MintGuy 2015-10-02 at 12.59.30 PMThe Monnaie de Paris is what it sounds like — the Paris Mint. These days, the manufacture of Euros and circulating coins takes place off site, but the iconic building will soon host exhibitions including artisan workshops revealing the secrets of minting currency.

When famous chef Guy Savoy moved his restaurant into the Monnaie on the quai de  Conti not that long ago, it was big cuisine news. My husband and I couldn’t resist the experience, making our reservation months in advance of our trip to Paris.

As usual, we looked for a bargain for our sleeping arrangements, and chose to eat mostly at small, neighborhood restaurants or cafés. But we always schedule extravagant dinners or lunches every other day of our visits and, over time, we’ve sampled most of Paris’ top Michelin picks. Guy Savoy seemed like the perfect choice.

Entrance to the restaurant is up a grand red-carpeted stone staircase. Then we were ushered into a room that held four tables. GuySavoy 2015-10-02 at 12.56.51 PMOther rooms were larger, but equally stodgy, with dark walls. We’d heard the tables had views. We didn’t see anything from where we were.

Service was professional, but seemed under-rehearsed — that is, the servers rushed around. There wasn’t the smoothness we’ve come to expect at the high-end places.

We’d been warned about the prices, but were still shocked.The Menu (the set menu or Prix-Fixe) veers from 360 to 490 Euros ($406 – $552). We decided to order from the Carte; that is, the à la carte menu.

We began with a soup the chef is known for: artichoke and truffles with pressed chicken. It was, as expected, divine. “Forget the chicken soup. In case of medical emergency, just get me more of this,” said my husband.

I’ll skip the fish course — it was very good. But it wasn’t spectacular and certainly not worth 130 Euros ($146).

For dessert, my husband ordered a chocolate choice. It was, if I recall correctly, 98 Euros ($110), was delicious, and was the size of a thimble. The Carte had said half portions of dessert could be requested. I couldn’t help wondering what half a minuscule   portion would look like.

My strawberry dessert was gorgeous and many layered. After several bites I DessertGuy 2015-10-02 at 12.54.09 PMrealized it wasn’t especially good. I pushed it away and tried to deal with the many strawberry seeds that seemed to have attached themselves permanently to my teeth.

Without wine our tab came to 467 Euros. With today’s favorable exchange rates that comes to $526. We had had a fine dinner that was definitely not worth the cost. We couldn’t believe that Michelin has accorded Guy Savoy three stars.

Two days earlier we had eaten at a tiny neighborhood restaurant on rue Broca, Prosper et Fortunée. There was only one seating and we had to choose the Menu or Prix-Fixe. The owner, Eric, made sure to note allergies and preferences when we made our reservation. At dinner, Eric moved gracefully from prep table to stove to the few tables, taking care of everyone by himself. The restaurant can handle a dozen diners, who can watch as the chef prepares and serves the numerous courses.

The Menu seemed bottomless. There were two different kinds of fish, each on a par with hugely expensive restaurants. We’d invited an old friend to join us, and after several hours of dining, including some wine, I figured we were in for a shock when we asked for the bill. Instead, for three people, the total came to 145 Euros ($163). Hmmm. Thank you Eric. Our experience chez vous was infinitely more satisfying than the one we’d had at Guy Savoy.

We always try to sample one of the hot, newer restaurants in addition to the SolaOutside 2015-10-02 at 1.02.25 PMhaute ones. This time it was Sola in the 5th Arrondissement. Soladownstairs 2015-10-02 at 1.02.59 PMWe sat upstairs to be comfortable, but were impressed with the authentic Japanese layout downstairs — wood everywhere and an atmosphere of comfort and calm.

We’re always careful to mention that while my husband eats shrimp, he is allergic to lobster. Unfortunately, we forgot to mention that we don’t like pork. When the meat course arrived, it was not to our taste and we pushed it away, I thought the waiter would go into cardiac arrest and the chef would slash his wrists. We apologized, said it was our fault. Said we would just skip that course. The waiter disappeared, then reappeared. The chef, he said, would make us something with an egg. Would that do?

When the “something” arrived, we were astonished. The chef had created a miracle with the thinnest possible shumai shell, and a taste that provided tiny explosions of wonder. And he had done it just for us. For a several course Menu (Prix-Fixe), Sola is 96 Euros ($108) for two at lunch, 196 Euros ($221) at dinner, again not including wine. A bargain.

Our other celebration meal was at the legendary Le Taillevent, founded in 1946 and owned since 2011 by the Gardinier family. We’ve eaten there several times and it never disappoints. The surroundings are tasteful, the service impeccable, and the food sublime. T-Skylight 2015-10-02 at 1.37.34 PMI order bass in all kinds of restaurants. It gives me a base— something to measure against. To say the poisson at Taillevent is outrageously good, is transcendentally fabulous, doesn’t do it justice.

For dessert we ordered a chocolate soufflé, which was the most delicate, exquisite confection imaginable. I wanted to hold onto the lingering velvet taste and resisted the petit fours that were offered after.

T-Ancher 2015-10-02 at 1.38.09 PMDirector Jean-Marie Ancher keeps everything moving with an almost invisible authority. Unless you look for him, you might miss that, because he keeps a low profile. Watching the servers is like having front row seats to a terrific show. They glide, they dance, they are ever ready, yet never in the way. Sometimes they prepare something flambée, sometimes they seamlessly serve tables of ten.

This was the third time we’ve been to Taillevant. The last was in 2013. Yet Monsieur Ancher made us feel as though we were weekly regulars. The tab? 378 Euros ($424) without wine, for lunch. This was world class dining and, to us, worth every Euro.

Bottom line? By all means break the bank occasionally and go for the haute. But don’t fall for the hype.

Photos by Ivan Klugman and Thomas Wysocki
More information:
Guy Savoy, Monnaie de Paris, 11 quai de Conti, 75006 Paris
Prosper et Fortunée, 50 rue Broca, 75005 Paris
Sola – 12 rue de l’Hôtel Colbert, 75005 Paris
Le Taillevent – 15 rue Lamennais, 75008 Paris
All prices include tax and tip.

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