Subject: Robuchon and 3 star-restaurants
Like many Travelziners when it comes to eating out in France, I try to look for an affordable but authentic bistro, which is not that easy. But once in a - long - while, under the right circumstances (such as after winning the lottery or being invited by someone with a fat credit card) I let myself be pampered in a starred restaurant. And the ultimate, to me, is a three-Michelin-star restaurant in France, of which there are around 20. To my mind, it is worth staying in hostels for 2 weeks, to save money for such an extravagance. It is an experience that you will never forget. I've never been to a 3-star in Paris, but believe that the best value-for-money is in the provinces. I've been to Georges Blanc in Vonnas (traditional) and Auberge de l'Ill in Illhausern, Alsace. Particular the latter, and by far the more recent, was outstanding, not only the food, prepared with superlative ingredients and in a way that you can never achieve at home, but above all the ambiance, the quiet and most professional service (which is often the difference between a 2 and a 3 star), the surroundings. You feel as if you're part of a marvelous theatrical play that stretches on for 4 hours or so, without anyone getting bored or even checking a clock.
>From another list, this one with high-rolling gourmets (many of whom have eaten at most of the 3 stars), I've learned that the most appreciated are: Michel Bras, Laguiole Marc Veyrat, Annecy Troisgros, Roanne I would add Auberge de l'Ill and also Le Crocodile, Strasbourg, because I've heard great things about it and I'm partial to the Alsace and its food. The gourmet list members however agree that not all 3 stars are heavenly, the most critiqued Jardin de Sens in Montpellier. A rising star in Paris (1 star now?) is l'Astrance, unfortunately praised to the sky by Patricia Wells; as a consequence the prices are rising and the tables are booked.

The drawbacks of such major places are: price (though an evening of Broadway+dinner may cost as much p.p.), the fact that you're most likely surrounded by non-French people, the absolute necessity of booking way in advance and asking a French-speaking friend to do it for you, though once you're there, you'll be greated in English. (Don't ask me why the last requirement.)