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Nov 6, 2010 06:34 PM

Review - Spring Restaurant

Had the opportunity to dine at Spring on a Saturday night for dinner. With all the buzz on this board, I was very excited. Upon arriving at the restaurant, Marie seated us and Chef Daniel greeted us tableside. I was impressed with the work that went into restoring the building. A nice mix of old with the new made for a comfortable dining room.

It was very entertaining watching the kitchen staff at work near our table. It was clear they are passionate about food. The use of fresh and unique ingredients from the local market earlier in the day should made for an exciting experience. Unfortunately, nothing was truly memorable. The desserts were less to be desired and could have been forgotten. Only wish they provided a printed menu so one can anticipate what was in store for the evening.

My major concern is the execution of the dishes particularly the lack of service experienced towards the end of our meal. We noticed there was a delay in getting to the dessert courses. It has already been 3 hours into the meal. The staff tried to expedite the courses, but it still took another 30 mins. Between the three dessert courses, the dishes were not cleared making for a very crowded table. I normally enjoy an espresso at the end of a meal, but one, it was not offered, and two, I just wanted to get out of there and pay the bill. It took another 15 mins for the bill. 3 hrs 45 mins for a meal at Spring was just insane. Even the French Laundry does not that this long and they serve 3 times the number of courses.

I brought this to Marie's attention regarding the lack of service and the delay in getting the apologizes or reason was given. Upon leaving the restaurant, I saw Chef Daniel outside and shared my concerns regarding the long dinner experience and lack of response with him just walking away. It is very clear the team at Spring are passionate about creating food, but needs lots of work with customer service. My concerns were listened on deaf ears.

Overall, nothing was memorable at Spring except for the lack of service experienced. I would not recommend Spring since the idea of enjoying a Saturday night dinner in Paris is to leave fulfilled and satisfied. Instead, I left frustrated kicking myself for not going elsewhere since there are so many great restaurants to enjoy in Paris. Spring was a bust so please beware.

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  1. "It took another 15 mins for the bill." More often than not, a very long wait -- up to that amount, it seems -- is quite normal throughout France, in our experience. Sometimes it's frustrating and we wish it were otherwise, but usually we don't mind, and just give in to the relaxed flow.

    "3 hrs 45 mins for a meal at Spring was just insane." Hmmm. You had the cheese course in addition to the "three dessert courses"? Then that really does not strike me as an "insane" amount of time. I agree that waiting 30 minutes for the beginng of the three dessert courses would be too long, but I'm a bit confused by your timeline -- it sounds like you must have started your bill clock when the first of the three desserts arrived?

    By the way, we had a 5-plus-hour dinner at the FL a few years ago. I tend to think that if you are enjoying yourself, time goes by effortlessly.

    I don't believe that any restaurant (including the vaunted Spring) is or should be immune from constructive criticism. And yet we did not have your reaction when we were there last month -- the food was "truly memorable" (and was very well described by ParisJo in an earlier post -- we happend to be there the same night as she). But I do agree with you that a written menu, so we could follow, anticipate, and remember the courses, would have been nice.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jake Dear

      Your assumption is correct about the cheese course. I did opt for the cheese course, but it was only for me so my guest waited between the meat course and dessert.

      Clarification, from the time we were seated to the time the first dessert course came out, it was 3 hours. The 3 hours included the cheese course. They "rushed" through the three dessert courses in 30 mins. Bill was requested when they cleared from the table. Bill arrived 15 mins later and only because I got up to pay did it only take a few minutes before we finally left.

      I think with all the "buzz", my expectations were set too high and partly why nothing was memorable. Since no written menu was available, I kept expecting the next dish to be better than the last, but things stayed flat throughout the meal, and then downhill for the desserts.

      Trust me, I really wanted to enjoy the food, but overall, nothing memorable. Guess I am spoiled with the caliber of food we have back at home.

    2. This is a difficult post for me to write. However, since I have always been - and am still - a fan of Spring and have been sharing with everyone what I like about it, I should also share what I don't like. Daniel may or may not read CH. He deserves to know these opinions, instead of getting an embarrassed silence from his old fan club.

      The wait that you describe is indeed not acceptable.
      At that price, things should run more smoothly.

      Like others on this board, I am one of those who went to the old Spring regularly. Every time we dined there, we would make a reservation for the subsequent dinner.
      And every, every time was better than the last.
      The service was great.
      The wait? Well, it was average in length. And indeed since we were with friends enjoying their company, we never noticed any unduly long wait.
      This progression of enjoyment continued all the way up to our lunch chez new Spring shortly after it opened. We loved it and wondered how Daniel could continue to be so creative and demonstrated such a caring attitude about his diners.

      Our last dining experience, while still memorable, had a few false notes that, while not a deal-breaker individually, makes the new Spring quite different from the old Spring in terms of the experience of enjoyment.

      Paying 20 euro more for dinner? Fine. But wasn't it supposed to be a dégustation dinner? We had 4 dishes, the same as lunch. No, for lunch, we had more, were given a few desserts. Hmm.

      The wine list. Gulp. What happened to the old price range? Now not only the dinner price has a 20 euro jump over the old, but the wines too have what seems to be a 30 to 40 euro jump. This huge jump surprised us.

      OK fine. But our expectations also jumped with the prices. Sorriest for my petit bourge mindset, but we had better have one smoooooothly run dinner.

      The wait time between courses did become somewhat strange. I noticed a lull between our mains and dessert. Then when dessert came, some neighboring diners who had arrived after us got up to leave. They somehow had finished before us.
      OK, maybe just like (1) the menu price jump, (2) the wine price jump, (3) the 4-course dégustation definition, there is also a good explanatino to this.

      And by the way, something else I noticed now that I have a 50-euro-extra expectation. The new tables have a wood top, and the side that faces the diner is unpolished. Therefore finer fabrics kuje satin silk or cashmere become caught on the wood when one leans over to eat.

      How was the food? Indeed memorable. But not magical the way I remember all my previous dinners, perhaps because all these minor false notes together did start to distract in the end.

      In the old Spring, the wait could get long and the place was so cramped we at one point piled all our coats on one chair and later that night I walked out with someone else's coat. And I once even brought my own cushion to put between the cold wall and me. But we used to laugh at all of that as part of the funky fun chez Spring. And I never would have complained about something like the unpolished wood scratching my clothes. (The table was not wood top any way.)

      Paying 50 euro more definitely erodes a bit of the funk and fun. Again you don't know how bad I feel writing this, but I owe it to all the good advice I got from this board, to be honest "for better and for worse" with you. And I owe it to Daniel, who obviously cares deeply about his food AND his diners.

      I write this without any bitterness toward Daniel, am still his fan, but can I have the old Spring back?
      And I will continue to go back to Spring, in fact the 1st chance I get, to lunch, which is excellent value and is creative and fun as before. Perhaps I will wear schleppier clothes that don't get caught on the unpolished wood…

      12 Replies
      1. re: Parigi

        Monetize it, Danny! Monetize it!

        1. re: Busk


          But so do I, or would like to.

        2. re: Parigi

          I suggest a metal-plate dress by Paco Rabanne. You would look great in one of those, too.

          1. re: Ptipois

            hahaha, great idea. Love those Edie Sedgwick numbers. They have been so out they are back in too. Problem solved, qed.

          2. re: Parigi

            Rethinking this thread, I really do compare Spring with L'Astrance. My husband and I started going to L'Astrance almost immediately after Patricia Well's "A Star I Born" review. We loved it, the food, the service, the room and certianly the price, which as I remember was an amazing 28€ for three courses. Both the food and the price changed for the worse within a year. Our last visit brought us food we didn't like at something close to 100€ with equally expensive wine choices. We were not happy, but we are in the tiniest minority. Today you can't get a close in reservation at L'Astrance. L'Astrance grew in a different direction from our taste.

            L'Astrance was "a work in progress". Daniel has always called Spring a work in progress. There will be disconnect for some along the way.

            FWIW, on our several dinner visits, service has certainly been timely considering that an evening at Spring is an event in itself. The price is a jump from the original, but I've had many more expensive meals in Paris that pleased me less. I'm willing to let the work progress, An evening at new Spring is still a joyous occasion for us.

            1. re: mangeur

              "Daniel has always called Spring a work in progress. There will be disconnect for some along the way.
              …an evening at Spring is an event in itself. The price is a jump from the original, but I've had many more expensive meals in Paris that pleased me less. I'm willing to let the work progress"

              Agree. Much better put than my "War & Peace" post.

            2. re: Parigi

              I noticed two things about Spring that was "unusual" for me.

              The courses coming out from the kitchen were prepared in batches. Not batches for each table, but batches for groups of different tables. If you missed the first group, you had to wait for the next group. Maybe the kitchen staff thinks this is more efficient given the size of the kitchen, but it actually creates a longer wait for the guest between courses since not everyone eats at the same speed.

              Regarding the wine prices, it did surprise me at a glass of red wine (albeit a 2006 meritage) was 20 Euros and a glass of another red wine was 16 Euros. But the pours were on the "cheap" side. I usually consider a glass to be 1/4 of a bottle (approx 180mL or 6 ounces), but the pours at Spring are about 2/3 of the norm in the US. The cheese course of four different selections was 12 Euros, which was a steal compared to the wine.

              Never saw a wine list for the wine by the glass so could not predict the prices, but the bottle wine list was very high. Not sure if it is because they are not getting them at wholesale or just marking them up 250-300% of retail, but almost all the full reds I looked at were in the 100+ Euro category with some topping in the 200 Euro range. Nothing stood out for the price.

              It would have been interesting to see the next table over, their expression when they got the bill since they went through a lot of different wines by the glass throughout the course of the meal. I would guess their wine bill was about twice the price of the actual meal. Needless to say, I did not stick around since I just wanted to get back to the hotel to sleep.

              1. re: sf_duke

                "but we are in the tiniest minority."
                Unh unh, not by me. L'Astrance is the Emperor's New Clothes.

                As for the dishes in batches, the wine prices and total bill, elsewhere you'll find comments by Colette and others that Spring and my friend (yes, I declared my COI) Daniel and his wine guys have gone from the AAA League in the 9th to the "The show" as Crash in Bull Durham called it, in the 1st.

                Come on folks - when Eric Frechon moved from the 19th where he charged 290 FF for 4 courses to the Bristol where it's 190 E (a $31 - $270 shift) did you guys/&/gals have a seizure?

                The solution is easy - don't go. sf is correct, there are lots of good restos elsewhere, on the other hand, he, like Passard, Senderens and Giradet in their days, and Ledeuil now, produces things to behold, and I'll be there twice in the next 30 days.

                And sf, you left out the biggest complaint, that they've still not worked out the telephone/reservation system. I still drift by the resto or Boutique to deal. He's working on it, but honestly, if you're booked months in advance, what's the incentive?

                1. re: John Talbott

                  "...when Eric Frechon moved from the 19th where he charged 290 FF for 4 courses to the Bristol where it's 190 E (a $31 - $270 shift) did you guys/&/gals have a seizure?"

                  Ah ha! Finally the crux of the matter. When Eric et al moved from their modest digs to the big time, they cooked under new banners. No longer the eponimous Eric Frechon but now Le Bristol. Perhaps Daniel should call his new dining room "Not Your Father's Spring".

                2. re: sf_duke

                  Brings back memories of the "old" Spring. All 28 covers were served together like a big diner party. Good in theory but it makes for a long night, at over three hours for a pretty simple meal. I also remember that I never found the old Spring was a bargain, OK it was good food and an interesting menu but you had to fit in with the place for that and I always though the bill (whilst OK) was on the high side given the constraints.

                  Still I enjoyed my visits to the old place enough to have it on the list for our next visit. Given the comments on the thread wee will be wise to the "hidden" costs.

                  DR seems like a nice guy, and I enjoyed the "personal interaction" that seems to come through his website and the comments from all the blogs. That said he has a good nose for business and seems to create the right buzz to fill all his concepts and ventures. Serendipitous or a well designed and executed marketing strategy and business plan?

                  1. re: PhilD

                    We also have to remember that Daniel now has investors he has to answer to. There may be pressure on him to keep prices high and push extra courses and more expensive wines. I'm not saying it's right, but it is a reality that when you take other people's money for your business, you have to ensure they get a good return on their investment. You are also no longer the master of your domain (apologies to Larry David) and may not be calling all the shots.

                    We really enjoyed our meal at Spring but were surprised when we got our MC bill this month that it cost almost as much as our dinner at La Grande Cascade. The food at Spring was more inventive and surprising, but the service, atmosphere and attention to detail at LGC was exceptional and we were prepared to pay for that ~ not sure if we were prepared to pay almost the same for our experience at Spring.

                    I am still a Daniel Rose fan but I do miss the intimate and fun atmosphere of the old Spring. We will probably return for lunch or try the wine bar next time.


                    1. re: parisjo

                      Exactcly how I feel. And intelligent comparisoin with the Grande Cascade.

              2. I have had the exact same experience as you, except not at Spring. At Rene Sammut's auberge in Lourmarin, at our last and final visits to L'Astrance and Frenchie. What they have in common is an experience that fell short of my expectation. Beginning with something trifling but irritating and building to a grit toothed attitude close to defiance, I have sat through these dinners that seemed interminable. I get more and more irritated as people at tables around us show delight with their food and company, while our table becomes more and more stone-faced and grim. . Once and finally out the door, I vow not to go back. Which is probably a good idea.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mangeur

                  I can't say I was gritting my teeth through dinner. In fact it was a great evening with my friends. But - again excuse my petit bourgeois mindset, - I remember once the food chez Spring contributed in a much bigger way to the greatness of an evening.
                  As I said, I will go back, for lunch, wearing Paco Rabanne metals. :-)

                2. When we had lunch at Spring in mid-October, I didn't think to check the time (because I was enjoying the food so much), but I doubt we were there more than two hours, even though every table was occupied. Are dinners more elaborate, or did one of the employees perhaps call in sick last minute the evening you were there?

                  A trick I learned from a French friend was to give the waiter a hand signal which looks like you're writing in a hand-held notepad. That means you want the bill ASAP, and nowhere have I had to wait more than 5 minutes after sending the magic sign! It's great because it works from across the room--the waiter doesn't have to come and ask what you want.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: fanoffrance

                    Thanks for sharing your experience. Don't know what the lunch consists of at Spring so cannot comment. FYI, I normally don't check the time, but was jet-lagged and not used to the time difference yet, so I had planned for a 2.5 hour dinner. The longer it took beyond that, I was just having a hard time staying wake and just getting more agitated.

                    Regarding the bill, I requested for it verbally when the dishes were finally cleared from the table and did the hand signal again when it was clear she got distracted. The hand signal usually works for me too. If she did in fact forgot my initial request for the bill, she never apologized.

                    1. re: sf_duke

                      Our lunch had seven courses: oysters, fish, beef stew, cheese, fruit, ice cream, and coffee.

                  2. "I have had the exact same experience as you, except not at Spring."

                    I have had/complained about this gap at numerous places over the past 30 years and do not excuse it at Spring (where I've never had a problem, but as one of his first customer/critics, I have a conflict of interest), or elsewhere but have learned to ask for the check once the coffee is placed on the table. It borders on rude but works.