Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Tale of Two Restaurants

Disclaimer: I'm not a restaurant critic. I don't even play one on TV. What follows is just my opinion, take it or leave it.

Call me spoiled but I've already gone out to lunch twice this week. No, this isn't the usual state of affairs and my guess is that today's lunch will be more along the lines of peanut butter and jelly or some stray leftovers lurking in my fridge. But the back-to-back experiences suggested to me that either a) Paris dining isn't all that it's cracked up to be, b) sometimes the best meals come at the most reasonable prices or c) all of the above.

Yesterday, I joined a group at Brasserie Flo, one of Paris's venerable Belle Epoque brasseries, hidden away in a courtyard near the Porte St. Denis. It's got the whole nine yards: gruffy waiters in tuxedos and aprons, white tablecloths, incredible decor, and plates heaped high with choucroute. Or make that a platter of oysters on the half shell if you like. The place was packed. Definitely an experience. And the food? I took the 22 euro menu (which offered a choice of first course and main dish, or main dish and dessert) starting with foie gras served with Poilane's dark bread followed by duck accompanied by a mound of green beans. All perfectly fine but nothing to get excited about. Plus it was so noisy I had a hard time keeping up a conversation with my lunch companions.

The day before, I enjoyed a rare lunch with my husband at Le Taxi Jaune in the 3rd arrondissement. The setting is simple: tile floors, ladderback chairs for maybe 20 people, and just a few choices on the blackboard. My husband had a hearty pea soup while I started with a light salad, and we both dug into the rabbit with mustard sauce served on a bed of noodles and root vegetables for our main dish. It was the perfect match for the cold damp day. Better yet, the bill was just 38 euros for the two of us, including wine and coffee. Now that's, as the French say, a good "rapport qualité prix." Not a bargain but definitely value for the money.

Was Brasserie Flo worth the visit? Certainly. Will I go back? Probably not. As for Le Taxi Jaune, see for yourself. And buyer beware, dinner's always twice the price of lunch.

Brasserie Flo
7 Cour des Petites Ecuries
75010 Paris
01 47 70 13 59

Le Taxi Jaune
13 Rue Chapon
75003 Paris
01 42 76 00 40


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David said...

"a) Paris dining isn't all that it's cracked up to be"

Well, there isn't any Parisian local food (which makes sense, where would they grow and raise it?).
France has some of the best food in the world. Paris doesn't.
Remember, it's all about the local food.

"b) sometimes the best meals come at the most reasonable prices"

That's actually almost a rule in Paris. The more famous the restaurant, the more overpriced and crappy it's likely to be.
It's this constant duel between Appearance Vs Substance that's been raging in Paris for decades if not centuries. Both sadly being antithetic in Paris.

So the right answer is:
"c) all of the above."

debbie in toronto said...

I like going out for lunch much better than dinner most times...more relaxed...

love the sound of that rabbit.

Starman said...

The closest I've ever come to one of the "famous" brasseries was coffee at Les Deux Magot. It wasn't that impressive.

Nicole said...

I don't know if I agree with David. I tend to find in our neighborhood that it is sort the luck of the draw as far as new places go. There are so many restaurants with similar prices but wildly different levels of quality. This week, I had a surprise visit from family who requested a very french restaurant for dinner, that wasn't too pricey. I had a really hard time thinking of a place in my neighborhood with reliably good food. In the end, we went to l'Atelier Maitre Albert, a Joel Rebouchon resto, because the food is always good quality even if the prices are slightly higher than I would like. The menu at 32 euros is a really good buy.
In response to your question, I would say that it is d): your best bet is always something recommended by a local- those little neighborhood places that don't look like much but are ALWAYS full of people in the know.

David said...

Nicole, of course if you go to a starred restaurant it'll be good famous or not. But starred restaurants are usually out of my budget.

What I meant by "famous" restaurants, it's either the famous brasseries like Chez Flo, or the brasseries from Montparnasse Boulevard, or the BS trendy restaurants like Kong, where I wouldn't eat even if they paid me to do so.

Then, I agree with the neighborhood thing, that's how I found all of the restaurants I like (whether they're actually in my neighborhood or not), but it really depends on the neighborhood.

Lara said...

Thank you very much for the interesting and usefull information. I am planning to visit Paris in May this year.

gallychan said...

Thanks for the review and recommendation! I'll be in Paris in a week and am compiling a list of good places to eat - especially if they are local neighbourhood gems. Any more places to suggest? :)

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