1. Pain Vin et Fromage, 3 rue Geoffroy l'Angevin (ask to be in “the cave”)
2. Le Dome de la Bastille, 2 rue de la Bastille (ask to be on the first floor, which is the second floor in the U.S.)
3. Bofinger's, 5 rue de la Bastille (ask to be on the first floor; a great old French brasserie, with Gilded Age décor)
4. Le Dome de Marais, 53 bis rue Francs-Bourgeois (great high dome with a wide spacious room)
Tom and I have never gone wrong following in his parents’ footsteps . . . when dining out. ;-) Tom’s dad has an uncanny ability to pick just the right place, and I don’t mean to say that he picks the hoity-toity, noses-up-in-the-air places at all. Dad picks great places with great food, friendly service, and atmosphere to spare, without need of the grand price tag. Having said that, when we were in Paris in 1994, Dad lobbied for Tom and I to go to La Tour d’Argent, which for centuries fell heavily into the category of “the place to see and be seen." It was once a favorite of Louis XIV. I’m glad we went in '94 because the online reviews that I read today generally agree that the restaurant's reputation has since been eclipsed. When we were there, the food was awesome, and the seemingly fancy schmancy service was not the least bit snobby. The ducks have been numbered since 1890 or so and they give you a carte postale indicating the number of the duck you ate (ours was number 822038). I read that they're now long past the "Over One Million Served" point.
If you go to La Tour d'Argent, just suck it up and pay l’addition using our rationale: You’ll only go once in this lifetime, mere mortals can’t afford to go twice. We asked for a table by the window and were rewarded with a breathtaking view overlooking the Seine and Notre Dame. When my in-laws dined there a few weeks later, they were given an impromptu tour of the half-million bottle wine cellar. Tom’s dad no doubt scored this opportunity because he told the maitre d’ that his meal marked the occasion of three generations of our family having been customers over the years (i.e., Tom’s grandfather, Tom's father, and Tom). Also, my father-in-law is one of the more charming chaps you’ll ever know, so that probably helped. Tom and I are glad we went. Dad’s guiding hand left us with a memory of a lifetime.
All of the restaurants on my in-laws list are in the 4th arrondissement, in which the picturesque Marais district is located in part (more on the Marais district in tomorrow's post). Pain, Vin et Fromage is a mouth-watering fondue place. We had our first meal there in the “cave” (otherwise known to Americans as the basement) in 1994. Kristen and Courtney were ten and eight respectively. Ten years later we went back when Laura was almost five. Both times we had great meals, and what could be more kid-friendly than bread and melted cheese served in a cave?
Not on the in-laws’ list is l'Excuse, 14, rue Charles-V, also in the 4th, which Tom and I liked a lot. Le Bistrot du Sommelier, 97 boulevard Haussmann, is one that Tom found on a business trip; we went there together in 2004, and took my in-laws; it was incredible. If you go, bite the bullet and order the really expensive pre-planned menu (with tons of wine pairings—do it, you’re not driving) and they’ll ask you to guess what variety of wine you’re drinking, which is fun to do, although you won’t give a darn if you’re right, particularly after the second glass. Tom also went to Guy Savoy, 18 rue Troyon, when he was in Paris on business and he said it was fantastic. We did not go to Guy Savoy when we later traveled to Paris as a family. All I know about Guy Savoy is that Tom’s share of the $1600 lunch check was $400, and he could not expense it. Tom is incredibly
Here is one more list, just so it may be said that I have put my own list in this post.
Cheri’s very best dining tips in Paris:
1. Don’t tip your server. In France, the gratuity is built into the bill, and is
2. Look for the valuable prix fixe menus in every restaurant. You’ll get three or four courses (sometimes with wine pairings) at a much more reasonable price than if you order items individually, and the chefs do a good job picking dishes (and wine pairings) that go well together.
3. Eat dessert.
4. Eat baguettes. Every day.
5. Eat French chocolate at every opportunity.
6. Don't miss the crepes sold by the vendors on the street. Eat one in front of Notre Dame.
7. Don't miss the roasted chestnuts sold by the vendors on the street. Eat them and walk along the Seine.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s list: Paris, Part Deux
[Editor's Note: This just in! My mother-in-law has just informed me that l'Excuse went belly up, shortly after the time we were there. Also, she says that Les Vins des Pyrenees (which translates to The Wines of the Pyrenees) is worth missing. Quoting from Mom's email: "The food was so-so (well, this IS France, so it can't be REALLY bad), the service was lousy, and there weren't any southwestern (i.e., Pyrenees region) wines on the menu at all! We came THAT CLOSE to getting thrown out for excessive giggling. There's another place on St-Paul, down toward the river, called l'Enoteca, which I try repeatedly to become enamored of, but it just isn't that special. It gets written up all the time, but for its wine of which they have a list long as your arm. (Enoteca in Italian translates to something like "the wine collection".) But the food, which is good, doesn't compensate for the so-so service, the noise, and the fact that - face it - the place is just plain COLD. We've never found a warm part of that room, though we've sat in three of the four corners of the dining room. Should we try for four? Probably. The impressive wine list doesn't impress ME, because here's my theory: you can only swallow one swallow at a time. Howzzat for logic?"]