Though skydiving and bungee-jumping top many people’s bucket lists, my dream lineup of activities to complete before I die are more of the culinary type. And recently on our trip to Paris, I was able to cross off “dining at a Michelin-star restaurant.”
Ever since hearing about Michelin-star restaurants, I’ve been curious to see if these highly esteemed restaurants lived up to its hype. In anticipation of our trip, I read numerous articles with mixed-reviews on Michelin-star restaurants, some fawning over the dining experience while others critical of how the restaurants are chosen or the system itself.
Did you know that the term “Michelin Star” came from the tire company? Michelin has reviewed restaurants for years by using staff (who must be passionate about food, among other things) to anonymously review restaurants and critique the experience. The reviewers then reconvene to decide which restaurants will receive the “Michelin Star”, the fine dining stamp of approval. Most restaurants don’t make the cut, and the reviews (and guides) only happen in select cities across the world. In the U.S., this includes New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Internationally, you can find them in exotic locations like Italy, Spain, Japan and France.
So I made it my mission to try a Michelin-star restaurant while in Paris. And because you may be interested in dining at one in the future, I thought I’d share some tips that I learned from our trip and from colleagues who’ve also dined at a Michelin-star restaurant, so that you feel equipped to take this culinary adventure, too!
1. Visit while you’re there.
If you’re headed to any of the cities in the U.S. for a visit, why not try them out while you’re there? We went to L’Agape in Paris and had a wonderful time. A colleague of mine who had a work meeting in Napa visited The French Laundry with her boyfriend. Take advantage of your travel plans and make this culinary-explosion-in-your-mouth happen.
2. Make reservations well in advance.
And I don’t mean two weeks in advance. As soon as you know you’re going, call the restaurant or make an online reservation. They are often booked up weeks or months in advance. For example, we went to Napa last year as part of our second honeymoon trip to Vegas and San Fran and it was virtually impossible to make reservations. However, it never hurts to see if there are any last-minute cancellations so you can slip in.
3. Can’t get a reservation? Try a Bib Gourmand restaurant.
A Bib Gourmand restaurant is designated as good cuisine for an affordable price for locals. They are often just as fancy as Michelin star restaurants but cost way less.
4. Research insider tips and tricks beforehand.
Read review sites and search online for any tips or tricks you need to know to hack your dining experience. Do you remember the colleague I mentioned earlier? Her boyfriend found out ways to elevate their dining experience by letting them know they had an anniversary (which they did), etc. The Internet is so darn nifty.
5. On a budget? Try lunch instead.
In Paris, we didn’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of money on one meal (avg. $150-200 per person). So we did our research and found that many restaurants offer lunch (if they are open during that time), like L’Agape. Though lunch may have less food, it’s also usually less expensive. Oftentimes it can be a prix-fixe meal, but for 35 euros, we had four courses and left the restaurant pleased with our meal.
6. Wear an appropriate outfit for the occasion.
Though we just finished a tour of my company’s headquarters, I still felt *slightly* under-dressed during lunch. Most of the other diners were in full business suits, women included. The staff didn’t treat us any differently, but keep in mind what you’re wearing and if it’s appropriate for the restaurant and meal.
7. Enjoy the amenities.
The restroom was a magical experience between the automated heated toilet to the soap to wash my hands. Because the restaurant is invested in the diner’s experience, there may be added perks at the restaurant. Consider casually exploring the restaurant during one of your courses. 🙂
8. Be adventurous with your food.
We had no clue what we would be eating because it was a seasonal menu that changed every so often. Don’t be shy about eating different food, but make sure if you don’t understand the menu items to ask for clarification.
9. Take your time.
Don’t rush through your meal. Take your time through the courses and enjoy the actual experience. Corey and I started getting anxious when we hit an hour and a half at lunch, but it was normal for Parisians. Be conscious of the restaurant’s culture and savor the moment.
10. Be mindful of the final cost.
All of the extra costs add up with the meal so don’t be afraid to ask if something has a price to it. For example, I was brought bottled water when I asked for “water.” However, the next time around, I asked for tap water instead and wasn’t charged for it. Be mindful of that for other things too like wine pairings, etc.
Have you been to a Michelin-star restaurant? How was your experience? Here’s a picture of the final course at L’Agape, chocolate mousse with pistachio ice cream. So good!