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Aug 7, 2012 07:56 AM

L'Agrume, 5e

I've been intrigued by recent positive comments about L'Arome from trusted hounds. We've eaten here three times, as I recall. The first time, early on in its existence with an astute hound, we thought the tasting menu was pretty good at its price point. The second time, we chatted with people at the next table whom we had seen at Frenchie the night before, agreeing that the meal at L'A was heads above that at Frenchie. The third visit brought us crashing to earth with dishes that seemed conceived only to fill a slot in the menu at a predetermined cost, which was inflated by three boring desserts. We never returned.

Have we missed something in the last two years? (DH has suggested our going back but I have dug in my heels.)

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  1. Do you mean L'Arôme in the 8e or L'Agrume in the 5e?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Ptipois

      I don't know of an Arôme in Paris either.

      1. re: Parigi

        There is one in the 8th but I don't think that's the one Mangeur is referring to.

        1. re: Ptipois

          Duh, all! Of course it's L'Agrume. Sorry for the mess-up. I've changed the title.

          1. re: mangeur

            I really don't like the place. With the horrible Desvouges bistrot facing it, I see that part of the rue des Fossés-Saint-Marcel as a Bermuda triangle for food. Must be the feng shui from the nearby lugubrious sex club seeping around.

            I liked it when we went together though that is not my type of food. Later I went twice and each time it was a disaster. I nearly broke a tooth on splinters of chicken bones left in an émincé de poulet which, besides, tasted rancid. Non, non et non.

            When I showed the bones to the chef's wife, she said: "Oh that sometimes happens" and did not seem to worry any further.

            You certainly haven't missed anything.

    2. A strong disagreement with the other P's. I've been to Agrume half a dozen times (it's very affordable and sorta near home). Once was very disappointing but the other times have all been winners. And the disappointing meal was just way too wannabe Aizpitarte-ish to succeed. Full of jarring combinations. However, I am quite tolerant of bad days at one-man shows, especially at this very attractive price point and returned a few weeks later for a terrific prix-fixe lunch that restored my faith.

      If you do have doubts, I suggest lunch (under 20 €) to test. Maybe you can also test the neighbouring club libertin too. Me, I feel positively naif not to have noticed it.

      21 Replies
        1. re: Parnassien

          We're stuck with dinner since we don't do lunch. Or, for the record, echangiste.

          1. re: mangeur

            Dinner is only 30-something €. So that too is worth the risk. At Agrume, I mean. And I'm very relieved to find that clubs libertins are not on your to-list. So 1980s and uncool.

            1. re: Parnassien

              Isn't 80s making a come-back ?

              Just sayin'...

              1. re: Rio Yeti

                Yeah I thought it was the new black.
                I mean the 80s of course.
                Wait, to say the 80s is the new black is like saying black is the new black, right?

                1. re: Parigi

                  "black is the new black"

                  People have said that.

                  True story.

                2. re: Rio Yeti

                  Chacun son truc ... but if the '80s come back i'm moving to Uzbekistan

                3. re: Parnassien

                  A meal is expensive regardless its price point if it disappoints, since it is an opportunity cashed, ergo not a small risk. Visitors necessarily have (or at least we have) a less tolerant attitude toward kitchen mis-steps since we have a finite number of experiences.

              2. re: Parnassien

                "A strong disagreement with the other P's."

                Am I once of these P's, plural? I didn't even express an opinion. How can you disagree?
                But if you ask me if I would like to break one of my albeit legendarily strong teeth on my lunch, I would have to decline.

                1. re: Parigi

                  Apologies... no Parigi in the pod ... but I'm sure that, even with Pti's one experience, the risk of getting your tooth broken at Agrume is roughly the same as getting hit by the #39 bus on the boulevard de Strasbourg

                  1. re: Parigi

                    Whatever anyone says, there's no way I'm supporting a place that nearly cost me a tooth and a visit to the dentist, and on stale food too. This is not even a matter of agreeing of not. It's a matter of public health.

                    And let us not discuss chances, probabilities and getting run over by a bus here. Once is enough and it is not supposed to happen at all in a decent restaurant. Serving stale chicken isn't really expected either.

                    If you break a tooth on something that shouldn't be in the food, there's nothing you could have done to prevent that.
                    If you get hit by a bus, you could at least have avoided standing away from the curb.

                    1. re: Ptipois

                      There is the event and there is the way that the event was handled, neither acceptable. However, the event might have been somewhat ameliorated by a deft and sympathetic/apologetic response.

                      1. re: Ptipois

                        I'm just pleading for a little tolerance. No restaurant can deliver 100% satisfaction 100% of the time. For instance, my nearest teeth-breaking event came from an olive pit in a dish served at a restaurant much recommended (and deservedly so) on this board. And the ce-sont-des-choses-qui-arrivent reaction of the serveur was very similar (and typically French) to what Pti experienced at Agrume. I won't name the restaurant because I have had many enjoyable meals there and feel that it's unfair to condemn it on the basis of one unfortunate incident. Even more potentially disastrous, my grandmother once discovered a shard from a shattered dish or something in her ris de veau at a very illustrious restaurant. As befitting a 5-star place, the apology from maître d' and chef (summoned from the kitchen) was effusive but only the offending dish was comped. Yet, on the basis of une fois n'est pas coutume, the restaurant remains her (and my) favourite place for a splurge.

                        Many times eating out with friends, 3 of us are miam-miaming over the food while the other is complaining how bad his/ hers is. And usually we are all right in our judgements. It's just the luck of the draw that one certain dish fails badly and all the others succeed gloriously. Even if I end up as the one ordering the less than wonderful meal, I would not put the restaurant on my never-again list and, if I liked the overall vibe, most likely return with a better idea of what to order.

                        1. re: Parnassien

                          Excuse me, but I think you're being childish in trying to defend something that is not defendable.

                          Any potential cause of injury found in a dish is a serious matter. Fortunately the French are not much into suing in all directions, but if the injury becomes a reality, then the restaurant is in big trouble, and with good reason.

                          I did once lose a premolar from a shard of bone left in ground meat in a Lebanese restaurant. That cost me plenty of money, a lot of pain, and finally root canal surgery. The tooth is now dead and still broken.

                          Since that happened I have grown very careful with my chewing when eating outside (except when eating at Thierry Marx's, ha ha). Which prevented the bits of hard chicken bone - and believe me they were big enough to make something of a show in the palm of my hand - from becoming a cause for more dentist surgery. Things could have gotten more serious if I hadn't watched out.

                          It is fortunate, besides, that the chicken had a rancid taste (the one you get from refrigerator cooked chicken that is more than two or three days old), and was not pleasant eating — that probably slowed me down and helped to prevent the accident.

                          Waiters and restaurateurs may turn around and pretend not to care - which is precisely what was done at L'Agrume - when customers show them objects that were found where they shouldn't have been, that does not make any difference. They do so precisely because there was no injury. When there is an injury they have to deal with the consequences. Thus they may choose to take it lightly because they can get away with it, but that does not make it allright.

                          At any rate I still see no reason to defend a restaurant where the patronne after seeing the shards of bone simply said "yeah, these things happen" and then turned around and walked back into the kitchen. Would you go back if that had happened to you?

                          Once I found a 1/3-inch metal staple in a dish of steamed spareribs at the very excellent Tak Hing/Vallée des Bambous restaurant, a dim sum place on rue Gay-Lussac, now gone and replaced by a fake sushi joint. The owner came to the table and became livid. He lifted the dish, apologized deeply, and the whole meal was comped. Now that is what I call responsible behavior. And I went to the restaurant again and again because I had been impressed by that man's honesty and good manners - and the restaurant served great food.

                          1. re: Ptipois

                            i'm not defending the indefensible. I'm just opposing the absolute judgements that are made from single experiences. I doubt if there is any restaurant in Paris or the world that has somehow magically avoided the unforeseen accidents or moments of carelessness that we are reporting here.

                            And yes, you and I are French so we are all too familiar with the "bof"ism that is a part of our culture. Maybe my tolerance is an expression of that "bof" response too.

                            1. re: Parnassien

                              My point is simply that the "single experience" argument does not hold in that case, when several concurring elements (stale food, bones, dismissive attitude and rudeness) were leading towards a potential disaster. Another time I found a shard of glass in my choucroute at L'Européen... The waiters pretended to be amused by that and thought a glass of crémant d'Alsace made it allright. Okay. Why in the world should I have come back and why in the world should I recommend such a place?

                              "Bofism" is not an element to put in the balance. If trouble really happens, any shrugging attitude quickly gets out of the picture, for everybody involved. So I still can't find any excuse for L'Agrume, even if fortunately no accident happened.

                              Acknowledging the mistake can do wonders. Maybe I would have gone back if the lady had reacted professionally (actually I wouldn't have but that's simply because I don't like the food).

                    2. re: Parnassien

                      What does wannabe Aizpitarte-ish mean? Just the fact that it's a no choice menu?

                      1. re: adrian

                        From an interview with Laurent Feneau, "Inaki and his team in fact offer a unique 5-course menu with enough unusual presentations to make you forget all your traditional and usual meal references. There are sweet dishes, savoury dishes, fruit and vegetables which are all mingled together, the fish and meat become one and it is more likely to see the big plates being put on top of the little ones, and not the other way around! But be sure that your entire meal experience is carried out in a most exquisite poetical disorder. "


                        1. re: mangeur

                          Lots of chefs do that in Paris, in fact dozens. Why compare to Inaki specifically? You've been to Chateaubriand I imagine, to say that. I don't think it's anything like Agrume...

                          1. re: adrian

                            I did not make the comparison. An upthread poster did.

                            But since you ask, why compare to Inaki, because Inaki is considered a genius in combining uncombinable flavors with great (in most instances) effect. Imitators are seldom so successful.

                            1. re: adrian

                              Adrian - the Inaki comment makes sense with Parnassian's next sentence which talks of jarring flavours i.e. Inaki is good at putting contrasting flavours togetether, others can be less successful which results in jarring flavours.

                      2. My list of restaurants I want to try in Paris is long, and L'Agrume wasn't amongst the top ones but it still was on the list... So I'm saddened to read all this.