This spring in Paris is la saison de la bonne affaire—the season of the good deal. With business wilting because of the recession, restaurants are resorting to the oldest and most effective trick in the book to fill tables: lowering prices.
Cheaper menus, prix-fixe meals, and special promotions are popping up all over town. Goumard, previously one of the city’s grandest and most expensive seafood restaurants, has dramatically lowered its prices and introduced a $42 menu that includes a half bottle of wine. It also has a terrific shellfish feast for two that includes a big tray of oysters, mussels, shrimp and other crustaceans; a bottle of wine; and dessert—all for $126. Similarly, the charming La Grande Cascade, a Napoleon III vintage hunting lodge in the Bois de Boulogne whose kitchen is helmed by the excellent dark-horse chef Frédéric Robert, has just launched a prix-fixe three-course “Menu du Marché” for $82. At a lunch there last week, I loved the fine layer of gelée encasing an excellent terrine of foie gras and celery root, the steamed smoked-salmon steak in a pale green seaweed crème, and a lovely citrus millefeuille.
La Marée, an elegant seafood house in the 8th arrondissement where the average tab once easily ran more than $125 a head without wine, is the latest high-end restaurant to dramatically revise its menu; new prixe-fixe options are $36 and $44. Market, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Paris outpost, also has lunch and dinner menus for about $44.
Many of the city’s bistros are also getting on the bargain bandwagon. Signs announcing soldes (sales) fill the windows at L’Estrapade, in the 17th arrondissement, where even the wine has been marked down. A bottle of Pomerol Benjamin de Beauregard 2005, for example, now goes for $65 instead of $84, and the delicious blanquette de veau has been cut to about $19. Au P’tit Bouchon, in the 10th, is now deducting a flat ten percent from all dinner checks, and other bistros are offering freebies including aperitifs, desserts, and coffee.
Another terrific good-buy program right now is the Michelin Guide’s “Le Mois Gourmande.” To celebrate the guide’s 100th edition, restaurants all over France are proposing special good-value menus from March 9 through April 2, 2009. To take advantage of this offer, present a “Le Mois Gourmand” coupon (found in the back of every copy of the 2009 French edition of Michelin France 2009).
Since many hotels also have special rates and the dollar has staged a strong recovery, traveling to Paris this spring is looking like a really good idea.
Goumard 9 rue Duphot, 1st (01-42-60-36-07; goumard.com)
La Grande Cascade Allee de Longchamp, Bois de Boulogne, 16th (01-45-27-33-51; grandecascade.com)
La Marée 1 rue Daru, 8th (01-43-80-20-00)
Market 15 avenue Matignon, 8th (01-56-43-40-90; jean-georges.com)
L’Escapade 36 boulevard des Batignolles, 17th (01-45-22-51-77)
Au P’tit Bouchon 3 rue Rene-Boulanger, 10th (01-40-18-92-17)