An amazing three days in Paris, touring through the fashion capital of the world and eating the best of French cuisine. Follow our itinerary as we explore Paris.
1. Seafood Lunch at Clamato - Better than Septime? | 1 p.m.
After an exhausting 10+ hour flight, our first stop after landing in Paris and dropping our luggage off at the hotel was to head to lunch. Clamato, which oddly has the same name as the tomato juice, is a seafood-focused restaurant located in the 11th Arr. on the east side of town. It was opened by the same people behind Septime, which is just down the block and recently ranked as #15 on the World’s Best Restaurants list. Clamato occupies a much narrower space, where a bar runs along most of the front of the restaurant with some tables along the other side and in the back. It also has a no-reservations policy, but luckily we didn't encounter any wait and were seated immediately.
The menu is comprised almost entirely of seafood, with a focus on the raw bar selection and the cooked items were generally prepared simply to emphasize the freshness of the ingredients themselves. We ordered a number of raw items including a round of oysters, whelks, scallops, as well as squid prepared with endives. We complemented this with a gem lettuce salad and a pot of mussels for a light and refreshing lunch. The oysters in particular left a deep impression of being incredibly plump and creamy and are not to be missed. The meal made us forget about our fatigue and we were glad that we had made the trip. Overall, I was quite impressed, and felt that it was on par, if not better than, Septime.
2. Dessert for the Gram | 3 p.m.
After lunch, we made our way over to La Pâtisserie Cyril Lignac, which was only a couple blocks away. We had seen some of their cakes and pastries on Instagram and had been captivated by the way they looked and their intricacies. It was a small shop with a line extending out the door, but it moved quickly. Once inside, we were amazed at the display of cakes which all looked simply stunning. We ordered the lemon tart and a black sesame chocolate mousse cake. The design and presentation of the desserts had an incredible amount of details. When we took the first bite, we were glad that the taste also lived up to their looks, being very light and not too sweet. Just as a tip, you can buy the pastries and head across the street to La Chocolaterie Cyril Lignac where there are seats and drinks.
3. Exploring Le Marais - Museums and Shopping | 4 p.m.
Staying on the east side of the city, we took a quick cab ride to Le Marais, which can be described as similar to the Soho district in New York City. It is full of small cobblestone streets lined with fashion boutique shops, artisanal coffee and pastry shops, art galleries, as well as public parks and spaces. The Picasso National Museum and the Carnavalet Museum, which focuses on the history of Paris and has a small wonderful garden, are located in the area. In terms of shopping, there is a large BHV department store, but also a number of smaller French boutiques including Maison Labiche, A.P.C., Maison Kitsune, ami, and Comme des Garcons. There are a number of international streetwear brands for those looking for the latest in sneakers and fashion.
4. A Classic Tourist Bistro and Landmark | 8 p.m.
For dinner, we headed back to the same area we had lunch for the highly recommended French bistro, Paul Bert. As we walked through the restaurant to our table, we definitely noticed that almost everyone there was a tourist and we ended up sitting next to a family visiting Paris from Chicago.
While the English chalkboard for translations was in high demand, luckily the restaurant would not end up being a “tourist trap.” The food, which was traditional French food, was done really really well. We ordered foie gras and oysters for appetizers and entrees of black pepper steak and boudin blanc. Everything was exactly how I expected a French bistro would be like, and it's deserving of the huge tourist crowds and long waitlist.
After dinner, we headed all the way to the western side of town to catch a view of the Eiffel Tower at night. Although I’ve seen it a number of times already, it really doesn't ever get old. This is especially true at night, when it's lit up and has glittering lights every hour. It was a bit of a car ride out there and we probably should’ve saved it for another night, but overall it was well worth it to end the first night in Paris.
5. The Classic Parisian Breakfast | 8 a.m.
No trip to Paris is every complete without a trip to a French boulangerie or viennoiserie for breakfast. While there are endless choices in Paris, this time, we decided to go to Ble Sucre, which is famed for their croissants. Upon approaching the small shop, we noticed the various articles and awards displayed talking about their croissants, and we knew we had to try them.
We ordered a plain croissant, a chocolate one, as well as another pastry. When we took our first bite of the plain croissant, we knew that it lived up to the hype. The outside was flaky and had a loud crunch to the bite, while the inside was light and airy with a soft buttery taste. It’s definitely in the top 10 of croissants that I've had. The one that really did blow my mind, however, was the pain au chocolat. Fresh out of the oven, the crust was still crunchy, while the inside chocolate was hot and gooey…simply amazing! Definitely worth visiting.
6. Cultural Tour at the Louvre | 9 a.m.
After the incredible breakfast, we headed west to spend some time at the Louvre museum. Along the Uber ride, we drove along the Seine River and could see the Notre Dame cathedral, but didn’t make the stop. When we got to the museum, we quickly went into the courtyard to see the famous pyramid designed by I.M. Pei.
We then spent a few hours perusing the many halls and exhibits within the museum. The most famous pieces were obviously the Mona Lisa, which was a lot smaller in person than I had expected, as well as the Winged Victory sculpture, which in contrast was a lot grander than expected. One could spend the whole day looking at the European artwork and classics, but alas there is so much more left to be done in the city.
7. Hidden Gem around Champ Elysses | 1 p.m.
The recurring theme of this trip seems to be food, and more food. This time we headed to the neighborhood around Champ Elysses and were searching for a restaurant serving aligot, a type of cheesy mashed potato. Even though we had a reservation, the restaurant was actually closed when we got there, which wasn’t the first time it happened to me in France. We did a quick search on Google Maps to see what was nearby and picked the one with the highest rating. We had extremely low expectations going in, but it actually ended up being one of the gems of the trip.
The restaurant was a mid-sized French bistro, but only had one chef and one waitress who didn’t know English very well. However, she was very friendly and was able to relay the menu to us through a mix of Google translate and the help of a nearby table. The food was very simply cooked, as we started off with some mushrooms, pate, and eggs, followed by the entrees of chicken and fish. However, the flavors were very well balanced and it felt like an authentic take on French European cuisine. It was a welcome contrast to the more traditional dinner last night, and we were glad we had stumbled upon this place.
After lunch, we walked around to look at the Arc de Triomphe and also walked along Champ Elysses. The area was a mecca for high end fashion and had all the luxury French and international fashion houses. In other words, it was a lot more window shopping than actual shopping. Still, it was nice to know what’s currently in vogue as well as to check out some of the amazing architecture along the streets. There were also a number of restaurants and cafes in the area, including the famed Pierre Herme and Lauduree as a convenient stop for macaron lovers.
8. Dinner at AT - Food or Artwork? | 8 p.m.
For dinner, we had made a reservation at Restaurant A.T., which is owned by chef Atsushi Tanaka. He had spent some time in Tokyo as well as across Europe, and had garnered a reputation as a chef embracing modernist techniques and a “Picasso of the kitchen” as described by his former boss, Pierre Gagnaire. Perhaps his own quote demonstrates his vision best, in that he believes “cooking is an art form…I need my food to be beautiful and tasty at the same time.”
To try out the work of this "Picasso", we ordered the tasting menu which had over 10 dishes. What we soon found was that every single one was constructed with an astounding amount of detail and attention to the visuals. In many ways, the aesthetics of the dishes ended up superseding the actual taste, which was a combination of modern European mixed with Japanese and Scandinavian influences. The taste of the dishes were hit or miss. The hits included an innovative and umami-rich uni and carrot broth and a banka trout topped with a mixture of multi-colored parsley crackers adding the perfect crunch. However, there was also the overly salty crab soup as well as the extremely gamey elk. Overall, there were more hits than misses and all the dishes were so visually stunning that it more than made up for it. The night ended with the signature dish, the grey monochrome hinoki dessert, which really seemed like a true piece of artwork.
9. Food Hall and More at Galeries Lafayette | 12 p.m.
For our last day, we headed over to the Galeries Lafayette in the very central Opera district. The large department store is made up of 3 separate building, one for women’s, one for men’s, and one for a food hall / supermarket as well as a home and kitchen section on the top floors. The shopping buildings contain all the modern as well as the high end designer brands and would be equivalent to a Saks Fifth Avenue or Selfridges. What I found most fascinating, however, was actually the food hall building.
Upon entering, we were met with stands of some of the most famous French patisseries and chocolatiers including Dalloyau, Yann Couvreur, Alain Ducasse Chocolate, Pierre Herme, amongst many others. It’s quite an amazing and convenient way to try all the different desserts in one place. In the back of the food hall were a few places which offered hot gourmet food. We ended up grabbing lunch at L’Atelier Maison de la Truffe, which had counter seating and offered dishes with truffle at surprisingly reasonable prices. We ordered a salad, truffled cheese, oysters, and a pasta dish with fresh truffle shavings.
After lunch, we walked around the department stores as well as around the neighborhood to get better sense of Paris. Heading south to the 1st Arr., there was a nice mix of retail and coffee shops along the way. The Jardin des Tuileries is also right along the Seine and was a wonderful park / open space in the middle of the city to wind down and take a deep breath.
10. A Dinner Worth the Wait to End the Trip | 8 p.m.
For dinner, we decided to go a restaurant highly recommended by a friend – Frenchie Bar a Vins. It sits opposite from the Frenchie main restaurant and serves much more casual and approachable fare. The restaurant was very small, with a main bar room and a small adjacent dining room, and it was completely packed. Unfortunately there were no reservations for this place, we ended up waiting and waiting…and waiting.
After an hour and a half, they finally called our name, and by this point we were literally starving. We ordered almost everything on the menu, which included foie gras, cockles in a spicy broth, octopus, truffle and parmesan tagliolini. We also got the cheese plate as well as the apple tart. I’m not sure if it was because we were so hungry, but everything tasted unbelievably delicious. Everything was amazingly flavorful and the textures were done just right. I was really surprised by the quality of food coming out of the tiny kitchen! I would highly recommend the food, but would more importantly, recommend to come early or late to skip the wait.
After dinner, we headed to Experimental Cocktail Club nearby for some after dinner drinks. They have branches around the world including in London and throughout Europe. It was a small place without much décor to speak of, but the drinks were fantastic and the bartenders were friendly and helpful. As we sat sipping our drink, we thought back on the past few days and then toasted to the end of the 3-day trip in Paris. Although it was quite rushed, we were able to see and eat a lot, and we look forward to the next time we'll be back in this wonderful city.