Dining in Paris is an adventure. My wife and I were there a year ago this spring. We had a mixed bag. Alain Ducasse who is reputed to be the chef of this generation was terrible. Our reservation was questioned. They had mispelled my name. No apology was offered. Instead we were told that they had to be very careful. Apparently people are trying to sneak in to eat bad food at high prices. Our saumon sauvage was undercooked, even by French standards, and it was clearly farmed salmon. I have been fishing for salmon and trout for 50+ years and eat salmon probably more than once a month at least and this was awful. We asked for a white Graves and were steered to a "very interesting little bottle" that they must have been trying to get rid of. The sommelier did not bother to taste it. We were seated in a dining room full of drunken, table hopping Americans. All this for just under $600, don't bother.
Arpege, on the other hand, was magnificent. The food was wonderful. The service was precise and attentive and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience, even with the expense.
Brasseries and bistros are the best value in Paris. La Coupole in Montparnasse is big and brassy but worth a visit. They have a wonderful seafood platter. Our personal favorite is Brasserie Stella on the Victor Hugo in the 16th. It is the only place in the world where I will eat Steak Tartare. The food and service are good and you really feel like you are in Paris. In season, I believe the oysters are the freshest and best in Paris.
I have been visiting Paris since the 50's by myself and since the 80's with my wife. It is hard to get a bad meal in Paris but the chances are greater with the more reknowned places. The modest ones are generally very, very good.
A very special place outside of Paris is worth a mention. It is Cazaudehore in Saint-Germaine-en-Laye. The food is twice as good and the prices half of many of the top restaurants in Paris. It is 45 minutes by RER and less by road outside the rush hour. It is associated with La Forestiere, a country inn, which is also a wonderful place to stay within striking distance of Paris and environs.
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