people that can’t be bothered to even learn how to ask for the check in French or, for that matter, visit NYC and are happiest when they eat at TGI Fridays or Olive Garden. The couple next to us were just finishing up their meal and were obviously severely disgruntled by how close together the tables were. They proceeded to yell at the waitress (who could not have been friendlier) to make sure that the dessert was included in their prix fixe meal, which confused her to no end since the blackboard hanging right next to them made no mention of prix fixe. Throw into the mix their desire for her to order them a taxi and then call to check on it when it didn’t show up in approximately ten seconds (did I mention she was the only waitress in a full restaurant or that they were approximately twenty yards from both a taxi stand and a Metro?) and their decision to combat not knowing any French by trebling the volume of their English and you can probably picture the scene.

However, ten minutes into the meal when the yahoos had all cleared out (I probably go too far when I say they took the heat with them) and the place filled up with what looked to be mostly locals or at least respectful diners of undetermined nationality (a mother and daughter, two guys obviously just out of the office, a family of six), I was glad I stuck with it.

Entrees were a cold sweet pea soup with chorizo and white asparagus with a citron sauce. Chorizo seems to be the ingredient of choice as we saw it sprinkled through many of the menus. It was a nice addition to a soup that while simple was perfect for a hot day. It’s hard to do much wrong with white asparagus and citron.

Mains were Brandade de Lieu au Piment d’Espelette and Agneau de Lait des Pyrenees et Pimientos Farcis. The cod was nothing to look at but it might have been one of the best dishes of the trip. My traveling companion couldn’t believe it was cod as I think most of her associations with the fish were of the overly salted or not particularly flavorful variety. The lamb was balanced nicely by the pimientos.

Desserts were an assortment of sorbets and a chocolate/coffee tart.

2 entrees + 2 plats + 2 desserts + 2 coffees + 29 Euro for a tasty bottle of 2003 Domaine Rabasse Charavin Rasteau Cotes du Rhone Villages = 100 Euro on the nose.

One last note, by coincidence I just discovered that this exact bottle of wine is available at Smith & Vine, the excellent wine store near my apartment in Brooklyn for $18. I’m not sure what the general markup on wines in restaurants in France is but considering they only charged 6 Euros per bottle at Les Papilles it seems like 29 Euro in France for an $18 bottle in the States might not have been the best bargain. Still, I went away more than satisfied and I’d gladly pay it again.

Final verdict.

I’d absolutely recommend this place to any of my friends visiting Paris so long as they understood that it’s small and that their reservation should be for 8:30 or later. I think this was the meal that most exceeded my expectations and it was hands down the nicest service we had on the trip. They were patient with our attempts at French and unlike at Fish, didn’t insist on speaking to us in English. The only way you learn is by practicing, right?

Spring – Tuesday night

Well, I’m going to take a little bit of a pass on this one. I think I’d built this up too much in mind and nothing short of a three star meal with the chef carrying on witty conversation throughout would have met my expectations. We arrived right at 8:30 for our seating and the place was empty. The chef informed us that he was only seating 8 people that night (as opposed to the normal 16), us and one other group and that he’d be doing everything himself, no waitress. Ultimately I think this might have been part of the problem. The room just didn’t seem to have much life in it when it was half empty and I think asking someone to cook a four course meal and handle the front of the room is a bit much. Unfortunately we also never really developed that much of a rapport the chef - I guess you could say the reverse was probably also true as he seemed like he’d rather be doing anything other than talking to us. I got the impression he thought we were a bit foolish for making the reservation so far in advance (5 weeks, I got a little excited, I know) though he also let drop that he’s usually booked 3 weeks in advance so I hard felt like we’d committed a major faux pas. I don’t know, maybe it was off night for him, but he never really cracked a smile the entire time we were there.

The other group trickled in over the next forty minutes or so - fashionably late doesn’t work all that well when no one can start eating until everyone has arrived.

The food? Well, no complaints there though I didn’t take notes because I was already feeling a bit like a foolish tourist. There was an asparagus appetizer, a shrimp dish with artichoke (added at the request of the other table) and pigeons with hearts on almond puree. The pigeons were pretty darn amazing and I guess he didn’t hate us too much because he gave us each an extra heart. I forget what dessert was other than a spoon coated in dark chocolate.

I can really see the potential of this place and would give it another shot, particularly some night when there was someone else handling the front of the room. I’d love to really evaluate the food based on more realistic expectations of what the experience would be like.

As an aside, he mentioned at one point that he was considering making 8 the standard seating, rather than 16.

This also turned out to be our most expensive night at something like 130 Euro for two, though that can mostly be attributed to the fact that in addition to a bottle of wine with the meal we had a couple of glasses before we were served since we had to wait so long for the other party to show up.

L’Os a Moelle – Thurday night

Our last night in Paris (our third “marathon chef”) and this is really where it all came together for us. This was the last reservation we made. I’d originally thought about trying to do a more luxe dinner at Magnolia but budget realities preempted that move. I can’t recall if we made the reservation the day before we ate here or the day of but either way it was easier to get a table than I’d figured.

Despite our broken French they were kind enough to bring the board in French, though I did see two women reading off an English version of the board across the room from us. Again, I like the fact they let us go at it rather than just assuming we’d want the English.

The Amuse Bouche was some sort of chorizo broth with asparagus cream – a delicious mix of salty and creamy.

I had a lentil soup with foie gras cream, pine nuts, thyme flowers and hazelnut oil that was simply amazing. Hard to imagine anyone doing anything new with lentil soup but this was better than any I’d ever had. Our other soup was chilled green peas, cream, ham rosemary croutons and chives which was good but probably not quite as good as the pea soup at Cerisaie earlier that week.

Next up was roasted oysters with herb butter and panfried oxtail terrine with celeraic, horseradish, beet root and salad. This was the single best dish I ate the whole trip. It just really hit the spot.

Next was Roasted John Dory (St. Pierre) with a marrow sauce, leeks with butter, sorrel and (I think) chicken broth for her; pan fried Pollock with oyster mushrooms, spinach, brown butter and aged wine vinegar for me. I got the better end of this course, though that’s partially because I think oyster mushrooms make everything taste better.

Our meat course involved a bit of mix up on their part, or perhaps a language breakdown on our part. We had a main course of lamb with garlic, sweet peppers and rosemary (again, falling just short of Les Papilles lamb but still more than acceptable) and then thought we’d ordered Foie Gras de Canard with peas and truffles but instead were served Pigeon with sweet peas and a wine sauce. We probably should have sent it back but that’s both difficult to do when you don’t really know the language and, quite honestly, the pigeon looked so good it was hard not to just dig in. The pigeon at Spring might have been a touch better but let’s just say I didn’t regret not getting the foie gras.

For our cheese course we got a bit of camembert. It did seem like some of the other tables got more of a selection, though for all I know the waiter came out and asked if I’d like a simple cheese or something more interesting and I answered with my standard “oui!”

Desserts were Quenelle de Chocolat Guanaja, sauce safranee and Gratin de Fruits et sa crème vanillee. Wine was another good Rhone, Domaine de la Ferme Saint Martin Beaumes de Venise 2005. With the menu at 38 Euros, a reasonable wine, tap water and no coffee we got out at 100 Euro.

As I mentioned in an earlier post I think that we just caught this place before they renovated and, if so, I’d like to see what they come up with. All in all it was a nice space, though the area around the bar could definitely use an overhaul. The service and some of the food at Cerisaie was better and I liked the ambiance of Les Papilles better but this turned out to be the best mix of the three. If we’d had more time I might have gone back to try the Cave across the street.

I'd also highly recommend the bar right next door on Rue Vasco de Gamma as a great place to sit outside and have a cocktail if you get to the neighborhood early. You can sit and play "count the people carrying baguettes" and dream about being able to get decent bread back in the states.

Edited by mjoeknox (log)
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Our apartment was about a block from Le Pamphlet which was closed for renovations and was completely gutted when I stuck my head in to see what was going on.  I think that the person working on it said it would reopen in May.  I haven't been online much so apologies if that's old news.

As of today the message in the menu box says it's reopening June 1.

John Talbott

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Love your reviews! But can't for the life of me understand who in their right mind would want to consume cider, wine and cheese in the final 10k of a marathon!! That's like agreeing to do the last bit as a three-legged race in knee deep sand after first stopping to donate a litre of blood.

I ran the Paris marathon too this year and found the heat overwhelming especially at the end. I managed a PB but lost more than 5 mins off what I was on track for in the final 15k alone.

Sounds like you did well on the carbo hydrate re-loading following the race. I ate a whole tub of ice-cream when I got back to my flat - which I'd been fantasising about for about a month while I was trying to get leaner and faster. Then I had a cold beer. Then I had to go and lie down for a bit...

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I ate a whole tub of ice-cream when I got back to my flat - which I'd been fantasising about for about a month while I was trying to get leaner and faster.  Then I had a cold beer. Then I had to go and lie down for a bit...

I do this quite often but omit the marathon part :biggrin:

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