Well back home and still shining in the glow of a most wonderful week in Paris with my wife .... our first trip in forever as just a couple ... and we're still married after it all!! lol
We had a great time .... from the Airbnb that was just perfect and central to all to the most beautiful weather (first week of September) to all the off the beaten places we visited ... Quartier de la Mouzaïa was just wonderful!!
But I digress .... a joint list from top to bottom (we had some speration but I compromised to come up our collective thoughts):
1. Le Chardenoux - clearly our #1 (see seperate review) - the atmosphere, quality of the food and beverage, the fun and awesome service, the totally local vibe with friends eating at the bar to a mom and dad with their young son etc etc ..... it was an absolutely delightful and memorable evening for both of us!
2. Aux Bon Crus - I acquiesced to put this at #2 simply because, again, the totality of the experience was just tremendous! This was one of the first nights we stayed close to home for drinks because Maria was tiring of the bar crawls I had set up ... :)
We arrived a little early and you could tell the first seating was in full swing upon our arrival - Kevin (part owner/maitre d' extraordinaire) warmly gretted us and I willingly suggested we come back in a bit ... given its location there are other spots nearby but we just slid into Le Rey for a drink and a little football on the screen! Thirty minutes later the place still humming but our new best friend gave us a terrific four-top .... it was there that we realized another ugly American moment (and curious to know Parn etc just how offensive this perceived faux pas really is?) ... but it appeared pretty clear they just held their first seating table for the entire eve and left well into the second .... is that ok?? I would think not.
Apart from that we loved the vibe and feel for the place ... I get it that some object to getting reviewed by the NY Times but it seemed pretty clear that, apart from the above table, the rest of the patrons were all local. I actually discussed this issue with Kevin, and he, I think, rightfully said he is there to serve everyone and can't really get too concerned around the issue. I also understand they went to two seatings after the article - judging from how packed it was, it seems to be the correct strategy.
For the price, the food was great! Kevin brought us a wonderful red that I unfortunately cannot recall now but my Jambon Pata Negra was outstanding and Maria really enjoyed her Artichaut Vinaigrette (I did too!). She opted for a simple Omelette while I devoured my Entrecote with Bernaise. Profiteroles finished off just a wonderfully delightful evening! Will try to keep my recommendations in check!
3. L'Oiseau Blanc (see separate review) - also a compromise pick as Maria had this lower and I at #2 ... she tends to not be so impressed with this level of luxury whereas the hotelie in me loves it! We were both really impressed with the overall hotel and, of course, a wonderfully nice gal showed us to the elevators and gave a brief history on the gorgeous building and the Peninsula development. Everything was great here ..... will probably go back for dinner on our next trip (and skip the pigeon lol).
4. Bofinger - this is where we went with our friends from Holland and Berlin. We spent a really nice couple hours before at the Péniche Marcounet so were in a good mood going in. We've had successful brasserie dinners before so one reason why I chose this place - but great service and, while trad I know, we all loved the atmosphere. The presentation of all was great and this was my best steak frite with bernaise of the trip. Loved the presentation on the flaming pepper steaks lol. My ceviche of sea bream was really really good as well. We enjoyed a nice Sancere to start and then a reasonable Bordeaux over the plats. Maria enjoyed her favorite Crème Brûlée of the trip while we also shared Profiteroles with Valrhona hot chocolate sauce and Crêpes flambéed in Grand Marnier. All really really good! A very fun eve for all and a wonderful reunion with old friends.
5. Créatures/Galeries Lafayette - we enjoyed a really nice lunch here after only about a ten minute wait on a gorgeous Tuesday afternoon. At first I was worried about a long wait but then realized the vast majority of the folks out on the roof were there for just the view. The vibe and atmosphere were just great and the views of the Eiffel Tower and spot on of the Palais Garnier just spectacular. Service, while expectedly slow, was friendly and sufficient. The menu takes some navigating but we ended up sharing the fresh baked focaccia served with fried zucchini flowers, greek black olives and burrata and the potato salad, egg, red onion and capers dish. Felt very healthy after!!! Definitely recommend although next time will most likely go to Perruche for a point of comparison.
6. La Petite/Place de la Contrescarpe - we stumbled upon this lovely spot on our first day .... and, luckily, a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. Perhaps influenced by the adrenaline of the moment, we both had an exceptionally great time here. Definitely immersed with little tourists to be found, the atmoshere of this cafe with tables overlooking the place was just great - we got lucky with a pretty talented street artist performing on some unique extended guitar instrument. Also a pretty young and hip crowd at least around that time. My Croque Monsieur was delicious but the clear winner was Maria's Veggie Bowl - it was incredible. A great spot and another memorable moment. Amorino around the corner for a nice finish.
7. Le Marché/Place du Marché Sainte-Catherine - another delightful lunch experience on a nice terrace overlooking this quaint square. The inside as well really neat .... I would definitely come by here during colder weather as well. To that regard .... I used the slightly cooler temps that day to justify getting my onion soup fix in .... and I must say it was the best ever. Wonderfully creamy it was perfection .... a simple green salad made for another (relatively) healthy lunch! Maria had one of the specials and also really enjoyed her salmon salad dish. Really good friendly service facilitated a really enjoyable lunch.
8. Le Petit Pontoise - this is one I had to push up from Maria's vote - more on that in a sec - as Parn knows, we are suckers for these small intimate, cute historic bistros and this certainly fit the bill. This was also a last minute audible as we decided Au Petit Fer à Cheval's menu didn't give Maria much of an option. The crowd seemed a mix of tourists and, possbily, some locals or maybe French tourists. The service, while hurried, was delightful and helpful ... and our server/hostess picked some nice wine for us as well. We shared the roasted traditionnal camenbert cheese with almonds & honey crust and it was absolutely amazing!! My Entrecôte Charolais with pepper sauce & potatoes « pommes Anna » was very good but not great. The problems started with Maria's sea bass filet ... perhaps spoiled by Le Chardenoux, this version was riddled with bones that just made the experience aggravating. The problems continued into desert with a very over-cooked crème brûlée .... which was unfortunate as my sorbet trio of blackcurrant lemon mango was excellent. While of some disappointment, overall it was a nice evening.
9. Carette - we chose this for old time's sake and because I was in the mood for a good club sandwich - and we were both glad to go back! Maria had the salmon club and I the chicken and they were both very good ... along with the salad in the middle that was quite tasty! While we get it that its a tourist spot ... we love going there after strolling Place des Vosges and love that terrace. Plus - according to Maria - the best macaroons in town. I did enjoy a couple raspberry ones last night and still very good! The art store next door another plus to the visit.
10. Le Caulaincourt - one of two dinners at a "progressive" resto where the vegetarian option was a complete disappointment - a shame because otherwise this place would have ranked far higher. A wonderful greeting with my friend I had made on a couple reservation calls with some time changes ... :) And good service overall in a delightfully simple ambience. We went there after drinks at the rooftop of the Hotel Terrass which was absolutely wonderful!! A chacuterie and frommage plate at the rooftop resulted in my ordering the lone entre .... Boeuf tataki, soja, avocat, yuzu, encre de seich was absolutely delicious ... the soja crust a little heavy but easily mitigated. Then the plats .... my tuna was also absolutely wonderful .... unfortunately, Maria's Veggie, patates douces, noisette, pak choi, carottes was nothing more than a glorified cold bok choy dish. So the meal unfortunately ended on a bit of a downer.
11. Café Charbon ... we loved the old ambience; the service, however, most likely qualifies as one of Parn's examples of trendy spots succombing to lesser talent that fits the part .... I guess because they can get away with it? Anyway, the service mind you was very friendly just not the most efficient. I didn't have a lot of options so went with the burger ... one funny moment was I, as a good Chicagoan, like ketchup on my fries so when I asked for some I was just given more of the bbq sauce already on my plate lol .... it actually had a nice tang to it and the burger was pretty good. Maria's salad was nothing noteworthy. We did, afterward, take a lovely stroll down Oberkampf to Merci ... we loved that stretch!
12. Le Sancerre - admittedly one of several, we had a fine lunch of wraps while people watching on the 35 Rue des Abbesses - wonderful service and nice interior decor.
13. Le Mary Celeste - unfortunately a victim to too much publicity in the US we found this spot overwhelmingly touristy - which was unexpected but in hindisght understood. While the vibe and bar decor were aweseome - we found the food very rich and not terribly inspiring. We went there after a couple drinks at Candelaria - we also loved the vibe there but toward the end the place also started flowing with obvious American tourists ... its all good but it simply took away a bit of the "uniqueness" to the experience - as always we were late to the dance on both of these lol. Our drinks at Candelaria were great and the serivce awesome .... comp tequiila shots on our way out lead us to highly recommend for a drink ... despite the occassional tourist.
At Le Mary Celest, my ALLÉGORIE DE LA PAIX cocktail was awesome so all started out well. The mozzarella dish was good, the fried shrimp just that, the mushroom dish was interesting but incredibly rich and the salmon with melon the best of the four. Unfortunately, we left feeling somewhat diasppointed. While I understand the spot is primarily a bar, I do think a lot of the attention has been on their interesting food offering - so, to that regard, we found the spot pretty disappointing.
14. Poulette - maybe the result of feeling pretty tired after powering through our 9:30am arrival without a nap .... or maybe somewhat satisfied by really good mussels at Mobilis in Mobili before our dinner. We did find the atmosphere delightful with the tiles on the wall just as nice as the pics .... and the service excellent with one server very efficiently working eight or nine tables. Pretty impressive actually. My steak frites was a marinated flank steak that was decent but the quality of the meat was just so so. The killer, again, was unfortunately Maria's "vegetarian" dish. Some potato tortilla with a chickpea, peppers and kale salad that was cold and very uninspiring. As much as we liked the service and ambience, we would be hard pressed to return.
Well that is it .... I now need a stiff drink!
Overall a wonderful trip ..... no regrets to all the research and we were lucky to find some other good spots on the fly. Looking forward already to the next one!
And thanks again to all of your help Parn .... you are very much appreciated!
Maria and David
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