Saturne, July 2012
We visited Saturne earlier this week. The front room was about a quarter filled. We were seated in the window on the banquette. A young French couple was soon seated next to us.
Of the seven courses, four were outstanding. The excellent opener combined tomatoes, black olives, mussels and mustard ice cream. The second, raw white tuna with cucumber/oo emulsion, almost a mayo, with bits of raspberries was equally lovely. We were happy campers.
A threesome of young women were seated in front of us. Chopped raw beef with potato/poutargue crumbs was fabulous, wonderful flavors and interesting textural contrast. Two men and four young women were seated on the far wall. We were served the lobster with courgette. Compared to the previous dishes, this one lacked flavor structure; it was just "there". The noise level in the room took an abrupt jump. The table of three women had become quite loud. The table of seven found everything hysterically funny, whooping and shrieking continuously. We were served a half partially boned baby pigeon with eggplant and a grilled green stem with leaves, lisfron, which I have not been able to translate. The pigeon was properly cooked, the flavor excellent, the aubergine equally good and the lisfron interesting.
During the last several courses, many people had gone out to smoke, congregating near the door. The smoke was sucked back into the dining room, snaking around the corner to our table. The staff tried to keep smokers away from the door, but it was an impossible task. The table of seven continued to whoop it up, as did the table of women. Several times someone someplace Shhhhhhed but to no affect.
The first dessert was good: frozen milk, goat cheese and sorrel sorbet. The second one, hay ice cream with chocolate crumble, too close to a pairing of trendy cliches. The couple next to us struck up a conversation, offering their restaurant favorites and asking ours, sharing that it was his birthday, but it was almost impossible to converse with the noise. We paid and left before coffee.
Steps from the front door, my husband announced that he preferred not to return, adding that while the food, wine and service were good, the evening added up to a negative experience. I have liked the food at Saturne a lot, the service as always been close to perfect and we've enjoyed very good wine there, such as the food-friendly Robinot Jasniéres Vin d'Ange that we drank with our meal. I am sad.
Sad experience. Beautiful writing. A short story by itself.
Would your husband change his mind if you could have a table inside, and not in the front room? The acoustics are a problem. We always sit by the bar counter, far from the noise, close to the kitchen action.
We had a table just off the bar last time and, yes, it was better. But our best experience was a table on the sidewalk ("terrasse") which we had requested this time. The weather was threatening and they sat us inside, just inside the window. :) With the smokers outside, I think that that option is no longer a good one. If/when I try to get him back there, yes, I will ask for the back room.
Also, when in July? Was it during the Fashion week? The buys and fashionistas are the worst. And they fill up every restaurant and every taxi. They drink more than they eat, and they smoke more than they drink. That is one week when locals don't even try to go out. The scene you describe chez Saturne sounds like acute fashionista poisoning.
Only ever sat in back room, at the same table three times on the wall with my back to the street. Never found noise to be an issue and am very sensitive to excess noise. Smoking is another issue and would have been a dealbreaker, not their fault but it seems bad placement for you. Damn, you were really looking forward to that one.