Paris Restaurants Menu Question

May 25th, 2009, 07:40 AM
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Paris Restaurants Menu Question

I have been reading restaurant reviews on this forum and looking at menus of some of the restaurants that we would like to try when we are in Paris next week.

Sorry if this is a silly question, but I have noticed that many of the restaurants have a fixed price for 3 or 4 courses....i.e. Entree/Plat/Dessert, 26 euros.

We are a family of four and one of my teenage daughters could never eat a three course meal.

My question is, do the restaurants that have fixed price menus also let your order a la carte or just one item? I want to make sure I don't have improper etiquette by asking this of the waiter.
Just thought I would try and find out ahead of time.

Thanks for any other restaurant manners tips also.

bethyk is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 07:47 AM
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>>>could never eat a three course meal<<<

I have eaten 12-course meals which were, in total, smaller than one appetizer at Bubby Gump.

The general rule: The more courses, the smaller the portions.

Of course, you can order à la carte without being frowned upon. The only thing: Ordering à la carte is usually much more expensive then ordering a menu.
traveller1959 is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 07:48 AM
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Hi Beth,

Most will. Sometimes if the restaurant is small they only offer the fixed menu, but restaurants post their menus outside. If you see one that has a regular menu as well then you can order off that.

Hope this helps!
jamikins is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 07:48 AM
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It is the rare restaurant that mandates if one person orders the prix fixe that everyone at the table must order it as well. But you will find a restaurant here or there that only offers a prix fixe meal.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 07:49 AM
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Many will have both ala carte and a fixed menu. Keep in mind that portions in Europe are not big like in the US and your daughter will probably discover she can easily eat a three course meal.
kybourbon is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 07:51 AM
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You can certainly order a la carte.

You will also find many restaurants where one has a choice of entree/plat or plat/dessert or all 3.

Our teenage daughter also has a very petite appetite and we never had a problem... in fact she probably ate MORE than I've ever seen her eat before. Probably something to do with all the walking! ;^)

ParisAmsterdam is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 07:51 AM
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I don't think I've ever been to a restaurant in France where you couldn't order à la carte. But as noted, portions are way smaller than at the Cheesecake Factory, e.g., and your daughter can probably handle a prix-fixe three-course menu just fine. If not, be prepared to pay more for her just to order a course or two.
StCirq is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 07:52 AM
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And she can order the 3 course and always share the dessert!
jamikins is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 08:01 AM
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Other restaurant manners tips:

When you enter the restauration (with or without reservation), you will be guided to your table. The first thing the waiter asks is for an apéritif. Be prepared to order something: water, sodas, pastis, kir, kir royal, campari, sherry, crémant.. (be careful with champagne - it will be expensive). You have to do it without a menu, so order standard drinks in order to avoid surprises. Or you say you want to order a bottle of champagne and they should bring you the wine list (this usually speeds things up).

If you do not order an apéritif, you might wait up to 30 minutes until you will get your first drink (waiter brings menu, then sommelier brings wine list, waiters takes food order, sommelier takes beverage order, sommelier brings drinks).

You order the beverages AFTER you have selected your food (because the kind of wine you order depends on the dishes you have chosen). This is the reason why it takes time and why you should order an apéritif at the beginning.

Eating is a way to spend the whole evening. Do not be surprised to wait quite a bit of time until the courses arrive. In some restaurants, all patrons will be served their fish dish at the same time.

If you order three courses and your daughter just a main dish, she will be served her main dish together with your main dishes and this can be some 60 or 90 minutes after entering the restaurant. I am not sure if your daughter will like that.
traveller1959 is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 08:02 AM
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You can also look for restaurants offering "Formules".
You can have either apetizer/main dish/dessert at fixed price or for a little less
either apetizer/main dish or
main dish/dessert
Pvoyageuse is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 08:14 AM
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The advice about the portion size is spot on. Your daughters will most likely be able to finish, and if not, you or your husband may want to finish theirs!
wondering is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 08:21 AM
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You will rarely have a problem with only some members of your party ordering the <> or <> - don't give it a second thought.
Just so you don't feel too intimidated, the scenario painted by traveller1959 is typical of more formal restaurants but not necessarily the case at more casual places, bistros or cafes. An aperitif, while quite delightful, is not mandatory.
A couple other things to keep in mind:
Entree in Paris refers to what we would call an appetizer or starter
As mentioned, portions tend to be much more restrained than in the US. Your daughter may well have no problem finishing a Parisian three course meal.
It is perfectly fine to order tap water - "un pichet d'eau" or "une carafe d'eau" - rather then the usually expensive bottled water. You may need to specify, as if you simply order water many places will bring bottled water. If the waiter asks "avec gaz or sans gaz?" he is assuming you want the bottled water - simply respond "une carafe d'eau, s'il vous plait" unless you want the bottled water.
Seamus is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 08:32 AM
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I'm thinking also the same entree/item as part of the fixed price menu, when ordered alone from the a la carte menu would usually cost more & be a larger sized serving. Right?

Unless it's a teeny mom & pop cafe, I'm pretty sure most restaurants will offer a standard menu along with the fixed price choice(s), I'm just not sure that will get your daughter significantly less food by ordering that way.
suze is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 08:32 AM
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Thank you for all of the helpful tips.


Thanks for the advice on the drinks. We're not really aperitif drinkers, but we do drink wine.
Does that mean that we cannot get a glass of wine instead of a kir or champagne? From your examples above are they sweeter kinds of cocktails or does that include something like a martini?
We do like to have some kind of adult beverage before our dinner.

Thanks for the advice.

bethyk is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 08:38 AM
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I agree with Seamus that traveller1959's scenario only applies to more upmarket places. I just spent a month in France, and only ordered an aperitif once, and I wasn't stranded without menus or a drink for 30 minutes anywhere! I drank wine by the glass or quarter carafe (I was traveling alone) and tap water.
thursdaysd is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 08:39 AM
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No you can order a carafe of wine.
Gretchen is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 08:41 AM
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Still I find the need to drink Port as an aperitif an abomination
bilboburgler is online now  
May 25th, 2009, 09:30 AM
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Most restaurants will serve wine by the glass either as an aperitif or during the meal. You do not have to order an apéritif if you don't want one !
If you order a martini, you will get a glass of vermouth. You should order a "gin-martini" to get the real thing
Pvoyageuse is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 09:31 AM
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Yes, the apéritif scenario applies to restaurants with white tablecloths. In neighborhood restaurants or bistrots it is more easy-going.

bethyk, of course you can get a glass wine as apéritif. The problem is that you have not see the wine list yet, so your only option would be to get a glass of white/rosé/red house wine. Or you ask, which wines do you offer by the class? In wine regions, this would be easier. E.g. in Bourgogne, you can simply order a glass of Aligoté (every restaurant in Bourgogne has Aligoté), or in Alsace a glass of riesling etc.

Of course, every French restaurant has Martini. If you order a Martini, you will get a straight Martini (Vermouth), not a gin- or vodka-based cocktail as in America. Cocktails are still rare in French restaurants. We had been to restaurants in France with only one cocktail, called "Americano", which turned out as a kind of Manhattan.

I have already mentioned apéritifs which are typical for France - very popular is pastis (Pernod, Ricard..) or something bitter (like Campari) or one of the wine derivates (What about a sweet French Muscat instead of Port?).
traveller1959 is offline  
May 25th, 2009, 05:12 PM
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A nice kir or kir royale is available almost everywhere.
Seamus is offline  

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