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Dec 6, 2012 03:44 AM

L'Office, take two

Had my second meal at L'Office in the 9th this Monday -- as seems inevitable in a three-course meal, I had two hits and one relative clonker.

Clonker was the starter - an onion soup with deep-fried morsels of Gruyere. Just...meh. The broth was pleasant enough, but the cheese bits were simply chewy instead of molten, and I did NOT appreciate the "garnish" of half an onion, half-heartedly seared and wholly inedible, sitting in the middle of the bowl like a wart on an elephant's butt.

But things looked up with the main - beef cheeks, celery root puree, roasted grapes and julienned raw apple. No knife necessary - a spoon or a harsh word would have done. Lovely deep flavour, with the grapes and apple lending an unexpected and refreshing note.

Uncharacteristically, I decided on dessert: sable, lemon curd and rosemary ice cream. The ice cream was pleasant but far too timid - I wanted a real herbal hit and didn't get it. But the rest was AMAZING. Curd was creamy and bracingly tart, and the sable biscuit crust literally shattered when I poked at it. Delicious.

Total including one glass of Macon-Villages that wasn't nearly as oxidative as promised, one glass of Syrah from the second bottling of Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, whose name I'm forgetting and a coffee: 48 euros.

The place was packed (including two women from the NL edition of Marie-Claire, who embarrassed/delighted the server by insisting on taking his picture for an upcoming "36 hours in Paris" article). I sat at the bar as before -- but the experience just wasn't as nice, because owner Charles Compagnon wasn't in the house. Oh well.

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  1. I assume everyone knows that his absence may be because Charles Compagnon is opening a new place across the street which I am told while now just serving coffee, will be doing food as of December 10th.

    9 Replies
    1. re: John Talbott

      "Charles Compagnon is opening a new place across the street..."
      Not only has Charles opened Richer to wide acclaim, he now has 52 Faubourg St Denis under his charge (lunch Sunday); and recently changed chefs at L'Office, the latest, a Brit yclept Konrad Ceglowski, ex-Gordin Ramsay/Jacques Cagna, who continues the Campagnon tradition of exciting stuff coming out of that hot kitchen.

      1. re: John Talbott

        I've eaten at the 52 Faubourg St Denis. An overwhelmingly underwhelming establishment. A prime example of the "saladification" (I wish I had invented that term) of the cuisine that's favoured by that that chatters in and about the city of light .

        The "egalatarian" no-booking policy's a royal pain in the arse, but if you're going to go that way, waiting staff should be more indulgent with dining companions who arrive late. Also, I'm fine with eating at the bar, but please make the bar-stools comfortable.

        The kitchen needs to get over itself, the front of house out of its derriere. Bistro Bellet up the street is a much better bet.

        1. re: vielleanglaise

          Some of the flaws you're describing were already a problem with Compagnon's former places, Le Richer and L'Office. I am worried about le Faubourg Saint-Denis, it now becomes clear that it is going the way of Canal Saint-Martin.

          1. re: Ptipois

            "it now becomes clear that it is going the way of Canal Saint-Martin."
            It has indeed been Boboized.

          2. re: vielleanglaise

            I think I understand why the Old English Dame differs from me, Bruna, Lemaire, Lobrano, Ravenscroft (personal communication), Rubin, Zimbeck and Lemaire.
            52 is not a regular 2 meals a day bistro-resto but an all-day (8-12 MN) drop-in/no tele/no rez cantine for young folk.
            Taking it for what it is, we had a perfectly lovely lunch today alongside the Bobo's and babies, with terrific service and creative food at reasonable prices (96.60 E a couple with wine.)
            I'm not good as a prognosticator, but my guess is that this is just the sort of place the NYT loves to refer its readers to so we've got 6 months to enjoy eating among our neighbors before the deluge.

            1. re: John Talbott

              This hoary old English bird's opinion differs from your's and your lady friends', but not because I don't get the concept.

              I get it - mid century furniture, hype, beards, but no verbs and God forbid, adjectives, on the menu. My meal there wasn't bad, but the hassle of the evening service, (a bobo with a day job, I can't eat lunch there), the uncomfortable bar-stool, the waiter bugging me as to when my wife was going to arrive, have left me with far more memories than the "creative" food.

              As I mention above, I think in the same 'hood, Bistro Bellet, just up the street, is a much better bet.

              1. re: vielleanglaise

                "but no verbs and God forbid, adjectives"... lovely image. Despite our European tradition of lots of adjectives and adverbs (especially apparent in England and France), it does seem that the wannabe American tendency is undermining our fluency. Such a shame !

            2. re: vielleanglaise

              At a minimum, it's necessary to understand this new style. Many people love the freedom to choose at the last minute. Besides securing a table, I personally like the idea of telling the kitchen that we care enough about eating its food that we will commit an evening to it early on.

              And saladification can be a personally insulting deal breaker for those expecting something substantial.

              As in all dining, it's important to know before you go.
              That said, I'm sorely tempted to have some cards printed with the opening clause of your last sentence. Maybe bilingual.

              1. re: mangeur

                "At a minimum, it's necessary to understand this new style. Many people love the freedom to choose at the last minute."
                I myself do not like it either but I saw a quote where Campagnon thought young folks did/do and we were the oldest geezers in the place by 30 years and it was packed (and it's big).
                Except for Clamato, there's no other place we go to that I can think of though.
                I agree thought, it's "buyer beware."

        2. "it's important to know before you go."
          And thanks to Old English Lady who gave warning about back-less seats at the counter; we made sure to send a LURP out early to secure a real table with seat-backed chairs.
          A very old Yankee guy.