Just returned from a wonderful 7 day visit to Paris built around one restaurant reservation per day with lots of light meals/wine bars/cocktails in the slots around those reservations. When not eating, we concentrated on walking around selected neighborhoods, visiting our favorite museums and just being there. Good, not crazy pace in a sunny week of 55-60 degree temperatures. Too good to be true.
Restaurant thoughts? Here are ours in 3 segments: must go back; will go back; will not go back. Within those groups, the places are ranked from top to bottom per our tastes. Here goes:
Must go back:
Spring: pre-set menu of pristine ingredients, beautifully presented by the gracious staff. Items included a smoked trout amuse bouche, snapper with a dash of fois gras, roast pigeon with seasonal vegetables, homemade ice cream topped with carmelized meringue. Met owner/chef Daniel Rose who showed us his bar and communal table one floor down and spectacular wine cellar one floor below that. Open kitchen in a white minimalist space in a restored building. A must.
Le Cinq (lunch): Was not surprised by the grey and gold opulence but was surprised that: we were the only tourists and English speakers (former French Prime Minister was at the next table); 3 course lunch option actually was 6 courses if you count the 2 amuse bouche and the extra dessert from the cart; the menu has a slight Japanese accent (yuzu, teriyaki, inoki, seaweed) giving it a fresh, more modern feel; staff couldn't have been nicer. At 82 euros, this lunch is great value. A la carte could take you to 300-400 euros per person.
l'Avant Comptoir: 12 people standing at the zinc counter. Offers many 3-4 euro plates from the menu on the ceiling, eg, charcuterie platters, croquettes, fried chicken and just plain old delicious butter from Brittany slathered on the communal bread from the central basket. A glass of Morgon poured from the house's favorite magnum -- can't be beat
Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome for cocktails: best trained bartenders with very top ingredients I have seen in Europe. Specialty drinks made from muddled fruit and infused rums complemented the classics (Manhattans, martinis, Old Fashions). Humming bar in the limestone and silk luxury of our favorite hotel space in Paris. For us, modern Zen wins over Louis XIV-XVI.
Will go back:
L'Atelier du Joel Robuchon: fun and delicious menu decouverte at the bar. Wonderful.
But, at 155 euros per person, I'll go back for a light lunch a la carte next time.
Ze Kitchen Gallerie: Asian inspired modernism on the Left Bank. Lunch choices included Thai bouillabaisse with porc Iberico three ways. Fresh, clean and very repeatable.
Frenchie: tiny, warm spot with a 3 course menu offering 2 choices per course, eg, smoked mackerel, papardelle w ragu. Had a great time. Just slightly more rustic and less pristine than Spring.
Hotel Costes: I know-- attitude, poor service, etc. Forget it. Dropped in for Sunday lunch in the open central courtyard on a sunny day. Fashionistas with Hermes belts and Goyard bags abounded! Who cares. Light menu of fresh salads, pastas and chicken paillard with killer mashed potatoes made our day. Have a glass of white Burgundy and enjoy the show.
Le Dauphin: brand new marble cube (by Rem Koolhaus) just opened by Le Chateaubriand two doors down. Tapas menu (best are steak tartare, squid ink risotto and potsticker-like ravioli) in a loud, social environment for the fashion crowd. Almost empty at 8pm. Elbow to elbow by 9:30. Reserve a table for 4 and just have fun.
Le Comptoir (lunch): In line at 11:45 secured us a table as the doors opened at noon sharp. The onglet and blood sausage were too much for me but that's my fault for poor selection. Will go back to work my way down the traditional menu amidst lively and fun people watching.
Will go somewhere else next time:
Bar 228, Le Meurice: good salad antidote to our rich meals. But, the atmosphere is a little stiff, especially in comparison to the Park Hyatt.
Josephine, Chez Dumonet: Heresy, but we didn't enjoy it. Busboy (no host), sat us in the back 36 inches from the kitchen door (always open) and 18 inches from the bathroom door (often open). Ordered well: fois gras, duck confit with potatoes, beef bourguinon with tagliatelle, Grand Marnier souflee. Slapdash service (small, crazy wine list; wine delivered after fois gras was done) distracted from the ingredients and tradition. Liked the souflee the best. But, just too heavy and too many better options at this price point.
Wine bars: L'Ecluse, Willi's, Juveniles. If we lived in Paris, I'm guessing these places would be fun for return visits with friends to speak with the owners, try new wines and experiment with the short menus. But, as a drop-in tourist, they didn't work. Places were 1/4 full and a little dead. Wine and menu options were better elsewhere. A disappointment.
That's it. I'm on a diet and won't get weighed for one week at the earliest.