[Paris] Some thinking about our last meals and French food scene

#1

We ate at L’Ami Jean last year. I was not especially impressed. It wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great, either. But I’ll keep Chez Michel in mind. You asked where we intend to eat this year. I forgot to mention that I will have to have at least 4 dozen oysters.

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[Paris 10e] Restaurant Eels
#2

As you see, l’Ami Jean was impressive some 10-15 years ago with the 35€ lunch, when all these creative bistrots were not there yet. So for me, it was a bit of back in the nostalgic lane and you have to love the rice pudding like my husband did. I think it is difficult to be objective with it. I guess it was a bit the same with Septime, many people said they were not impressed anymore.

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#3

If you love something, you love it, and there’s no argument. A lot of people love L’Ami Jean. But if you don’t already love the place, well, you may like other places better.

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#4

I guess there are some type of French cuisines you prefer more than others. Husband is from South west, he obviously likes that type of cooking more than for example the north, like Alsace. L’Ami Jean is south west cooking, while Chez Michel is Brittany cooking.

Personally, I have not much feeling towards Chez Michel, we had a meal a few years ago, they gave a place in the underground, weird smell, and a bit dusty with the wine cellar gate. I was feeling weird the whole meal, the food was okay, but no magic for me.

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#5

All right, that puts Chez Michel on the back burner. Last year we were in the Basque region in Spain and France, and we loved it. I think that we didn’t have a bad meal the whole trip. The pintxos in San Sebastian were the standout, but we like everything else as well. And we liked the wines.

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#6

Maybe if you eat at the ground floor, it will be better. But Thierry Breton was no longer there to cook and just to take orders last time I was there, I just feel like an important period has ended. The bistromonie founders were Yves Camdeborde (le Comptoir, ex Régalade, Paris 14e ), Thierry Breton (Chez Michel), Thierry Faucher (ex-L’Os à moelle), Rodolphe Paquin. Stéphane Jégo (l’Ami Jean) was the disciple of Yves Camdeborde… so you can see some historical importance in certain neo-bistrots… Too bad, I didn’t eat at Chez Michel was at its peak.

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#7

Well, you can’t eat everywhere. That’s why I try never to fall in love with too many places. Although I have fallen in love with L’Arcane!

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#8

I haven’t been there. What were the positive points that made you love them?
Did you had lunch or dinner there?

By the way, what are the places you had disappointments? bad meals?

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#9

What did we like about L’Arcane? We were a group of six people, and we went for lunch. Three of the guests were late because they couldn’t manage the 100 odd steps at the metro station (the lift was out of order). The restaurant made no problem about this. Then they offered 3-course, 4-course, 5-course and, I believe, 6-course menus. They did not insist that everyone at the table take the same menu. So their welcome and their flexibility already put us in a good mood. And the food was exquisite. One example: we had already had St. Pierre, which is one of my favorite fishes, in two other restaurants. L’Arcane’s was just better. More delicate. It reminded me of the St. Pierre that we used to get in Rome. There were all sorts of extras and amuse-bouches, of course. I was the little piggy that took the 5-course menu, and it included a pre-dessert, which I, a non-dessert lover, ate and enjoyed. When the dessert came, I gave it to my wife. So everyone was happy.

Disappointments? There have been a few. Sunday brunch at Auberge Flora. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but we found the food disappointing and there was some mistake with our order. Terroir Parisien in the 5th. The food was boring. Pierre Sang Oberkampf. We ate there with a Parisian friend, and none of us were impressed with the food. The tastes were diffuse, indistinct. Pierre Sang himself was very friendly, but none of us felt we would want to go back. Au Bon Coin. We had eaten there a number of times and enjoyed it thoroughly. Last November it seemed different. New ownership?

Truly bad meals? I’m sure they can be found in Paris, but so far we have not managed to do so!

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(John Hartley) #10

Ah. To eat poorly in France, you generally have to get away from the cities and visit small towns and villages, where there is not the competition to do better.

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#11

We have had some pretty forgetable meals at railway stations, such as in Bordeaux or Nantes.

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#12

Thanks for sharing. I think it is better to avoid some so called big names. I have always been lukewarm with Pierre Sang, he appears a lot on TV, magazine… Terroir Parisien of Alleno ? (now closed) I think it was classic bistrot food, with good marketing and Alleno price tag. I believe those 3 stars chefs train station brasseries were in this category. (Saint Lazare, Les Halles, Gare du Nord etc.)

Personally I was a bit disappointed with Thierry Marx and William Ledeuil’s Ze Kitchen Gallery. Both made the nearly same mistake to reproduce Asian dishes without much personal interpretation. The roast pork belly of ZKG was around 40€ some years ago, which we found the Cantonese version better and less expansive . Same with Marx with with his tuned down “Thai” food.

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#13

Mmm, I have read good stuff about it, also Condesa, they are both on my want to try list now.

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#14

John Talbott is wildly enthusiastic about Leduil’s restaurants. We’ve never been to ZKG itself, but we did have a meal at Ze Kitchen Gallery bis. It was ok, good even. But it did not excite us. We ate at Kitchen Ter(re) last year with some friends, one of whom works in professional kitchens. We all found it inventive and we enjoyed it. But I don’t plan to go back very often.

The folks on Chowhound do not think highly of Thierry Marx either.

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(John Hartley) #15

My meals in France are usually in villages or very small towns in Northern France where British troops fought in the Great War. Or around Calais - we sometimes stop for lunch or dinner before getting the ferry home. I do the best research I can and have been fortunate at Calais but not always elsewhere.

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#16

I was thinking of visiting somewhere in the north this year. Would you recommend Calais and the surroundings?

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(John Hartley) #17

Not really. It’s a town that’s grown up around the port so not much to recommend it. A much nicer place to stay would be Le Touquet further down the coast. The whole coastal area does have some really good seafood restaurants.

As I say, my visits to the whole area have always been related to the war, so I’m not really aware of other “stuff to do” in northern France.

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#18

Maybe this whole French Asian fusion, French food is into equilibrium, while some Asian cuisines are not in this, especially spicy food . So tuning down to adapt to the typical French liking might not work with people who already know Asian cooking well.

I remembered at Boutique Yam t’cha (Franco Chinese fusion), I overheard 2 girls talking about Chinese food, and how they liked the food of Adeline Grattard because it was different from the typical boring Chinese taste. I doubt they really liked Chinese food in this sense. Husband was furious at that meal, saying it was not Chinese food at all.

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#19

What do you think of his recommendations? I believe all of us must have use his blog.

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#20

I think his recommendations are pretty good. As I mentioned, we liked Ze Kitchen Gallerie bis, but we didn’t love it. Talbott loves it. On the other hand, we discovered L’Arcane through his recommendation. I read the France bit on Chowhound, and he is pretty prominent there.
I’m sure there are other places that we went to because of John Talbott’s recommendations, but none come to mind at the moment.

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