Thursday, June 16, 2011

How to Choose a Great Restaurant in Paris (and Elsewhere When Traveling)

I don't care how good the airline meal is or how hungry you are - it's not supposed to be memorable.

An airline meal is entirely affected by which direction you travel: it marks the beginning and the end of a trip overseas. Flying Air France and having somewhat of a reputation to uphold, I must say they did a terrific, if forgettable, job. Forgettable because your thoughts never run in the present when on the plane; either you imagine the coming adventure or relive the voyage, still fresh with your senses - to say nothing of the distractions available on the plane such as: movies, booze, sleep, iPad, etc., or trivia as my favorite alias, PILOT.

Since this is a food blog with the occasional thought on trying to live well, my recap of the recent visit to France with my family, serves to catalog the outstanding of what we ate.  Read on and you can get an idea of what to incorporate in your next meal - whether you cook or order it. This post offers advice on finding great restaurants in Paris (or any other international city).


You have to prepare for a good meal, especially in Paris. In previous trips I wasted too many meals in this city - from winging it/wandering in. Like any other big metropolis, there's more rough than diamonds.  Whatever you decide on (even if its the same day), here's my first piece of advice: You must make reservations. Even for lunch.  To ask why is to be unfamiliar with how much easier it is, among some Parisians, to say 'no' vs 'yes'. Besides; finding and reserving places to eat in advance only added to the anticipation and generated it's own amount of fun in a foodie detective kind of way.


Secondly, recognize the importance of cross referencing 2 sources of restaurant reviews and then factor how much more credible the search is when you can do so in 2 languages. For my English source I used the fine work of David Lebovitz, an American chef turned writer living the sweet life in Paris.  His chronicles of Gastro-narnia are well written, concise, and full of great pictures.  My French source was, a site dedicated to sniffing out the restaurants of style who capture "the taste of the age".  It's a cross between Zagat and Yelp and it's recommendations did not fail.  They give rankings to all restaurants with many convenient ways of sorting the choices: by neighborhood/arrondissement, by cuisine, by price, by rank, etc.  Understand the rankings and you don't even need to read French to know where to go.

Use these 2 sites if in Paris, use others like them if traveling elsewhere. Translate words like "new, award, restaurant review" in another language. Good sites will make it easy for you to understand which restaurants win the most accolades.

This method produced 3 delicious outcomes in Paris:

  1. La Gazzatta -
  2. Gout du Jour -
  3. Ze Kitchen Gallerie -
Here's another excellent article on how to sniff out the best places to eat when traveling:


Some thoughts on dining with your kids internationally.

Believe it or not we practice what it's like to dine at a restaurant at home.  That means listing the behaviors we want to see. Each item is a "line of defense", meaning the real flagrant items of no-no's are at the bottom. The less offensive items at the top. Correct the kids with the items at the top and you catch them from descending too far into the list.

  1. Bracket anything said with please and thank you
  2. Sit properly in the chair
  3. Napkin in your lap
  4. Hand over the knives in the place setting to Mommy or Daddy
  5. Ask to be excused
  6. You don't have to finish things on your plate, but try them
  7. No thowing, yelling, etc. etc. 
We dress them up too for a meal.  Like adults, if kids are dolled up, they sense it's special too.  No kids can be angels at the table, so we distract them with paper and crayons at the beginning and use their good behavior as leverage to watch a movie on the iPad after they finish their meal.  Practice at home and this gets to work quite effectively for the under 8 year old set.

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