paris gourmand - so many options, so little time!

for a gourmand like me, travelling can be a major source of stress.  after all there are so many meals one can have in one day and there is so much wine one can drink before losing the plot and if you go to a city like paris for a short stay, the food and wine opportunities can be frustratingly limited.

the pressure can be tremendous and to cope, a gourmand must plan in advance to optimise his/her restaurants occasions. normally, he/she will be adventurous and therefore tries to visit new places to expand his/her horizons - an added source of stress but he/she will also plan some old favourites as an insurance policy...  therefore, he/she will study all options ahead of time and will rely on advices to make his/her selection:  from books, magazines, friends, and worst of all, from hotel concierge.  adding insult to injury, the best laid plans can sometimes go awry, especially during the christmas period (or the month of august) in paris when a great deal of restaurants are closed for the holidays.

and so, the high value of information.  this is why guides like michelin are so important to so many gourmands and also why restaurant reviews and word of mouth can kill or make a place.  unfortunately, good reviews can also kill a place because some restaurant owners are simply not able to deal with success, but this is for another post.

after such hard work, when you hit jackpot, what a reward it can be!  what a delight, what a feast you have! you normally float 6-inches above ground and swear that this meal by itself was worth the trip!  with great joy and happiness, you wake up in the next morning singing "je vois la vie en rohhzzze!"

on the other hand though...when you hit a dog, what a disappointment, what a waste of opportunity, how deep your sorrows and rage can be!!!  you promise yourself that you will tell all who want to hear and also those who don't!  with great despair you wake up the next morning with only one scream in mind: what a waste of opportunity!

so stressful, i tell you!

here is a report on our food experiences in paris last week:

le comptoir - hotel relais st-germain, 9 carrefour de l’odéon, 6th, tel.  - lunch, saturday 20 december: a referral from my most trusted source who until this visit never failed me.  apparently an outstanding menu for dinner and booked up to 6 months in advance.  disappointingly, lunch was below average: my meat, even raw, was tough, the veggies overcooked, soggy, and tasteless, and the dessert inedible - even to my super sweet tooth.  however, and coming form hong kong, the atmosphere and service was everything one could hope for in a parisian bistro experience and the cheese plate looked disgustingly delicious.  disappointing for me and maria as well, we will have to go for dinner before we recommend the place to anyone.  going to an old favourite, "la crêmerie", just around the corner would have been a much better food experience.

fish la boissonerie, 69, rue de seine, 6th, tel. 01 43 54 34 69 - dinner saturday 20 december: an old favourite.  more for the atmosphere and the wine. but also for the food, which is always reliable and excellent.  the menu focus mainly on fish which can be a nice change from the classic parisian côte de boeuf and is prepared "modern" with classic touches.  a good place to go when alone to sit at the bar and soak in the ambiance.  the wine list by glass is excellent and you can buy bottles at their sister shop: la dernière goutte, just around the corner on 6, rue bourbon le château. this place will stay for me an old favourite.

l'estaminet des enfants rouges, 39 rue de bretagne, 3rd, tel. 01 42 72 28 12 - lunch sunday 21 december: a referral by time out paris - always for me a good source of information.  in fact, i chose the place mainly because we were heading to the market by vélib and it seemed a good place to go for brunch.  we were not disappointed.  slightly off the beaten track, probably because it is so close to the more touristy "les marais" area.  smack in the middle of the marché des enfants rouges, the place was full with parisiana: families and gorgeous young people.  the brunch portions were super generous, beautiful, and the foods super tasty.  the house wine a great value for money.  i had l'assiette de charcuterie which was an absolute delight.  a great brunch and i will absolutely make this an old favourite.  the shops on rue de bretagne are great and the whole area very paris and worth the efforts to reach it.

ma bourgogne 19, place des vosges, 4th,  tel 01 42 78 44 64 - dinner sunday 21 december: to meet a friend.  right on the place des vosges, i can understand why this place is an old favourite of many people.  very touristy during the day, it is mainly parisians who come for dinner.  i am sure the place has seen better days.  the food was good, reliable, and classic french bistro.  i will probably go back if only to meet my friend there again but will not make this an old favourite of mine.  worth to consider if you are in the area at lunch time but l'estaminet above, just a 15 minutes walk away, is, in my opinion, a much better, albeit different, experience.

l’atelier de joël robuchon, 5 rue de montalembert, 7th, tel: 56 - dinner monday 22 december: an old favourite.  in fact, i visited before and also dined at the hong kong restauran. last week though, it was by far the best meal i have had in a long long time.  faithful to its concept, spanish tapas/japanese sushi bar style, each dish on the tasting menu we selected were exquisite, tasty, flavourful, elegant, aromatic, orgasmic. classic dishes made from outstandingly high quality ingredients prepared in their purest form.  we let the sommelier pair our wines and i was in heaven.  this is definitely what life is worth living for.  no reservations are taken except for the 18h30 sitting, so, come early or very late.

comptoir de la gastronomie, 34 ru montmartre, 1er, tel. 01 42 33 31 32 - lunch tuesday 23 december: off the street on the way to visit kitchen accessories shops around the area (which are many) of les halles.  part of a food & wine shop selling typical foods of the south-west (foie gras and the like).  service a little aloof and snotty, decor and atmosphere very typical parisian bistrot but good food, sturdy, reliable, delicious and authentic.  full of locals, always a good sign.  good, but simple wine list.  will go back there when in the area.

aux bons crus, 7, rue des petits champs, 2e, tel. 01 42 60 06 45 - dinner tusday 23 december.  a referal and for his reputation, i will have to gently and diplomatically tell him to stop referring this place.  though it met the breif for a typical, local, low key, traditional parisian bistrot, it turned out to be a very disappointing food experience.  in fact, a complete disaster:  maria's magret de canard came completely carbonized and my risotto was drowing in a sea of balsamic vinegar which reminded me of those disgusting concoction i was making with rice and soya sauce when i was akid.  amazingly though, it was full when we left.  nothing on our plates will make me return however and i doubt it was simply bad luck.  a much better experience would have been had across the street at bistrot vivienne, 4 rue des petits champs, tel. 01 49 27 00 50 and definitely around the corner at juveniles, a wine bar, 47, rue de richelieu, 2e, tel : 01 42 97 46 49. 

le procope, 13 rue de l'ancienne comédie, 6e, tel. 01 40 46 79 00 - dinner, friday 26 december.  a referal from the hotel concierge. typical, authentic, but huge parisian brasserie close to st-germain des prés.  a place definitely living on its reputation and good location.  overpriced.  perhaps a good place for tourists and locals who care more for the size of the portions than for the delicacy of the ingredients.  reliable food, ok quality, but nothing special.  not even the atmosphere that also feels tired and passed its prime.  not a place for foodies and not a place i will recommend.

bouillon chartier, 7 rue du faubourg montmartre, 9e, tel. 01 47 70 86 29 - lunch saturday 27 december.  an old favourite of anita and romolo.  after meeting my waterloo the night before, my confidence was shattered and so to cheer me up, anita suggested we come here.  a huge line up was waiting for us but the place looked so great we decided to brave sub-zero temperature and wait.  and worth it was!  a total experience.  super typical paris bistro.  you enter and you feel like you travel back in time.  extremely authentic, extremely reliable, extremely parisian.  the food is not subtle.  it is bistrot in its full glory: museau de boeuf vinaigrette, escargots, entrecote, frites, profiteroles.  it taste exactly what you would expect.  the atmosphere itself was worth the trip to paris.  the kind of place you feel has a soul, ann energy, and authenticity you can not find anywhere else and i doubt can be recreated.  definitely an old favourite from now on and a spot i will visit each time i go to paris.  go.

buddha bar, 8 rue boissy d'anglas, 1er, tel. 01 53 05 90 09 - dinner saturday 27 december.  a request from milena who wanted to celebrate her 40th there.  a surprising choice for my last dinner in paris you will likely think.  i will not blame you.  dark and über-cool, the place is more for seeing and being seen than for eating.  having said that, the food, asian in style, was good, reliable, and actually tasty. the most difficult palate among us, maria's 76-year old mother, actually enjoyed her herself very much and i am told she said afterwards that it was a highlight of her stay...  an interesting, if overpriced, concept that was worth the visit and the experience.  in fact, come to think of it, perhaps a very good way to crown our week in paris.  if you go, dress up, top up the credit on your charge card, and let yourself be charmed by the razzle-dazzle of a chic-paris-night-out.