5 nights, 5 dinners - Report
Friday - Josephine, Chez Dumonet
Incredible on all levels. An enormously enjoyable dining experience. We had our table for the night. No rush. My hands-down favorite of the five. All dishes were exceptional.
Entrees: Fois gras - artichoke salad. Plats: Cassoulet (this thing is huge) - Chateaubriand. Dessert: shared Grand Marnier souffle. Wine: bottle of Sancerre Rouge. 2 cafes and a bottle of water.
Total: 165.00 euro
Saturday - Le Petrelle
An original. It's like dining in an eccentric aunts living room. Quiet, dim lighting, well spaced, large tables and a cat.
Entrees: Artichoke & asparagus salad - fois gras chaud w/ baby asparagus (incredible). Plats: Wild chicken w/ morelles - veal sweetbreads w/ sauteed root vegetables. Dessert: can't remember specifically, but it was terrifically chocolaty. Wine: 1999 Chateau d' Aiguilhe. 2 cafes and a bottle of water. One disappointment.....the chicken was tough and flavorless.
Total: 167.00 euro
Sunday - Christophe
The food here is fantastic. The environs, however, are not particularly Parisian. Felt like we could have been anywhere.
Entrees: Escargots (possibly the best we've ever had) - charcuterie. Plats: Roast duck - roast veal. Dessert: arrgh.....I can't remember and didn't note it. Wine: 2001 La Horse Canon Fronsac Bordeaux.
Total: 115.00 euro
Monday - Le Regalade
Our second favorite. VERY tight seating. Hectic and bustling. Enormous portions perfectly prepared.
Serve-yourself terrine of pate' brought out. Addictive stuff. Entrees: Tuna tartare - fois gras terrine. Plats: Roast pork - roast pigeon (wicked good). Dessert: Riz au lait w/ caramel sauce - pot au creme w/ raspberries. Wine: 2008 Sancerre Rouge.
Total: 117.00 euro
Tuesday - Chez l' Ami Jean
The rushed, indifferent service tarnished this meal. This was the only poor service received while in Paris. The food was good, but just that......good. I was expecting much better. No notes were taken, and nothing was memorable.
Entrees: Warm lobster salad - another salad I can't remember. Plats: Duck breast - roasted rabbit (a scrawny rabbit at that). Dessert: something with strawberries. Wine: a Bordeaux.
2 cafes. This was the only meal I left still hungry.
Total: 165.00 euro (approx)
Many thanks to the CH France board for all of your input.
Kiki, I suspect CAJ isn't inconsistent as such; my guess is it doesn't always match expectations. It is small, crowded, and turns tables 4 times a night. The hustle and bustle is part of its charm, but may not suit everyone (may suit younger rather than older attitudes).
It delivers ambitious food at a relatively low price, most times it gets it right sometimes it doesn't; I have had lots of great dishes but also some real stinkers, but I understood that was the risk with the place. When I lived in Paris I tended to view it as a relaxed place for a post Friday night drinks meal rather than a place for a big, glamorous night out.
Out of the five above it doesn't surprise me that it came last as the others are all good in their own way, and I think BayouTeche may not have got the best from the menu looking at their order.
PhilD, I think I would agree with your assessment. CAJ is crazy popular right now, so I wasn't terribly surprised by the "rush treatment" to turn the tables........I was still disappointed, nonetheless.
And judging by some of the other dishes I saw come out of the kitchen, we definitely ordered the wrong things. For example, if believe if we'd ordered the (I think) the roasted veal for two (which looked amazing) as our plats, that would have improved our outlook considerably.
Though our experience was less than stellar, I could certainly see it's popular appeal. It's a great space, classic bistro style. Other dishes being brought out had me salivating, so I know there is great food to be had. I can maybe overlook the brusque service if everything else clicks.
FWIW, for visitors who have never been to CAJ, I'd suggest knowing what you want to order in advance. Search the boards, ask questions.......there's great info available from fellow CHer's. Then, if none of the daily specials appeal to you, go with your pre-determined selections.
That was one meal I wish I could "do over".
I think what I meant to have written was, how varied people's reactions are to CAJ. Some people come back raving that their meal at CAJ was the best thing ever and others were disappointed by their experience.
GIven all the hype, I'm sure it's hard for CAJ to meet everyone's high expectations each time and I understand that their signature dishes are much better than others but I won't be returning there any time unless they'll let me eat their rice pudding over the counter (actually, that's not a bad idea and I think we'll give them a call and ask).
Kiki - I think my reply still stands. It is all down to expectations. If a person thought it was going to be a "refined dining" experience then they will not be happy. I would guess an unhappy experience will translate good food, to average, and average food to bad. I used to go there a lot and whilst I had some less good meals a couple of times, I found that for its price point it was still a good bet.
Here are a few items from CAJ that when l see on menu, tend to order:
Cotes du Veau for two, may be the best veal chop anywhere
Fois Gras for two, actually if possible beats La Regalade
Confit of rabbit leg with saddle tartare, may be one of best things ever eaten
Their sauteed scallops are as good as L'Ami Louis and 1/4 the price.
On a good day their palombe is otherworldly
What made me cancel our reservation at Regalade was what I read about their service. I am not the most patient person on earth especially when I'm hungry and waiting for a table for 30 min with reservation or not getting wine till second course is well under the way didn't sound too appealing to me. On top of that, like CAJ, their strength seems to be in meat/poultry dishes that we don't eat but nonetheless, I think we'll pay them a visit in July and will report back.
Thanks Phil and souphie, helpful as always. If we still go and we don't enjoy the experience, at least both of you can tell me "we told you so." :P I was looking at foodsnob's blog entry and got tempted by their seafood dishes:
Au Bon Accueil has been on my radar and since I can probably squeeze two dinner and lunch this time, I'll have time for both. We're heading down to Normandy and although I can assure you that macarons are much better there than they are in Paris, I'm not expecting to eat all that well in the "suburbs" so I have to make the few meals I have in Paris count.