The title is a bit of an exaggeration but it is something that I go to great lengths to avoid – having a bad meal experience. Yes, I know the differences between French and North American service cultures (in fact, I admire the French philosophy on meals and food, I started a company based on it – if you want to learn more, I suggest you read this book – French Kids Eat Everything). Yes, I understand politesse. I can read, and have a basic conversation in French. Sometimes, all that doesn’t matter. Like the time my second eldest daughter and I went to a place in Paris that supposedly cooked the best Bresse chicken. Despite the fact that she speaks fluent French, we were banished to the back of the restaurant with all the other North Americans to suffer in purposefully slow, poor service.
Thankfully, those poor occasions are rare if you do research and take the time to understand what is going on, and the above referenced cultural differences.
Unfortunately, this is one of those times all that did not matter. I choose this place because I wanted traditional French food. The online reviews and forums raved about classics like the beef bourguignon. Upon arrival, I greeted the first staff member I saw, in French, and proceeded to tell him about our reservation. The response I got back was something along the lines of “ya, ya ya, someone will come”.
When someone finally came, we were shown to the back of the restaurant and seated beside the door to the restroom. I think everyone from North America is placed behind this glass in the back.
Then, the poor service continued. Menus coming at all random times, EXTRA long waits before anyone comes by the table, forgotten requests and on and on. Again, I understand that in Europe, and especially France, meals are meant to be slow. You have to ask for the bill, no one will just bring it. I enjoy all that. This is not what I am talking about. I am talking about purposely bad service.
Anyway, when we finally ordered they brought an amuse to start which was actually good. The flavors were well developed, I could taste the wine they used in it, and it made me I think, just for a second, that the food could make up for the poor service.
….but I was wrong. We started with a salad that was unremarkable.
Then the “star” – the beef bourguignon.
This was probably the worst beef bourguignon I’ve ever had. First, the pasta they served with it was completely overcooked. The only thing this dish had going for it, was that the beef was fall apart tender like everyone raves about. That’s it. The broth had zero depth of flavor. I couldn’t taste wine, aromatics, carrots etc etc. I saw onion and some lardons. Tasteless. Underseasoned.
To end, we had the souffle which WAS VERY good.
So why the high reviews of this place online? I think its the romantic aspect. Its an old school French restaurant. They serve classic dishes. If someone has never been to Paris, then they would probably fall in love with the IDEA of this place and ignore everything else. However, there are better places for that classic French feel. I suggest Au Petit Tonneau for classics, or for a slightly more modern take on classics – La Bourse at la vie. In case you have not guessed from reading this, I wouldn’t return. 4/10