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Flustered by Paris’s 7,000-plus restaurants? Dine where heads of state do.
the proletariat away.
The Sarkozy-Bruni-Aznar affair apparently cost a lofty $270 per person, without the wine. The cuisine is rather modern, with roasted blue lobster or rabbit for $130, fried tandoori frog legs for about $90, and raspberries with ginseng and meringue for $40.
Tong Yen: peace rice
During the 1995 election, right-wing heavy-hitter Nicolas Sarkozy famously decided to support Edouard Balladur over future French President Jacques Chirac. This triggered a twelve year cold war between the old-school Chirac and the ambitious upstart Sarkozy. It took fifteen years before the two politicians officially buried the hatchet, and it happened in one of Chirac’s favorite restaurants, a mid-range Vietnamese place called Tong Yen, off the Champs-Elysees. Here is a Parisienarticle and video report of the encounter.
It would be an overstatement to describe this place as attractive, but it surely is pleasant and quiet. It’s also a rarity, as a mid-range restaurant with delicious food and a calm ambiance in the tourist-heavy Champs Elysees. The owner, known as Madame Therese, is a lovely and smiley elderly Asian woman, who makes you feel at home at first glance.
Chirac is known to have an odd taste for veal heads, so at Tong Yen he’s likely to have sampled the exotic offerings. Personally, I recommend the stuffed crab.
Rather than ordering wine, stick to beer in true Chirac fashion, or try the healthy jasmine tea.
Les Ministeres: A French parliament hangout
If you fancy a snack where the powerful eat without blowing your vacation budget, then Les Ministeres could be the right place. It’s an unpretentious 1900 brasserie, right next to the National Assembly and many ministries in the beautiful and quiet 7th arrondissement.
Members of parliament and politicians are regulars at Les Ministeres. They even have their own prix fixe menu, “Le Menu du Ministre” (Minister’s Menu) at $40. It includes a starter (fish stew, salmon, and yes, veal head), a main course (caramel duck, grilled beef with bearnaise sauce, or grilled sea bass) and a desert (nougat, baba au rum cake or creme brulee). Add around $10 for kir and Gamay wine.
Also, this place serves continuously from noon to 10:30 p.m., which is not standard in Paris.
Fakhr El Dine: Middle East connection
At Fakhr El Dine, with a little luck you may find yourself dining next to one of sons of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, or even the Lebanese Prime Minister. The atmosphere here is serene on weekdays. There’s a cute yellow bird twirling in an old-fashion white metal cage. But the restaurant can also be very animated on weekends. A reservation is a must on weekends. The dress code is rather formal.
Beside being a haunt for Middle Eastern dignitaries, this place is famous for its savory baklavas (honey-filled pastries) and its wide range of Lebanese mezze (tabouli, hummus, and tomato and cucumber salad for example). At around $35, the express lunch menu includes a main course, a dessert and coffee. Full dinner with wine costs at least $80. You can also order takeout at $25 for a plat du jour or a simple and delicious kofta sandwich.