The 2019 Michelin Red Guide to restaurants is going to be released in a few weeks, as we write this, and this year there's a big shocker. Quel horreur, one longstanding prestigious restaurant has been dropped down a notch as L'Astrance moved from three stars to two. This is a blow since, as the chefs themselves have told us, Michelin is the only guide that matters.
One of the best ways to enjoy a meal at a Michelin 3-star restaurant is to order up the tasting menu; if there is one it is often available during lunch. These entry-level menus give you a glimpse into the good life at a fraction of what it would cost if you ordered à la carte. Michelin-starred restaurants may not be a hobby to cultivate if euros are sparse, but to our way of thinking a leisurely lunch at one of these gastronomic temples will create one of your best memories of Paris. Here are twenty-nine stars in Paris, distributed among these ten restaurants. (We've included the now 2-star L'Astrance at the bottom of the list.
Six or seven small dishes arrive at your table — and that's just the beginning. The wildly creative tapas give you a glimpse into the spirit of Gagnaire's hospitality. Pierre Gagnaire surprises even frequent diners at his modern dining room as his menus and recipes change frequently. If your banker won't let you order the à la carte menu, there is an evening tasting menu, a reasonably-priced lunch tasting menu, and a very pricey black truffle menu.
Pierre Gagnaire started his culinary career at the age of 14. He was awarded 3 Michelin stars in 1993. He has other restaurants in Paris and also around the globe — London, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Tokyo… the list continues.
You know you've made it in life when you find yourself dining beneath the chestnut trees, on the terrace of the Napoleon III Pavilion, overlooking the manicured lawns of the Bois de Boulogne at Le Pré Catelan.
Chef Frederic Anton brought some serious culinary magic to the restaurant, earning 3 stars in a few short years. Le Pré Catelan, the flagship restaurant of the Lenôtre group (of the French pastry and cookery/pastry school empire), brought Frederic Anton on board in 1997, when it had a mere one star. Anton arrived to Le Pré after working directly with Joël Robuchon at his 3-star restaurant, Jamin in Paris.
Even if you can't afford to go à la carte, the lunch tasting menu offers up all the goodness Chef Anton is famous for — foie gras with Port and turnip; crab salad with lightly peppered grapefruit and Thai flavors; cod wrapped in seaweed and chestnut ice cream.
If you find yourself peckish after a stroll in the nearby Rodin Museum you might consider lunch at Arpège. That is, if you've planned ahead to make a reservation and if money is no object. Chef Alain Passard's vegetable-driven menu focuses on fresh produce harvested right from his own organic garden. The Gardener's Lunch is a good entry level tasting menu, or if you're feeling flush, book the Terre & Mer tasting menu.
Like most French chefs, Alain Passard started cooking when he was a young teenager. His serious cooking career started in 1980 at Duc d'Enghien (a kind of a French Las Vegas) where he perfected the famous recipe that he serves to this day — chaud-froid egg with maple and chives. He opened Arpege in 1986 and received three stars a decade later. Famous Paris chefs & a maitre d' who trained under Passard include David Toutain, Pascal Barbot, and Christophe Rohat of L'Astrance.
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A lover of the arts and fashion, Guy Savoy says that his restaurant — decorated in dark African wood, beige leather, and modern paintings — is his version of a 21st century inn. He describes his style as "casual" and extends the relaxed feeling into his dining room. His food falls between true luxury and ultimate simplicity, with signature dishes like artichoke and black truffle soup.
If you'd like to try dining at a 3-star restaurant but are wee bit intimidated, Guy Savoy offers a reasonable daily lunch menu which includes three courses for a mere €130, with wines available by the glass starting at €10. The offer is only available when you book online. Or, if you're feeling flush, book the Colours, Textures and Flavours 12-Course Menu, at €415.
Chef Bernard Pacaud, one of the most discreet chefs of the Michelin set, runs one of Paris's best restaurants; some would argue it's the best restaurant. The moment you arrive under the magnificent arcades of the 17th-century Places des Vosges, you are ushered into the elegance of the Viennese-influenced interior.
There are a couple unique things about l'Ambrosie. Firstly, it is Paris' longest-running three-star restaurant, holding a star since 1988. Secondly, it's an à la carte only restaurant. Therefore, no moderately-priced tasting menus are offered.
Chef & owner Bernard Pacaud is now over 70 years old and runs the restaurant with his wife Danièle, with their son Mathieu. They opened l'Ambroisie in 1981 (the year their son was born) on the Left Bank; in 1986 they moved to the current location on Place des Vosges.
It's interesting to note that the inspectors at Michelin have pretty much ignored the thrashing review given to Le Cinq by The Guardian. Food critic Jay Rayner called it the worst meal he's had in his 18 years of reviewing. (We have to admit that the photos of the dishes he took look less than stellar.)
Le Cinq's Art Deco landmark room dates to 1928. It was the official HQ for General Eisenhower during the Liberation of Paris in 1944. Christian Le Squer joined the restaurant in 2014, with the hope of gaining them a third star, as he had done at Pavillon Ledoyen. (In 2002 Ledoyen was awarded three Michelin stars, an accolade Le Squer kept until his departure in 2014) He delivered on his promise, earning the two-starred Le Cinq a third star in the 2016 Michelin guide. At the time of this writing, a four-course lunch menu is €145.
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Sometimes after a long period of stability, there is a seismic shift in the Michelin restaurants of Paris. In 2013 chef Yannick Alléno left Le Meurice after a stellar decade-long run. Le Meurice chose Alain Ducasse as his successor. Then another chef swap took place at the iconic Ledoyen. Christian Le Squer left Ledoyen and moved to Le Cinq. Finally, in a move that shocked the Paris food world, Yannick Alléno took the reins at Pavillon Ledoyen. The historic Ledoyen, one of city's oldest restaurants, has been around since 1792.
Chef Alléno trained in the best kitchens of Paris including Hotel Royal Monceau, Hotel Sofitel Sèvres, restaurant Drouant, and at Les Muses in Hotel Scribe where he maintained the restaurant's first star and earned a second star. In 2003, Alléno was appointed Chef de Cuisine at Le Meurice. At the time it had one Michelin star. A year later, a second star was awarded, and in 2007 le Meurice received a third.
You could say we cut our teeth on Michelin restaurants dining at Chef Eric Frechon's Epicure restaurant at the Hotel Bristol. It was here that we splurged on a tasting menu at one of our first ever 3-star restaurant experiences. Back then the bill came to something like €240 per person, which seemed very indulgent. Pretty lightweight compared to today's Valentine's tasting menu that runs at €650. No matter, dining at a 3-star restaurant is never about counting euros, it's about creating longterm taste memories.
Our early memories were about the dozen or so well-dressed men servers silently bustling around the elegant room, offering breads from a special bread cart, refilling water in crystal glasses, and delivering compelling dishes in unison to the table. Today, the hotel boasts a total of four stars when you include its the one star held by its bistro, Faubourg 114.
How does France's superstar chef manage to earn and keep so many stars? He starts by choosing the best ingredients and by hiring the best staff and the best designers. Alain Ducasse's latest passion is the trilogy of fish, vegetables and grains, which translates as a focus on sustainably-caught seafood, organic produce, and very few meat-based dishes.
In recent years, along with the lighter menu, Ducasse has been moving to a more natural look and feel with a complete renovation of the restaurant, almost like a make-under. Gone are the massive gold chandeliers and the starched tablecloths.In their place are a flourish of minimalist crystal lights and polished oak tables.
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When chef Pascal Barbot and maitre d' Christophe Rohat (both formerly of L'Arpège) opened their tiny, elegant restaurant in 2001, every single food lover begged for a table. Years later, they are still worshipped by gourmands around the world. In case you're wondering, astrance is the name of a flower from Barbot's native Auvergne.
The tarte au foie gras, champignons et agrumes could have its own fan club. The crunchy pastry base is topped with layers of thinly sliced, white button mushrooms, sprinkled with citrus zest, thin apple layers, creamy foie gras, topped with a layer of mushrooms and dried porcini powder. Simple, pure, yet so sophisticated
Astrance's menu selection is the height (depth?) of minimalism with only three surprise multiple-course tasting menus (one of them is a lunch-only menu), served with or without wine. We heartily recommend the Menu Astrance with wine. As there are only 25 seats in the modern grey and mustard dining room, reservations are hard to come by. Plan to book months in advance.
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