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Dining in the Champs-Élysées and Western Paris
Style often wins out over substance around the Champs-Élysées, but a handful of luxury restaurants continue to defy fashion.
Perma-tans and Botox are de rigueur at fashionable restaurants near the Champs-Élysées, where the St-Tropez set picks at dishes with names like "le tigre qui pleure," the weeping tiger, a Thai-style beef dish. Yet this part of Paris is also home to many of the city's most ambitious chefs, whose restaurants are surrounded by palatial hotels, bourgeois apartments, embassies, and luxury boutiques. Some, such as Eric Frechon at Le Bristol, offer sophisticated updates of French classics, whereas others, like Pierre Gagnaire, constantly push culinary boundaries in the manner of a mad scientist. A few solid bistros survive here, notably the Art Deco Savy. Unlike the uniformly chic 16e, the 17e arrondissement has its bourgeois and its bohemian sides. Head over to Batignolles, where an organic market takes place on Saturday, to discover up-and-coming neighborhood bistros.
Fit for a King
In a neighborhood rich in landmarks yet lacking in casual, affordable eateries, Mini Palais graciously fills in all the blanks. After a complete makeover in 2010, the restaurant reopened with the imprimatur of superstar chef Eric Fréchon (notably of Le Bristol), who designed the menu. It's a lively spot for a fashionable crowd at dinnertime, but the real draw is nonstop service 7 days a week from 10 am to 2 am, when good food in Paris is nearly impossible to find. In warm weather, the restaurant's soaring balcony is a destination unto itself.
Most Paris museums offer a passable café, but sometimes a top-notch lunch, teatime or even dinner is just the thing after a few hours of museum going. For a good meal in a superb environment, these spots can't be beat, even if you don't buy a ticket.
Musée Jacquemart-André Café: Housed in the mansion's original dining room—with marble-topped tables, painted ceilings and murals—the excellent salads and daily plat du jour make this lovely café a favorite with Parisian ladies who lunch, whether or not they've seen the show. Wonderful for teatime or a copious prix-fixe brunch on Saturday and Sunday. 158 boulevard Haussmann, 8e 01–45–62–11–59 Miromesnil musee-jacquemart-andre.com.
Les Arts Décoratifs, Le Saut Loup: The menu here reflects the décor—elegant and contemporary. A sleek upstairs lounge has great views of the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, and the outdoor terrace, part of the Tuilerie gardens, is one of the nicest in Paris. Afternoon tea is served, too. Museum entrance not necessary, but a slight discount is offered on prix-fixe menus with a ticket. 107 Rue de Rivoli, 1e 01–42–25–49–55 Palais Royal lesautduloup.com.
Musée du Quai Branly, Les Ombres: The magnificent glass-ceilinged dining room, designed by museum architect Jean Nouvel, is perched atop the museum and boasts a gastronomic restaurant with some of the best views of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. Good prix-fixe deals on lunch, dinner, and teatime and a roomy outdoor terrace. 27 Quai Branly, 7e 01–47–53–68–00 Alma-Marceau lesombres-restaurant.com.
Musee d'Orsay: A classified historic monument, the soaring ceilings, chandeliers, gilding, and murals are part of the original train station's dining room. Open for lunch every day, and dinner on Thursday, the classic French fare is punctuated by a special dish inspired by the museum program. 1 rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 7e 01–45–49–47–03 Solférino musee-orsay.fr.
It's no accident that Ladurée (75 av. des Champs-Élysées, 8e 01–40–75–08–75 Georges V, or 16 rue Royale, 8e 01–42–60–21–79 RER: Louvre-Tuileries; Madeleine, Concord, or 21 rue Bonaparte, 6e 01–44–07–64–93) is almost as well known overseas as it is in Paris. Having nearly 150 years to foster brand recognition helps, but the top-notch confections, and three of Paris's loveliest tearooms, clinch it. And Ladurée has deftly moved with the times, hiring fashion superstars like Lacroix, Galliano, and Louboutin to design eye-popping packaging for their superb macarons. Try the Isphahan, a rose-scented macaron filled with rose cream and fresh raspberries, or the excellent mille-feuilles, one with raspberry and vanilla cream, the other a classic caramel au beurre salé. To enjoy a carré chocolat (chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, and chocolate cream) over a cup of the famously rich hot chocolate or a raspberry-passion fruit tart and a glass of champagne? That's Paris.
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