These reviews are long overdue, but in my defense, I’m on my fourth round of bronchitis since January. : ( Anyway, thanks to the ‘hounds, we had an amazing culinary tour of Paris. Below are my highlights and lowlights (which were not that low, all things considered) of the trip.
First, we owe a huge debt for the success of our trip to the marvelous and infinitely knowledgeable Souphie. He made all our reservations but, most importantly, he advised us on where to go and what to order, based on our tastes, which he derived from numerous emails asking about our favorite meals, etc. He is a national treasure. He was never wrong. We also spent a marvelous day with him touring some of the city’s best food shops: chocolate, cheese, pastries, a market, and our favorite stop of the day, Pierre Otieza. The charming proprietress plied us with samples of her amazing dried meats and even took pictures with us. It ruined regular salami for me forever. We also had a very nice lunch at Fish.
On to the restaurant highlights:
Le Fontaine de Mars: the French bistro of my dreams. It is traditional in the best sense of the word. We had duck confit, foie gras and pate. Service was charming, and we had more elbow room than the reasonable price point warranted. A great way to start the trip, and we’d absolutely go back.
Le Cinq: We had New Year’s lunch here. The meal was very good. Service was superb and quite formal. Presentation was flawless and the setting is beautiful, as you would expect from the Four Seasons. Courses included a delicate stew with delicate foie gras dumplings, and scallops. The scallops course was the only misstep of the meal. The scallops were gritty and while flavorful, nowhere near the quality I expected. Dessert was the best part: Noel Surprise. It was a meringue style “cake” topped with raspberry and chocolate shavings. Divine.
Chez l’Ami Jean: Amazing, and an absurd value. We ordered ham after seeing the amazing slices of meat on other diners’ plates. It was served with butter on a small cutting board. Our friend ordered the veal chop, which was ridiculously tender and flavorful. My husband and I split the foie gras for two, which was indescribably good. I have never had anything like this. Six chicken-breast sized pieces in a skillet brought to the table, with potatoes and other vegetables . My husband – who does not like foie gras - loved it. It was the bargain price of 70 Euro. After that we were all stuffed, but I had to order the famous rice pudding. “Best in the world!” the waiter bragged. He did not lie. It is served with almonds and homemade marshmallows. Ridiculously good, and enough for four people. We also had a very tasty deconstructed apple pie. For three of us with a bottle of wine and coffee, the total bill was about 220 Euro. Absolutely worth the close quarters.
La Grande Cascade: A truly magical experience, from start to finish, starting with the beautiful, woodsy exterior setting. Four of us had the seven-course tasting menu with wine pairings. The staff was charming and funny, the food and wine superb. All this happiness came at a steep price – about $600 USD each. I will be paying for that birthday dinner for another month or so! Even my husband, who blanched when he saw the bill and offered (unsuccessfully) to pay half, agreed it was completely worth it. I will remember that meal when I am 90 years old and have no teeth and can only eat soft, bland foods. The four of us still talk about the meal on a regular basis, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back. [I didn't have any luck attaching the menu to this post. I am happy to send it to anyone who is interested.]
I’ve probably bored you all to tears now, so I’ll be super brief with the lowlights:
Les Cocottes: the food was good, but not great. The service was completely apathetic. With so many great restaurants in the neighborhood, I won’t be back.
Itineraries: talk about overhyped. The restaurant itself was charming, but the food was on the whole quite average. Our duck was both bloody and rubbery – a bad combination. Dessert is definitely their strong suite, though. For the record, I have no one to blame but myself for the lowlights. They were certainly not part of the Souphie restaurant recommendations.
Thanks again to everyone for their input and help making our trip so special. If anyone actually made it to the end of this, I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.