A Family Adventure in Paris – Part 5 – Dining

My wife and I are fortunate to have visited Paris a number of times previously.  That presents a dilemma – we have such wonderful memories at many restaurants that we want to visit them again when we return to Paris.  The drawback is that be going back to our “old favorites,” we then have fewer opportunities to try new restaurants and expand our set of favorites.  While this is officially a “high class problem,” it is one I grapple with.

This trip, we visited two “old favorites,” which were both as good as (if not better than) the high bars our memories held.  We tried a few new places as well; while none we bad, none were overly inspired, either.

The two “old favorites” that we visited this time were Taillevent and Savy.  Both are very close to the Champs Élysées.

Taillevent remains my most favorite restaurant in all of the world.  Though recently downgraded to a lowly two Michelin stars, Taillevent had been the longest continuously three-star rated restaurant in the world.  Unlike many other restaurants in these stratospheric circles, what has made Taillevent special to me is the food is served typically in simplest forms, and not overly dressed in creams and sauces.  (If I cooked with as much cream as Alain Ducasse does, I’d have long ago had a heart attack!)

Jean-Marie Ancher

Our young children were dressed for a “special night out.”  We arrived at 7:30pm, for what would be considered an “early bird” booking in Paris, and we were the second table to arrive.  We were greeted warmly by Jean-Marie Ancher, the Maitre d’Hotel.  Jean-Marie undertook a special effort to make sure our children (and the parents) felt welcome.  He went out of his way to tell us about several friends of his from nearby Westport, Connecticut.  This is not the treatment the average American anticipates at a high-end French restaurant - but in fact, is quite consistent with the way we have been treated in Paris during every visit.

We were seated in a corner table, next to the table for two that my wife I and had been seated in during several prior visits.  Knowing the dinner would linger for three hours, we brought iPads and headphones for our children.  This was perfect, and though they were only “plugged in” for perhaps one and a half hours, it provided a perfect crutch for behavior when the situation showed potential of heading the wrong way.

My wife and I had the winter tasting menu, which was incredible.  I didn’t take notes or photos – too special of a night to do anything other than savor – but if you enjoy classic French cooking, without an undue amount of creams and sauce – this meal was tops.

We ordered the 2000 Gruaud Larose with our meal.  While a chateau we know well, this was our first year 2000 wine from the estate.  It was drinking wonderfully, and clearly had a decade+ left to run.

For the children, they brought out a couple of small plates, but our kids principally had a dinner of bread, cheese and dessert.  While not their finest night in terms of balanced meals, they did enjoy the special experience at a “fancy restaurant.”  My children are quite adventurous when it comes to cheese, and ordered a wide variety of cheeses from the trolley – much to the surprise and delight of the Cheese Steward.

Taillevent's dining room

Three courses of dessert was a delight for everyone.

While not a bargain by any stretch, this was an absolutely wonderful meal for my wife and me; and a memorable experience for our children – one that they still talk about.  Dinner cost more than the sum of the other cash outlays for the trip.

At a more moderate level, we also had dinner at Chez Savy.  Located in the 8th, near the Plaza Athenee, Savy is perhaps the first restaurant my wife and I had dinner in together in Paris many years ago.  The restaurant is seemingly unchanged since it opened back some 89 years ago.

Unchanged since the 1920s

Chez Savy's menu is filled with classic French meat dishes.  Duck, beef, pork and chicken were all well represented on the menu.

I had green lentils in a light vinaigrette topped with warm thick-cut bacon to start.  This dish was incredible.  I ate lentils almost every day in Paris.

The waitstaff are very friendly; few speak relatively little English –which adds to the fun and adventure.  While I speak some French, invariably, conversations end up in English for me…except at Savy.

While I rarely order it elsewhere, at Savy, I’ve had the steak tartare several times – and absolutely love it.  The meat is ground fresh to order, and perfectly seasoned.  While raw beef mixed with raw egg falls low on many diners’ lists of choice dishes, if you’ve ever been curious about a proper steak tartare, this would be the spot to try it.  (Rest assured, they have a wide variety of cooked dishes, too.)  Our waiter were very careful to make sure I understood that the steak would be "froid," which I did of course know.

Since my last visit, they’ve upped the ante on the steak tartare.  The menu item now includes a side of bone marrow.  Yum!  Another of my favorites – what better accompaniment to steak tartare?

Dinner of Champions!

We had a recent vintage Pomerol claret with dinner.  It was a right bank chateau that I was unfamiliar with – not exported to the US that I’m aware of.  We were pleased with the wine, and it was quite reasonable.

The kids had a charcuterie plate and split a small steak frites.  They both had chocolate mousse for dessert.  The grown-ups “helped” a bit with the desserts as they were absolutely excellent. The mouse achieved an unusual mix of being rich while also being airy and light.

These two meals were both decadent – and very different from each other.  If the budget (Taillevant) or menu (Savy) don’t put you off, I recommend both as highly memorable dining venues while in Paris.

Details

Taillevent
15 rue Lamennais, 75008 Paris
+33 (0)1 44 95 15 01
http://www.taillevent.com/index.php?lang=en

Chez Savy
23,rue Bayard, 8th, Paris
+33 (0)1 47 23 46 98

 

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