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Two weeks in Paris – a long (sorry) review and some questions too…

Gman Jan 26, 2010 02:03 PM

First of all – a shout out to all the France Board houndies. This was our sixth trip to La Belle and by far the tastiest thanks to your thoughtful and generous notes and comments. I’ve added details where I had them, listed food I had (or stole off Bman, my partner’s, plate) and separated out the wine costs since this varies so wildly. Most often, as you’ll see we ended up at the cheap end of the spectrum which is what our budget required. Still, not a single bottle I wouldn’t gladly have again, and a few I’ll hope to find stateside, even though I’m sure it’s unlikely with many. As for the swell grub… there’s no hope of finding it here….well that’s what dreams are for… and planning next year’s trip. Unless noted, meals included entrée, plat, dessert and coffee for two.

Le Rotisserie du Beaujolais, 17 Quai de la Tournelle, in the 5th. Very near the apt. we rented on the Ile St. Louis, and hurray (!) open on our day of arrival – Christmas Eve, for my money THE toughest night to eat out a Paris. Amuse of Rillettes at the table. Had the mache chevre chaud, and Epaule d’Agneau pour duex farci aux herbes Pommes sauté, and finished with Ile flotant. All pretty good, though the steak and chicken around us looked more compelling than the lamb we had. The pomme sauté were great. Lively and fun spot. 76€ Dinner,17€ litre de Beaujolais, 34€ two snifters of Calva de Tour D’Argent, it being the holidays and all…

Chez Paul, 13 rue de Charronne, 11th. Hadn’t been back here in a while but read the thread a while ago about Pot au Feu and made me crave a return. Especially on a very cold day, and Christmas, at that. Bless them, they were open. Had Potage de Legume (it really was very cold that day) and Pot au feu. It IS amazing how a cocotte of boiled stuff can have such lovely flavor. Finished nearly every bit of it. 48€ lunch no dessert, 14€ 100cl pichet de Cotes du Rhone.

Chez Julien, Rue Pont Louis Phillipe, 4th.. Had trepidations about returning here but very concerned about limited options on Christmas. Called several others that were closed or a few that were full. Was able to book Julien and figured we could dump it if we came up with something better. Had actually been there 4 years ago for Christmas. Loved our dinner, hated being sandwiched between Yanks (which is pretty much what we have found everywhere on Christmas – it is mostly tourists that are out…). It IS a lovely room, and a lovely, and for us, convenient location. Had Terrine de fois gras
and Chataubriand, frites, and sauce poivres on the side. Happily, it was all quite good, and the Ladoix was lovely with it. As we were half way through our plat the dreaded yanks showed. They were seated next to us and awful. Textbook, even. Though thankfully our French had progressed enough from four years ago that we could converse in French the rest of the night and not have to swap tales with this awful duo. I also appreciated that it was just the regular menu, no Noel gouging. Once the French trio of young gents were seated on the other side of us we realized our jig would be up soon, so we skipped dessert knowing we had some Berthillon Pistache (our hands down fave) back at the apt. 92€ dinner with no dessert, 65€ Ladoix Premiere Cru, Domaine Chevalier.

Christophe, 8 rue descartes, 5th. Many recs. on this Board for this place, which we enjoyed, though Souphie’s brief analysis of the atmosphere (which we only read après) is spot on and hysterical. It IS a mausoleum! Host sort of glowered at us the whole time. Chef vacated the kitchen after service and just sat in a chair mopping his brow…. Um…. There were only 6 of us in the restaurant that lunch… Had Boudin noire et Chorizo Croustilliant avec arugula et confiture de tomate (very tasty) and Brandade Morue (arugula encore) and the cheese plate, served with… arugula. A little variety in the greens would have been nice. All very good, though. Return? Hmmmm. Let me think…. 39€ Lunch, 17€ Bottle of Rosé Languedoc.

Hidden Kitchen, table d’hote. A secret location in the 2nd. Can’t even remember where I first read about this but thought it sounded fun, and it was. The food was all very good, even if most of it didn’t seem particularly French, as others have said. The chef/ host couple are lovely and adorable and intrepid. And the courses are sized so you’re not stuffed, just sated. Had Celerie Root Soup with Clementine et lovage, Beet and potato carpacio with fennel porridge, Sautéed sea bass with fish chowder, a palate cleanser of Bombay Sapphire sorbet atop a bourbon gelee, Veal meatball with linguini, Flank Steak with wild rice, squash puree and caramelized onions, Brussels Sprouts salad, Almond cake with cacao nib glace, and Mignardises (tongue, somewhat in cheek, I think) of a peanut butter cup, a Rice Krispie treat, a zeppolli and a brownie. 80€ per person included wine pairings.

Chez Janou, 2 Rue Roger Verlomme, 3rd. Have been here many times and always liked it. Very lively and fun mix of people. Had not reserved and they still managed to seat us before too long. Had poelee de champignons, Brandade de Morue (Okay, I like the stuff… so sue me!) 45€ dinner, no dessert. 23€ litre de Rosé.

Les Fontains, 9 rue soufflot, 5th. Was on the first set of recommendations I was given 20 years ago and finally made it after finding Les Papilles closed, one assumes for the holiday, though no sign in the window. Had the Croquant d’endive chevre Charolais (very nice) and the Boeuf Bourguignon et nouille (plat du jour – twas fine). 32€ lunch for two, one entree, no dessert (see below). 22€ 50cl pichet de Givry.

Le Rostand, 6 Place Edmond Rostand.
Came here after lunch for Poire-amande tart (7€). Had it last year and loved it. I think they are known for it. Who makes it? Worth a trip.

La Brasserie de L’Isle Saint Louis, 55 Quai de Bourbon, Ile St. Louis, 4th. Had friends arriving nearby and wanted something in the neighborhood and traditional. Had onion tart and Choucroute Garnie and 2 glasses Riesling. All fine. Nothing revelatory, and there is something I like about the place despite the sour-faced waiters. There’s something comforting about a place that seems so unchanged. 50€, dinner, no dessert.

Le Gaigne, 12 Rue Pecquay, 4th. Special shout out to Houndies and Mark Bittman for their recommendation of this place. Maybe the best meal we had in Paris. Oeuf cocotte, and crème d’Epinard was just that, and yet so tasty and complex. We talked about this dish for days. Pave de Saumon, on a fondue de poireaux, in a sauce raifort (horseradish) was perfect… uh…. And I don’t even really care for salmon that much!!! Bman and I switched at the halfway point. He had Epaule D’Agneau rotie (perfectly rosie), pommes dauphine (perfectly crisp and airy). Crème Caramel and some kind of tart to finish. Meringue mignardises with coffee. 40€ lunch, 16 € Rosé Loire. If it weren’t for the various holiday closings we would have gone back. Happily.

Epigramme, 9 rue de L’Eperon, 6th. Had Coquilles St Jacques avec chorizo (lovely),
Sanglier Rotie (I don’t remember it, even though I have a picture of it…..but I’m sure it was good). Finished with Riz au lait (Bman) Vieux Comte and St Nectaire (I lean to frommage when it’s an option on the menu). 72€ dinner, 31€ demi of Pernand-Vergelesses premiere cru blanc (entrees) 28 € demi of Pernand-Vergelesses premiere cru rouge (plats).

Les Cocottes de Christian Constant, 135 rue Saint-Domenique, 7th. Had been curious about this for a while. Agree that Staub is sort of the star as some say, but had a very tasty lunch. The best hostess we’ve ever encountered. She was great. Had Frissee lardon croustillant et oeuf poche (yummy) and the plat (or should that be cocotte) du jour - Boeuf au carotte, which was fine. Very fine, but would have been better after a long braise in a cocotte, instead of just being served in one. Tart au chocolate, and Riz au Lait, which we thought was the best of the three we tasted this trip. 70€ lunch, 32€ bottle of Beaujolais.

Le Coude Fou, 12 Rue du Bourg Tibourg, in the 4th. Looking for a little break for the porte-monnaie. Had Crottin de Chevre Chaud, and Entrecôte au blue dauvergne followed by fromage. Was all fine, nothing memorable, especially not the slightly bristly service. 52€ dinner, 26€ bottle of Rosé de Corse.

New Year’s Eve. Had a feast at the apartment with our visiting friends. Loved the Foie entiere from La Petite Scierie on Ile St. Louis. Bought a label rouge Morteau (to slice and sautee and serve with soup as we had at la Cabotte in Nuits-Saint-Georges) and pate de campagne at Boucherie Jean-Paul Gardil (also on the Ile, and always excellent), Potimarron soup from the verger across the street, and a rotisserie-d Poulet Fermier and Pommes roti and Celerie Remoulade from Becquerel, on Rue St. Antoine. A bounteous plateau de Fromage from Ferme St. Aubin on Rue St. Louis en l’Ile, a wonderful cremarie, and a talented affiner, and an tart au Abricot et Pistache tart from the Boulangerie on Rue des Deux Ponts. We had plenty of wine gathered from our week in Burgundy, and plenty of good champers provided by our visiting pals. If I lived in Paris and could buy prepared food this good I would stop cooking.

Chez Denise, (La Tour de Montlhery) 5 Rue des Prouvaires, 1st. Hadn’t been here in a few years. Always delicious and satisfying. Had Onglet de Boeuf et Frites and a fair amount of the giant copper sautee pan that was brought to the table filled with my partner’s order of Civet de Chevreuil. Followed by Baba au Rhum (bottle of Rum left on the table for additional dousing) and Ile flotant. 74€ lunch, all washed down with the customary litre (25€) of the house Brouilly.

Ambassade d’ Auvergne. Who cares where it is. Somewhere in the third. Houndies, why didn’t we listen…? Many of you warned us, but I had my heart set on trying aligot. Next time I’ll stay home and make it. I could easily do better….Salade Tiède de Lentilles Vertes du Puy avec lardons (really – I’m a guy who loves his bacon but I don’t think they belong here….) and mais oui, the Saucisse de Parlan & Aligot. Yes of course they brought it to the table to pull it and stretch it in front of us. The whole thing was rather side-showy, with rehearsed lines about no dessert if I didn’t finish my lentils. Aligot seemed to have raw bits of garlic in it. Crunchy and green. Not good. Finished with a “Tarte Gourmande” aux noix & Glace Cannelle. I love walnuts. This tart seemed stale. 56€ lunch,18€ bottle of Boudes (Auvergnat rouge). Skip it.

Cafe Restaurant Louis Philippe, 66, Quai de l'Hôtel de Ville, 4th. Okay, I’ll be frank: we were still a bit wobbly on our pins from the Saint Sylvester celebration chez nous. We didn’t have the energy to venture far. Had never tried this little boite adjacent to Chez Julien. Had Oeufs brouillés aux cèpes, and the plat du jour, Gigot d’Agneau et gratin dauphinois. Lively and friendly. An extensive menu, all of it reasonable, and based on these two dishes, I’d bet most of it fine. 35€ dinner, shared entrée, no dessert. 15€ pichet de vin rouge.

Art Home – pronouncé Arome, ….Nomiya…. the kooky pod atop the Palais de Tokyo for one year only. Table d’Hote meets performance art. 12 guests, only one lunch and one dinner per day. Got up three mornings in a row at 3:30am in New York to book this. Totally unusual and totally worth it. Started with Champagne and two amuses, each on a porcelain Chinese Spoon: Caviar de Haring avec kiwi, and Caviar de exocet (flying fish) et pomme verte. Started with Potage Potimarron avec pesto, chorizo, et truffes (very good, if a bit predictable) and seared foie gras, with pain d’epice, sauce de pommes avec Romarin, and endive braise. Good, though a bit fruity and sweet. Finished with Gateau Savarin, creme Chantilly au Cassis et guimauve. With both courses, had Chateau Barbanau, Cotes de Provence. 60€ per person. Amazing spot. Amazing views. Interesting crowd. Memorable.

Les Fêtes Galantes, 17 Rue de L’Ecole Ploytechnique, in the 5th. A friend had recommended it. Um…. It’s a dump. Period. Forget that one wall is covered with bras from supposedly devoted patrons offering them up in gratitude to the chef (someone should introduce these ladies to Le Gaigne, or Le Pre Verre… would they strip and run naked through the streets???); forget that the walls are covered with every business card, mash note, and “good luck” paper money in small denominations from when they first opened… seemingly everything but “for a good time call…” ; forget that the service was shoddy, and inattentive and got orders wrong; forget that we had to ask for bread and water. Forget all that. The food sucked. Awful onion soup, the worst, like, ever! On several continents. We can’t even remember what we had after that…Some steak? Faux filet? It came with Frites Maison (waffle cut, skimpy portion for the two of us). We had some bottle of red. A couple came in and sat next to us, and learning that the 17€ menu jumped to 23€ after 8:30, and, one assumes, getting a better look at the place, made the only logical decision. They got up and left. We should have. A dump. Ask me sometime about trying to climb over diners to get to the secret passage to use the WC. Oy.

Le Comptoire du Relais, 5 Carrefour de L’Odeon, 6th. We’re on a bus on our way back from the Vanves Marche aux Puces and had to transfer buses, happily, it turned out, right in front of Le Comptoire where two tables were empty at around 2pm on a Sunday. Oh, and we were starved. More than made up for the disastrous dinner the night before. Loved every morsel. Had Oeufs mayonnaise, which I think may have had a little pork crackling or something crunchy atop the blanket of mayo over the ouefs. Delicious. Poule au pot, which turned out to be a thick slice of roulade, some kind of foam on top, and all of it on a bed of … not quite risotto… more like cheesy rice. Delicious. Bman had Joue de Boeuf in a casserole with whole wheat pasta and legumes. Also delish. We couldn’t remember which pot de crème our friend loved there, and Bman wanted the Tart au Pomme et Pruneaux avec glace Armagnac, so we ordered both. The vanilla was the ticket. We left most of the chocolate one. I swear. 68€ lunch with three desserts, 15€ litre of Saumur rouge. Now I get all the fuss. Oh, and everything around us look great too.

Le Train Bleu, Gare de Lyon, 11th. Wanted our visiting friends to see one of the big beautiful rooms. Not my favorite food, but I’ve learned what to order there, I think. A chevre amuse was brought to the table. Had the Boudin blanc de Rethel aux pommes et foie gras de canard au sautoir, jus de veau au cidre, (a small plate for all that verbiage) and the Gigot d’agneau rôti, gratin de pommes de terre à la fourme d’Ambert, which I like very much. It’s carved table side and the carver dished it out and then asked me if I’d like some more D’agneau. I said pourquoi pas! 110€ dinner, 38€ bottle of Cotes du Rhone.

Chez George, 1 Rue du Mail, 2nd. After the lame lentils at Ambassade it really made me miss the perfect ones here. Love this place. Salad tiede de Lentil du Puy. Sole George. First time I ordered the sole I was seeking something light after days of Paris indulging. Turns out it is sole swimming in a thick, Pouilly cream sauce. First time may have been a mistake, but second time was totally on purpose. I polished it off both times. 84€ lunch, no dessert, shared starter, 38€ Chablis premiere cru.

Fou de L'isle, 33 Rue des Deux Ponts, Ile St. Louis, 4th. Again, kinda tuckered out from touring about, and wanting to eat nearby we figured we’d try this place we’d walked past a hundred times. Had Oeufs cocotte avec duxelles et foie gras (yummy), and Coquolet avec frites. 47€ dinner, shared dessert, no coffee. 20 € bottle of Muscadet

Le Pre Verre, 8 Rue Thenard, 5th. It was their first day open after 10 days or so of closed for the holidays. You’d think they were gone for a year: I had a good view of the door and every other person that came through the door kissed the host/owner on both cheeks and many did the same with the waitstaff as well, like they were all old lost friends. Very sweet, and very friendly, and very lively. Lovely. And super cheap for lunch, and delicious too. Had soupe de cresson et roquette (couldn’t have imagined it could be that flavorful) and the plat du jour - Joue de porc a la badiane, with carrots, atop pasta. Delicious. Look forward to going back. A guy sitting near us resembled Souphie’s young portrait… was it you Soup? 26€ lunch, included two glasses of Languedoc rouge, no dessert. 15€ for an additional pot de vin.

Chez l’Ami Jean, 27 Rue Malar, 7th. Okay here come the questions I referenced above. What happened here – did I order wrong, or is the emperor (hold that thought) naked?
Ordered off the ardoise. Started with a Civet de poulpe. I probably missed that it also came with some kind of small crab that had been hacked in half. I say hacked cause there were many shell bits at the bottom of my civet, which I assume I was supposed to finish off using the spoon they gave me. Whole dish was swimming in a tasty, green (seemed sort of lobster tamale?) sauce. Mushrooms and a whole leek completed the presentation. Realize I was meant to tear the crab apart and suck out the teeny legs but that kind of physical involvement never compels me. We were seated right next to the kitchen, which I thought would be fun, and was. M. Jego was there front and center, and smiled warmly at us despite his sort of purposefully scowling presence on his website. To his further credit, when I ordered an entrée (the poulpe and crab) and my partner did not, and when the hostess reported to the chef that Bman was allergic to shellfish (I had asked about a frommage amuse that was on the table….if I have any doubt, I ask, as shellfish would kill him, and we’ve come close a few times) to his further credit the chef, I think because he understood we couldn’t share, offered up a complimentary soup. Bman thought this was partially because he was sitting RIGHT in front of the chef, and it would have bugged him to see Bman sitting there NOT eating his food…. But I digress – it was a very nice gesture. My plat was something relatively new on the menu (heard a conversation between the hostess and a regular). Can’t remember the full description from the ardoise except that it was called Empereur. What it was, was a filet of some white fish wrapped around mushrooms and chorizo. The dish was covered with a bright green foam. (what’s up with all the foam these days??? Have no idea what it was but trust it had some impact on the dish….) Was enjoying this dish, it was quite tasty, until I started running into fish bones. And then scales. That’s right, scales. So…. Your thoughts here, kind reader… should one expect a little hardware with the software? Totally ruined it for me, but maybe I’m squeamish cause I ended up in the hospital once with a fishbone caught in my throat. A couple of other observations. Frequently plates were sent to diners one at a time. Sometimes one diner would have their plat 3-4 minutes before their companion. And chef made quite the (practiced?) scene (including fist bangs and shouts) when a dish had been meticulously assembled, wiped clean of any stray unintentional drips on the rim, and sat at his counter waiting to be delivered, one assumes because he didn’t want it to be less than perfect for the diner, but is it not impolite to start eating before all at ones table have been served? While we were there, no fewer than six people made their way back to the tiny kitchen to praise the chef, kiss his cheeks and fawn over him. And indeed, he’s pretty fawn-able. BUT, in the end of this… performance…. I think Bman hit the nail on the proverbial head and delivered the (to this puzzled but dedicated nibbler) the coup de gras… It seems to be all about him. M. Jego. He, front and center. He, barking out orders. He, demanding when dishes should be eaten. And what should be eaten, even. Several times, with a few scraps (for example, apple matchsticks left over from another plates garnish) in the kitchen he threw together little complimentary dishes to send out to his regulars. People all but applauded. Or kissed his ring. And there is much apparent creativity in evidence. But. Should it all be about him…? We concluded with the legendary Riz au Lait, which indeed, one portion could feed four, though it was very sweet and we didn’t like it as much as the one at Les Cocottes which was thicker and more balanced. The confiture du lait that accompanied was okay, but what I really loved, were the little tin of cookies and, surprisingly, the little pot of muesli to mix into the riz. It was fresh, crispy, and delicious. We asked for the addition, but instead, and with some urgency, the head waiter insisted the chef wanted to buy us a drink at the bar. “Right now” he said in English. Okay. At this point I was certain we were being mistaken for someone of some importance, as there were many tables still available in the restaurant and it was rather late in the lunch service. Nonetheless we were scurried to the small bar near the door and the coat-check/bartendress offered us anything we would like. I looked over the bar and spotted Vieille Prune, which was something I had always meant to try and never remembered to, so we ordered it. I liked it. Then all became clear… when the small front door opened and a group of 8 ambled in. He needed our table, indeed. So, as we walked back out into the chilly afternoon and, that day, snowy Paris air we found ourselves somewhat bewildered. 105€ Lunch, one entrée, and one huge dessert, 25€ some Rosé. Oh… one final odd note: asked for a carafe d’eau and was told there were none, only bottled. I guess at that point I was supposed to stick to my guns and ask for a glass of water which by law they have to bring, but I was thrown. This was a first.

Bisrot Paul Bert, 18 Rue Paul Bert, 11th. Our final night in Paris this trip, which can put so much pressure on a meal. We always want to, if not end on a high note, at least not end on a low note. We did very well here. Our first time here. Started with Ouefs au plat au truffe, which was delicious, if a bit steep. We both had Filet de boeuf au poivre accompagne de frites maison. It was perfectly cooked, and very tasty. I could have enjoyed slightly less pepper (some of it clearly seared on the filet, and therefore somewhat bitter) but overall, delicious. Terrific frites, and a nice green salad to accompany as well. We were there at 8 and the joint was empty. But within the next hour it was packed with a nice mix. Families, travelers, co-workers. There were only a few servers for the entire restaurant which kept them running once the joint was jumping, but overall was very efficient and friendly service. Finished with the Paris Brest (again enough for four, as Mark Bittman said) and the Souffle Grand Marnier. 120€ Dinner, 34€ bottle of Cote de Beaune.

Again – humble thanks for all the guidance from the Houndies. A la procahine…

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    plafield RE: Gman Jan 26, 2010 03:14 PM

    Thanks for the great detailed report. I, also, wasn't impressed with CLJ after so much high praise ro so many quarters. I get that there's the possibility of an outrageously special meal but it seems that more often than not, at least some part of it is off. And with the packed mob scene and all the drama, I just don't think it's worht all the hype it gets.

    Great to hear yet another good review for Le Gaigne. It's on our short list for our next trip, particularly for a Sunday night when so many good places are closed.

    1 Reply
    1. re: plafield
      Jake Dear RE: plafield Jan 26, 2010 03:31 PM

      Yes, thanks for a very useful and lively report. I'm glad to hear that Le Gaigne was good for you -- I'm a bit conerned that it may change, given all of its generally good PR and Bittman, etc. PS -- you've got me rethinking our plan to dine at the "mausoleum" (Christophe). -- Jake

    2. m
      Maximilien RE: Gman Jan 26, 2010 04:15 PM

      Wow!! that's even better than my own report!!!

      Couple of nice places to put on my "list" for next time.

      Thanks

      1. PhilD RE: Gman Jan 26, 2010 04:55 PM

        My first reply seemed to disappear into the ether!

        It is important to remember that Chez l'Ami Jean is a "real" restaurant where the chef Jego is going to be pushing the boundaries. It is a "bistronomique" so it isn't going to simply deliver standard bistro classics. Certainly when he does the classics he is good, but when he is pushing boundaries then it gets a little more unpredictable. I have eaten very well there, but also had less than stellar dishes, some dishes I just didn't get others I thought the technique used didn't do justice to them. If you are a conservative/risk averse diner it is best to order classics. I think Souphie has said this a number of times in his posts.

        On the fish dish; definitely some fish is best on the bone as it adds more flavour and sometimes it isn't practical/possible to fillet before cooking, so bones are OK. As for scales, my view is that fish served with the skin is fine, and usually the better for it (again flavour) but the skin needs to be de-scaled prior to cooking. Was it skin or was it actually the scales left on? Yes, it is good manners to wait for everyone's dishes to arrive before you start, but it is a busy, frantic restaurant and thus I would always take the pragmatic course of action and start if it looks like your companions dishes are slightly delayed. Again in my experience it usually doesn't take long.

        They do turn tables there and I like their technique for hurrying you up. IMO it is far better to "offer a drink on the chef at the bar" instead of "could you hurry up we need our table back". It has happened to me a number of times and so I don't think it is uncommon.

        Finally the Riz au lait: I believe it is a communal dish that in the tradition of French restaurants is meant to be passed from table to table for diners to serve themselves. You see this a lot with terrines of Pate or with cheese boards that are left on your table. I am slightly shocked when I read of people ordering it for one then sharing it between four, or worse "double dipping" (I know the dish goes back into the kitchen but I suspect it still used in a communal fashion and recycled). If four people order it they will bill for four portions but I suspect you will still only get one dish, so it doesn't seem right if one person orders it and everyone else dives in (I am not saying you did this).

        7 Replies
        1. re: PhilD
          Gman RE: PhilD Jan 27, 2010 05:08 AM

          Hi PhilD. Your post disappeared, as did mine, because I mentioned a place that I thought made me unwell, which is apparently verboten, as it is unprovable and possibly libelous (their argument) so the post was struck until vetted of the comment.

          As for the fish - clearly the intention was for this filet which was wrapped around other ingredients and buried under foam was meant to be bone free and scale free (yes, I can tell the difference between skin and scale) and wasn't. Unlike a fish that is presented whole and intended to be on the bone, this was something else, especially since one assumes one is meant to taste all the layers, at least partially, at once. And yes, I have read all the posts on CAJ... Not sure why I would go there for something traditional if this is a chef that is praised for his creativity , and I left underwhelmed.

          I don't mind the free drink, it was all the intensity around it that was rather comical. There are plenty of busy small restaurants in Paris where you would never be rushed off a table. It was funnier here because we had already asked for the addition. Oh, and had not exactly dawdled either.

          Not sure about the Riz au Lait, either. Our waitress knew it was our intention to share. Maybe we were billed for two, for all I know. And there are plenty of places where the large bowl, or at least one the size of this one, were meant for only our consumption. For example, at Amaassade, I was teased about not finishing my lentils. Same sized bowl at George for the lentils which we happily finished. And no one seemed to mind when my partner had some as well. As opposed to, also at George, the huge bowl of herring, or beef salad, that clearly no one would, or could, finish. At CAJ in partic., having a ring side seat, I can tell you that it seemed only the items on the charcuterie boards were recycled... sausages and knives and cornichon etc are presented. Folks seem to saw off what they want, and then back to the kitchen. The boards were sent to the dishwasher and the sausages sent to the next table. Little tins of cookies, though, were pitched out (or on a few occasions, popped quickly into the mouth by the waiter or the dishwasher himself). Didn't get to see what the approach with the riz was but as it had its own serving spoon double dipping didn't seem to be a concern.

          1. re: Gman
            souphie RE: Gman Jan 27, 2010 06:37 AM

            Riz au lait is usually charged for one, shared for the table.

            I'm not sure Jégo was ever praised for creativity. Re-reading the thread, I think his classical cooking, great ingredients, is more emphasized. It seems that Jégo is the one who wants to put his creativity forward.

            1. re: souphie
              PhilD RE: souphie Jan 27, 2010 10:26 AM

              Souphie, I understand that this is what often happens with the Riz au lait. But I was wondering if this is the correct etiquette, of whether the restaurant has simply acquiesced to the habits of the barbarians (tourists) :-)

              For example what would the etiquette be in another restaurant?

              1. re: PhilD
                souphie RE: PhilD Jan 27, 2010 09:54 PM

                Usually, if you want to share a course, they will let you at no extra charge for extra spoons. CAJ does it that way -- if you order four riz au lait, you'll have food for twenty. At l'Ami Louis, they will actually refuse to serve you two starters like mushroom foie gras. "You don't want two portions". And they're right, if not very nice. Now, some bottom line obsessed restaurants decided that they would charge you extra if you share a course. To me, they're the nasty ones. Unfortunately, that's what they did at Loiseau last time we went, and that was the final straw for me -- we ordered a Saint Honoré for two, decided to share it in three rather than two when the thing came to the table, and they charged us for three desserts. Pure assholery, as a friend put it.

                1. re: souphie
                  PhilD RE: souphie Jan 28, 2010 03:12 PM

                  Souphie, I understand that you can share single dishes that is pretty common i.e. it is one portion shared between a number of people. My thought is it is wrong to share "help yourself" multiple portion dishes and only expect to pay for one portion.

                  Just for my clarity, when one person order the riz au lait, will they bring you four plates and four spoons if you want to share? And do they just charge you for one portion? Or is it considered four portions, and you get charged for four portions, but you still only get the one big bowl of rice?

                  And if it is OK to order one portion and share with four others (and pay for one portion), is this just OK at CAJ (because they are used to tourists) or are other restaurants happy to do this i.e. if one person orders the terrine to start but everyone then helps themselves should they expect to be charged for four portions? I would hate for unsuspecting people to demolish a whole communal dish and then get an unexpected bill.

                  1. re: PhilD
                    souphie RE: PhilD Jan 28, 2010 10:52 PM

                    That's the thing: the bowl IS the portion for one, not a communal dish. So, yes, they will bring your plates and spoons and charge you for one portion if you like. And you can order four portions but then you'll have four bowls, so you can basically end hunger in the world.

                    Ordering one meal for four persons at any place would be pushing the boundaries. But sharing one dessert and even a couple of dishes is usually OK -- "une crème caramel et quatre cuillères s'il vous plait". Selling one dessert is better than selling none. As long as everyone (and you ask nicely, as always) has a main dish, you're fine. To my knowledge, only the villains of fine dining (guess who?) would actually charge you more for two half portions than they would for one full portion.

                    If it is a communal dish (say a huge jar of pot au chocolat), then it's fair that they charge you per person: it's an "all you can eat" concept. Having the whole table just tasting it is still OK. As for putting your individual spoon, fingers and tongue in the communal bowl, I suppose it would be more polite not to.

            2. re: Gman
              PhilD RE: Gman Jan 27, 2010 10:18 AM

              "I don't mind the free drink, it was all the intensity around it that was rather comical. There are plenty of busy small restaurants in Paris where you would never be rushed off a table. It was funnier here because we had already asked for the addition. Oh, and had not exactly dawdled either."

              Whilst it is true plenty of places are busy, I believe CAJ is one of the few (only) places to turn the tables at least 4 times a night, plus a few turns at lunchtime. That level of "turn" requires some precision, especially with such a limited waiting area, and a consistently full reservation book.

              Re the serving spoon, you are correct it does come with one, but that doesn't stop many people using their own spoons.

          2. k
            kfoster21 RE: Gman Jan 26, 2010 07:35 PM

            Cafe Louis Phillipe - yes! We stumbled on this after a long trip to the Louvre on a cold afternoon. We had marvelous oysters, two 3 course menus (which included the best duck confit I had in Paris), 2 coffees, a carafe of rose, and a half carafe of red for 85 e. The service was very nice and the owner treated us to a small glass of calvados each when we paid the bill. Just one of those delightful encounters that can happen even when you don't reserve ahead or plan out in excruciating detail every meal for the entire vacation - which is the way I tend to go!

            1. PBSF RE: Gman Jan 26, 2010 10:53 PM

              Thank you for taking the time to write such a detail post. It was a pleasure to read. Your enthusiasm and the love of food come through so beautifully.

              1. Parigi RE: Gman Jan 27, 2010 04:58 AM

                What a magnum opus. I know no guide as thorough as yours, and covering Nomiya and Chez Paul and walkins and Le Gaigne and so much more.

                Given your evident open-mindedness and capacity for enjoyment, even this CAJ fan think you must have been in the right and CAJ was in the wrong.
                I want to contribute some info that may or may not explain anything but in no way excuses CAJ.

                Firstly, about the Jego wanting things served right away. That's just him. The restaurant service is indeed fast-paced. Whenever I eat there with a large group (6 or more), yes, dishes do not arrive at the same time, - the waiter is not a 6-armed buddha, - but the wait is never long. And as soon as the first dishes arrive, I always tell my fellow diners to start while the food is hot, - because it is true, and because it makes everyone feel less awkward. Within minutes all dishes will have arrived.
                Am appalled that they refused to give you carafe water. I have many times at the end of a meal there asked for a carafe of water - because bottled waters have run out and we wanted just a glass of water after our coffee - and have always gotten it without any issue. Could they have run out of water carafes? I would have insisted to have a glass of water.

                Lastly, - again this is not excusing, - the fast paced service often follows a kind of controlled chaos - more control than chaos. The best is to go with the flow. The best way to do so is to talk more with the waiter and with Jego, so that they know more what you want, and you know more what they are trying to do. But much of this could get lost in the linguistic chaos too.

                I thought it was classy the way the Big J gave Bboy a special dish, and offered you a glass in the end. J is definitely a "social" kind of chef. He likes to see the people he feeds, he likes to be talked to, gesticulated to, instead of being holed up in the kitchen. He in turn feeds on the vibes "en salle" and offers all kinds of quirky extra stuff for the - for lack of a better term, sorriest - vibrating diners, and really not just for regulars.
                My own very inarticulate take...

                12 Replies
                1. re: Parigi
                  souphie RE: Parigi Jan 27, 2010 06:42 AM

                  About the water: CAJ, like a few other restaurants (eg Gagnaire, Yam'Tcha) opted for home-filtered water, home-gazeified if you want it sparkling. The cost is significantly inferior to bottled water, which they don't offer anymore, a couple of euro per liter. It's also muc more environmentaly friendly. And it tastes pretty good. They still indeed have a legal obligation to serve tap water if you ask but seem to make the bet that, at that price, you won't mind getting the good cheap water. 2,50€ a liter is not nearly as offensive as, say, 8€ for half a liter. Gagnaire does not charge you for this solution, but then again, I heard he does charge you for other things.

                  1. re: souphie
                    John Talbott RE: souphie Jan 27, 2010 12:38 PM

                    " asked for a carafe d’eau and was told there were none, only bottled. I guess at that point I was supposed to stick to my guns and ask for a glass of water which by law they have to bring, but I was thrown. This was a first."
                    Actually at both KGB and Colliot one gets the same response - no charge of course, it's filtered on site.
                    I'm delighted you liked Le Gaigne, which has taken some hits here and not really surprised but disappointed by what happened at CAJ, it's been hyped, by me and others, so it's reached Regalade (in the Camdebord years)/Spring/Frenchie/etc proportions.
                    Bottom line tho - you had fun, that's the point, not scoring points.

                    John Talbott

                    1. re: John Talbott
                      Gman RE: John Talbott Jan 27, 2010 12:59 PM

                      I'm glad the fun came through. We had an absolute, and mostly delicious, blast!

                      1. re: Gman
                        Busk RE: Gman Jan 29, 2010 05:58 PM

                        Thanks for this report out. Strangely, I seem to be most drawn the report of Chez Denise. Must...go...to... chez...denise....

                        1. re: Busk
                          Gman RE: Busk Jan 30, 2010 09:13 AM

                          Ya gotta.... it's classic. AND - we witnessed a minor French miracle... we saw a pouty attractive woman succeed in getting a doggie bag for her doggie that was sitting beside her... okay, it wasn't really a bag, per se, but a piece of aluminum foil fetched out of the kitchen so she could wrap up her steak bone... but still, I've read from many knowledgeable sources that this is never done, don't even ask...... Only been there for lunch, but I bet the scene at 3am would be pretty intriguing...

                          1. re: Gman
                            Parigi RE: Gman Jan 30, 2010 09:18 AM

                            If you tell the waiter you need a doggie bag for your dog, he is happy to give you one.
                            If you tell him you need a doggie bag for YOU, he faints.
                            It is soooo not in the moeurs that a French girlfriend asked for one in NY, - more for novelty than anything, - but said the wrong thing and asked for a "baggie dog".

                          2. re: Busk
                            Delucacheesemonger RE: Busk Feb 3, 2010 09:23 AM

                            Yes you must, so many things are wonderful and at 3 AM it is a party, been going for decades. If they have the morue auvergnat or civet de cerf, or the hachis parmentier, or the chou farci, or the ________________

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                              Gman RE: Delucacheesemonger Feb 3, 2010 04:30 PM

                              My partner had the civet de cerf this last visit, and I had a fair amount of it too. Divoon!

                      2. re: souphie
                        Delucacheesemonger RE: souphie Feb 3, 2010 09:25 AM

                        Went to Le Bernadin last week in Manhattan, have the same water stuff, bubbly or plain. Goes for $ 8 per bottle plus tax and tip, Ah Ny ,Ny

                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                          souphie RE: Delucacheesemonger Feb 3, 2010 09:56 AM

                          New Yooooooooooork indeed.

                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                            PBSF RE: Delucacheesemonger Feb 3, 2010 05:25 PM

                            Maguy Le Coze is an ex-Parisian.

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                              ChefJune RE: Delucacheesemonger Feb 4, 2010 08:06 AM

                              shoulda asked for "Eau de Bloomberg."

                        2. g
                          GertieHound RE: Gman Feb 22, 2010 03:09 PM

                          I'm sorry your dinner at Chez l'Ami Jean was so disappointing, but I thank you for the report. I will certainly be striking this place from my list. Someone commented it is a "real" restaurant. If by "real" you mean a venue for a showboat to show off and also oh by the way happen to hand out poorly cooked food, I will pass, thank you. I much prefer a down home, unpretentious place that serves tasty food and would gladly pay more for good food I enjoy eating in a polite, calm, comfortable location. Frankly, even if the food were the best in the world, I'd still be kicking Chez l'Ami Jean off my list. I don't want to eat with people shouting in the kitchen. "Real" restaurants are about the food first, last, and foremost. If what is on my plate isn't causing me to whisper "mmmmm" under my breath, nothing else in the world could ever make it worth it to eat there. Sorry. Sounds like that so-called chef likes the sound of his own voice more than anything.
                          Glad, also, to be told about the drink on the chef trick. Personally, if some chef tried it on me, I'd say no thanks and sit there til the cows came home. In my book, as a paying customer, I come first and foremost. If he needs seats for 8 on a reservation, the maître d' should have planned ahead and there is no excuse ever under any circumstances except the building is burning down to try to snatch my table from me. That is just rude, and should it ever happen to me, I will sing the song all across the internet how badly run this restaurant is, that they must resort to tricks on their paying patrons.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: GertieHound
                            PhilD RE: GertieHound Feb 22, 2010 04:16 PM

                            I though I had defined my term "real" in my post. No, I don't mean " venue for a showboat to show off and also oh by the way happen to hand out poorly cooked food".

                            I had said that this wasn't a restaurant that simply delivered the classics i.e. the same dishes over and over again. Many restaurants in Paris stick to this formulaic approach and do it well. If that is what you are looking for then it is good for you to appreciate the difference and cross restaurants off your list if they fall outside those parameters. For a more adventurous eater CAJ delivers well cooked food.

                            I do think you are wrong about hanging on to your table. CAJ is a busy place that turns tables four times a night, it is bustling and fun. That is what people expect and that is what they get when they go there. They do plan the turnover of tables carefully but things do go wrong, so what is wrong about offering a free drink in the bar to make way for the next guests? If you want a table for the night this isn't the place for you, there are plenty of places in Paris that offer that. But I do think it is incumbent on a diner to understand the nature of the restaurant they are going to and to conform to that model. It isn't a one way relationship there needs to be give and take.

                            It is healthy that you understand this isn't a place for you, but it doesn't make it a badly run restaurant.

                          2. adrian RE: Gman Feb 25, 2010 03:06 PM

                            At least the chef wasn't violent.....he has a bit of a rep in Paris..

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