Le Comptoir, Le 'Atelier de Joel Rubuchon, Mon Veil Ami, Bistrot de L'Oulette
All May, 2008:
Lunch at Le Comptoir:
I thought the meal here was average, and very rushed. I don't speak French and the waitress did not speak English. I believe I had some sort of dish with oxtail. It was a little heavy for lunch and nothing special. I wish I had gone there with a better plan as to what I wanted to order.
Lunch Mon Veil Ami:
I really loved this place, and would definitely return here during another trip to Paris. Again, the waitress did not speak English, but I ordered the plat du jour and was rewarded! I believe the dish was some sort of salted fish with mashed potatoes and micro greens. It was wonderful. Great textures, beautiful colors, great taste. The restaurant itself is very charming, and quite romantic. Excellent value for excellent food.
Dinner at L'Atelier:
I think that this place's time has come and gone. I walked in very easily without reservations on a Sunday night at 8. I had one of the tasting menus. The food was excellent, but VERY expensive. You could get a much better meal and experience in a top tier restaurant in NYC for probably half the price.
Dinner Bistrot de L'Oulette:
I liked this place. Nothing fancy, but the good was great and was priced extremely reasonable. The manager speaks decent English, and was very helpful when it came to suggesting meals. I would recommend this place to friends.
I suspect the waiters at both Le Comptoir and Mon Viel Ami spoke perfectly good English given they are both restaurants which attract a lot of English speakers. My guess is that you didn't try and communicate in French. It is quite common for people to feign a lack of English if you don't make an effort to speak their language.
Best advice to Chowhouds is to learn some basic greetings. France is a very polite society and saying your hellos, pleases and thankyous in French helps a lot to get the best out of the trip. Always say Bonjour/Bonsoir when you walk into a shop or restaurant, it will set you up well.
I would agree with PhilD. I have been to Paris twice in the last year, and although my French is very limited, I always began every conversation in French if only to say that I don't speak French well, or to ask politely if they speak English. For dining out, it is worth it to learn a few basic phrases, like how to order, to how ask for the bill, how to say what name your reservation is under, etc.
I was at both Comptoir and Mon Vieil Ami last week, and the servers did speak English. Actually, someone spoke passable English in every restaurant we went to. The were always kind enough to translate menu items if needed. As well, I noticed that the Parisians usually just cut into English or would say something like: "In English, if you like?" once I had begun in French...my Canadian accent must have given me away!
Well said PhilD.
Though, personally, I do not really understand why you would want someone to try and fail at speaking, I am a supporter and proponent of French society and everyone knows BONJOUR, so, yes, just greet them with courtesy and good grace and all(or most) will be quite well.
The tasting menu from l'Atelier in Paris is definitely not the way to go. Actually, having a full on meal at l'Atelier is not the way to go. It should be seen as a gastronomical snack, meant to focus on a few very perfect bites. And also, it requires to stay away frfrom too simple and too complicated dishes in order to focus on what they do best, i.e. simple ingredients that are difficult to cook well and have fresh enough: sweetbread, merlan, anchovies, pig's trotter, macaroni, morels... For a real and very affordable meal, la Table is a better idea. See my former write-ups: http://www.julotlespinceaux.com/2008/...
I'm just back form NY and, funnily enough, thought that l'Atelier there was on the whole way better than the Parisian adresses, a real high end dining experience, moving (and very expensive). The sweetbread were not as good as at l'Atelier, though. The tasting menu there made a lot of sense. No write up yet but here are some pics that I'm not too dissatisfied with: http://picasaweb.google.fr/jultort/LA...
Will you be giving a slightly detailed comparison between the Robuchons of Paris and NY?
I went to l'Atelier in Paris some time ago. It was top notch, honestly. Not the greatest meal ever but it lived up to my expectation which is not always so easy.
I have not even been willing to consider the NY version. Have seen too many offshoots that disappoint. However, someone who I trust 80% as much as myself said he was surprised at how good the NY l'Atelier was, though quite expensive. Seems you noticed that last point, as well, and that is with your Euros in hand.
If you, indeed, found it better than the Parisian version, that would lend more credence to me putting it back on the list. Another thought is that the Parisian version has also ,perhaps, slipped in the last couple years.
If you can, I would like to hear what you have to say on the matter.
If not, I understand, there is only so much time in the day.
Thanks, either way.
Of the three places I went to (La Table and l'Atelier in Paris, l'Atelier in NYC), the NY atelier is the real gastronomic experience. All places have their personality. As far as l'Atelier Paris goes, I think it is the place with the most wows buut unfortunately it does not apply to all dishes. I think it is a perfect place for a sudden gastronomic craving. Lecerf, Braun and Bouchenoire each do what they like, and that should guide you there when ordering. To me, l'Atelier Paris is the tapas part and the more you know the place, the better you can enjoy it. La Table is the place to go for a back to basics full meal. A standard-setter. Now my meal in NY was art, and the overall experience was much higher end, felt much more special than either Paris place. The very fine tuning and seasoning by chef Suga, his subtlety, his careful organisation, and also the much higher standard for service staff made it a really special experience. And as I said, the tasting menu is the way to go.
So, in short:
- L'Atelier Paris has the most wow dishes and is ideal for after/before theater high end snack such as sweetbread
- La Table Paris is great for textbook good and simple food, and has best value in town with their 55 eur lunch menu including beverage
- l'Atelier NY is a special place, more luxurious and personal (despite the similarity of recipes), with very well conceived and mastered dishes -- tasting menu being the way to go, imho.
I do not think that the Parisian version slipped -- except that it was out of this world good the first few days, when the real Robuchon was actually on site. But I do think that it has some quality control issues and that it is a place where you have to order wisely (and luckilly). Under these conditions, it is precious.
As far as NY is concerned, bviously I did not try everything in town but my two best meals were by far Blue Hill at Stone Barns and l'Atelier.
Cool, thanks, Souphie.
Basically, that is what I got out of your shorter post. Sorry to make you write more. I guess NY l'Atelier has to go on the list.
Perhaps I was lucky and good in Paris. Glad it hasn't slipped, much, anyway, if at all.
Wondering where else you ate in NYC that those 2 places you mentioned were the best of.
I couldn't agree more with the first two replies-you must try to speak their language! I got better at that over time. On my next trip, I will study up before hand!