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Paris report (wicked long)

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Paris report (wicked long)

Joanie | Mar 21, 2006 11:44 AM

Yet more Paris comments but since so many people are going, there's always room for more. Thanks esp. to Moshulu who patiently answered my many questions. Our meals seemed to have gotten better as the trip went on. Sorry I can't comment more on the wines, we're not big drinkers so there was maybe a cocktail before or after dinner and one glass of wine w/ our meals. Thankfully, walking all day offset the more eating than usual and I came back the same weight. First nite (after not getting my luggage on a direct non-stop flight from Boston yet somehow my friend Dave's made it) we stayed in the neighborhood (Hotel Sully St. Germain on Rue des Ecoles, 5th), first trying Les Fetes Gallantes which I heard had great duck but while the sign said they're open 7 days a week, they were closed up tight. We went over to Chez Alexis & Daniel at 5 rue d'Arras for a nice reasonable meal. Cute little place with all sorts of fussy decorations. I'd gotten the impression that it was going to be really fun and funky but Alexis and Daniel seemed fairly miserable. 3 French women and one cute American kid were the other parties. 20€ got us 2 courses, so we split the pate which had a meatloaf consistency but I liked it. I had duck in puff pastry and some of their famous "lever", served with a broiled tomato, potato pancake of sorts and veggies. Dave had a veal shank that he enjoyed. Got a pear crumble w/ ice cream for dessert and it was the perfect amount of food. We would be indulging much more on future nites.

Fri. was Chez Michel (10 rue de Belzunce by Gar du Nord) but this was our least successful meal. We were a little late for our reservations and the place was a bit of a zoo. We asked if we could sit upstairs (Dave has MS and sometimes has problems walking) but that table for 2 was going to someone else, so we made our way down the twisty staircase and sat at the fairly uncomfortable picnic benches. They were hard even for a healthy person to maneuver in and out of. The waitress was sweet but totally overworked so it took a while to get our one menu (asked another table for their extra when they were done), took a long time for the specials board to come over (and all specials had a 5-10€ supplement), and longer to order. Once we ordered, food came fairly quickly and the fish soup we both started with was delicious. My dorade w/ olive tapenaude wasn't too exciting and Dave's duck was REALLY rare, almost scary rare (IMO). His apple crumble was good and I enjoyed the Paris brest. It was 30 or 35€ for 3 courses but I wouldn't go back.

Sat. we played it by ear which I wish we'd done 1 or 2 other times. I decided we should hang around the Bastille area that nite so after happy hour at the bar Le Leche Vin with all its kooky religious decorations, we wandered down the street (rue Duval) to Relais du Massif Central for a bargain and a half. 12.20€ got us 3 quite decent courses including tarte saumon (a quiche like 1st course we both got), steak w/ mushroom sauce and beef kabobs with good sides of frites, and desserts of profiteroles and pear clafoutis. Very crowded seating about 34, mostly French (except for some Brits in for the big rugby game), nice service, a good place for those looking for Paris on the cheap.

Sun. I'd been walking so much, I decided to sit down for a real lunch and had a croque monsieur w/ salad at Le Massena on rue de Rivoli. I kind of wanted just the basic takeout style but this was a huge piece of rye or some rustic bread with lots of ham & cheese on top. Okay but not a big deal and I was too full to make a full meal out of it and skipped dessert. Dave had lunch at the cute place around the corner from our hotel, Louis Vin which he enjoyed (cash only). That nite we had reservations at Mon Vieil Ami at 69 rue St.Louis-en-l'Ile which was filled with Americans (and I heard a French guy next to us comment on that). In fact, the couple on our other side was from Boston and next to them were some Atlanta people. A much more modern looking space than we'd seen so far and great service from a sweet waiter. They offer you a glass of white wine or orange juice, a nice way to start. My starter of scallops was great, once I ate all the beets (my least fave veggie), Dave had pate yet again. Then we continued w/ a big casserole of pork for two that was delicious, served with root vegetables, very tasty. Can't remember our desserts unfortunately, 3 courses, 38€.

A waiter at one of the swanky restaurants in Boston (Excelsior) had recommended Chez Catherine (3 rue Berryer in the 8th) so we went there Mon. nite, another modern looking bistro. I would have been curious to go when it was in the shadier part of town. We were seated in the outer room, next to a party with a tiny dog, and started with some little amuse bouche but I guess it wasn't too memorable. We both got different kinds of ravioli to start and I had a very nice duck for the main. Dave had pigeon which was excellent and we ended with a pistachio crepe and apple tarte. This was fairly pricey at I think 50€ for the 3 courses. Esp. considering we had gone to Bound (formerly Barfly) at 49 ave. George V for the most expensive drink I've ever had, an 18€ martini, ouch. And it should have been 16 but he charged for premium vodka even tho I didn't ask for it. Dave's fruit smoothie was 15 or 16. Ridiculous, but it was in a book Dave had bought "Cool Paris Restaurants" and while the space was nice, those prices weren't.

Tues. was the last nite and our "big" dinner. After much research, I decided on Le Relais Louix XIII, 8 rue Grands Augustins in the 6th. Small old feeling place with two downstairs rooms and a private room upstairs. Their however many course tasting menu is 89€ and was a relatively good deal, but a very long meal. Our reservations were for 8:30 and they immediately brought some puffy cheesy things, one with caviar, to start us off. The woman sommelier was very nice, we got a glass of white and red at what turned out to be 15€ each (glasses weren't listed on the wine menu). We told the waiter we had no problems with any foods they might put on the tasting menu and then we waited. I swear, our first two courses took a total of about 55-60 min then things moved along a little more quickly. Langostino soup was amazing and rich enough that I probably could have ended there with the bread and another round of cheesy things. Foie gras w/ toast points was yummy, scallop carpaccio with lime, some white fish with a great sauce that was kind of béarnaise like, and we finished with veal w/ winter veggies in a nice reduction. Then we could choose off a cheese cart so I went with a creamy St. Nectaire and another soft cheese while Dave had roquefort and gouda I think. The first round of dessert came, sorbet with fruit then a plate of petit fours with a great macaroon type thing, lemon tart and eggy concoction. Second round of dessert was super chocolately, a salty choc. wafer, a pot de crème and choc. rice krispie type cookie. More petit fours, like we needed another bite at that point. But all in all, a very nice if long meal. The chef came out to the tables a few times, I felt like he knew most people there. A brisk walk home made me feel a little better.

As far as random other food things, I mentioned various boulangeries in the thread below, esp. liked Paul by Hotel de Ville and some others whose names I can't remember. Wish our attempts in Boston could come a little closer to Paris (tho I do recommend Blue Frog bakery in the Jamaica Plain section; I'm going to suggest the choc/almond combo to them which I've also had in Montreal). I liked the market on Rue Mouffetard which I know is touristy but it was good. Also hit Place Monge where I should have gotten a dish of cassoulet and the market close to our hotel at Maubert Mutualite, and an art market by the Bastille stop on Sat. Besides Le Leche Vin, we had fun/funky/cheap drinks at Some Girls on rue de Lappe in the 11th (good background music, not all Stones stuff), Lizard Lounge on rue Bourg Tibourg, Le Pic Clops on Vieille du Temple in the 4th, and Bob Cool Bar on rue des Grand Augustins was okay, lots of various ex Pats there. Tried to get a drink at the Ritz bar but they weren't open yet in the afternoon. Swanky places besides Bound included Man Ray on rue Marbeuf by M° Franklin-Roosevelt (happy hour from 6-8, 6€ drinks), and the beautiful mezzanine of Alcazar on rue Mazarine in the 6th. That space is really pretty and while the drinks were pricey (no happy hour), the bartender was really nice, as were most of the people we dealt with in the bars. On the other hand, I felt like the general public was much ruder than I remembered from 4 previous visits. I'd politely ask questions (in French) but get super curt responses. They acted like trying to get a watch battery was the weirdest thing in the world and I was chastised for trying to hand money over instead of putting it in the little plate. They made Boston look like Iowa, but it got better as the days went on. Dave got some excess tear gas the first nite when he got lost by the protests at the Sorbonne, made for a good story. Didn't make it to Versailles but there's so much to see in 6 days right in town, I axed that thought pretty early on.

One more thing, it seemed like every restaurant on our walk from rue Vieille du Temple to the island to our hotel was open on Sun. So maybe if you want to hit a well-known or fancy place on a Sun. nite, you might have some trouble, but it's a lot easier to find an open place than previous posts had made it sound. I've got a 4 page list of restaurants, bakeries, rock clubs, bars, markets, web sites, etc., more info than you'll ever need for a short visit (or even a long one). Email me if you'd like me to send it to you.

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