Paris Trip Report, Part 4 - Le Clarence, La Condesa, Canard & Champagne, [Les Parisiens,] Automne

For my wife’s birthday, I booked lunch at Le Clarence. As we had for almost our entire trip, it was great weather that day, and we could see a bit of fall foliage out of the window. (Le Clarence is in an old mansion not far off the Champs-Élysées (that’s the one thoroughfare in Paris it’s safe not to specify “Avenue”, right? :smirk: )

My wife loved the room much more than I did. She also went and saw other parts of the mansion, which I did not.

We had the menu dejeuner en trois services, but of course there were many more than three courses.

The amuse: gougere good, bulot very good, shrimp fried in shells very good (and I usually don’t like eating the shells, but they were very thin and properly cooked).

I don’t remember this zucchini and cheese amuse.

The brioche - fantastic. Far and away the best either of us has ever had.

The first course was mackerel 3 ways:
- tartare with some kind of aioli-like sauce
- undercooked with a nice broth and fish eggs
- sautéed with vegetables and nuts

A seafood canapé while awaiting the main course.

The bread - also fantastic. Up there with the best bread we’ve had in France. Great with butter, or of course in sopping up the sauces to come.

Sea bass (I think?) cooked 3 ways
- in a light butter sauce
- in an interesting buttery beet sauce
- in a broth with flowers

I think we were served a fish entree and fish main either because they knew my wife does not eat shellfish, or because the main that day for others was pigeon, which she also does not eat. If it was the latter, then I’m grateful, since one pigeon dish per trip is sufficient for me, and I had mine at Granite.

The sides: eggplant in a nice sauce, and saffron risotto - excellent flavor, a bit too undercooked.

Dessert: 5 petit desserts. The fruit sorbet in the champagne glass and the macaroon were the best.

Mignardise: my wife was grateful that the jelly was actually fruit-based, and not beets or other savory-based ones that seemed to be popular this trip.

We loved the two glasses of Champagne Coessens, Blanc de Noirs, and I enjoyed a glass of Champ de Cour Domain Thibault Liger-Belair Rouge 2018 with the main.

The price I thought was extremely fair at 110E each before the liquids.

While the food was all very good, for the most part we thought only the bread was multi-star superb.

I enjoyed the room at Le Cinq for a similar lunch a few years ago more, while my wife preferred Le Clarence. But we both agreed afterwards we preferred the food at Le Cinq, where the small bites and amuse in particular were superior and more memorable.

Dinner that night was oysters at Istr (to be written up separately).

La Condesa
They’d just moved to a new place a few doors down (and had canceled our lunch reservation 2 weeks prior due to the move). Room is newer and more modern, nice and bright.

Good amuses, very nicely presented


Ravioli with an interesting corn broth.

Pork belly main with a beet sauce. The bites with more sauce were noticeably better. There were lots of beets this trip (too many, IMO, including in a dessert jelly), but here they really worked.

Excellent side dish of potatoes in a (lightly) pickled cauliflower parsley sauce

An interesting citrus dessert

Particularly excellent – and copious – mignardise.

Overall, the food wasn’t as good as I remembered the last time, but a nice experience and good value (55E) for lunch.

Canard & Champagne
We wanted to have duck confit at least once this trip, and this place had been on my list since reading about it on John Talbott’s blog.

It was packed on a Friday night.

My foie gras starter was good - much better than the one at Josephine Chez Dumonet.

My wife liked her salad (eaten American-style here, before the mains).

The duck confit was very good. The skin wasn’t crisp enough; excellent, tender meat; very nice sauce (but a little more would have been better).

The vegetable side nice, as were the mashed potatoes. The frites would have been good if they had more salt.

Service was… “interesting”. They forgot our mains order - everyone around us got theirs, and many were finished before we finally were brought our food (we’d all been seated about the same time, we I think 3rd of 6 tables in the room).
They comped us each another glass of the (mediocre) champagne that went with the appetizers. I never got to taste the 2nd, better champagne I’d ordered to accompany the duck (at least they didn’t charge us for that).

…and yet despite the bad / slow service, we’d probably go back! It’s good value, and it was reasonably fun for what it was.

No lunch the next day. Dinner that night was Les Parisiens; it was so good for lunch, we decided we had to go back! Write-up here:

Lunch the next day was more oysters at Le Collier de la Reine; also to be written up separately.

For Sunday night, our last in Paris, we had the smaller, 5 course tasting menu.

Our waiter/sommelier was excellent and clearly passionate about his job. Definitely positively contributed to my enjoyment of the meal.

The first bites: 2 for 3 (they should lose the chicken rillettes). The smoked haddock cream and the tomato confit were really nice.

The amuse - fish tartare with caviar and a shellfish stock gelée - was just ok.

Cepes with artichoke and mushroom cream sauce was very tasty. Less of the delicious sauce (literally the first time I’ve thought that all trip - usually I want more sauce!), more of the artichokes would have been even better.

Trout with broccolini and a verbena sauce - excellent, and a little creative. Best fish dish at a French-by-a-Japanese-chef restaurant that I can remember.

Th guinea hen with chanterelles and corn was very good, even though I wasn’t a fan of the dark meat.

Dessert was a blanc manger flavored with tarragon with olive oil sorbet and a lemon sauce. I liked it very much; my wife didn’t. It was very interesting, and not that sweet. I liked the licorice flavored panna cotta. I thought it was very creative/different, highly unusual for this type of tasting menu. (The wine pairing here IMO wasn’t good, but I imagine this dish difficult to pair.)

The wine pairing was great value (4 for 45E). Mirror image of Pierre Sang Oberkampf, where menu is a steal but wine pairing more expensive (60E for 5 smaller servings) for inferior wines.

My wife in particular really enjoys “French by a Japanese chef” restaurants such as Automne. My one criticism usually is that while the food is tasty and the dishes well executed, they tend to be less “creative” / innovative than other Parisian restaurants of similar stature. But the fish course and the dessert here were both quite creative, in addition to being tasty. Recommended.


Well, if you just say Champs-Élysées you’ll probably be delivered to one end or the other of the avenue des Champs-Élysées (which is rather long by Paris standards), but there’s also the Port des Champs-Élysées (along the river and so not on the av des Champs-Élysées) and the beautiful and historic Théâtre des Champs-Élysées which is not on the Champs-Élysées but rather the av Montaigne down by the river and about 600 m to the nearest point on the av des Champs-Élysées. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Regrettably, I have to agree with you on La Condesa, based on the last time I visited a few years ago – post-Michelin star it is not as good as it was pre-Michelin star. I have learned that this is a not uncommon situation.

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Wow, I’m in awe of your very discriminating palate… and stamina.

As a local, I am always interested in how foreigners perceive the parisian lifestyle and the importance of the food culture in that lifestyle. Your laser-focus on the food didn’t really allow the sense of time and place to seep into your excellent report-back and food porn. So, can you add a few short observations as a foreigner of Paris as a city in general and as a food destination in particular ?

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Similar experience here - 2018 was definitely better than 2021 dinner. Glad they moved to a nicer space!

Hmmm… not sure how to do a few short observations. But since you asked, I’ll give you the one-liner, and then a rambling attempt at an answer.

Single sentence: Paris is my favorite city in the world to visit, the place outside the U.S. we feel most comfortable visiting, my favorite food destination for all things non-restaurant, and my favorite city to eat at restaurants if in a 1 - 3 week span.

Rambling answer:
2 of our last 3 trips, I never wrote up reports back to the folks at CH, so I resolved to correct that this time around. Because of the COVID pandemic lockdown restrictions, it had been almost 3 years since our last international travel, so chomping at the bit more than usual.

I’ve always taken pics of food while vacationing (in addition to non-food vacation pics), to better help me remember the experience. With HO’s easier ability to include pics, I realized as I started my first meal report (not, as you noted, an actual trip report) that in addition to “giving back”, the combination of pictures plus words really is much better for recollection that either one separately. So the long write-ups / food porn had both “selfless” and selfish motivation.

We each use and get pleasure from boards such as this in different ways (and my own has changed since the start of my research for the most recent trip back in August to now), but I value first getting information and suggestions on food that I can’t credibly (the key word to me) find anywhere else, so I try to focus on that with my reports.
Plus no doubt my ex-engineer, borderline OCD contributes to that. And partly my cultural predilection towards obsession over (the wonderful French term that has no exact duplicate in English, though “price/performance” is close) qualité-prix.

As “introduction” to my attempted answer to your question, I started studying French in school at about age 8 in the 4th grade, perhaps fell in love with it in middle school when a French teacher had us to her house to make some French dessert (which one I no longer remember). Didn’t actually become a foodie until some time in my 20s, though I did “backpack” across Europe for 6-8 weeks in the summer after college graduation, which included about 10 days in Paris and a week on the Cote d’Azure. I read French very well, can speak enough of it to do fine in shops and in restaurants (speaking of those ever rarer places where the staff does not speak English), but I can’t understand spoken French at normal speed well enough to have a conversation.

So I’ve got a Francohpile bias. And while I’ve now been to France at least 10-12 times in my life, in the 1990s and 2000s, we mostly went to the South of France, and I wasn’t that keen on Paris. My preference for Paris started around 2010.

I’ve done some global traveling for business, but other than the Pacific Islands, almost all of my international (Canada doesn’t count in this context) travel for pleasure has been to Europe.
Finally, because I think it’s somewhat relevant, I’ve been a suburbanite all my life, and have always believed big cities are great places to visit, maybe to live for a year or two, but I wouldn’t want to raise a family there (my younger sister has/is). And perhaps unusual for a foodie suburbanite, other than when traveling we don’t even average going out to one “nice” restaurant meal a week.

I’m an unapologetic foodie, and so food is an important part of all my travel. But even apart from food for just a second, Paris is my favorite city to return to to visit in the world. Inclusive of food, it is narrowly ahead of New York, and the two are far ahead of any other cities in my book. My wife loves the theatre, so for her London is up there with Paris and NYC.

I am not someone who likes to go for walks. When at home, I prefer playing sports for my physical activity. I do like walking in NYC, at least when the weather is decent.

I love walking in Paris. The architecture (at least in 1e-12e plus 16e and the parts of 18e I’ve been in) is “unbelievable”. The architecture is great in Firenze, too, but for me more purely in an “outdoor museum” context that I enjoy seeing but would eventually be bored of. The various different food shops – most importantly boulangerie but of course not only those – are incredible, in terms of quality and number.
It gives me almost endless joy to try several of them each trip. It’s not at all “efficient” or “rational”, but it makes me happy doing it, and being able to do it. And a massively higher percentage of the folks working there are knowledgable about and if not passionate then at least seem to enjoy what they’re doing, and it shows. My wife is the museum-goer and shopper - two reasons she loves Paris - but this is what I most enjoy a Paris.

I also love the ease and safety of the metro for those journeys too far (or if it’s too cold) for walking. Despite having many friends and some family in NYC, to this day I’m not all that comfortable taking the subway there alone, but we have no such qualms about the Paris metro. Well, maybe my wife would if alone at night. Never been in either place long enough to learn the bus system, and I personally just don’t like buses much.

There are of course more (“good”) restaurants in NYC than Paris (I don’t actually know which has more per capita; S.F. may have more than either by that metric). And for fast-casual or takeout food, I’d give NYC the edge. But NYC can’t hold a candle to Paris in terms of reasonably-priced quality restaurants. I.e. roughly in the bistronomy to low-end of 1 star range ($25 - $100 pp). And nowhere in the U.S. comes remotely close to the value and quality of lunch meals, something we rarely did until I found John Talbott’s blog about 8 years ago - a godsend to my wife who likes to consume her calories early in the day and is most definitely not a “night” person.

Now on the foodie front (language/culture issues aside), for living on a 12 month or even 6 month basis, my impression is that many cities in the U.S. (L.A., NYC, S.F. Bay Area, even Chicago, Miami, …) are better in terms of variety of restaurants and perhaps even ingredients for various ethnic cuisines. I need much more sushi, good poke, pizza, Italian, Cal-Italian, Italian-American, Spanish, Chinese, dim sum, etc., etc. in my week-to-week-life than appears to be in Paris at high quality. But in fairness, I’ve not looked, nor do I have any incentive to do so. As a short-term visitor, it’s almost irrelevant.

So my personal summary is that while with some exceptions (Pierre-Sang always springs to mind, and a meal we had this week in Barcelona) the vibe at a restaurant meal is indeed much lower on my list than yours, vibe in a city as a repeat visitor is very high on my list, and in my somewhat limited experience Paris is tops for me.

I could perhaps go on, but this was quite long enough (too long!). Hopefully it at least partly addresses your curiosity.


What a fab essay ! You are a great communicator despite having a “borderline OCD engineer’s” brain.

Andy - Thank you for the above. Your insight into the context of your Paris visits is much appreciated. Although food boards do not, very often, lend themselves to much more than lists of places someone has gone or, if we’re lucky, some good descriptions of the food & place, you (& some others) have supplied great visual aids with your photos & this has helped immeasurably. Now, you’ve taken it a step further and given us a “feel” for your perspective & how it might affect your likes/dislikes of places you’ve dined. It’s the kind of information that lets others take their own values & decide whether they might want to follow your lead or go in another direction. Again, thanks.
And, maybe as my own small contribution, I can offer the phrase “bang for the buck” as a suitable English language equivalent?

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