Where can we get a nice dinner in Paris near the 1er?
April 21, 2010 8:47 AM   Subscribe

I want to take my husband out for a nice dinner in Paris for his birthday. The catch: I'm pregnant and have some weird food aversions.

We're heading to Paris at the end of May, and we'll be there over Mr. Informed's birthday. We haven't had a proper vacation in years and this is likely to be our last just-us trip for some time, as we're expecting a baby in the fall. So I'd like to take him somewhere nice for a birthday dinner. We don't need a Michelin star or anything--but a romantic atmosphere and delicious food are key.

Here are the relevant details:
  • We're staying in the 1er, close to the Concorde and Tuileries Metro stops, and a place within walking distance or a short Metro ride would be great.
  • We generally like all kinds of food, although due to pregnancy aversions/restrictions, I'd prefer somewhere where I could avoid blue/veined and unpasteurized cheeses, lamb, organ meats, anything that smells fishy, and anything cooked rare (sigh). I don't mind if these are on the menu, of course, as long as there's something else I can eat. So that may not be a complicating factor after all.
  • And finally, if possible, the cost for the two of us should be under $200 (about 150 Euros).
Any recommendations? Extra bonus points if I can make a reservation online, since I speak no French and would prefer to surprise Mr. Informed rather than ask him to call for the reservation.

If my budget is impossible, please tell me that too--and then tell me where you'd head and what a more reasonable estimate would be!
posted by Ms. Informed to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (9 answers total)
Read from this review here (excerpted below).

It's a bit old so the prices will be a little out of date, but basically I think you can have the tasting menu at around €100 each if you go for lunch. Link to the restaurant is here.

"The service was impecable as you would expect. The Maitre D was charming and extremely knowledgable as you would also expect. My wife was six months pregnant and they were exceptionally helpful in helping her avoid those things she could not eat and providing alternatives.

My wife had the lunchtime tasting menu (5 courses) at 90 euros and I had the full tasting menu at £200 euros. Both were exceptional and worth every penny. As you would expect - any wine is in addition to this. True 'foodies' will love this restaurant. I am not going to go in to great depth about the food other than some of it is fairly experimental and if you are at all 'faddy' and are not prepared to trust the chef then this may not be for you...

A stunning restaurant that well deserves its reputation.

Everybody should dine here at least once!"

FWIW, I've eaten at one of Gagnaire's previous places. I still remember it now as the best meal I've ever had and (at the risk of boasting) I've now eaten in a few Michelin-starred places.

He's also a really nice guy. It is out of budget, though - and if your hubby starts getting heavily involved with the wine list in a big way then things could get expensive. But if you want to remember the meal and you change your mind on budget... here you go.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:28 AM on April 21, 2010

Did you see this article in the New York Times recently? I didn't read too much of it because I knew it would just make me nostalgic for Paris, but the headline makes it sound like you can get very good food for not a lot of euros and according to the map most of the places in the article are at least a short cab ride away from where you will be staying.
posted by ekroh at 10:43 AM on April 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I love she says "no stars" and someone suggest gagnaire. Why not l'arpege.

the bistronomiques sound like what you want. that times article is about five years behind the time but its got some good suggestions. As always troll the food boards tho. You'll always get a sympathetic ear.
posted by JPD at 11:54 AM on April 21, 2010

Afraid I don't have any specific location recommendations in that area, but I wanted to give two tips -

One is this blog post I read recently about "common ordering mistakes visitors make" in Paris. Thought you might find it helpful.

Two - you mention you speak no French. Maybe you've heard this advice before, but I highly urge you to learn at least the basics (y'know, bonjour, bon soir - and when to use which - "je suis desole" (I'm sorry) "je suis Americainne" (I'm American) etc. ..) You'll hear tons of horror stories that the French are rude. I didn't find them any ruder than people I encounter here in Chicago daily. The trick is they are pickier about politenesses and manners, and they don't like you to expect them to speak English. If you can at least learn something like "Pardonnez-moi, parlez-vous anglais? Je suis un touriste américain, je ne parle pas bien français" (Pardon me, do you speak English? I'm an American tourist, I don't speak French well) - that will go a long way to easing things. In most places you'll probably be in Paris, they'll switch over to English for you - but they'll be a bit nicer about it if they see you making some effort too!

Otherwise - when I was there a few years ago I didn't go anyplace fancy, and I didn't get any reservations for dinner. I just kinda walked around neighborhoods, looked at posted menus, and picked a place that had the food I was looking for at a good price. Didn't really have any problems.
posted by dnash at 2:44 PM on April 21, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks all--great tips so far. As a side note, I guess I exaggerated when I said I spoke no French--I can handle the basics (hello, goodbye, I'm sorry, excuse me, I don't speak much French, etc.) and I can read a good amount. I've never studied it formally, so I'd be in serious trouble if I had to negotiate Paris alone, but I do make an effort; I'd never just go in and start speaking English!
posted by Ms. Informed at 4:06 PM on April 21, 2010

Le 404 was my favorite restaurant in Paris - it's beautiful inside (ambient lighting, candles, carvings and fabrics on the walls, etc.) and the food is delicious. It's Moroccan/North African, but don't let that scare you away - the menu is pretty friendly and I think it even had English translations. I had some kind of vegetarian tagine that was served with several little bowls of garnishes and sides, and it was so much fun to assemble.

If you call ahead, see if you can get the loft table - it's at the top of a winding staircase overlooking the rest of the restaurant. (I speak about as much French as you do and I don't remember having any problems calling.)
posted by Fifi Firefox at 4:22 PM on April 21, 2010

Read David Lebovitz's blog. He has SO much information on there about all sorts of eating in Paris. (He was linked above in the ordering errors mention.) Have a blast!
posted by littleflowers at 5:53 PM on April 21, 2010

I recommend L'Encrier. It's small and charming, with good, reasonably priced food. I found the service warm and friendly also.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:50 PM on April 21, 2010

that times article is about five years behind the time

That's an odd thing to say about restaurants that didn't exist five years ago. Please explain.
posted by ekroh at 5:04 AM on April 22, 2010

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