I couldn’t miss an opportunity to share the foodie details, so it might help you plan your next trip to Paris…
Cafe de Flore:A tad bit overrated? Sure. But worth it at least once? Definitely, at least if you are someone like me who likes to imagine what it was back in its prime for the best writers of the early twentieth century. Keep it to a bowl of French onion soup at 8 euros, and you can escape without having to wash dishes. It was perfect in the late afternoon with a damp, drizzly chill outside.172 Bld Saint-Germain. Tel 33 1 45 48 55 26.
Chez Dumonet: My second time here, it is still our favorite spot in all of Paris for an old school, bistro meal. Here, the wine list is jacked, the waiters are high-strung (but so incredibly accommodating) and the food…incomparable. Don’t even try to understand the carte du vin (wine menu). Just tell them what you want. For us: nothing over 150 euro with age and complexity. The result: a ’99 Lalande Borie Saint Julien Bordeaux. It was drinking perfectly! Rich black cherry and currant fall from the rim as an uplifting trace of tomato leaf brightens its dense demure. The acidity still rippin’, the tannins taut and the integration beginning to works its magic from the core of the sip to the finish. A dramatic wine from beginning to end, it is powerful showing the softness and self-confidence of age.
This carried us through one of the best gazpachos I have ever held on my tongue, a tray of langoustines to share (a kind of lobster that looks like a shrimp), steamed artichokes with mixed greens, a healthy dose of boeuf bourguignon, my partner’s omelette with fresh black truffles and a dessert of Chantilly cream cuddling with fresh rasberries in a pastry shell. Not recommended for those on weight watchers. This restaurant is oh so decadent… oh so French. 117 Rue du Cherche-Midi, 6th. Tel: (1) 45 48 52 40. Closed Sat and Sun.
Le Cinq: Because we have always wondered what went on behind the curtain at this swank restaurant at the Four Season/George V, we just went for it. When better than just after a huge feat, like coming in first as a team for the Tour de France? This hotel has one of the grandest entrances I have ever seen. Thousands of dollars worth of massive floral arrangements nearly overwhelm your eyes. This time it was several varieties of purple flowers. If for no reason other than to grab an overpriced drink at their bar, you simply must visit this hotel.
Billecart Salmon rose in hand to start our great feast at Le Cinq (within the Four Seasons/George V Hotel), we toasted to Paris, to the team…and to us. Seven courses later, after a pricey bottle of ’99 Meo Cazumet Vosne-Romanee, odd experimental nouvo cuisine and a very strange, strange sommelier that reminded us of someone from Tales of the Crypt doing a radio show, we weren’t convinced that it was worth the hype. For one thing, tomatoes should not be made into a mid-meal ice cream, random droppings of wasabi and goat cheese should not just show up on your plate with no purpose, and foam…is getting kind of old, right? Although the cold avocado crab lasagna and olive oil ice cream was delish, it was a high price to pay for a moment on the lips.
In a stately, ornate, high-end restaurant that carries with it the monarchial grandeur of its namesake and a crowd that is best described as ‘stuffy’, it is no time for chemistry and pop rocks in the cuisine. The plates lacked synergy with their environment. And as such, tasted incomplete and out-of-place. Duck confitwith a gold lined cloth to dab on the corners of my mouth may have seemed a little more genuine. 31, avenue George V, 75008.Tel. 33 (0) 1 49 52 70 00
Les Ombres: An absolutely stunning venue for which to have the Tour de France dinner party. At the base of the Eiffel Tower, there is no closer place to see this phenomenal structure over an upscale meal at Les Ombres. Knowing that they prepared this 3 course meal for over 180 people, I can only imagine the quality of a small intimate affair. 27 Quai Branly, 75007. Tel. 01 47 53 68 00. Closed Sundays.
La Romantica Caffe: You know, this place was not fancy, nor really worth going out of your way. But if you are in the Place Vendome area of Paris and not sure where to start, you’re just getting in from a long travel, this is a little place that has dependable, good Italian food. Here, I ate one of the best versions of caprese: a delicately peeled whole tomato stuffed with burrata and basil. I know, I know, but you are in Paris! Well, then I suggest you head straight to Willy’s Wine Bar. Grab a cab and go! It’s open late and they will scratch your itch for French food. 96 Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg, 75007. Tel. 01 44 18 36 37. Closed Sundays.
O-Chateau Wine Bar: An impressive wine program… a shame it doesn’t totally come together. Their idea? 40 wines by the glass, kept ‘fresh’ with a system that gasses the wine, allowing them to taste the same for days, even weeks… or so they claim. I get asked about this a lot. Do I think it works? I never say never, and with wines like ’81 Petrus and ’91 d’Yquem Sauternes on tap, I figured it was worth a try to check it out. Had I 68 euro, I may have tried the Petrus, instead I selected a more humble flight of ’07 Chabloz-Champs Gain Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru, ’02 Landmann Grand Cru Riesling from Alsace, ’10 Domaine de la Garenne Sancerre, ’05 Domaine Courtade Cotes du Provence, ’98 Lynch Bages, ’99 Chateau Cure Bon St. Emilion, ’96 Berthaut Fixin and ’10 Marcel Lapierre Morgon.
The Sancerre, Puligny-Montrachet and Riesling were off the hook. They expressed their individual terroirs perfectly, sang notes of minerality and were incredibly balanced. Everything one could want from these regions’ best. The reds, sadly, were less than lovely. Their structure seems compromised, their bouquets rather volatile showing notes of acetone and mildew, and their overall character was not correct. Some of it blew off, but they didn’t seem…right. The servers seemed insulted when they asked my honest opinion after seeing that I wasn’t finishing my 2 oz pours, and I mentioned that they may be a tad bit off, but I wasn’t sure. Well, they were. I couldn’t have been made to feel more like leaving any faster had they grabbed the broom and swept me out the door. Ah well. The whites were worth it, if you are ever in the 1st and want a place to chill for an hour. I have yet to research more about reds on tap. I am definitely suspect now. 68, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau – 75001. Tel. 33(0)1 44 739 780.
Kinugawa Japanese Restaurant: The best in town, or so the rumor goes. I am not a huge sushi freak, as so many of you know (though I strangely like the occasional sushimi toro), but my partner in crime was certainly satisfied. Though he claims it is no better than the best in Denver (Sushi Sasa, in his humble opinion), he was by no means disappointed. They have an extensive list, including non-fruits-des-mers options (non- seafood). I had seared salmon, which was done perfectly with a side of some of the best textured pearly white rice I have honestly ever had! Seems silly to wax poetic about, but if ever grains of rice deserved it, theirs would be ones. Plus, their ‘simple’ house white by the glass was no less than the ‘02 Latour 1er Cru Beaune ‘Les Aigrots’ at 9 euro. Not that I typically get into this negociant’s products, this selection was rockin’ right now, and only that much better at a steal of a price! It demonstrated the briny, nutty, textural similarities to a Lopez white. For a restaurant that by no means seems to put their wine program as a number one priority, they know what they are doing for sure. 9,rue du Mont Thabor, 75001. Tel. 01 42 60 65 07
Le Chardenoux: Our final evening was reserved for a recommendation. A very fine one at that. A hop, skip and 34 euros later in cab fare we found ourselves in a Parisian pocket we had never been before. Or so we thought. It wasn’t until after dinner that it occurred to JV that not only had he been here before, but there was a restaurant he completely forgot about that I would love. We stopped in on the way back to the hotel to glance at the wine list, and he couldn’t have been more right. It may have been the most exciting wine list I had yet seen in a Paris eatery–stocked with traditional, stinky backvintages of Chateauneuf, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Loire.
Les Chardenoux was the real deal. Inside were real people–Parisians having a night out. The was classically prepared to perfection. I settled on an heirloom tomato salad followed by a rib eye with béarnaise sauce, while Jonathan got the tartare. We couldn’t have been more satisfied, washing it down with a ’04 Leoville-Barton St. Julien Bordeaux. It was a big, fat wine, bearing copious cocoa notes, dark black berries and a ton of tannin. It hit the spot, and couldn’t have been better with the meat.1, rue Jules Vallès, in the 11th Arrondissement. Tel. 01 43 71 49 52. Lunch and dinner every day.
Restaurants/Wine Bars I still really want to go to:
Helene Darroze- 4 Rue D’Assas, 75006, Tel. 01 42 22 00 11
Bistrot Paul Bert- 18 Rue Paul Bert , 75011 Paris,Tel : 01 43 72 24 01
La Tour d’Argent– 15,quai de la Tournelle, 75005. Tel. 01 43 54 23 31
La Verre Vole- 67, rue de Lancry, 75010. Tel: 01 48 03 17 34
Great places to lay your head:
Renaissance Parc Trocadero (Marriott)–A bit more removed from the bustle, here you are right next to a bunch of great museums and lovely strolls. A bit harder to maneuver for runs, but walking is great. The homes here are reminiscent of old wealth aristocracy. A fabulous boutique across the street by Bonpoint (a children’s French couture shop) for adults called Yam. The breakfasts at the Parc Trocadero will quench your thirst for an American coffee fix–one pot per person.
Renaissance Place Vendome (Marriott)–Modern and chic, this happening hotel gives you the feeling of the top luxury hotels in the city at half the price. So close to the Seine, you are steps from major museums, shops, plazas and outdoor recreation. A first class spa awaits you if you seek decadence.
Castille Hotel–A bit more classic decor, this place is quaint, central and full of character. Great service and extremely comfortable beds. I have seldom slept so well. Next door Chanel and zillions of other top notch brands and boutiques await your pocketbook. Be sure to check out my favorite shoe shop: Michel Perry. Just a few steps from the Seine for some great running.