Pick our Paris splurge restaurant
April 1, 2019 5:04 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I will be visiting Paris, and we want to have the meal of our lifetimes there, but with compromises for dress code and possibly price. We're undecided about Michelin stars. Can you help with categories, resources, or particular recommendations?

We're adventuresome eaters, and while we'd slightly favor food that's more specific to Paris than to, say, NYC, we're open to just about any cuisine or style as long as it's utterly, memorably delicious and the presentation blows us away. The atmosphere and service matters too, though a little less so, and again, we don't have particular characteristics to target or exclude.

BUT, my husband won't be packing a suit or even a jacket. We don't want to go where that means he'd be at all out of place -- even if they would let us in. (He'd be up for places that would loan him a jacket, but I think that's poor form. Is it?) Does that eliminate all of the Michelin 3-star places, at lunch as well as at dinner? What about the 2- and 1-star ones?

Also, we're prepared to splurge, yet want the best value for that splurge. If spending more on a Michelin star is going to make for a noticeably better meal, and/or if a second or third star is another noticeable step up, then we're up for it, even though I've read they're not the best value within Paris. If not, we want to pick the more affordable option. Likewise for dinner vs. lunch.

One more consideration: we haven't made our reservation, and we'll be there in mid-late May. So that probably eliminates candidates, too.

Can you advise us on whether we should be looking at Michelin stars, and if so, how many? And whether we should be aiming for lunch or dinner? Or do you know of particular threads/posts/resources I should read? Maybe someone has already charted top restaurants by price and dress code? Or if you're something of a foodie yourself, maybe you already know just the place for us? We're from the northeast U.S. and this kind of a trip is a big, one-time deal for us, but we do eat at top places now and then. Thank you!
posted by daisyace to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
(Personally I'd rather eat somewhere that didn't have a dress code but) would it add to the adventure to hire a suit?
posted by humph at 5:54 AM on April 1, 2019

If the restaurant is prepared to lend him a jacket, they don't think it's poor form. I'd go with that option, or renting a suit for one night. I wouldn't want to have the meal of my lifetime seated by someone wearing jeans and a tank top. Part of the fun, for me, is being in elegant surroundings. YMMV.
posted by Dolley at 6:15 AM on April 1, 2019

I had a once-in-a-lifetime dinner at Hiramatsu, in the 16th. (TripAdvisor link.) It is a one star. I think I maybe wore a jacket but definitely not a tie. It was the kind of dinner where you realize in the middle of it "holy cow this is special" and you enjoy each bite.

A few months later the guy that took me there led a little coup at work that ended up with me getting gently fired, but that dinner was still worth it.
posted by AgentRocket at 6:20 AM on April 1, 2019 [4 favorites]

There are some great suggestions in this previous question.
posted by plinth at 7:04 AM on April 1, 2019

Best answer: Take a look at the recommendations from Paris By Mouth, especially the category of Favorite Tasting Menus Over 100€ . These are specifically "pricier experiences featuring contemporary food & interiors with service that’s more relaxed than you’ll find in a haute cuisine environment" which should cut down on the formality while keeping the food experience at the once in a lifetime level. The links there tell you about lunch vs. dinner options, and how far in advance you usually need to book.
posted by cushie at 7:26 AM on April 1, 2019 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Paris by Mouth is a great resource for restaurant recommendations.
posted by sallybrown at 7:48 AM on April 1, 2019 [2 favorites]

I can highly, highly recommend Maison Rostang on 20 rue rennequin. It's 2 star Michelin rated.

If you're looking for the quintessential Parisian eating experience I dare say this would be it (in the top tier for sure). It is owned by head chef Michel Rostang, a second generation chef, but the chef de cuisine is Nicolas Beaumann whose cuisine isn't old school at all. The restaurant itself is beautiful, service is impeccable and the price of the "experience" will reflect that.

As far as the dress code is concerned, I'm going to venture that most of the once in a lifetime experiences you are looking for will require a jacket. However, as Dolley mentioned above, it's not unusual at all for French restaurants to have one on hand to loan, but I would call ahead.
posted by jeremias at 8:09 AM on April 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you want to eat a casual lunch that will absolutely blow your mind, Sol Semilla (23, rue des Vinaigriers 75010 Paris) is an amazing vegetarian restaurant. I ate there a few years ago, just wandered in and I'm not even kidding it's one of the best meals I've ever had. I would fly back to Paris just to eat there. It's unassuming, not rated on any system, it's just a solid as hell place to go get an incredible meal in Paris.
posted by nikaspark at 8:53 AM on April 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: On our anniversary trip in 2017 my wife and I had dinner at La Table d'Aki (our hotel made the reservation for us like the day before, which was insane and unlikely) and lunch at Septime. I would heartily recommend both. La Table d'Aki is a more unique experience due to its size and method (one chef who does all the cooking and cleaning, one seating per night, four courses), but Septime is, well, Septime. Septime is also really hard to plan for (make your reservations exactly three weeks out, if you can), but worth it if you can get in. My wife made the Septime reservation online and they only had availability for lunch when she got into the site. I eventually called them, and we had missed dinner reservation availability but they put us on a waiting list. And then I missed a call from a Paris number while we were there that could have been a dinner opening after all, but lunch was lovely and the timing was, in fact, better for us for other itinerary reasons. My memory of what I wore is … vague to nonexistent, but I think I did wear a jacket to dinner (because it worked out that way) but not to lunch. I don't think I'd have felt out of place in either restaurant without a jacket.
posted by fedward at 8:55 AM on April 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are great suggestions and I'm going to look into a bunch of them -- thank you all!
posted by daisyace at 9:06 AM on April 2, 2019

Response by poster: Based on both fedward and Paris by Mouth, we’ve got reservations at Septime. We’ve also booked some other meals that should be great, if not quite the level I described in my question. I think cumulatively, it will be the week-plus of food of our lifetimes, without all the pressure on one meal to be IT. I’ll report back...
posted by daisyace at 3:18 AM on May 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: We're back and here's the promised report...

Septime was a mix of fantastic dishes and missable ones. Fantastic: tiny cubes of raw tuna with citrus (kumquats, blood oranges, maybe more), and topped with fried artichoke leaves -- beautiful, original, and it absolutely worked. Also fantastic: a cheese sauce halfway between a usual one and a foam, served on white asparagus that wasn't the point; I will miss it forevermore. Missable: cod with miso and mustard. It was cooked absolutely perfectly, but the flavors weren't to my liking. Also missable: pea ice cream with berries. There were also a couple of other dishes that were good-to-great.

We were a little underwhelmed by most of our other meals, to be honest. We went to Paris having heard repeatedly how perfectly ordinary little bistros turn out amazingly good food, so maybe our expectations were too high. We tended to pick places with at least 4.5 Trip Advisor or Google stars, French menus that appealed to us, and sometimes mentions on Paris by Mouth, David Lebovitz, or others. Mumi, Au Bon Accueil, Firmin Le Barbier, Au Petit Tonneau, and a bunch of others were all pretty good... but not as good as we'd expected. La Fontaine de Mars was downright poor, as was cheapie-but-internet-famous (well, it was ten years ago) L'as Du Fallafel. I'm not sure if our selection method was bad, or we just hit a run of bad luck, or what. We probably should have actually gone for one real splurge at the level I originally asked about instead of the moderate-to-highish-end we kept trying.

Happily, we did have food expectations that were exceeded too -- breakfasts! Each morning, we gathered croissants and other pastries, cheese, and fruits and fresh juices from the different little markets all around us, and that was a definite highlight of the trip.

In any case, thanks to all of you again for the help!
posted by daisyace at 5:39 PM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

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