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Jul 7, 2010 07:05 AM

Les Debats in the 16th: downgraded to "junk bond" status.

I've been writing favorably about Les Debats, 6, place Victor Hugo in the 16th, since it opened in the fall of 2009 with lunch formulas at 25 and 28 and lunch menus at 35 and 45 €. I thought the price quality ratio was so good when I ate there in November (2009) that I took Colette in January 2010 and she added it to her list: the bill for us with a bottle of wine and no bottled water ran 101 Euros.

In April I noted that the service was absent of hustle, portions were too big, instead of a towel dispenser or cloth towels, two rolls of paper towels sat beside the sink, the prices were a bit up, my bill, with a bottle and glass of wine, 2 coffees and no bottled water = 119 E, and they over-charged me 50c too boot.

Well, today, there were no formulas or "menus," the glorious upstairs was closed, the service was horrid, the bill would have run to an excess of 150 E if we'd had three courses and coffee, and the gaspacho was watery and nigh tasteless and the beef tartare pink on the top and outside and dark brown inside - and of whatever color was pretty tasteless as well.

Since I know some friends listen to my recs (indeed one of my oldest French colleague/friends was there today I'm afraid d/t me) I wanted to issue this warning; it no longer is not only off my list, it's been downgraded to "junk bond" status. Sic transit gloria and all that.

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  1. It's rare that a bad word is spread here. To more bad words as there are more "junk bond" status places out there.

    8 Replies
    1. re: hychka

      I have argued in vain for many years on many sites that negative feedback is as valuable as positive reports and that we should upgrade or downgrade places if subsequent experiences prove different. My lunch yesterday with an old hand at reviewing restos here prompted us to reflect on the reasons some places can change so rapidly (costcutting, use of less good products, etc.) I talked about this with another journalist who primarily goes to places that "comp" her and asked what she does if the meal is bad - "not report it." I think this does our readers and friends a disservice.

      1. re: John Talbott

        agree. negative feedback from people such as yourself with no dog in the hunt can often be more useful than the positives.

        1. re: John Talbott

          I would even say that well substantiated negative feedback is part of what gives a website like CH its credibility.
          A site that has only positive reviews soon reads like a boring series of ads, and who wants actually to read ads?

          1. re: John Talbott

            I find negative reviews more helpful than positive ones. It gets tiresome reading 3 paragraphs about charming decor and one sentence equivocating about the food. One of your colleagues on BP is known for her flowing praise for everything from the chef's geneology to the friendliness of the house dog/cat...never a hint of sour to balance the sweet.

            Ms. L. and I had a similar, albeit not as dire, 2nd experience as you at Les Debats in late May. The fish was still good but the service dreadful. Normally if I have one good experience followed by a mediocre to bad one, I give them a 3rd chance, but after your last disappointment...probably not.

            1. re: Laidback

              I don't think negative reviews are more helpful than positive ones. I do think they're easier (see my recent input on D'chez Eux, for instance). I would agree that reading pages of people saying "I like it" and "it was wonderful" and "best ever" is not very helpful. But a good review should not put emphasis on the author's opinion, which has in itself little to no value. It should report facts and, to the extent that it is about the author's pleasure, it should explain what the author liked. When people explain what they appreciated well, you immediately know whether that rings a bell with you or not.

              Also, a positive experience in and of itself is more interesting than a bad one, unless it's really about reporting that the place is dirty or serves frozen food or overcooks fish, which are not matters of opinion. Otherwise, ie, in a place that cannot be called objectively bad, a bad experience mostly indicated that there was no meeting of the minds between the patrons and the restaurant.

              This is why I usually don't report places I don't like (eg Colliot, Spring, Hermé -- oops, I did it again) unless I think they objectively fail (eg Les Ambassadeurs under Piège, D'Chez Eux, Au Bon Accueil under the current régime...).

              In short, I think the "why" is much more important than the "what".

              1. re: souphie

                As always you have some good points; the quality of the review and integrity and knowledge of the reviewer is more important than the negative/positive aspect. That said, it seems to me that a negative review is much easier to quantify/qualify and doesn't have to be as subjective, i.e., intolerably bad service, seafood well past its' prime, colorless steak tartare are qualities that don't require much expertise to discern which agrees with your premise above that a negative review is much easier than a positive one, but these negatives are sometimes ignored or may be omitted by a few of the "saccharinesque" reviewers who I suspicion of being on the take. I suppose we both would agree that the ethics and expertise of the reviewer is of more importance than positive/negative slant.

                1. re: souphie

                  "This is why I usually don't report places I don't like (eg Colliot, Spring, Hermé -- oops, I did it again) unless I think they objectively fail (eg Les Ambassadeurs under Piège, D'Chez Eux, Au Bon Accueil under the current régime...)."

                  This is once I really disagree with you, Soup. I'll allow you to ignore posting neg on Spring and Sushi because (with all due respect) I don't think you "get" them. But when "Au Bon Accueil under the current régime" goes South I think it's yours and my responsibility to be honest.

                  You are beloved and followed here and on other sites, you owe it to yourself and us.

                  Your friend,

                2. re: Laidback

                  Negs are important, especially in a place like Paris where there is so much bad food and low-quality, tourist-oriented fare where it's evident that the restaurateurs could just as well have opened a dog kennel as a business.

                  Personally, I'll never understand people who overlook mediocre food if they like the room, service or wine list.