Im back! First of all, thanks for this board and others who have emailed me privately to give me suggestions and encouragement. Im here to report my findings :) Im afraid this will be a very long report. I will break it up in multiple posts if need to be.
We were in Paris for 10 days, London for 3. We went to the following restaurants in Paris (London will be in a separate report):
Chez Rene (from Patricia Wells Food Lovers Guide to Paris)
Fish (from this board)
Laperouse (based on Burke & Wells review)
Café Marly (from this board and PWs book)
Chez Denise (from this board)
Le Grand Vefour (a friends recommendation)
LAstrance (from this board)
Guy Savoy (from this board and Burke & Well)
Les Fontain (PW)
LTour de Argent (from this board)
Balzar Brasserie (PW)
We arrived in Paris on Saturday and had no reservations made for that night. We ended up at Chez Rene after two others turned us down for having no reservations. It was raining and I had no umbrella, but the long walk to this place was worth it! For our first night we had unequivocal French food. For starters we had sautéed mushrooms, toasted goat cheese with mesclun and a vegetable terrine. The mushroom was wonderful. Chockfull of garlic and parsley, the shrooms were slightly charred on the outside and juicy and flavorful on the inside. The earthiness of the mushrooms definitely came through. My friend Maggie is found of goat cheese salads (she must have ordered it more than three times while we were in Paris). She pronounced that nights goat cheese salad to be the best. A good size round of goat cheese arrived browned and toasty. Great combinations of creaminess and crunchiness, hot and cold, were achieved between the cheese and the fresh greens. My husband had the vegetable terrine. He said he enjoyed it, while I found it to have too much nutmeg. A generous slice set in a thick tomato sauce, the terrine had carrots, fennel, artichoke, onions and other veggies I cant name or remember.
For main course we had coq au vin and beef bourguignon. These two items were both done to near perfection. Rich dark mahogany sauce bathed the fork tender meats. Boiled potato accompanied these main courses. I dont know if its the potatoes or the French, but their plain potatoes tastes so much better than US spuds. I believe the potatoes were just boiled, yet they were creamy, full flavored and just complimented the coq au vin and beef bourguignon so well.
Im sorry to say I cant remember much about the dessert, but they were good. Since this was our first night I can remember most of the details. Other restaurants we visited might not have as detailed descriptions.
Chez Rene is a thumbs up.
Pre-warn about the lack of restaurant choices in Paris on Sunday, I decided to make a reservation at Fish prior to arriving. While I read a few dissents, mostly I saw favorable report about this place. After dining there I will have to add my opinions along with the dissenters. While nothing is wrong with Fish, my companions and I found this restaurant to be entirely unremarkable. Practically everyone was American, everyone (including the waiters) spoke English. The food they served was decent, but nothing so special as to make a special trip when trekking half way across the world. I can remember a bland pumpkin soup, well done seared sea bass, and excellent pasta with small clams.
Fish is a thumbs down, because I can find a dozes kind of restaurants like that here in San Francisco.
Monday night was my birthday celebration dinner. I decided Laperouse was THE place after reading Burk & Wells post on this most romantic table in Paris. Since this was our first fancy dinner in Paris, everyone was looking forward to it.
True to their review, Laperouse was a very romantic place. The waiters and staff were very discreet, almost to the point of ignoring us for much of the time. The décor inspires whispers and an intimate feeling. Only a few table occupied each of the small saloons in this restaurants so you have the feel of privacy. By far this restaurant had the most innovative dishes. However, some of them were a bit too innovative that not everyone in our group enjoyed their food. However, some of us give them points and acknowledge that it could be our own limited palates that found their cuisine to be disagreeable.
We opted for their tasting menu (88 euros, the most reasonable tasting menu we encountered). What we found to be successful were the corn custard served in a shot glass, smoke beef fillet and pine colada sorbet with rum. What we found weird were the oyster sorbet with raw scallop slices and sea salt, foi gras poached in consommé, seared sea bass with white bean purée. The corn custard was close to a crème brulee consistency, yet not overly sweet or rich. It was the first course in our tasting menu, we were encouraged with the beginning. Then came the oyster sorbet with the scallops. Two out of four people found this dish to be too salty. While the combination sounds intriguing, it just didnt taste as great as it sounded I dont know if its us or its the food, but we just didnt like their brand of innovation. More about other innovations that we did like later.
Laperouse is a thumbs down.
Café Marly is next to the Louvres pyramid entrance. Someone mentioned their croque monsieur to be something special. I heeded this person advice and was not disappointed. I cant say Ive had many croque monsieur in my life but mine pleased me. Cheesy and slightly crunchy the bread enveloped a good mixture of mustard and salty ham. My companions ordered crab salad with avocado puree, beef tartar, tomato and fresh mozzarella salad, grilled chicken with mashed potatoes and pan-fried veal with green beans. Although the food at this café was more than good, the overall attitudes of the waiters and the high prices make this café a one-time visit kind of place. The waiters made us felt like we had to order a first course, even though the main course portion were sufficient for lunch. They also inspired us to order bottle water instead of going with plain. If it wasnt raining and we got to sit outside to enjoy the view, the price and food might have warranted the high prices. But to give you a good idea, my croque monsieur (with nothing but the square sandwich) was 13 euros.
Café Marly is a thumbs down for lunch but thumbs up if the weather is good and you can sit outside.
Thats for now. Will post the others later. Don't worry, lots of thumbs up later! Especially Guy Savoy, that my friends is a meal of a life time!!!