Hello everyone, I'd like to thank you all for helping us plan a delicious and fun trip to France! I would love to come back and keep exploring other parts :) We ate and drank at many-many places so I don't remember everything but I'll mention things that I still do!
1. Breizh Cafe - Best Crepes I've ever had. We tried a ham and cheese one and a chestnut spread one. Both were delicious. Recommend going here. This is a pretty popular place. A long line forms up before they open but they accept reservations.
2. Pierre Sang - One of our favorite meals of the trip. We sat at the counter (recommend doing that if possible) and then played the guessing game. Great flavors and very good bread! First time we tried morel ice-cream :)
3. Le Mary Celeste - The first of our Sunday stops. The drinks were good and the food was decent. I was pretty disappointed with the oysters. They weren't shucked properly and they had a pretty limited selection. I would not go back here.
4. Clamato - Our second stop on Sunday. Better oysters but overall, I would say an average meal. I would not go back here either. Sunday was probably the weakest of all our meals.
5. Chez Denise - We enjoyed this a lot! Great old school setup. I did not get foie gras here which I regret but I enjoyed the escargot. Our waiter recommended a beef cheek in red wine dish which was fine but the real winner was something that a table next to us was having that looked delicious so we got it as well - a lamb and beans dish. Very very flavorful! And, the chocolate mousse here is deadly. I've never had mousse that dense. You should check this out.
6. L'Ami Jean - I had read a lot about the gut-busting portions here so we went in expecting to be carried out in stretchers :) However, we opted for the tasting menu (think it was carte blanche) and that wasn't super filling at all. I don't remember any particular dish but it was a very good meal. Of course, the highlight was when they brought out the rice pudding in a bowl so big that it could probably feed everyone in the restaurant (I wonder if that is an indication of what the portion sizes would have been, had we not opted for the tasting menu!). That also was very good.
7. Pirouette - This was a strange experience. I don't think it was a particularly bad meal but barring a hake dish, nothing was memorable. Add to that a few strange incidents:
- Our original reservation was for 7:30 PM. I had emailed and asked them if we could move it to a later time and they were fine with it. When we got to the restaurant, we were told that we did not have reservations and it took them about 5-10 minutes to figure out that we had gotten our original reservations changed and did in fact have a spot. This was not a biggie.
- We got the 3 course menu and in our 2nd course, after placing my dish in front my me (think it was veal but not a 100% sure), the server tried to place my friend's dish in front of him. In the process, she knocked down a bottle of water which spilled about half a glass of water into my dish (which I hadn't started eating yet). Again, it was an accident, no big deal. She apologized and took my plate back and then came back with my dish in about 60 seconds which basically meant that she had either drained my plate of the water and tidied it up or transferred the wet food into another plate. I considered saying something but I wasn't sure if that would result in the restaurant somehow penalizing our server for what was an accident so I didn't. Ideally, I hope that in situations like this, the restaurant would just serve a new dish without penalizing the server and they made sure that the servers are aware of that.
- For our dessert course, the restaurant gave us one right and one wrong dessert. We were just too tired at this point so we finished and left.
8. Pierre Gagnaire - The best meal of the trip. We got the Esprit Pierre Gagnaire during lunch. The cuttlefish, celeriac, black truffle dish was just divine! Stop thinking and just go :)
9. Chez Mamane - What a place! Great atmosphere - noisy, boisterous, fun! And, very good couscous. A funny incident that happened here - we were seated next to 2 gentlemen, one of whom was pretty tipsy :) The other one started to chat with us. Mr. Tipsy started talking to me in French and I politely tried to inform him that I did not speak French. He stopped for about 10 seconds and then started again. I wasn't sure what to do so I just kept nodding my head every few minutes :) At some point, his non-tipsy friend left the table for a bit. I'm guessing Mr. Tipsy was pretty hungry so he decided to help himself to meats that we got with our couscous and broth. My friend and I were startled for a second but the entire thing was so funny that we couldn't help but laugh and let him enjoy :) I would recommend checking this out.
10. L'Assiette - We were psyched about trying the cassoulet here. That was very good but the show stealer was the lamb. With Chez Denise, this was one of our favorite lamb dishes of the trip! Both of us are not big caramel fans but the caramel creme dessert was very good as well.
11. Spring - This was our last dinner in France. We got the tasting menu with the wine paring and also added some cheese. Very good wines! We liked the food a lot except for the meat course. It was veal and for some reason, the dish seemed very flat, especially compared to the rest of our meal. Not sure why that was the case but still, this was a good meal.
12. La Cigale Récamier - We tried 2 souffles here. One was the grand marnier and the other was a cheese one. Both were very good, although I don't know if the grand marnier here was better than the one that I had at La Grenouille in NYC. Check this out if you'd like to try some souffles.
Before I write about my experience at bakeries, I wanted to mention something that I haven't seen on the boards but found to be very useful. My first morning, I went to a bakery a few hours after it opened. Tried a baguette, another kind of bread and a croissant. Everything was good but it wasn't "blow me away" good which I was kind of expecting with bread in France. So, the next day, I decided to wake up early and reach the bakery as soon as it opened and boy did that make a difference! It was brilliant! I tried to do that as much as I could for the rest of the trip and also started carrying some echire butter with me :) I know it sounds crazy but I am not sure if there is something else that I could have done to get warm, freshly baked stuff!
1. Maison Landemaine - One of my favorite baguettes and I also remember liking a raisin pastry & a chocolate pastry a lot. Highly recommend this place.
2. Les Pains d'Alexis - Tried a baguette and some other thing that I do not remember. It was good but I did not find it to be exceptional.
3. Du Pain et des Ideas - Excellent baguette, pistachio-chocolate escargot and some chocolate pastry that the women working there recommended. I would recommend going here.
4. Eric Kayser (Monge location) - I wasn't able to go here at opening time so it's an unfair comparison. I tried the baguette and thought that it was just OK.
5. Boulangerie Patisserie l' Essentiel - Brilliant! With 'Maison Landemaine', my favorite baguette and they have a raisin-hazelnut bread which the guy working there recommended which is one of the best breads I've ever had. The first time I went here was late in the afternoon and I liked it so much that I decided to come back in the morning at opening time :)
6. 134 r.d.t Boulangerie-Pâtisserie - This was the first place that I went to after I decided to start going to bakeries as soon as they opened. Probably my favorite croissant of the trip. The baguette was pretty good but I liked Landemaine and l' Essentiel better for that. Check out their croissant!
7. 59 r.d.s. - Did not go here at opening time (which is why I decided to go to 134 r.d.t. as well). I liked their Schwartzbrot and the croissant.
8. Sébastien Dégardin/ Boulangerie du Panthéon - Tried the quiche lorraine which we thought was pretty good. I tried a 'tarte citron' and it was just OK - probably too sweet for starters.
9. Blé Sucré - Tried the baguette and I thought it was good. Also tried a plain and a chocolate croissant. Preferred the chocolate one. Tried the famed madeleines. We liked them but I personally preferred the madeleines that I had at St. John in London a lot more.
1. Carl Marletti - Tried a pastry with coconut mousse, mango and passion fruit. It was very good, maybe a little too sweet for me but still, pretty good.
2. Jacques Genin - I wasn't able to try their mille-feuille and I'm still bummed about that. I tried their strawberry tart, a bunch of caramels, some chocolates and some pate de fruits. I liked the pastry a lot. The chocolates were good but I liked the stuff that I tried at Patrick Roger and Michel Chaudun a little more. I'm not a big caramel fan so even though I enjoyed the ones that I tired, I wasn't able to appreciate the craziness they enjoy :) The same hold true for the pate de fruits.
3. Pain de Sucre - Holy crap! I wasn't a big fan of tarte citrons but this place changed that. Probably one of my favorite pastries of the trip! I also tried a small meat pie with foie gras in it. I thought it was just OK but my friend liked it a lot!
4. L’éclair de Génie - I went here twice. The first time, I got a chocolate éclair. It was good but I felt that it needed some texture. The base was too soft for me (not sure if that is how an eclair is supposed to be). The next time I went, I tried the
blackcurrant éclair and liked it way more than the chocolate one. This base was thicker and added some texture to the pastry.
5. Sébastien Gaudard - Tried the Paris-brest. It was good but probably not something I would go back to.
6. Carette - Tried a seasonal pastry. Forgot what it exactly was but I remember I liked it.
7. Maison Georges LARNICOL - Best macaroons I've ever had. I admit I'm not a big fan but I've tried Laudree in NYC, Pierre Herme in Tokyo and maybe some more places that I don't remember. I wasn't super impressed with the ones that I've had in the past but the ones here were good. Light, crunchy, flavorful! I actually went here twice for them. I also tried a kouignette which I thought was just OK and the whole kouign amann which I found to be better.
However, I have a question about this. The kouign amann that I had here was very different than the DKA at Dominique Ansel in NYC or the one that I had at Brasserie VIRON in Tokyo. The one here was pretty dense and moist. The other two were lighter, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I personally prefer the latter but which one is the classic version? I was surprised that there were so different from each other.
1. Laurent Dubois - This was an interesting experience. I liked their cheeses a lot (my favorite was their truffled brie) and I ended up purchasing stuff to bring back home from here. But, and this may just be me, I didn't receive as much help as I would have expected at a place of this caliber. They were friendly but when I told them that I was totally new to the world of raw milk cheeses and wasn't sure about the different options that were available, they just mentioned that 90% of the cheeses in their store were raw milk. They would suggest something and if I said yes, pack it up. I wasn't looking for free samples but the little experience I have at places like Murray's in NYC or Neal's Yard in London, the interaction with the cheese monger is usually a back and forth about likes, dislikes, things to try, things that you like and wish to purchase and others that you are not a fan of. Again, this may just have been something that I did/did not, do but I just wanted to mention my thoughts.
2. Salon du Fromage Hisada - I tried the 10 cheese tasting plate. Totally worth it. I mentioned that I hadn't tried raw milk cheese and aged Comte and they made sure I got those.
Still bummed about not being able to check out more cheese shops. I had Alléosse, la Ferme St. Hubert, Martine Dubois and more on my list :(
1. Verjus - Great little place. I was afraid that it was going to be packed but the bartender mentioned that they recently opened a new restaurant and a lot of the hot food had moved over there so people who used to come here, now prefer the other place. Very friendly and helpful bartender and very good wines by the glass.
2. O'Chateau - For wines by the glass, they probably have the most options in Paris. Our bartender was helpful as well. However, one thing that I felt was a problem was how tart a lot of their wines were. I am not sure why that was the case but I did not feel that where at other places.
3. Le Barav - I went here for lunch one day. Had a good Pouilly-Fumé with some foies gras, cheese and charcuterie. I liked this place. I wish I had spent some more time here trying more wines.
4. Willi's Wine Bar - This was a good experience as well. Nothing special but good wines, english speaking bartenders.
5. Septime Cave - We hadn't planned this but there was a wait at Clamato so we ended up here. What's funny is, when I walked in here, I didn't even know this was Septime Cave and when I found out, I was like, "Oh! I've read about this place!". Anyways, the bartender was great and very helpful. We stayed here for a pretty long time, tried a lot of things and ended up closing the bar. I think this and Verjus were my favorite wine bars.
6. Experimental Cocktail Club - Was walking around and ended up getting a couple of drinks here. Liked it better than their NYC branch. The bartenders was pretty cool and friendly.
Before going to these places, I would not have guessed that bartenders here would be so friendly, helpful and patient (with wine recommendations) but everyone was pretty great!!
1. Patrick Roger - Tried a bunch of things. Most of them were good but there was a hazlenut, almond praline thing that was just divine! Apparently, it's the chef's favorite as well. If you go here, make sure you try that!
2. Michel Chaudun - Tried a bunch of things. The standout was the pavés. Delicious!
3. Un Dimanche a Paris - Tried chocolates and a seasonal red fruit pastry here. Everything was good but I thought a lot of the other places were better.
I loved the filter coffee in Paris! It's also crazy how a labor intensive process like a pour over is available at so many places!
1. The Broken Arm: I think I tried an espresso here. It was good.
2. Loustic: Tried their filter coffee. Probably, my favorite coffee of the trip. Very well balanced, not too tart, very good!
3. Boot Cafe: Tried an Americano and a filter coffee. Liked both.
4. Fragment: Probably the coolest interior of all the places. I tried an Aeropress here. This was a bit of a surprise. The coffee was too tart for me. Usually Aeropress coffees are rich and syrupy but this was different. Cool ambiance but my least favorite coffee of the trip.
1. Marché Bastille on Sunday - It was raining when we went here so that killed the experience a little bit. I tried some Senegalese food (think it was beef maffe) with rice which was pretty decent. I would have loved to try other things but the rain caused us to leave pretty quickly.