Les Trois Seaux
This board has served me in good stead for the number of years I have lived here; I thought it was high time to start giving back.
Looking for an as-yet-untried restaurant in the 11th/20th, I found a couple of promising reviews of Les Trois Seaux online (note: Le Fooding has it misspelt).
The experience was highly perplexing.
First, I had the impression (possibly from not paying enough attention to the reviews) that it would be more along the types of a "cave à manger" whereas it turned out to be more along the lines of a bistro (I say "along the lines" because there were touches here and there that reminded one of caves à manger, playing along the "perplexing" theme of the evening). Carpet on the floor, clientele out of tune with the vibe of the neighborhood...
We are handed menus, and I am a bit surprised to note that there is no prix-fixe menu. Appetizers are in the €9-€12 range, and main dishes are in the €21-€28 range, not scandalously high by any means, but still, high enough to warrant certain expectations as to quality of food and service. Curiously, the menu states that all vegetables come from "agriculture biodynamique", I assume they mean "agriculture biologique", but perhaps I am mistaken.
The waiter returns and gives us a nonchalant "Alors, qu'est-ce qu'on mange?" My dining companion orders the burrata appetizer and steak tartare, and I order the terrine de tête de veau started and the quasi de veau.
I ask for the wine list and am told there is none, the patron himself will come over to discuss what they have. This seriously bugs me because (i) it clearly leaves the customer at a serious disadvantage in making an informed decision regarding available choices, (ii) it robs me of the pleasure of reading a wine list, which I something I love because even after all these years, these names have lost none of the charm they had when I first started getting into wine, and (iii) it hinders me from quickly gauging where the restaurant stands in the "ripping-off" scale of Parisian restaurant wine pricing. (Yes, these last two points are contradictory.)
The owner arrives, informs us they only have "vins naturels" and, after an unsolicited rant on what I suppose should be termed artifical wines (for what else is the contrary of a "vin naturel"?), we decide upon a glass of 2008 Beaucastel CNP for my dining companion, and 2009 morgon for me. (Don't recall who the producers were, perhaps if I had read the names on the wine list...) It is noteworthy that most of the wines are available by the glass, which is laudable. It is also noteworthy (unheard of, actually) that we do not order a whole bottle -- at this point I am sufficiently ill-disposed towards the restaurant that my desire to limit the damage in euros outweighs my natural uh, appreciation, of wine.
Both glasses are excellent (the Beaucastel initially served too warm but the owner immediately realized it and brought it back cooler). This unsettles me -- at this point, I have already decided I don't like the place, and frankly am no great fan of vins naturels (other than those of Binner) -- but there it was.
The appetizers were great. The burrata was one of the better specimens I have had (never had it in Puglia), alongside of which was served beautifully seasoned baby spinach. My tête de veau started was fantastic, chewy and glossy in its gelatinous glory, served with a ramekin of textbook sauce gribiche. The bread was serious.
I should mention at this point that service was incredibly aloof (to stay polite) all evening, the waiter asking us, both when serving the appetizers and the main dishes, who had ordered which dishes, candidly telling us "je n'ai pas de mémoire".
The steak tartare was delicious: perfectly seasoned, and prepared "au couteau", which, as far as I am concerned, is really the only way to do it, as texture is so important to this dish. My quasi de veau was fine, it was served in a cream sauce with morels -- I don't usually order veal, nor "plats en sauce" for that matter, but clearly this was prepared skillfully. Alongside of these were served wonderful pommes persillées, and a ratatouille (the vegetables were cut too small for my liking, but the taste was good, very "legible").
My dining companion ordered a tarte au citron for dessert. (I am not keen on desserts.)
We stepped outside for a smoke, and upon our return it seems that my dining companion had to endure some nasty comment by the owner, something to the tune that we were "polluting" the city with our cigarettes. (I did not witness this scene as I was in the restroom at the time, but have no reason to question my friend's account. He was definitely p.o.'d at the owner.)
The dessert was, again, delicious -- just the right balance between sourness and sweetness in the filling, the flavours grounded by the buttery crust. At this point, the owner brings us a glass of chiroubles out of a magnum -- he had been adamant that we should try it when we had initially ordered wine, and it was indeed good, very floral. We were not charged for this glass.
That evening their credit-card machine was broken so they could only accept cash or cheques (I had been informed of this while making the reservation). While this is inconvenient in and of itself, we were amazed when they refused the cash given by the table next to us, a group of Spanish bourgeois, because the denomination of the bills was too large! (It looked like there was a €500 bill, but there were 5-6 people.) They managed to come up with enough money in a denomination deemed satisfactory by the owner.
We left quickly thereafter.
So, all in all, a perplexing experience because the food was good (they clearly take that part of the equation seriously) but the ambiance and service were quite poor, or worse: unpredictable (bringing that glass of chiroubles was a nice gesture, for instance). All in all, it felt like we had to "work" to turn this into a reasonably normal dining experience.
I will not be back.
Moral of the story: Somebody with a better sense of hospitality should poach the chef!
Thank you for sharing this so very strange experience.
That you single out the many positive points about the restaurant shows that you are fair-minded and are not rant-bent.
Deluccacheesemonger and i once talked about restaurants that are worth the humiliation. I think he came up with 2 in Paris. I have one, in Hong Kong, not in Paris. My list of humiliation-worthy places is decidedly short.
Glad to know Les Trois Sceau does not make that list. Sounds like a bipolar resto.