Paris — ‘Fancy’ Lunch/‘Romantic’ Dinner

The wife and I are returning to Paris in mid-November after a 4-year break forced on us by the pandemic and the delights of the US immigration system.

In the past, we’ve enjoyed dining at Michelin-starred places like Yam’tcha and L’ Arcane, and more casual places like Frenchie’s wine bar, Les Arlots, Septime La Cave, Clamato, Bistrot Paul Bert and Bonne Aventure.

Usually we travel to a region outside Paris and tended to splash out there on a fancy meal (we did Brittany in 2019, Burgundy in 2018, Bordeaux/Dordogne/Cahors in 2016 and Provence/Cote d’Azur in 2014), but this time it’s going to be just Paris for 4-5 days.

Thanks to many other threads on I’ve found here, I think I have a pretty good shortlist of new places to try this time around.

But I also want to do one ‘fancy’ lunch at a two or three Michelin-starred spot (dinner at most of these places seem too expensive to me), and also a ‘romantic’ dinner one evening.

For lunch, looks like La Clarence ticks the box in terms of ‘special-occasion’ ambiance. I also like the idea that the four ‘sequences’ for 180 euros work out to about 20 small courses. Any better options in the same price range?

As for the romantic dinner, Meg Zimbek of Paris by Mouth recommends Petrelle, and the candle-lot dining room does looks lovely and cozy. She highly praises the food too, which is obviously important.

Would be great to hear any other options — for either that fancy lunch or romantic dinner (with great food!):

For reference, here’s the rest of the itinerary I am considering:

Day 1

Lunch — Breizh Cafe (the wife is really craving the crepes here, so this one is non negotiable)

Dinner — FIEF (we LOVE restaurants where we can see the crew in action and interact with the chef, and this place seems to guarantee that with the counter menu option)

Day 2

‘Fancy’ Lunch — Le Clarence?

Dinner — Assuming a long and heavy lunch, late drinks and small bites at a wine bar? Bouche, Frenchie Bar a Vins (a minute’s walk from our hotel!) or Pouliche (suggestions welcome)?

Day 3

Lunch — Eunoe

‘Romantic’ Dinner — Petrelle?

Day 4

Lunch — Debating between Jeanne Aimee, Perception and Maison Sota

Dinner — Perception or Jeanne Aimme (depending on what we decide in terms of lunch)

Other places under consideration:

Fancy Lunch:

A.T. (Just one Michelin star, and not sure if it’s fancy enough to feel like a special occasion lunch), Kei (too expensive even for lunch?), Le Gabriel (128 euros for three courses, and then jumps to 280 euros for anything more. Is it worth such a big premium?), Pierre Gagnaire (4 course for 175 euros, but the setting doesn’t seem as nice as Le Clarence?)

For other lunches/dinners (romantic or otherwise):

Origines, Pantagreul, Nhome, Parcelles, A.Lea (ex-Epicure chef), Verjus (top rated by Paris by Mouth, but seems too ‘American’?), Cafe de Ministeres, Geosmine, Des Terres (both recommended by the NYT, which automatically makes me skeptical!).

Any and all thoughts welcome. Except for Day 1 lunch at Breizh Cafe, I am open to being persuaded to change all the rest!


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I noticed you mentioned ’ Le Clarence ’ in your posting and thought I would convey the following update to you:

" An ex-chowhound friend of mine ( skylineR33 ) tried out their 275 Euro tasting menu last Friday. Told me the total experience was spoiled by a few unexpectedly disappointing courses!
Specifically, the pigeon two ways which were bland, dry and overcooked! ( the pigeon he had at Auberge Bressane, the evening of his arrival was way better and tastier )
The dessert course overall did not reflect that of a Michelin 2* restaurant. Of the 4 courses offered, 3 involved single scoops of Apricot, Raspberry and Chocolate sorbet/ice-cream!..which made him feel like eating Haagen Dazs ice cream at home rather than at a fine dining establishment! A square slice of Raspberry Cake that tasted like a supermarket product topped off the dessert courses!
Thinking the restaurant is under the ownership of ’ Domaine Clarence Dillon ', he was hoping to savour some of their wine offerings, hopefully at a fair and decent price. Sadly, instead, he found the mark-up INSANE! ( The 2014 Haut Brion, 4x the retail cost he paid in Toronto! )
Like I said, I heard these directly from a trusted foodie friend. However, please feel free to take in the information with a grain of salt!

Bringing a grain of salt or rather a small sachet of fleur de sel de Guérande, my multiple meals at Le Clarence over the years have been, inexplicably, the exact opposite of the one unsatisfactory experience of The Charles’ friend. I do agree that the wine list is stratospherically priced but I only order wine by the glass (and sometimes half glass) because I am far more concerned about matching the wine with the food than in the wine per se and therefore don’t get the full shock of the bottle mark-ups. And I quietly whisper my cost ceiling to the wine guy. The “accords mets et vins” has always been spot on. It’s just a shame that Le Clarence was a lousy match for the friend of The Charles. It happens.

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Many thanks for both the views on Le Clarence.

Speaking of… the restaurant has three rooms — any one better than the others? Most of the pictures I have seen seem to be taken in a room that looks like a library.

Anyone who has been there have any thoughts? I was wondering whether to ask for a particular room if I end up making a reservation.

My daughter and I had an excellent lunch at Petrelle in March. I would imagine dinner there to be charming, romantic and delicious if as memorable as our experience. It is a revisit for me in December, along with Perception and KGB, now Oktober.

For ambiance it’s tough to beat Jules Verne. The food is good but few would claim it is great. That said, I return again and again.

Re FIEF, anything over 100€ a head is expense account territory for me and the table d’hôte tasting menu at the counter is just not appropriate for a business meal and so I have never tried it. I have had two meals in the main dining room and, although the food was A+, the vibe is just a wee bit too earnest for me (but maybe not for you… who knows ?). Although less of a culinary wow, I enjoy the interaction at the counter of great value Pierre Sang Oberkampf much more… but a warning: not all HungOn-ers have enjoyed Pierre Sang Oberkampf as much as I do.

Although not quite the interactive open kitchen experience you are looking for, I especially enjoy La Condesa in the 9th for the modern French cuisine with global/ Mexican influences and the sparkling conversations with very personable young chef Indra Carillo as he makes his rounds.

Since it seems that you are staying in the rapidly gentrifying and now very trendy Sentier quartier, I’ll also suggest the Bar Chaumont in the Hotel Bachaumont on the rue Bachaumont for an after-dinner cocktail and late-night nibbles. On the same street, Aux Crus de Bourgogne when in the mood for very reliable trad in a sparkling setting… maybe a better selection of trad cuisine at its more touristy sister restaurant Auberge Bressane in the faraway depths of the rather boring and monotone lower 7th but, for me as a Parisian, Aux Crus de Bourgogne has a vibe and soul that seems much more “parigote”

Re Le Clarence.
“the restaurant has three rooms — any one better than the others?” I slightly prefer the Salle Pontac (the library-style room)… a bit better for people-watching.


@ParnParis Oh my, Bar Chaumont looks perfect. Definitely looking forward to having a late-night drink or two there.

And thanks for the tip on the Le Clarence room.

On Aux Crus de Bourgogne, will have a look. Had also heard Aux Lyonnais is a nice spot with old-school ambiance, especially after a chef change.

Interesting note on the earnestness at FIEF. I must admit the over 100 euro cost has been bothering me. Perhaps I should just do the Jeanne Aimee dinner on that day instead and keep all meals except Le Clarence at less than 100 euros a head!

@MaxEntropy I considered Jules Verne, and of course it looks great, but we’ve dined at several city view from a height restaurants over the years and are looking for something a different. Besides, it’s always bothered me that you can’t see Paris skyline’s biggest star from the restaurant given it’s in it!

Just a heads-up, in case you have not seen this elsewhere on the board, but Jeanne-Aimee is no longer offering it’s very appealing (to me) “choose anything you want to eat from any category” menu, but is now at dinner, only offering a chef’s choice menu, with no choices for the diner. Lunch, you have the more usual choices between two dishes for your courses, but nothing like what it used to be at dinner. I have therefore canceled my reservation there this week, and am already missing the old menus I had the fantastic experiences of.

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Actually there is another reason to dine at Jules Verne, aside from the view of Paris. You get a truly intimate glimpse of the amazing construction of the tower, and the working of the elevators. They evoke Steam Punk in a way that makes the name of the restaurant particularly apt. The tower is a work of art as well as an engineering feat.


I should add that I spied Le Clarence’s former pastry chef now working at the very new (opened last week?) and excellent Hémicycle on rue de Bourgogne/ 7th and this could, in part, explain why the friend of @THECHARLES found the desserts at Le Clarence so lacking at the end of August. The loss of key kitchen team members at such a critical time (after the long summer closing) can challenge the best of restaurants. Hopefully, Le Clarence has now found a new and equally good pastry chef.

And @onzieme , please try to fit in newcomer Hémicycle in your reviewing agenda. I found it excellent (for lunch) and the modern French/ (sorta) Italian cuisine full of surprises and joy but, as we all know, I’m a lousy reviewer reluctant to describe a meal that probably no one else will have because of the ever changing menu, not a wine geek, way too cool (sure, sure :nerd_face:) to snap pics of my food, and mostly concerned with the overall experience rather than the food on the plate. Your analytical and critical touch is needed. And second opinions are often more useful than first impressions.

WOW!! What great news!! A 5.0/5.0 restaurant that’s only 12 minutes walk from our hotel!!

Thanks for the tip, Parn. It doesn’t fit for the coming week, but I have it for the week after.

Oh boy… just when I thought I might have settled on a few, @ParnParis gives me another option with Hemicycle. So Le Clarence has lost the chef that makes its famous brioche and the baba au rum, huh? I read someplace it also lost a sous chef a year or so ago…

@onzieme do let us know your thoughts if you make it to Hemicycle in the near future. Prices seem slightly steep for dinner for a just-opened and as yet unproven restaurant.

@MaxEntropy noted on Jules Verne — didn’t realize the restaurant is also a window into the engineering of the tower.

And @ninkat bummer about Jeanne Aimee dropping the option to choose from its dinner menu.

A lot to consider.

Oh, and I missed to say @ParnParis — The wife and I have been to La Condesa, twice. Once before it received its star, and once after. We enjoyed it more the first time. The second meal wasn’t bad at all, but it just didn’t do much for us beyond being a solid meal.

I did consider Pierre Sang, but have to admit the very mixed reviews here gave me cold feet.

Separately, has anyone tried A.T. in the 5th? Looks interesting, but haven’t seen it mentioned much here.

Verjus seems like a big favorite of Paris by Mouth, but again, not many mentions of it here (AFAIK).

My experience is the same as yours on Condesa – they eased up after the star, and while it still is good, it’s not the same. Alas, that’s not an unusual ocurrance.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Verjus, but I have not heard anything that would indicate that my experience is no longer valid – you’ll get a very good meal (and of course the pleasure of the Palais Royal), but not one that you couldn’t have had in London, NYC, or SF.

Yep, I totally get what you mean about Verjus. We live in NYC, and are spoilt here. There are a lot of great small restaurants serving very interesting food, especially in Brooklyn (where I live, so I am biased).

There are also scores of New York bistros that serve very good versions of steak frites, steak au poivre and the like. There’s one that opened this summer called Libertine that doesn’t serve steak or frites at all (and definitely no French Onion Soup), but superb renditions of things like Lamb a la Moutard, Lobster Chou Farci and Duck Two Ways. And from what I see of the prices at a place like Parcelles, for example, in Paris, the cost per person is actually comparable.

But barring such exceptions (and there are very few), one BIG difference in Paris is the number of smart restaurants that offer outstanding value. You have to work very hard to find that in NYC. The Verjus menu, if transported to NYC, would easily cost at least 50% more, I am certain.

Still, I am in Paris only for a few days, and the high premium I place on value when dining out in NYC (and value in NYC terms, of course) doesn’t quite apply when I am on holiday.

I do want to try more only-in-Paris experiences, hence the attraction to something like Le Clarence (though sadly I can’t afford to spend that much on each meal!). At the same time, while am sure some old-school bistros will be very ‘Parigot’, I hesitate to go to someplace that serves mainly classics because I have very good access to such dishes in NYC (and can myself make a mean steak and Beef Bourguignon at home, if I may say so myself).

For experiences that you can’t match in NYC, you mostly have to be in the 9th and the double-digit arrondissements; 9, 17, and increasingly 20 are very interesting these days.

From my one pre-COVID experience of Verjus, the cuisine is excellent and the setting is charming but I have the impression that it is a resto by Americans for Americans that just happens to be in Paris. I think we locals need a visa to get in.

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There may be a disconnect between what Americans consider to be standard trad (thank you, Julia Child) and the trad dishes more familiar to us Parisians…. and presumably less available in “French” bistros in the USA that have to accommodate American preconceptions/ misconceptions of what traditional French “cuisine bourgeoise” is.

I for one have had the not typically parisian but typically tourist boeuf bourguignon twice in my life… and am not a big fan of stewed chunks of beef but if beef cheeks (hard to find in the US but increasingly popular in Paris) are substituted for the stew beef, I love it. When I go trad, it’s blanquette de veau (at Chez Monsieur in the 8th), haricot de mouton or daube de joue de boeuf at Chez Denise in Les Halles, chou farci at new-style bistro Jamat (but not always on menu) in the 9th or Café des Ministères in the Faubourg St Germain/ 7th, poulet au vin jaune at Aux Crus de Bourgogne in the 2nd or Auberge Bressane in the lower 7th. We also have a huge appreciation of offal (admittedly a bit off-putting, it seems, for many Americans) and easily found at restos like Amarante in the 11th and lunch-only Le Griffonnier in the 8th. My inner Parisian child also loves impeccably re-created old-school desserts and sweets made-on-the-premises (many trad bistros get their desserts off the assembly line in some dessert factory in the provinces) at, inter alia, Aux Crus de Bourgogne. And, of course, many of us Parisians consume our weight in oysters and fruits de mer every year, often at the landmark brasseries like La Coupole Montparnasse, La Rotonde Montparnasse, Le Wepler, etc,

Maybe the trick for you is to seek out bistros and brasseries that have items on the menu that “French” bistros in the US usually don’t.

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