Longtime Francophile offers some tasteful tips

Contributing editor Carla Hunt has been writing about France for decades. A few of her dining recommendations in Paris follow:


Among the places to book months ahead (and save up for years in advance), Taillevent is considered perhaps the finest, serving the most classical cuisine in Paris. The decor is lush, the wine list outstanding. The tab can be well over $200 for a glorious meal that might include fricassee of lobster from Brittany, rabbit torte and chocolate cake with pistachio sauce.

Sidewalk table

No finer seat in the house than a sidewalk table on the historic Place des Vosges at Ma Bourgogne (No. 19), a wine cellar in the Middle Ages. Serving up dreamy steak tartare and country-style pork sausage with pommes frites.


When fish is the favorite dish, Gourmard Prunier comes immediately to mind. Synonymous with fresh seafood and excellent desserts, this expensive restaurant at 8 rue Duphot is wonderfully aglow with Lalique light fixtures and sculpture.

Watching your francs

Brasseries with Belle-Epoque decor and culinary roots in Alsace are longtime and reasonably priced favorites. The house specialty is choucroute garnie (sauerkraut with ham, sausages and bacon). Among the favorite spots are Brasserie Flo and Bofinger, both with prix fixe menus around $35.


The wine bar can be the thing for the American traveler, a place where the wines are carefully chosen -- average $5 per glass -- and served up with platters of cheese, several kinds of hams, sausages, pates and bread, sometimes quiches or dessert tarts. New wines are often sampled at these bars. Among the most successful -- and knowledgeable on Cote-du-Rhone wines -- is Willi's Wine Bar at 13 Rue des Petits-Champs.

Prix fixe

Prix fixe (a set, three- or four-course menu) is offered for lunch at many of the two- and three-star temples of haute cuisine at a fraction of the dinner cost. Consider L'Ambrosie at 9 Place des Vosges or Les Ambassadeurs at the Hotel Crillon in the Place de la Concorde.

Decadent desserts

No day in Paris is complete without a drop-in at a pastry shop, and there are hundreds. Pastry king is Gaston Lenotre, whose band of Lenotre-schooled pastry chefs are all over France. Among the eight shops in Paris for the best chocolates is the Cafe Marly in the Richelieu wing of the Louvre.

Tea salons

Tops for very haute tea are the hotel tea rooms of the Ritz, the Grand Hotel and the Plaza Athenee. The truly serious tea taster should stop at the Mariage Freres in Le Marais. Combining shopping with lunch is easy at department stores. The classiest is Au Bon Marche at 38 Rue de Sevres. The newest and the first encountered on the Champs- Elysees is the ornate Laduree.

Food for Thought

Often multi-starred eateries are closed on Saturdays and Sundays as well as throughout July and August.

A new law in France provides for smoking and nonsmoking sections in restaurants. Specify with reservations.

Going by the book means a copy on the agent's shelf of the red Guide Michelin to France ($26), filled with the lowdown on hotels and restaurants throughout the country.

Also, Gault Millau's Best of France ($25) is filled with chatty and often controversial views on shops, hotels and restaurants.

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