Thanks to everyone who helped me make my all important restaurant choices for our recent trip to France. As promised, here is my take on the trip. Of course, it is one person's opinion and one person's experience.
April 4, 2012
Chez Savy 23 rue Bayard, Paris
Jet lagged after an overnight flight, we stumbled into this restaurant, waiting for our hotel room to be readied and starving for lunch. We were led to the back room, I believe not because we were Americans as other posters on the web have suggested, but because we had no reservation which was fine. In my exhausted haze, able to speak and read almost no French even when well rested, we were lost, and our waiter not only refused to help a fellow human being in need, he went ballistic in perfect English when we mistakenly ordered only starters without the main. While he stormed out of the room in a tizzy, the very nice young maitre d' came to our table and kindly said, "So what do you want? Steak, chicken, fish?” In this way were able to order two lovely meals, salmon sliced thinly and coated with a delicious white sauce with scattered bits of sea salt, and roast "poultry" for my husband who thought it was the best "chicken" he had ever had. The gallant maitre d' and the wonderful food saved a disheartening start to our trip to France, transforming it into a nice memory and funny story that is sure to improve with age.
Caius, 6 rue d’Armaille, Paris
Met a family friend living in Paris at her choice of Caius and had an outstanding experience. None of us speak French (no, not even our friend) and the waiter was more than accommodating, helping us with the menu not only graciously but also with humor. We were extremely grateful. My husband and I shared the rabbit terrine with foie gras which was different and wonderful. The duck breast was perfectly cooked and the flourless chocolate cake among the best I have ever eaten. In addition the atmosphere was just perfect for a relaxed yet elegant dinner. Would highly recommend this establishment. It was among the best meals in a two week trip.
Spring, 6 rue Bailleul, Paris
Although we contacted our concierge a month before our trip, we still felt lucky to have managed reservations at Spring. Unfortunately my pleasure began to turn to disappointment when, instead of being ushered to a table in the lovely dining area, we were led downstairs into the "basement" and seated at a tiny square wooden table that looked like it belonged in a fast food joint. So much for watching our food prepared in the "open kitchen." Next to us were two young couples who managed to spill a bottle of red wine so vigorously it managed to splash on me. Of course, not the fault of the restaurant, but just another nail in the coffin for the evening. The courses of the tasting menu were haphazardly described, some not at all and some just barely. The wines that came with the paring were, on the other hand, fully explained. The food was good, some even very good, but the wine was better and nothing was really memorable. This was a splurge for my husband's birthday and, unfortunately, not a splurge well spent.
Saturne, 17 rue Notre-Dame des Victoires, Paris
Semi-reluctantly went to Saturne after reading the mixed reviews on several sites, and unlike by Spring the night before, I was blown away by the inventiveness of the food, the charm and efficiency of the service and, unlike many Parisian restaurants, the elbow room between tables. The set menu included two oysters with onion and apple, mushrooms with sea urchin and onion and pigeon. There were also two wonderful desserts. We ordered the wine pairing and although the flavors were a bit unusual, they complimented each dish and it was interesting to try new varietals. The wait staff was charming, knowledgeable and efficient. All in all a lovely evening.
Les Papilles, 30 rue Gay Lussac, Paris
Les Papilles was a bit out of the way for us but considering the great reviews, we made the trip in the rain. The host welcomed us into the tiny but atmospheric space, explained the set menu in detail and helped us find an appropriate bottle of wine. The potato and watercress soup was the best soup I have ever eaten and the tureen was empty when it left our table. Duck is one of my favorite restaurant choices since we never cook it at home, and it was served rare which is my preference. However, the half of breast served over new potatoes, carrots, garlic and a little onion was tough to the point that the knife provided barely did the job. It was a shame. The blue cheese and prune was lovely and the dessert was a nice ending to the meal. If I lived in Paris I would certainly return, but the duck let them down that night. One important note: reservations are essential, as I must have seen thirty diners turned away over the course of the evening.
April 8 – 15
Uniworld River Cruise in Burgandy and Provence: We have done many ocean cruises on many different lines, mostly the smaller boats, but this was our first river cruise. Without a doubt, it was the best food we have ever enjoyed on a cruise and it rivaled some of the meals we had in Paris, believe it or not.
April 15, 2012
L’Estagnol 16 Boulevard Victor Hugo, St. Remy-de-Provence
Had a wonderful lunch at Restaurant L’Estagnol in St. Remy-de-Provence. We chose one of two set menus. Each of the three courses allowed several choices although my husband and I opted for the same. The first course was a more than generous selection of seafood: four oysters, five shrimp and four or five sea snails or whelks, all were delicious and the shrimp were especially sweet. We live near a major fishing port on the east coast and we know good seafood. This was good seafood. The second course was a wonderfully seasoned lamb steak accompanied by tender, grease free fries and beautifully seasoned ratatouille. All was complimented by a red from nearby Les Baux that was very reasonably priced and delicious. We finished with French toast covered with strawberries and accompanied by a luscious cassis ice cream. The hospitality was sublime and the setting sunny and mercifully away from a cold wind and there was no need for dinner that night.