Did you know that the City of Light only has 9 three-star Michelin restaurants? Here's what to expect.
What is Michelin?
Yes, Michelin is that French tire company you're thinking, but how does that tire company get into the restaurant rating business? Before Google Maps, there was the Michelin Guide. It all started a long time ago when the two Michelin brothers (Edouard and Andre) created maps which helped drivers of their well-built tires find restaurants and gas stations around France. Over time, the Michelin Guide started to divvy out ratings, which now is the only authority that many chefs around the world strive to earn a rating between one to three stars.
Paris has only nine 3-star Michelin restaurants
According to the, Paris Insiders Guide, there are only nine 3-star Michelin restaurants in Paris. This makes each restaurant in very select company. For a foodie city like Paris, I always thought there would be more than nine, which until 2019 there were only 10.
I've had the chance to eat at two of the nine. My first experience was dining at one of Paris' oldest restaurants (Pavillon Ledoyen), which has been open since 1792 and has served historical characters such as Claude Monet at one point in time. Most recently, I was able to eat at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee during Christmas season.
Booking a reservation ahead of time and cancellation
The first thing you need to do should you decide to dine at a Michelin restaurant is to plan ahead. This means you should visit the restaurants website and book a reservation using their website or you can email them directly. From my experience, I suggest planning at least two months in advance especially around the summer or holidays. Please note, that if you decide not to dine after making a reservation, you must let the restaurant know or they will charge you a hefty sum, which is usually a couple hundred euro per person. You usually have at least 24 hours prior to the reservation to cancel, just check the restaurant's reservation policy. They take their reservations seriously, so should you.
So you decided to keep your reservation...great. There is a dress code that you should adhere to, which means men must wear a sport coat at the minimum. Ladies should also dress appropriately with a nice evening dress. Don't forget you're dining in a first-class establishment and there is an image that is a part of the experience. So take the time to look good and presentable!
First class service, first class presentation
When you finally arrive to the restaurant, expect first-class service to begin immediately. For instance, I've never had my jacket taken off me by anyone, but this was the case when I ate at Alain Ducasse. Don't worry, your jacket will be secure and after you are finished eating, you'll have your jacket ready for you as soon as you leave without even asking for it.
As you are seated, you'll usually be offered a glass of champagne to help get you in the mood. Then you'll be offered either selecting dishes à la carte or the set-menu AKA prix fixe. I've always go with the prix fixe menu since I really have no idea what dishes would go well together. Think of eating at a fine dining establishment like painting. You don't want to mix the wrong colors together otherwise the contrast won't look good. The same goes with fine food, let the Michelin star chef prepare and put everything in working order so you'll enjoy it. Your palette will thank you for it afterwards. Expect around 12 courses to be served over a period of between 3 to 4 hours. This includes desert as well, which alone is around 2 to 3 courses.
When you are finished you'll have experienced something you've probably haven't had in your foodie lifetime. The price will be steep when you ask for the check ("l'addition s'il vous plait"), but it's an experience that's worth checking out at least once or more in your life!
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